|Thoughts on Evangelism|
|Blogs - Staff|
|Written by Peter Thomson|
|Tuesday, 24 April 2012 23:21|
The past twenty-three years in Japan have been a fantastic time of loving on Japan with the Gospel of Christ. It is a joy and honor to be here. Of course there have been tough times, and more tough times will surely come, but we delight in Christ and to the work he has called us.
Over the years, we’ve done all sorts of ‘evangelism’. It can be done in myriad ways, as it should. We love seeing all the ways people reach out and love those around them. If we were to go back through all our newsletters, we would see a long list of parties, BBQs, events, hanging out with people, anything to connect with people and foster relationship.
After moving to our current city, together with Japanese ministry partners, the Lord led us to rethink (through revelation) the way we do things. We’ve written before on how we do discipleship, how we work in close partnership with Japanese leaders, and our church’s vision. Our passion remains preaching the Gospel of Christ, seeing people grow as his disciples, and for churches to multiply. How we ‘preach the Gospel’ has gone through some shifts over the past four years so we thought we’d take a moment to share what’s up.
As missionaries, we came to Japan as foreigners. The word for foreigner in Japanese is ‘gaijin’ which literally means ‘outside person’. From the beginning, society relegated us to the fringe, and much of our work has been spent taking down walls through the building of relationships. We would invite people to church services, hold events to introduce people to churches, and held English classes in churches so that people would come to churches. But we came to realize, most Japanese people could care less about church. Many churches continue to position themselves on the edge of society, relegating their ministry to weekly services. We have no problem with this if this is how people live out their love relationship with Jesus, but we heard Christ calling us to something different.
We realized that there is no reason why the Church (capital C) should be sitting on the edge of society. The call is to go make disciples, but instead of going, we spent most of our time trying to get people to come. But Japanese people aren’t interested in a pastor-centric, service-centric type of experience. Neither are we, so we’ve shifted most of our efforts to GO and engage culture/society/institutions/businesses/communities right where they are. For example, the business that our ministry partners have launched (Life Design Network) is using Biblical principles to help companies, school and families. Last year, six people received Christ through this work, which is more than we ever saw through simply inviting people to a service. We still invite people to church, but do it through taking the Church to people.
We have shared recently that we are expanding the work of the small English school we run. Why? Because we can use it to influence education here in Japan. Change is hard here, but it is even harder when sitting on the edge. So we’ve taken part-time (very part-time, only once a month) positions in local elementary schools, and now we have relationships with the local board of education. Peter is serving on the local PTA. Our ministry partner is the head of another school’s PTA. Our English school has the potential to influence many, and provides more contacts then we can personally follow-up. In all these relationships, we are preaching the Gospel and sharing the love of Christ. First by being a darn good school, and then by taking every chance we have to make Jesus known. These are actually one and the same, there is no dichotomy of secular and sacred in how we run the school.
The vision of our church is “to create Christ communities where community already exists.” We seek the transformation that comes from living in a love relationship with Jesus, and believe the best way for this to truly happen is to jump into the middle of things and proclaim the Gospel from the inside out.
We still love the myriad ways evangelism is done, and we’re not trying to advocate one way over another. We’re just sharing how the Lord is leading us. If you’re interested in engaging Japan with the love of Christ, contact us.