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The leaders must come from outside!

japanese_pastors

The Christian subculture challenge

   Recently I met with a Japanese Christian leader to discuss the challenges of the spread of the gospel in this nation and to dream a bit about how to build upon the many partnerships that have been developing between Christian groups in Japan since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. During our conversation, he surprised me with an unexpected  comment: “The leaders of the church community in Japan need to come from outside the church community!”

   “What do you mean?” I asked. “Church leaders need to be out in the community,” he answered. Then he explained that the Christian church subculture is so different from the realities of everyday Japanese life that for most Japanese, the church has no connection to the community. “We can’t keep doing things the way we always have,” he emphasized.

   For any leader to truly know how their church can reach the local community, rather than focusing solely on the “maintenance” of the existing church family, they need to be out in the community. Then, from the community they can come into the local church to provide leadership for reaching back out to the community.

Church multiplication

   Statements like the above from Japanese leaders give me great hope for the evangelization of Japan—a country that has been known as a “missionary graveyard” for decades. Another encouragement was that just a couple of weeks earlier I had attended an Asian Access Japan sponsored “Vision Festival” that drew together over 60 Japanese pastors from all across Japan to discuss church multiplication.

   One model presented was the “convenience store” concept. There are currently about 45,000 convenience stores in Japan, with 50,000 being considered the saturation point. On the other hand, currently there are only about 8,000 evangelical churches. So the formation of 42,000 more churches—whether “traditional,” “house,” “cell,” “satellite,” or some other model seems to be a logical goal.

   Another pastor talked about how his group of churches is achieving church multiplication by using a “strawberry evangelism” paradigm. Just as a strawberry plant sends out multiple runners to start new plants, so mother churches send out church members as “runners” to plant daughter churches.

   Yet another pastor has a vision for Japan’s population to be 10% Christian by 2024! (from the current 1/2 percent!) As missionaries, how do we respond to these mind-boggling dreams from our Japanese partners?

   First, we praise God that visionary pastors are being moved by God to dream big dreams.

   Second, we are reminded that our task is not only to make disciples, but to equip them to “make disciples who will make disciples who will make disciples”! 

   Third, to achieve these “impossible dreams,” we must go even deeper in our partnerships across the entire evangelical church community, encouraging each other in multiplication—knowing that if we truly are willing to follow God where he may lead, we won’t be able to continue “doing church” in the same ways we have for decades.

Serving the missionary community

JEMA Leadership Team meeting at Tokyo Multicultural Church

JEMA Leadership Team meeting at Tokyo Multicultural Church

 

2013_Spring_CoverOne of my privileges as a missionary is to serve the members of over 40 mission agencies that are members of the Japan Evangelical Missionary Association (JEMA).

This particular “missionary hat” (out of many others I wear) involves serving JEMA as executive editor of Japan Harvest magazine. Published quarterly, the publication seeks to encourage, inspire, and equip English-speakers who want to see Japanese people find new life in Christ. Recently we initiated a limited online version of the magazine to supplement the print version.

Japan Harvest Online

 You can browse the magazine Web site at www.japanharvest.org.

Japanese pastors gather for a new season of partnership

Asian Access Japan leaders

Asian Access Japan leaders

On January 20, I participated in the first “JCGI New Project Coordinators Planning Meeting.” Leading pastors from all across Japan gathered in Tokyo to discuss next steps for the six working groups launched last November at the annual JCGI Network conference.

Two of us from the Asian Access missionary staff were at the table with these Japanese pastors, taking another step toward enhanced partnerships in our Asian Access ministries in Japan.

Pray for the development of a digital media strategy that helps Japanese pastors resource each other for a new season of accelerated ministry!

Stressed out

stressed_outIn a recent print prayer letter we wrote about an agonizing conflict we’ve been working through in a Japanese situation.

But did you know that one of the most frequent reasons missionaries leave the field prematurely, never to return, is conflict with other missionaries?

Too often, as ministry starts to blossom, minor disagreements or misunderstandings somehow explode into major disputes, and in time another missionary family decides the pressure is too much.

As I serve on the leadership teams of both Asian Access Japan and the Japan Evangelical Missionary Association, recently God has placed me in the position of mediating or intervening in several challenging situations in the missionary community.

Serving as a go-between has been emotionally draining, at times worse for me than for those within the situation—who are either unable or unwilling to see what they have done to contribute to the difficulty.

When we experience stress, we are reminded again how important you are as our prayer partners. Situations like this require our attention, but the Enemy is delighted to see our energy deflected from our primary purpose.

Please pray that we will:

•  Have wisdom to deal effectively with challenging situations and difficult decisions.

•  Have insight when trying to mediate in the healing of damaged relationships.

•  Act decisively when there is a need for intervention.