English Articles

A Case Study of the International VIP Club : A Mission Movement Among Japanese Businessmen

Mitsuo Fukuda : Rethinking Authentic Christianity Network「RAC Network」

 

D. Characteristics of the Movement

1. Vision Casting and Its Succession

The core leaders of this movement have a strong consciousness with respect to world evangelization. They promote the vision of world evangelization repeatedly in their meetings. They think that otherwise the meetings would become too closed. It seems to be rather easy for Japanese businessmen to imagine the expansion of their ministries to the world, because they have already experienced similar outreach in the economic sphere.

 

The focus of the cell-type meetings is also evangelism to other businessmen. They are sharing the names of their non-Christian friends and praying for them with one accord in the meetings. This missionary spirit seems to be continuing among the new leaders emerging in these cell-type meetings.

 

2. Need-oriented Evangelism

VIP Club members are holding meetings in hotels, restaurants, offices, the apartments of members, and the campuses of universities that are located in the central areas of major cities. These locations are accessible from downtown offices. A church building in a suburb is not a convenient place to gather for businessmen. For example, it is difficult for a businessman commuting for two hours by train into Tokyo to attend a prayer meeting at his church in the suburbs at night. More difficult is inviting his business friends to that meeting. If a friend is from another satellite city in a different direction, it is almost impossible. Therefore, to hold meetings in an accessible place like a restaurant in an urban center is an effective strategy.

 

Holding a working breakfast in a hotel restaurant is a common practice for business executives. Using the breakfast time for Christian fellowship is the new framework for evangelism which takes into account Japanese business culture.

 

Mr. Kazuo Kanamori, general manager of Fuji Bank Global Credit Division II, stated that the biggest need for Japanese businessmen is to share their stories within safe and intimate human relationships (3). As mentioned earlier, businessmen face tremendous psychological burdens and have no place to pour out their hearts. The various Christian meetings at urban access points functioning as a healing fellowship where they can express their hidden inner feelings.

 

Another need of businessmen relates to networking, part of the nature of a highly information-oriented society. Businessmen want to acquaint themselves with people in other of industries, especially business executives and specialists like doctors, lawyers, professors, consultants and high-ranking officials. This need is a good contact point for attracting non-Christian businessmen. VIP Club meetings include a time for exchanging business cards.

 

3. Functional Structures

There are three types of meetings. The first type is a prayer meeting. They hold prayer meetings once a week, and in the Tokyo area they pray through the night twice a month. Themes of the prayer meetings are varied : revival in Japan and in the world; the salvation of the Imperial family, statesmen, government officials, businessmen, judicial people, and people in the mass media; and personal problems of the participants.

 

This type of meeting has the following three characteristics: 1) A strong expectation that God answers their prayers. They experience the work of the Holy Spirit through prayer and testify to it in thanksgiving. 2) Mission-oriented. They focus on missionary work so that participants overcome the walls of the denomination. 3) Guidance. They receive concrete strategies in prayer along with the power to execute those strategies. The VIP Club and the hotel ministries were launched by these prayer meetings. These prayer meetings are the generators of this movement. The second type includes two kinds of evangelistic meetings. They are classified in two categories: the VIP Club (once a month), and the two festivals (Christmas and Summer). These evangelistic meetings are of businessmen, by businessmen and for businessmen. Vital testimonies are shared in the meetings, which relate to other businessmen. These testimonies seems to be more powerful than those of pastors because businessmen share the experiences of overcoming problems which are held in common in their real business circumstances.

 

The festivals function not only as an evangelistic meeting, but also as a celebration, too. A scene where 500 businessmen gather in a gorgeous hotel, helps the participants to confirm God's big picture of the world mission and to feel that they are part of a united family.

 

The third type is the cell-type meeting. They are referred to as hotel ministries, office ministries and home ministries. The aims of these cell-type meetings are: 1) fellowship of the believers in their daily lives, 2) follow-up of unbelievers and seekers who have become interested in Christianity through the evangelistic meetings, and 3) training of the potential leaders.

 

The leadership training is not systematic, but is done "on-the-job." Many participants receive a vision for world evangelization through the current leaders' words and lifestyle, and are encouraged to be released as leaders of new cell-type meetings. The current leaders empower the new leaders to start a new ministry and cover them in prayers and intimate personal fellowship.

 

These three types of meetings are organically linked to each other. The prayer meetings are the generators of the movement, the evangelistic meetings are the attractors of the people and the cell-type meetings are the composers of the Body of Christ.