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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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4. Examples of the Emergence of "Japanese Christianity"

We are finding that simple structures like participatory Bible studies where the Bible itself is the teacher, and everyone in the group is involved in the teaching/learning process as well as the application of what is being learned to daily life are effective ways to touch the hearts of Japanese people (Dale, 2002: 111-113).

 

For example, one day 6-7 young people gathered in my house and joined a participatory Bible study. I was not there to teach, but just to observe. They chose a passage from Romans chapter 6. I thought that it would be too difficult of a section for them as it included the concepts of baptism, dying and being resurrected with Christ. Several verses were read and a college student, who was functioning as a facilitator, asked what the "new man" and "old man" meant.

 

After some quiet time, one young-man remembered a fight that he and two of his friends had had that afternoon. They were also there with him at the Bible study that night. After the quarrel, one had angrily said to the others, "Leave me alone. Stay away from me!" Some time later, both of them reconciled and were able to say each other, "Let's be good friends from now on."

 

The young-man applied his experience to interpret the Bible verses and explained, "The 'old man' is like a person who says to Jesus, 'Stay away from me!' and the 'new man' is like a person who says to Jesus, 'Let's be good friends from now on.'" When the other young people heard his explanation, all of them understood the Bible verses and connected the meaning with their own spiritual journey in Christ. What an amazing interpretation! If I had explained those verses, I could have quoted profound theological statements about all of those subjects, but I couldnユt have impacted their real lives in that way.

 

Let the Bible itself teach people! The young-man was used by God as an intermediator of God's truth using his own thoughts and terminology. Today in Japan, it is not the interpretation of a famous Bible scholar from the West that is needed, but a divine intervention of the Holy Spirit moving in the hearts and minds of people. God chose the foolish things of the world to shame the wise (1 Corinthians 1:27).

 

The heroin of another story is an older lady. She had been coming to a house church meeting for a long time; however, my evaluation at that time was that she did not really want to have a life-changing experience. She grumbled continually at our meetings, "I could not do that even if Jesus told me to do that," or "I don't believe in the ideas of the Bible, because in my real miserable situation, I could not pursue such an ideal." Her negative statements sometimes seemed to have a serious impact on new comers.

 

Several months after we started using a participatory Bible study in the meeting, she made a comment on the Scripture verses, "Jesus said, "For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind." (John 9: 39) She said, " This passage describes my situation. I was blind and I was a sinner. Now I understand that I could not see the truth anymore, even though I insisted that I could see. My sin was that I claimed I could see." When my wife and I heard her comment, we wept. It was not the fruit of a good sermon, but the work of the Holy Spirit in a small interactive setting that helped her to realize her sin.

 

The effectiveness of good preaching is often limited by the giftedness of a teacher. When a preacher is speaking and everyone is listening, even if the preaching itself is impressive, the listeners become a passive audience who want to be entertained more. Only a gifted preacher can continually satisfy an audience with new knowledge and breathtaking illustrations. Maybe he will establish a huge cathedral and a large following, but when he leaves, the people will most likely be scattered like sheep without a shepherd.

 

To ensure the contextuality of a church, it is necessary to allow people direct access to God through Jesus Christ. No one should be between God and His people except One mediator, the man Christ (1 Timothy 2:5). Ordinary people can hear God's voice and do the extraordinary work of God without the hierarchical administrative system of men. God will give contextualized answers to the questions that His people are asking from their real-life settings.

 

One more example of the emergence of "Japanese Christianity" is a new way of evangelism that we are seeing in Japan. One of the "hot" targets for evangelism in Japan is nurses. Three interesting characteristics of this group are: 1) They want to be healed. The work of a nurse is often like being a slave to the sick. People needing medical care surround them. Due to the stress of their hard work, they are tired and need to be healed. 2) They are involved in the New Age movement. They know the limitations of medical science. Some of them care for those who are dying and/or suffer from hopeless conditions. They tend to search in the spiritual world for answers to questions about manユs finite existence. Although it is extremely expensive to participate in New Age exercises and various programs, their relatively high incomes allow them to afford it. 3) They give serious thought to the well-being of life. They are scientific people and are good at analyzing their psychological problems. But they have not been able to find the answers to the questions that are pressing in their lives. They are seriously seeking hope, purpose, happiness, and acceptance.

 

Recently, a nurse was led to accept Jesus into her life through a student of mine, who is herself a nurse. The process of her conversion was very different from what we see traditionally. The nurse who became a Christian was a new age practitioner who had even thought about studying abroad to become a new age leader. My student led her to visualize her past experiences. Because she was familiar with visualization from new age practice, she was very good at it. She saw herself and her ex-boyfriend in her image. Although he had once made her mad and had wounded her, strangely enough, she saw herself hugging him, and they were weeping together. She did not understand why she did such a thing. After awhile, she understood the whole picture. Jesus approached them and then hugged both of them with his warm hands.

 

When she saw Jesus in her imagination, He was bathed in tender light and she understood supernaturally that He would never leave her or abandon her. For her, conversion and healing came at the same time. The experience was so real that she cannot stop testifying about it to her friends. Just three days after her baptism, she shared her experience with a friend who had been a partner of hers in reading tarots. She led her friend to experience Jesus and the same thing happened in her friend's life. They began meeting weekly for prayer and accountability, and after three months they started a church in one of their homes where they used to read tarots. They have experienced God directly and are bold enough to share their experiences with other nurses, some of whom have already accepted Christ.

 

This new type of evangelism for nurses was not developed by clergies or missiologists. It did not happen in a big conference room or in a fancy cathedral with stained glass. It emerged in a family-like small group of Christians who had a passion for communicating Christ's love to their friends.