Don’t Become a Missionary to Meet a Need

Beauty Through Work

Become a missionary because you are called, passionate, and have something to offer.

Ten years ago I went through a dark period of depression. It was dreadful. I am so thankful that Nancy insisted we get help. Counseling helped. Both of us learned a lot. Career testing indicated that working full-time with Japan CAN (Christians in the Arts Network) would be a much better “fit” for us. We asked our mission for a full-time assignment to JapanCAN.

Not long after that big change I began making films, a desire that I’ve had since I was a kid. I have also wanted to be a missionary since childhood so “missionary filmmaker” combines two of my long-term interests.

After the change of direction Nancy got her doctorate in Worship Studies. Her thesis was on the public reading of Scripture. The workshop she did at one of our CAN Worship Seminars was part of her thesis. An aspect of her thesis project was mentoring several Japanese on the reading of Scripture in public. Since then she has led dozens of worship renewal workshops in local churches and at CPI (Church Planting Institute). Recently, she took the position of worship leader at Kurume Bible Fellowship (our church in Tokyo).

Nancy and I shifted from meeting a need — the need was for someone to help get that church established — to doing work that utilized our strengths, gifts, and abilities.

Before Japan’s epic disaster in 2011 I worked on a number of short films. When the disaster happened I had just finished a project and was able to shift to fundraising and producing media for CRASH Japan.

At this time I’m working on 2 Criminals, a feature-length film inspired by the lives of two former gangsters I met while working with CRASH.

I’m thankful I went through a dark time because it was a catalyst for change.

When our work isn’t a good “fit” we tend to be less happy, less effective, and less able to bless those around us with beauty and goodness.

Would you want to fly in a plane piloted by a man who doesn’t like his job?

Would you want your child in a classroom where the teacher doesn’t like to teach and doesn’t like kids?

Would you want a surgeon who doesn’t like his work to operate on your loved one? Or, would you choose someone like my father-in-law who had a dream to be a cancer doctor since he was a kid? A man who loved his work and was exceptionally good at it.

If you were a Japanese person seeking hope would you want a missionary with no passion for his work to come and share the Good News with you?

Missions generally recruit people on the basis of need. That is a problem because many of the people who respond do not know their strengths, gifts and abilities. They fill a slot to meet a need. For long-term effectiveness missions need to focus on proper placement of well-prepared candidates who understand and accept their gifts and abilities.

I want to make a difference, we all do. It is a God-given desire.

For we are God’s masterpiece. He has created us anew in Christ Jesus, so we can do the good things he planned for us long ago (Ephesians 2:10).

We must not give up the quest of finding the good things he has planned for us to do.

Have you made the mistake of devoting your life to meeting a need? To doing work that you don’t like? Are you just “hanging on” because you don’t know what else to do? Are you settling for a job and a secure paycheck? If so, it is never too late to make a change.

If you could do anything, any type of work, what would you choose to do?

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Landslides in Hiroshima: An Interview with Jonathan Wilson

Jonathan Wilson, CRASH Japan

This week’s post is an interview with Jonathan Wilson, President and founder of CRASH Japan. A Tokyo based NPO, CRASH equips and prepares churches and missions to be ready to respond effectively when disaster strikes. When disasters happen, CRASH mobilizes Christian volunteers to work with churches and other local ministries.

I’ve known Jonathan for many years and have a deep appreciation for his vision and leadership. The huge disaster that hit Japan in March, 2011 gave opportunity to work directly under him fundraising and producing media for CRASH. I treasure the opportunity to have been a small part of bringing hope and healing to the great nation of Japan through CRASH Japan’s disaster relief work.

JapanCAN: Why do you do what you do?

Wilson: In 25 years of serving the Lord in Japan I have seen that this society has everything it needs except for one thing.

The thing that Japan severely lacks is hope, and it is during times of disaster that we see this lack most evidently.
As Christians of all kinds work together to serve their communities in time of need they carry with them the very hope that Japan most needs.

JapanCAN: How have you seen volunteers bring hope to survivors?

Wilson: In Tohoku, I remember spending a day working at a farm where one volunteer spent the whole day talking with the elderly grandmother while the rest of us worked to shovel away the tsunami debris.  The grandmother was in despair as the home that she had been born in was in ruins and the farm they had worked for generations had been flooded with toxic sludge.

It took many visits and many volunteers but eventually the farm was saved.  The volunteers not only made an impact restoring the land but also on the farmers, as the grandmother received the hope of Jesus into her heart.

(Read an excellent report on the restoration of the Ouchi farm in Sendai by CRASH Japan volunteer Greg Thompson:  Six Months Later: Still Standing)

JapanCAN: Hiroshima was recently hit pretty hard by landslides, what is the situation there?Landslides in Hiroshima

Wilson: Torrential rains from August 19th caused landslides in a number of communities in Hiroshima city, the most loss of life was in Asaminami and the most property damage being in Asakita.  The landslides brought mud and debris crashing through a few homes and then inundated about a hundred more, burying vehicles and flooding houses.

JapanCAN: When disaster strikes, why is it important to respond?

Wilson: When a disaster happens it can seem at first that lots of help is coming and that the world will keep responding until the need is done, but this is rarely the case.  All too quickly the attention shifts to something else and survivors are left to pick up the pieces by themselves.  This is where the church can be a huge help!

JapanCAN: How are local churches responding to the landslides in Hiroshima?

Wilson: There are a number of churches of varying denominations in the area that have members who have been affected. In these first 48 hours they have been taking care of their members and gathering together with other churches to plan how to be most effective in responding.

JapanCAN: How is this response different than previous disasters in Japan?

Wilson: I am always encouraged when I see different groups wanting to work together.  I think this is a very post-tsunami (the March, 2011 earthquake/tsunami/radiation disaster) attitude and something we want to see all over Japan before disasters happen. It is awesome when local churches see it as their responsibility to be the first ones to bring aid to their neighbors in the name of Jesus.

JapanCAN: How do you want CRASH to be involved in Hiroshima?

Wilson: Over the next few days the search and rescue phase in Hiroshima will be finished and most people will go back to their homes to face a huge amount of cleanup.  This is a wonderful opportunity for volunteers to lend a helping hand!  We will be cooperating with the local churches and Japan Food for the Hungry International that has an office in Hiroshima to coordinate multiple volunteer teams over the next months.

JapanCAN: What amount of funding do you need to effectively do this?Landslides in Hiroshima

Wilson: We are starting with an initial target of $10,000 (¥1,000,000) for this response.

JapanCAN: How will the funding be used?

Wilson: CRASH recruits volunteers and then works behind the scenes to help them work safely and effectively in such a way that the local churches are blessed and not burdened.  Our goal is to mobilize 5,000 volunteer work hours to help the churches of Hiroshima minister to their neighbors in the name of Jesus. We will use the funding to ensure that local churches get the ongoing support they need to minister to their communities.

JapanCAN: How can we give?

Wilson: Go to the CRASH Japan site and follow the instructions: GIVE TO CRASH

JapanCAN: How can we pray?

