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Incarnational Approaches to the Japanese People using House Church Strategies

Mitsuo Fukuda : Rethinking Authentic Christianity Network「RAC Network」

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3. The House church

As Banks stated, "Not until the third century do we have evidence of special buildings being constructed for Christian gatherings." (Banks, 1994: 41). Church historians estimate that the number of members of New Testament house churches rarely reached more than 15 or 20 people. This is why Simson suggests that there is a '20-person barrier" to overcome. He explains, "In many cultures 20 is a maximum number where people still feel 'family', organic and informal, without the need to get formal or organized (Simson, 2001: 17).

 

The average size of the Sunday worship attendance in Japan is 34-35 people (Church Information Service, 1997). Many Japanese Christians think that their churches are too small and look to mega churches oversees as models. But our model as well as more important principles should be drawn from the New Testament. In reality, the problem of most churches in Japan is not that they are too small, but that they are already too big. As a result, Japanese churches have lost their attractiveness. They are not spontaneous or lively, but like a boring classroom, they are mostly irrelevant to the reality of peoples' lives (see Yamamori, 1974).

 

If the church is small enough to maintain the dynamics of a family of God whose headship is Christ, the Holy Spirit will lead the members to apply the essence of Christian truth appropriately to the cultural environment of each house church. There should be no need to introduce structures in other places nor any need for a central administrative authority to make uniform the diversity of the churches (see Allen, 1992: 131).If the church is small enough to maintain the dynamics of a family of God whose headship is Christ, the Holy Spirit will lead the members to apply the essence of Christian truth appropriately to the cultural environment of each house church. There should be no need to introduce structures in other places nor any need for a central administrative authority to make uniform the diversity of the churches (see Allen, 1992: 131).

 

Dean S. Gilliland believes that this contextual aspect is part of the reason Paul's churches survived under immense pressure, growing in each place and multiplying among the unevangelized. Gilliland stated, "Christianity was vibrant and alive because each local church found its own expression of the Christian life while at the same time it was joined in faith and truth to all other congregations that were also under Christ's lordship" (Gilliland, 1983:209). It is easy to imagine that in these scattered small churches people would have shared their similar lives, related naturally with each other, and met the special needs emerging from the common socio-cultural context.

 

A house church seems to have several advantages in terms of contextualization. One advantage is that while the context of the traditional church exists in the relatively artificial environment of the so-called three "sacred Ps": sacred programs run by sacred people in a sacred place, the house church emerges and is centered in the context of daily life. The second advantage is that it is small enough to be flexible to adapt to its local culture. The third advantage is that it has a flat leadership structure, where the various cultural forms can be employed easily through open discussion. The expansion of the house church movement would likely reveal various contextualized church forms in Japan.