Wilson: I have written in my book “How Christian Volunteers Can Respond to Disasters” three guides for prayer during and after a disaster and then again during the recovery.  What is needed most now is to pray for the survivors, the rescuers, and for the local churches as they prepare to respond.

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Desire for Redemption Driving up Japan’s Suicide Rate?

Source: Wall Street Journal

The tragic death of Robin Williams has millions of people around the world thinking about suicide.

Japan’s suicide rate is… among the highest in the world. There have been about 30,000 suicides in the country every year over the last decade (Wall Street Journal). 

Several Japanese friends of mine are living with the intense grief, guilt, and shame that plagues survivors of suicide. The large number of suicides in Japan is a personal and a national tragedy.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that Dr. Yoshiki Sasai — a prominent Japanese scientist – ended his own life. Dr. Sasai committed suicide shortly after he made a public apology for mistakes in a paper he had published in the journal Nature. The remarkable title of the Wall Street article is, “Suicide Is Sometimes Means of Atonement in Japan.”

The Wall Street Journal goes on to say,

From medieval times to the present day, public figures embroiled in scandal have sometimes chosen to take their own lives as a means of atonement.

Could it be that a noble — but misguided — seeking of redemption by atoning for “sin” via self-sacrifice is a factor in the high number of suicides in Japan? What do you think?

What can we do to reduce the number of suicides in Japan and support survivors?

Links to Related Articles:

Paul Nethercott is working on 2 Criminals a feature-length film related to his disaster relief work with CRASH Japan after the 2011 earthquake/tsunami/radiation disaster. 2 Criminals will show the strong emphasis in Japanese culture on redemption.

 

Contextualization of the Gospel in Japan: An Interview with Dr. Samuel Lee

Dr. Samuel Lee

An interview with Dr. Samuel C. Lee author of the recent book The Japanese and Christianity: Why Is Christianity Not Widely Believed in Japan?

JapanCAN: What is the essence of contextualization?

Dr. Lee: Contextualization concerns presenting the Gospel within the context of its host or receiving culture. Many people think that contextualization involves culture only, but this is not the case. Terms such as inculturation or indigenization are often used synonymously with contextualization.

Contextualization refers to a broader spectrum that not only understands culture as a specific context, but also includes the social, historical, political, religious, economic, and scientific aspects of groups of people to which the Gospel is presented.Dr. Samuel Lee

To simplify, I categorize context into four areas: personal experience, culture, society, and common history. Each person has a unique personal experience.  In this sense, reaching out to someone who has experienced domestic abuse or serious illness needs a contextual approach.

Culture is very important in mission work. In this work, we search for God’s revelation within a specific culture, since the truth of God is innate to all cultures and needs only to be discovered and encouraged.

God’s revelation and human culture are inseparable.

In every culture, we can find seeds of truth—seeds that can be discovered and reintroduced in light of the Gospel.

Being socially sensitive and ministering to the needs of a particular society are crucial when considering contextualization. For instance, the need to reach out and minister to the elderly, who are often lonely and isolated in society, is a way of practicing contextualization.

Practicing Christianity to promote social and cultural change, as well as to address injustice, is also considered to be contextualization. For instance, near the end of the 19th century, Christianity stimulated feminist movements in Japan for the purposes of improving women’s conditions and rights, such as abolishing legal prostitution in Japan.

Social and labor rights were also addressed by Christians such as Toyohiko Kagawa (1888–1960).

Common history is an important context as well. For example, people who have experienced wars, natural disasters, and/or oppression share a common experience, and the art of contextualization involves how we address such common history.

CRASH Japan is a good example of such contextual ministry, since CRASH responded to the earthquake and tsunamis on March 11, 2011, as well as the recent nuclear incident, by mobilizing volunteers to provide relief to communities in affected areas.

CRASH Mobile Cafe

CRASH Mobile Cafe

For another example, Koreans (during the early 20th century) have experienced oppression—especially by the Japanese—which is their common historical context. In these and other cases, Christianity seems to function as a means of liberation and implementing justice. This made Koreans to be more open to the gospel than for instance the Japanese.

When it comes to bringing the Gospel to others, contextualization is essential; it helps us to connect to people with whom we want to share the Gospel.

Paul knew how to use context to reach others with the Gospel: To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God’s law but am under Christ’s law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all people so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the Gospel, that I may share in its blessings. (1 Corinthians 9:20–23)

What Paul addresses here is pure contextualization. He deals with ethnic and cultural groups (e.g., the Jews), mentions religious groups (e.g., those under the law), and identifies with socially fragile groups (e.g., the weak). He connects with each group in its unique context.

By contrast, without context, it is impossible to reach others.

JapanCAN: Why is contextualization of the Gospel in Japan important?

Dr. Lee: Contextualization can help us to communicate the Gospel in the Japanese context. Based on what I have shared above, I believe that many missionaries already practice contextualization without even being aware of it.

Let me give an example. In autumn in various parts of Japan, we can find Japanese persimmon trees full of fruit. In Japan, there are two types of persimmon trees—one that bears bitter fruit and another that bears sweet fruit—though both look identical. Normally, people wish to cut down the tree that bears bitter fruit. However, there is a better way: changing the tree into a sweet persimmon-bearing tree. This process can be performed by cutting a shoot from a sweet persimmon tree and grafting it onto the trunk of a bitter one. In a year’s time, the whole of the bitter tree will have changed and will produce sweet fruit.

The same thing can be said of for example Shinto or Buddhism. They cannot be cut down, for they are rooted very deeply in the Japanese soil. Yet, we can find ways to graft Christianity into them.

JapanCAN: The idea that we can “graft Christianity into Shinto and Buddhism” is going to make many people uncomfortable… please explain what you mean.

Dr. Lee: For centuries Japan has been a home to Shinto, Buddhism and also Confucianism. On the other hand, the Japanese have developed a particular way of allowing the religions of Shinto, Buddhism and Confucianism to co-exist. This is called shinbutsuju shugo a harmonious fusion of Buddhism, Shinto and Confucianism initiated by Prince Shotoku (574–622). That is why it is important for Christians to take these two religions, plus Confucianism very serious. We cannot overlook or ignore them. We cannot uproot them and replace them with Christianity. The option that remains open is grafting Christianity into Japanese culture.

I know this so-called engrafting makes many people nervous, they may think that it promotes syncretism.

I absolutely do not mean to compromise the life-changing message of Jesus Christ with anything else, but engrafting allows a Japanese to remain culturally or outwardly Japanese and at the same time be a follower of Jesus.

We may use their values and traditions outwardly and make Christianity fit inwardly. We can take Shinto or Buddhist concepts and traditions and give them a new light and meaning. Outwardly they sound and look unchanged, but inwardly they are occupied with Christianity.

I believe in your article 6 Ways to Contextualize Worship in Japan, you have given very good examples of such engrafting. For example you mentioned of Makiki Christian Church in Hawaii, it looks Japanese from the outside but its spiritual content is Christianity. We may even use ceremonies or customs and even festivals that look Buddhist or Shinto with Christian content en message. 

JapanCAN: It is easy to talk about contextualization but difficult to implement. . . . What other ideas do you have for implementing a contextualized Gospel for Japan?

Dr. Lee: Japanese culture has many beautiful aspects that can be used as contexts for presenting the Gospel. 

For example, a Christian friend of mine once told me that, one day, a friend of his who was a passionate Shinto believer came to him holding a copy of the Bible. He said excitedly to my friend, “I read the Torah. I was very surprised to learn about the religious ceremonies of ancient Israel. They show similarities with Shinto ceremonies. The feasts, the structure of the tabernacle, the temple, the Ark of the Covenant, the value of cleanliness, the impurity of the dead: all of those are similar to Shinto elements!” My friend then said to him, “Yes, that is what I have also noticed. If you have discovered it, why don’t you believe in God, of whom the Bible teaches?” This was the start of many interesting conversations between the two friends.

I personally believe that Shinto and Buddhism present contextual grounds that can be used as starting points for contextualization.

I often tell my students that, though there is only one way to the Father and that is Jesus Christ, there are many ways that may lead a person to Jesus.

So, I believe that Buddhism and Shinto can function as a bridge to Christ, just as Paul used “the unknown god” as a bridge to lead some Athenians to Christ, or at least to pique their interest in the Gospel.

In Paul’s case, Athenians asked him whether he was introducing a new god to them, to which Paul replied, People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you (Acts 17:22–23).

Hiromichi Kozaki (1856–1928) sought to build a bridge between Christianity and Confucianism. He argued that, though Confucianism does not directly relate to Christianity, it does not contradict it either, and he compared the function of Confucianism with that of Judaism. As with Judaism in Israel, Confucianism prepares the way for Christianity in Japan.

In his view, Christianity reaches beyond Confucianism by perfecting and fulfilling it. For instance, Confucian loyalty can be applied to the Christian God, after which the meaning of belief and obedience to Him becomes clear.

Another example, Kanzo Uchimura (1861–1930) referred to traditional Japanese faith and urged Japanese Christians to recognize the considerable contribution that their own tradition had made to their belief in Christianity.

Much of what seemed to the Japanese to be unprecedented in Christianity was already present in their native beliefs. Katsumi Takizawa (1904–1984) and Seiichi Yagi (I don’t know his dates) are among the many Japanese who have attempted to clarify this idea.

For instance, Yagi encouraged the development of Christianity in the Japanese context, particularly that of Japanese Buddhism, and wrote various books on the topic, including Contact Points between Buddhism and Christianity (1975) and Paul/Shinran, Jesus/Zen (1979). I am not sure whether evangelical Christians will admit the names I have mentioned here. Some may consider their ideas to be heretic and syncretic.

Thankfully, there are ministers today who use the tea ceremony as a means to evangelize the Japanese.

Makiki Christian Church, Hawaii

From another angle, it would be great to have more churches made stylized to appeal to religious frameworks of the Japanese. I am sure that they exist at present, though more would be even better.

Another way of implementing contextualization is to study Japanese society.

By identifying various societal needs and studying their causes and roots, we may develop important contextual tools for reaching out to the Japanese people. Officiating marriage ceremonies, conducting funeral services, and offering various services to the elderly may all be considered to be contextual as well. I am sure that some ministries specialize in helping people with suicidal tendencies. These are all good examples of contextualization.

JapanCAN: How can we change the perception that Christianity is foreign to Japan?

Dr. Lee: As far as I understand it, the foreignness of Christianity is not the problem. Buddhism is also foreign to Japan, yet nevertheless found its place in Japanese culture in such a way that we seldom remember its foreignness.

I think Christianity is viewed as the religion of the West’s unhealthy colonial past, which is more problematic than simply its foreignness.

We have to be conscious of this fact. By contrast, some Christian scholars believe that Christianity arrived in Japan well before Western missionaries did. They argue that, since the 5th century, the Church of the East, or the Keikyo, reached Japan via the Silk Road.

Despite compelling documentation and research, Christians with strong Western roots unfortunately do not want to entertain this theory. In this case, we can use the above examples to show the Japanese people that Christianity in Japan is not as newly Western as assumed.

JapanCAN: What is syncretism, and how do you avoid it?

Dr. Lee: Before I answer your question, let me to say that no religion—including Christianity— can stand on its own in a vacuum of space and time or function independently of all types of social and cultural traditions.

Religions are influenced by their contexts, and contexts are influenced by religions. Religions borrow from each other; they exchange concepts and emerge from one another.

I do not want to disappoint the readers, but even today’s Christianity in the West is not free of syncretism! 

Christianity originated in Israel; it has Jewish and Aramaic roots. As such, the Christianity introduced by Christ differed from that which Paul introduced to the Romans and Greeks. It differed even more when Constantine introduced Christianity into politics in the 4th century.

I often ask myself whether Constantine was converted to Christianity or whether Christianity was converted to Constantine’s culture—the Roman culture.

For instance, Christmas and the birth of Christ have origins in Mithraism, a Persian religion that existed in pre-Christian Rome. Though December 25 was originally celebrated as the birthday of Mithra, it was later synchronized with the birth of Christ. The Romans paired these and other holidays as Christianity became popular in order to reinforce it as the state religion. Today, very few people are aware of the historical details behind this Christian festival.

Japan offers an interesting example. As early missionaries improved their knowledge of the Japanese language, they realized that the word dainichi was not suitable for the Christian God. From then on, they referred to God as Deus (pronounced deusu), or hotoke, a more generic term for Buddha.

Therefore, Francis Xavier (1506–1552) changed the translation for God from dainichi to Deus. From that point on, it was preached in the streets of Yamaguchi that dainichi was not the true God and should not be prayed to. Gradually, this new rule prompted enmity between Buddhist monks and missionaries, though even Deus was borrowed from outside the Judeo-Christian tradition. Yet, missionaries accepted Deus as a valid way to address God, while dainichi was considered to be pagan, if not demonic.

Even the English word for God comes not from the Hebrew or Aramaic language, but has roots that might be Anglo-Saxon or Germanic.

So, what is syncretism?

Syncretism occurs when we compromise the most basic foundations of our faith with mainstream culture, ideologies, and/or religions.

Yet, who defines syncretism? Is it defined by denominational doctrines or Christian traditions? I believe that we can have certain standards to bind all of us together, such as Christ’s virgin birth, His death and resurrection, our salvation through Him, and the forgiveness of our sins by His death on the cross. For instance, some people take the Apostles’ Creed as the standard.

JapanCAN: How do you respond to people who see almost any move toward a contextualized Gospel in Japan as syncretistic?

Dr. Lee: We must always be careful not to compromise the most foundational aspects of the Gospel with anything else. However, as I asked earlier, who defines syncretism?

People affiliated with denominations imposing strong doctrinal traditions are very careful when someone seeks to contextualize the Gospel. I recommend that we give those who seek to contextualize Christianity in Japan a chance and that we follow them carefully but not immediately label such contextualization as heresy, unless it denies the most elementary foundations of Christian faith.

In short, though the packaging may differ, the message must be the same.

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Samuel C. Lee is the president of Foundation University, a Christian University based in Amsterdam. He is author of Understanding Japan Through the Eyes of Christian Faith, Rediscovering Japan, Reintroducing Christianity and The Japanese & Christianity: Why Is Christianity Not Widely Believed in Japan? He holds M.A. Degree in Sociology of Non Western Societies/Japanese society (Leiden University) and Ph.D. in Intercultural Theology (VU University / Free University Amsterdam).

Since 1994, Samuel and his wife Sarah serve as senior pastors in Jesus Christ Foundation Churches based in Amsterdam and in eleven other cities around the world. Samuel is also part of the steering committee of the National Synod, a forum of the Protestant Churches of the Netherlands.

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An Interview with “Culture Care” Author Makoto Fujimura

Culture Care Book
The current condition of the river of culture is not be one that “makes life worth living.”  The river is tainted with so much de-humanizing elements, that it is hard for us, not just artists but ALL people to see through the darkness.  So this book is designed for those who do not consider themselves to be artists as well as to those “endangered” species of cultural environment called artists. (Makoto Fujimura)
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“Everyone can be a gardener of culture!” (Makoto Fujimura)
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Makoto Fujimura (Mako) is an internationally-renowned artist, arts advocate, writer and speaker. He founded International Arts Movement in 1991, and the Fujimura Institute in 2011.
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Mako has been a model and a great encouragement to me and many others around the world. He has inspired me to aim at making excellent art that impacts mainstream culture. Mako recently launched a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds for his Culture Care book – support this campaign and get a copy of Culture Care at a big discount.
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I asked Mako for an interview, he graciously responded to my questions.
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JapanCAN: What is culture care?Makoto Fujimura
Fujimura: Culture Care is a vision for presenting our culture with a bouquet of flowers—for reconnecting our culture with beauty. It is an invitation to join a constructive conversation with fresh categories, and a call to cultivate the soil of culture so that it can flourish. Culture care is for everyone: artists and cultural catalysts, academics and activists, church and government workers, business and civic leaders. Everyone has a role in restoring beauty to benefit ourselves and coming generations.
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JapanCAN: Why is culture care important for Japan?
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Fujimura: Culture Care is an ideal way to approach the Japanese as Japanese culture already has an imbedded connection between natural resources and cultural resources (Nihonga is a good example of this).  Culture Care is actually a way to recover authentic Japanese values, but the Japanese have lost touch with in post-war industrialization.  By doing so,  I believe beauty will lead to people being open to God being the great Artist who gave us natural resources and made us in His Image.
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JapanCAN: How does the concept of culture care relate to seeing the gospel thrive in Japan?
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Fujimura: It was through (my wife) Judy’s generous act of bringing beauty in my life that opened my heart for the gospel. I believe that the same can happen to many Japanese; gratuitous beauty is valued highly in Japanese cultural history. Beauty can open hearts to the Gospel.
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JapanCAN: In what ways could Christians actually do culture care in Japan?
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Fujimura: By valuing and accentuating the unique “gift culture” of Japan (but in reality, it has been corrupted to become a “guilt culture”). Culture Care may be to recover the true Japanese soul, a soul that has been wounded by many years of persecution (both Christians and non-Christians). Generosity, Generational thinking, and creating Genesis moments can be a way to open up the tradition as made alive today.
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JapanCAN: Are you thinking of releasing this book in Japanese?
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Fujimura: Yes, we have translated the introduction, but we need to raise funds to print that.  It may be a pdf release.
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A Volunteer in Japan Realizes “Small Things” Matter

Alecia Tallent in Japan's Disaster Zone

After Japan’s massive earthquake/tsunami/nuclear disaster in 2011 Alecia Talent was one of thousands of Christians who responded by volunteering. I asked Alecia to write about her experience for JapanCAN. 

 We often have little patience for the small things of life. The birds singing, the smile of a stranger, a conversation…these happen everyday, uncelebrated, unnoticed. The larger things, the great exploits of man and nature are what command our attention and fill our late night aspirations. We spend every day learning about great men and hearing about infamous criminals. History is a collection of the larger-than-life. The daily news and media give us a never-ending supply of what is currently big enough to be known. Like an earthquake off the coast of Japan and a tsunami ravaging its towns.

Alecia Tallent in Japan's Disaster Zone

Alecia Tallent in Japan’s Disaster Zone

I sat in a Starbucks crying as I watched replays of the wave hitting Sendai on my computer screen. My husband and I were aspiring missionaries to Japan. We had already been there twice on short-term trips. I loved Japan deeply, with an affection I truly believe could only come from Christ Himself, and my heart broke on that cold day in March, 2011. I wanted nothing more than to be in Japan, suffering along with them, doing whatever I could to help. Obviously, we had to go.

It took time, research, and a generous donor, but by October my husband and I were on a plane headed to Tokyo to work as volunteers with CRASH Japan. After a quick ride on the shinkansen (Bullet Train) we were in Tohoku (the disaster zone). A few more trains and a car ride later we arrived at the CRASH volunteer base in Tono.

The Tono base was in an old house with sliding paper doors, tatami mats, futons, and a wonderful kotatsu — where we could sit and keep warm during meals. We would be here for two weeks to help in any way we could, even though our Japanese was minimal, and we had little to offer the tsunami survivors… Or so we thought.

Each day, as a team, we trekked to a new temporary housing site. Located at random clearings near the tsunami zone the temporary units were metal, one-room boxes serving as homes for those displaced by the disaster. At each site half of us would set up a “Mobile Cafe” complete with crafts, hot tea, coffee, treats, and tables for people to come and socialize. The other half of the team would distribute blankets to the tenants and inform them of the “Mobile Cafe.” We always had a bunch of people, young and old, come for a free drink and a chat.

CRASH Mobile Cafe

CRASH Mobile Cafe

I confess that it took me at least a week to figure out why on earth I was there. I couldn’t speak Japanese. All of my conversations had to be done through an interpreter. We weren’t doing any clean up, nor were we allowed to preach (though Christian materials were laid out for those interested). How was this little “Mobile Cafe” making any difference in the lives of those who were suffering? How was I making a difference?

Two events brought home the very important lesson that, to those suffering great pain small things matter. At one point, an older gentleman at our cafe began a deep discussion with one of our team. We heard later that this man was very interested in discussing the tsunami, and particularly its spiritual influence on his life.

He told our interpreter, “I believe that God is not in temples. He is not like Buddha. He is in people like you.” 

This man was referring to the volunteers at the “Mobile Cafe.” And he was right. Was it not the Spirit of the Living God that brought us here to serve him tea? How did he realize that?

Then came a more personal moment. I sat at a table with the same interpreter and a young Japanese girl who was asking me all about my life. As we drank tea together outside her little temporary tin home she expressed interest in my marriage and explained to me that she had met a man in a shelter after the disaster. This young woman had lost everyone she knew in the tsunami, and this man soon became her boyfriend. She hoped to marry him, but his family did not approve of her, and it was causing a strain in their relationship.

She poured out her heart to me, her desperation to keep him, the only relationship she had left, and her confusion at knowing what to do. She asked my advice, which I gave, but I don’t really think that was why she was there. She wanted help, but she wanted something more than that, a listening ear. Here I was, a married woman her age and a foreigner who knew nothing about that culture’s ways and, therefore, wouldn’t judge her if she spilled her heart.

These two events stayed with me throughout that week. There were more conversations and encounters.

The little boy who wanted his picture with us and his new bike. A woman who wanted to host us in her little tin box for tea. The man who showed my husband all his pictures of the tsunami. The little old lady who insisted on buying my husband tea from a vending machine because he was so “pretty.”

I will never forget when an entire family came out of their housing unit for a potluck feast, heartily encouraging us to join them as they took advantage of the social time our cafe gave them.

Temporary Housing in Tohoku

Temporary Housing in Tohoku

As I considered these things, I imagined the situation reversed. What if it had been my town that was destroyed? What if it were my grandma living in a tin box after losing the home of her ancestors? It would mean so much to me if one stranger, traveling thousands of miles to do so, came to offer my grandma a hot cup of tea, a chair and a table, and company. A little cafe where she could get some resemblance of society and normalcy back. It dawned on me, “Small Things” really do count!”

It’s no wonder that now, over 3 years later, the gospel is finding roots in Tohoku like never before.

A missionary at my church in Japan recently held a baptism. It was his first after decades of ministry in Japan. This baptism took place after serving the survivors long after the media and big charities had forgotten about the 2011 earthquake. Churches are forming. Hurting people are finding hope in Christ. And why? Because with each cup of tea, each person that came to suffer alongside them, each sacrifice made by a stranger was a testimony to Christ.

The volunteers had enough hope in the goodness of God that we could dare to be personal with the hurting and stare at their pain without looking away in horror.

It touched them. They spilled their hearts. They saw God. No one stands out in this. Not one missionary or organization or charity group….just thousands of little people from churches all over Japan and the world coming to do the little things that are easily overlooked, but not easily forgotten.

I grew during that trip. It was a good reminder that aspiring to greatness isn’t wrong, but who defines what is great? Only He knows how many seeds were planted and lives changed just by me and thousands of other volunteers being faithful in the little things.

I sometimes wonder if the answer to the problem of evangelism to Japan isn’t along these lines… The little things. The small moments where we touch lives. The unseen deeds. Jesus had only 12 disciples to His name, small men of little significance who just got to share life with Jesus. The world has never been the same since…

Alecia Tallent is married to Michael and is the Administrative Assistant for Global Ministry at TEAM’s office in Carol Stream, IL. Alecia and her husband are preparing to return to Japan to serve longer term as missionaries with TEAM. 

Related Links:

Paul Nethercott is working on a feature-length film called  2 Criminals. Based on a true story, 2 Criminals is about two volunteers Paul met while doing disaster relief work with CRASH.

Atonement in Ancient and Modern Japan

Shinada
In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness. (Hebrews 9:22, NIV)
The belief that setting things right requires sacrifice is deeply embedded in the hearts and minds of humans. In Japanese culture, from ancient times, atonement is found through ritualistic sacrifice. These rituals are redemptive analogies that point to Jesus and his death on the cross.
<p> </p>
While Westerners tend to think of “sin” as guilt due to breaking a law, Japanese are generally more concerned about avoiding shame and impurity. When purity is compromised or when there is shame, Japanese demand that a proper price be paid. Remarkably, a proper sacrifice can set things right. In this post I will provide several examples of Japanese rituals that bring atonement for “sin.”
<p> </p>
I asked retired TEAM missionary Dr. Bob Shade for help with understanding the idea of sacrifice in Japanese culture. Dr. Shade referred me to G. B. Sansom’s “Japan, a Short Cultural History” (1943).  On page 230 there is a reference sacrifice, “At the beginning of the Heian period (794 to 1185 A.D.) celestial worship seems to have been common among the farmers in many parts of Japan, for an edict was sent to several provinces at this time forbidding them to sacrifice oxen to Heaven.” So it appears that animal sacrifice was practiced in ancient Japan.
<p> </p>
Dr. Shade let me know about another ritual, hitobashira. “There is also the ancient tradition of hitobashira which was the sacrifice of a human being whose body was buried, sometimes alive, under a key construction pillar or foundation of a building or bridge.” While hitobashira appears to have been rarely used, this practice perfectly illustrates the Japanese belief that a proper sacrifice can make things right. A price must be paid! If it is, the foundation will be secure. This reminds me of the passage, “Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself.” (Ephesians 2:20 NLT)

Aganai

Aganai (Chinese character for “Atone”)

<p> </p>
A more common, and much more well-known, means of atonement in Japanese culture is ritual suicide (seppuku). Also known as harakiri, seppuku is another example of the strongly held belief in the culture of Japan that human sacrifice can make things right.
<p> </p>
In the Samurai code, if an individual brought shame on himself or his clan, he could retain his honor through ritual suicide. Years ago I read that samurai who committed seppuku found atonement. According to that source — which I do not have access to at this time — the Chinese character (kanji) used to denote atonement was aganai (贖い). This particular kanji is used in the Christian Bible for “atone.” In modern Japanese, aganai is rarely used. So uncommon is this kanji, most Japanese with whom I have studied the Bible do not know what it means.
<p> </p>
Bible translators may have chosen to use aganai (贖い) for “atone” in the Bible because of the connection with the ancient ritual of seppuku. Dr. Shade pointed out to me, “the radical in the top right of the kanji for “aganai/aganau” is a samurai. Two of the other radicals are the same and they are “kai” or shell and mean “to buy.” The meaning of this kanji indicates a strong connection between the purchase of atonement and the ancient ritual of seppuku.
Shinada
<p> </p>
A modern example of ritual sacrifice is the yakuza (Japanese organized crime) ritual of making atonement for sin by cutting off a finger. One of the men whose life inspired a group of us to get to work on making a feature-length film called 2 Criminals, is missing a finger. Mr. Shinada knifed a man who had insulted his sister. The wounded man was a member of another yakuza family so the rival gang sent two men to kill Shinada. Shinada’s boss quickly cut off Shinada’s finger, wrapped it up in a cloth, and presented it to the leader of the rival gang. The offering was accepted and the hit was called off. The sacrifice of Mr. Shinada’s finger saved his life!
<p> </p>
In everyday life Japanese feel strongly that “things must be done the right way.” If the “right way” is not followed, if an individual brings shame on the group, a price must be paid. More often than not the price paid is bearing ridicule. For more serious “sins” the price can be ostracism from the group. I believe one reason Japanese commonly sacrifice their health to overwork is because they can’t stand the thought of bearing the shame of not measuring up. There is even a word — karooshi — that means “death from overwork.” This is an example of modern Japanese sacrificing themselves to avoid shame.
<p> </p>
Do ancient rituals matter today? If history and mythology are important, if culture shapes belief systems and how people live, then they matter.
<p> </p>
Japanese rituals of atonement are important “bridges to the gospel.” In what ways could the emphasis on “putting things right” in Japanese culture through sacrifice be a means of contextualizing the gospel to Japan and reaching out to Japanese?
<p> </p>
Related links:

Why Are So Many Christians Afraid of Hollywood Bible Movies?

Exodus: Gods and Kings

This year two Hollywood films — “Noah” and “Exodus:Gods and Kings” — will expose millions of people around the world to stories inspired by the Bible. How will we respond? 

What do you think about Cole Nesmith’s perspective as expressed in his article, “Why Are So Many Christians Afraid of Hollywood Bible Movies?” Please post your comments!

Related post:3 REASONS JAPANESE SHOULD SEE ARONOFSKY’S “NOAH”

6 Ways to Contextualize Worship to Japan

Makiki Christian Church, Hawaii

“Worship is the heart and pulse of the Christian church. In worship we celebrate together God’s gracious gifts of creation and salvation, and are strengthened to live in response to God’s grace. Worship always involves actions, not merely words. To consider worship is to consider music, art, and architecture, as well as liturgy and preaching. The reality that Christian worship is always celebrated in a given local cultural setting draws our attention to the dynamics between worship and the world’s many local cultures.” (from the NAIROBI STATEMENT ON WORSHIP AND CULTURE)

 

McDonalds Japan Style

McDonalds Japan Style

The story is told that a group of Japanese students on a visit to America were surprised to see McDonald’s restaurants. “They have them here, too!” they exclaimed. Japanese perceive McDonald’s to be a Japanese establishment. Why? Because McDonald’s is contextualized to Japan. 

Japan’s McDonald’s are both similar to and different from the American version. In Japan the service is better, there are unique products, cups are smaller, the premises are cleaner, and there are subtle differences in the flavors. In addition, the staff speak the language and know the culture of Japan.

The Christian church does contextualize worship to Japan but I believe we could do better. How can we appropriately, and more effectively, contextualize our worship to Japan? How can we affect change? Worship always involves actions, to start the conversation, here are six practical ideas:  

  1. Church bulletins, posters, leaflets, websites, etc. should “fit” the culture. How do you do that? Ask a Japanese to do the design. The results won’t necessarily look like traditional Japanese art but there will be a difference. The cultural influence will be noticeable.
  2. Select music for worship that is written by Japanese. If very little or no music sung in a Japanese church is written by Japanese it gives the impression that Christianity is an imported religion.
  3. Along with the instruments already being used, add a traditional Japanese one. Japanese rock bands are using them, why not in the church? Samisen, koto, flute, and other more traditional instruments are all possibilities. Why not bring them into the church?
  4. Showcase ikebana in your church every Sunday. Even smaller Japanese churches usually have at least one person who is skilled at flower arranging. This is a wonderful way to bring the beauty of God’s creation into the church and contextualizing worship.

    Makiki Christian Church, Hawaii

  5. If you construct a church building, choose a style of architecture that results in people thinking, “that church looks Japanese!” Which doesn’t necessarily mean your building is going to look like Makiki church in Honolulu but it could (see photo). 
  6. Make the historical connection between traditional Japanese tea ceremony and Christian communion. Research it, discuss it, teach it, have a “show and tell” at your church. This connection is real. It is beautifully documented in the DVD “God’s Fingerprints in Japan.” I wonder if there are any churches that do communion in the style of tea ceremony?

What are your ideas? Please post them. 
 
Related links: 

In Japan’s Disaster Zone Christians Called “Jesus Person”

Pastor Takanori from Fukushima

When disaster struck Japan in March of 2011, the church in Japan responded by mobilizing thousands of volunteers. The volunteers from Japan and around the world, often working alongside local pastors, delivered supplies, set up mobile cafes, and did hard dirty work like cleaning mud from under homes. Volunteers also did music, held art classes, handed out literature, gave hand massages, smiled at people, and prayed for survivors. The volunteers were an incredibly positive presence in the midst of a broken land and hurting people. While the number of outside volunteers has dwindled, local pastors continue to reach out and help people in their communities.

Remarkably, in at least one area, local people are calling volunteers “Jesus Person, or Mr. Jesus.” While I heard about this over three years ago when I visited Fukushima, it recently came to my attention when CRASH Japan president Jonathan Wilson posted on Facebook that he was reading the book Living Together With Fukushima. Jonathan translated a section of the book by Pastor Kanari Takanori of Iwaki, Fukushima: 

“As we approach the temporary housing area that we visit, sometimes one of the residents will shout out ‘Kirisuto-san is coming, Kirisuto-san is coming’ (Most likely they mean ‘the volunteers from the Christian church.’) But I am always touched by this. No one ever says that the purpose of disaster relief is ‘Let’s go evangelize disaster survivors’, but in practical terms it is through the service of the Christian relief workers that the survivors are given a good witness.”  Pastor Takanori from Fukushima

Wilson went on to comment, “One of the problems that we have as evangelical Christians is that we equate evangelism with what the rest of the world describes as proselytism. We must become more thorough in our emulation of Jesus, who went and walked with the neediest, who then flocked to hear His message. This is what the pastors of Fukushima are doing.”

While doing disaster relief work I had the privilege of meeting Pastor Takanori. His church was so badly damaged by the earthquake that it was condemned and had to be torn down. In spite of facing huge personal challenges, Pastor Takanori set to work helping his community — I was deeply impressed with his humble service in difficult circumstances.

Due to the good work of thousands of Christian volunteers, and local “hero” pastors who have persevered many Japanese have a far more positive feeling about Jesus and Christians than they did before the disaster. That is GOOD NEWS!

Please continue to PRAY FOR JAPAN!

Related Post: “Is There Any Hope for Japan?” 

Related Links:

CRASH Japan Video: “Japan Pastors Appeal for Help (日本の牧師からの援助の)” – Featuring Pastor Takanori

CRASH Japan Home Page

How Can Christian Volunteers Respond to Disaster? [Kindle Edition] (Jonathan Wilson’s Book)

3 Reasons Japanese Should See Aronofsky’s “Noah”

Noah Poster Top Portion

“Noah” will be released in Japan on June 13, 2014

Controversy has swirled around the “Noah” epic with many Christians denouncing it. While the film takes liberties, there is good reason to take your Japanese friends to see it.

Noah Poster

1. “Noah” includes one of the best portrayals of the creation story on film. Years ago retired TEAM missionary John Schwab said to me, “when you teach Japanese the Bible, start in Genesis!!” This makes perfect sense as Genesis is the beginning of the story. The first three chapters of the Bible are pivotal as they provide crucial background on God, the creation, the source of sin, and the promise of redemption. For a person with no exposure to the Old Testament narratives starting with the New Testament is like walking into a movie theater half way though a film and trying to figure out what the story is about.

Starting in Genesis provides the context needed to understand who God is and why Jesus did what he did on the cross. The portrayal of the creation story in “Noah” is a way for Japanese — who often know nothing about the Biblical narrative — to “get” a crucial part of the story.

2. Throughout the film “The Creator” is a phrase that is used many times. Noah prays to “The Creator.” Noah and his family follow “The Creator” who warns them of coming catastrophe and tells them how to build a vessel that will keep them and the animals safe. Noah and his family are in relationship with “The Creator.” They communicate with him. He cares about them and is shown to stand for justice and goodness. “The Creator” is portrayed as wise and powerful. The caveat is that we don’t know how this will be translated in the Japanese version of the film.

3. Any film about the Bible is an opportunity to start a conversation. “What did you think about the film” works fine as an opening question. “What did you think about the “Creator God in the film?” is a good question to ask. Almost any open question can lead to important conversations (don’t fail to listen!).

There has been strong objections to a lack of Biblical accuracy in “Noah.” Many Christians react to “Noah” because it is not the kind of film that they expected. For most of us Noah is a cute Sunday School story while “Noah” is a violent, complex tale with conflicted characters. What was Noah (the man) really like? We simply do not know. It is possible that he struggled with fear and temptations like we do. While the movie isn’t perfect — the ridiculous Rock Giants are particularly hard to accept — “Noah” does get many of the main elements of the story right.

I know a man who followed Christ after seeing “Ben Hur” while in prison. He was there for terrorism. Now this man is a missionary to Japan and a chaplain in prisons. Was “Ben Hur” completely accurate to the Bible? No. And, neither is “Noah.” Apparently, Hollywood has two Moses films and an epic about Cain and Abel in the works. While Hollywood seeks to cash in on the popularity of Bible stories, I pray God will use these films to draw people to himself.

1.3 million “likes” on the Japanese Facebook page for “Noah” indicates a great deal of interest in the film.

If you see “Noah” with Japanese friends, please post about how it went.

Related Links:

A Change of Course

Act One Class 2014

Have you experienced a change of course in life?

I have. Eight years ago we collaborated with Biola University on making a film called Mujo No Kaze (“Wind of Impermanence”) — a short film we shot on location in Japan. That film project changed the course of my life… I saw the potential for using visual media to reach Japan for Christ.

After that first film I was part of making a number of short films including Jitensha (“Bicycle”). Consequently, filmmaking became the primary focus of my mission work in Japan.

My work for CRASH after Japan’s huge disaster in March of 2011 was related to filmmaking. After completing my full-time work with CRASH at the end of 2012, I started working on a feature-length film titled 2 Criminals. The immense scope of this project highlighted my need for more training.

Act One Class 2014

Act One Class 2014

Thus, I am thrilled to tell you that I have been accepted into the summer 2014 Act One Producing & Entertainment Executive Program in Los Angeles, CA. This program “offers a comprehensive overview of the industry, access to established Hollywood professionals and a highly coveted internship where practical industry experience is gained. Act One, exists to create a community of Christian professionals for the entertainment industry who are committed to artistry, professionalism, meaning, and prayer, so that through their lives and work they may be witnesses of Christ and the Truth to their fellow artists and to the global culture.” I am excited and thankful to be part of this program! I anticipate gaining knowledge, experience, and access to a large network of Christian professionals working in the film industry.

How will being at Act One in LA for the summer affect the 2 Criminals Film project?

The challenges of making a feature-length film are significant. The Act One program will give me a boost in my knowledge of the craft and connect me with people who can give me advice. And, Los Angeles is a strategic location for networking with people who can help us get our film made.

How long will you be in LA?

May 25 – August 18

 

Global Outreach Day (6.14.2014): Flash Mob & Music Festival in Tokyo

Music Festival in Tokyo on June 14, 2014
Music Festival, Tokyo 6.14.2014

Music Festival in Tokyo on June 14, 2014

 

Music Festival in Tokyo on June 14, 2014

“One Week to Shine” is an exciting  initiative organized by Andy Game and his team at 7Media. By bridging Prayer and Outreach we want to reach the next generation with the joy of God’s love for us” is how 7Media articulates the vision. The initiative includes a flash mob and outdoor concert in Tokyo on June 14.  

These events have a great deal of promise, please attend if you can and — no matter where you are in the world — be sure to Pray for Japan! 

Below is detailed information about both events in English and in Japanese from 7Media’s website:

FLASHMOB

Meeting at 9:00, we will pray and prepare for a huge Flashmob/Dance Outreach starting from Shibuya and ending in Harajuku. Click HERE to find out how you can be part of this major event of the year.

フラッシュモブの集合は午前9時です。渋谷から原宿にかけての大規模なダンス/フラッシュモブのアウトリーチの為に一緒に祈り備えてから出発します。このイベントの参加方法など詳細はコチラをクリックして下さい

JOY Festival

We are having a concert at Hibiya Park for Global Outreach Day. Join us for the JOY Festival, featuring many different Christian artists, including:

THE4POINTSはグローバル・アウトリーチ・デー One Week To Shine の一部として日比谷公園小音楽堂でコンサートを行います!

ぜひぜひ、このJOY Festivalにお越し下さい!

シンガーやダンサーを迎えて楽しいブースも用意しています!
是非友達といらして下さい!

完全無料です!

出演アーティスト
ハレルヤ・ゴスペル・ファミリー
横山大輔
Samuelle
ニューホープ横浜 ゴスペルフラダンス
山本香織
Marisa

Act Now for Free Digital Download of “The Japanese & Christianity”

Book cover by Sam Lee

Samuel Lee’s book The Japanese & Christianity : Why Is Christianity Not Widely Believed in Japan? is available free of charge as a Kindle download!  Act fast, as this offer is good for another 24 hours.SamLee.cover_.front1_-240x359

From Lee’s Facebook page: “Good News for Kindle users: 12-13 May, Monday & Tuesday: 24 hrs long you can download my book for FREE. Please share this WITH those who interested in reaching the Japanese with gospel of Jesus Christ.”

Download your copy on Amazon HERE

On iPads you can read the digital version of this book by using the free of charge Kindle APP.

Sam Lee’s Website: PROJECT JAPAN

Contextualizing the Gospel for Japan a “Hot Topic”

Reaching Japanese for Christ Logo

Several recent posts on contextualizing the gospel for Japan at the Reaching Japanese for Christ (RJC) Facebook Page have received a remarkable number of comments. I encourage you take a look at them (there is no way to link to a particular post on a RJC logoFacebook page so you will need to go to the page and scroll down to find the content I’m referring to). A post with the title, “Is it OK to assimilate some Shinto festivals into Christianity in order to bring more Japanese into the fold?” has 70 comments!

It is encouraging to see this issue being discussed on Facebook… Is this an indication that this critically important issue is gaining the attention of mission and church leaders?

RJC Homepage

Related Articles:

  1. A Japanese festival that reflects the gospel
  2. Contextualization: Becoming All Things To All Men To Save Some (Part 2)
  3. A Japanese Gospel Message

Related Posts:

  1. EASTER FROM THE PERSPECTIVE OF JAPANESE SAMURAI CULTURE
  2. IS IT CONTRADICTORY TO BE JAPANESE AND A FOLLOWER OF JESUS?

 

 

 

Why Indigitous Hong Kong Was Remarkable

Indigitous Hong Kong

The vision of the Indigitous movement is to connect people to Jesus using digital strategies. In April I attended Indigitous in Hong Kong where I gave a short presentation. I had a really good time at this conference, below I reflect on why I enjoyed it so much.  Attending meetings is part of my work as a missionary. Unfortunately, a majority of church and mission related meetings are lectures. The reality is that I get almost nothing out of meetings like that. A few years ago I finally realized why — my auditory learning mode is my weakest. In other words, listening to people talk is the least effective way for me to learn (please give me a manuscript instead, I can read it in a fraction of the time and I will retain it much better). Indigitous Hong Kong

My strongest learning style is probably visual. Movies, photos, and the beauty of nature capture my attention and I remember visuals far better than spoken words. My second strongest learning style is kinesthetic (movement of the body is part of the process). My first real job was in a small town grocery store. I thrived at that job because it was a learning through doing environment. My wonderful boss Dick Tornquist would first show me how to do something and then he would have me do it while he watched and gave direction. I learned to cut meat and other skills through this method. School however did not go so well because it was primarily a lecture based approach to education.

The leaders of Indigitous Hong Kong put together a remarkable program that worked well for visual, kinesthetic and auditory learners. I was impressed! This is the way conferences, and church meetings should be done. I loved the way visual media was utilized. And, there was over six hours of project time when we were divided into small affinity groups and told, “create something!” My group made a video which involved walking around shooting footage. The video turned out quite well, you can see it HERE.

We were a tribe of like-minded people who got to learn together in a way that suited them. Sadly, in my experience relatively few church meetings appeal to visual and kinesthetic learners. Kinesthetic and visual learners get frustrated. Eventually many give up and quit attending church. I believe that this is one reason so many believers in Japan leave the church.  Kudos to the Hong Kong Indigitous planning team for planning such an effective conference.   I’d like to brainstorm about what the church can do to connect with visual and kinesthetic learners… What are your ideas?

Related Article: Visual, Auditory, Kinesthetic Learners

Easter from the Perspective of Japanese Samurai Culture

Ritual suicide in Japan

Contextualizing the gospel

Ritual suicide in Japan

Ritual suicide in Japan

to Japan’s ancient and proud culture is a crucial issue. This week’s JapanCAN post is a link to an article by Steve Sakanashi. In an email Sakanashi wrote, “Since this weekend is Easter, and most Japanese people have no idea why it is a holiday, I wrote a letter to explain it through Japanese samurai culture.”

To read Sakanashi’s article click on the following title: Bushido, Seppuku, and the Shameful Death of Jesus Christ

Thanks Steve for putting thought and effort into articulating the gospel from a Japanese perspective.

Related Posts on JapanCAN:

Related Articles (From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia)

Digital Outreach: An Incarnational Paradigm

Connect, Collaborate, Create

“The big hub-bub, (the drama), the $64,000.00 question for digital ministry is: where is all the fruit – eg new believers who became disciples who got plugged into a church that we can name, track and see multiply. People are tired of counting clicks that don’t translate into real people in a real Church.” (what one leader posted on Facebook).

I too have felt frustrated by a lack of results. Just as there are very few children born without real human connection, I believe there will be few disciples via digital means of outreach unless the process includes connecting face to face at the local church level.

Connect, Collaborate, Create

Connect, Collaborate, Create

After Japan’s disaster in 2011 I got involved in relief work with CRASH Japan, a Tokyo based NPO founded by Jonathan Wilson. Being a small part of responding to a major disaster helped me realize that an incarnational approach is vital to effective outreach and to making disciples.

Two days after Japan’s epic disaster Wilson presented a vision to mobilize thousands of Christian volunteers and send them to work with local churches. “Hope in a Package” is how Wilson describes volunteers (see link below to his article).

The fundraising and media work I did with CRASH gave me opportunity to travel extensively in the disaster zone where I witnessed the incredibly positive impact of volunteers working with local churches. Their heart for people, their presence, and the way they helped in practical ways touched many lives. The activities of CRASH volunteers included: office work, delivering supplies, praying for people, listening to people, smiling at people, giving hand massages, cooking, and cleaning up the terrible mess left behind by the tsunami. One farm was restored to productivity through the labor of dozens of volunteers. It would not have happened with out them.

The volunteers were the heart, hands, and feet of Jesus.

This CRASH video shows how volunteers, working in collaboration with a local church, brought a powerful, culturally appropriate witness to the disaster zone: Serving Through Tradition

Clearly, responding to a disaster is a rather unique form of outreach. I think the universal principle is, we must connect with people in the real world, and serve them. People need to know that we care.

The way my father reached out to people in the communities where he pastored is a good example. He cared about people and they knew it because he showed up. If they were sick he would call on them. If they were shut in, he went to see them, regularly. If they didn’t come to church on Sunday, he would check in with them to see if they were OK. “He came to see me,” is what people say when they remember my dad. People felt loved. My dad built lasting relationships and grew his churches by connecting with people face to face, the old fashioned way. I wonder how he could have used digital tools to enhance his ability to connect with people?

“What if Jesus had not been born?” If God had only given us text, the Bible… In Jesus, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” (John 1:14). The beloved story of Christmas is about God making a deep connection with his creation by entering it in human form. He did not remain in heaven, the disciples walked with him, spoke with him, ate with him, and listened to him. This changed their lives. The incarnation of Jesus continues to change our lives today.

“An Incarnational Paradigm” for digital outreach recognizes the human need for people to connect in the real world as well as in the digital one.

How can we collaborate with local churches and others to create digital tools that will foster people getting connected and into real communities (churches)?

Related Articles:

Hope in a Package” by Jonathan Wilson

Related Video:

Collaboration: Reaching the Unreached Through …

Related Post:

How Japan’s Historic Disaster Changed the Volunteers

Note: “An Incarnational Paradigm” is the title of my presentation at the Indigitous conference in Hong Kong on April 11, 2014.

I’m deeply grateful for the graphic design by Christina Cheng

Digital Strategies of Outreach: Two Questions

Indigitous Hong Kong

Indigitous Hong KongThe goal of the Indigitous conference in Hong Kong (April 10 – 12) is to, “Collaborate with other creatives to share, inspire, and create digital strategies to help reach your world.” I’ll be there to do a TED style presentation. The presentation I’ve prepared is, “An Incarnational Paradigm.”

To help me understand the issues better I would really like to have your input on a couple of questions.

First question: I’ve heard some Christians have no use for digital strategies for outreach. What would be the reasons that people might give for that opposition?

Second question: What might be the keys to getting churches and pastors to embrace and utilize digitally based outreach?

The JapanCAN blog post next week will explain my presentation topic, “An Incarnational Paradigm.”

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