When I left Knoxville on Monday, I had no idea what to expect about Japan. Would I love it here? Would I be able to understand what’s going on? What would I eat?! Would there be anything I could offer? Would there be anything similar in ministry to what I’m used to?
While I’m still trying to figure some of those out (definitely not the food – it’s been GREAT!), over the course of the last two days, the last question has been answered. There are definitely similarities in our ministry goal at OneLife Church and the goals of so many missionaries and pastors here.
While the cultural differences couldn’t be any greater – 35 million people, an average commute of 75 minutes one-way to work by train, a much stronger work ethic averaging 60 hours per week, living in high-rises, everyone is skinny and most are short (I feel like a giant) – the ministry needs and hurdles are similar.
First, religion is superstitious more than devotely practiced. Many Japanese go to temples or shrines to pray, but they often don’t understand why or what they are praying. The more devote worshippers often have a Japanese specific worship that combines Buddhism, Shintoism, and Confucianism into one, though thye don’t even realize it. This is similar in that many in East Tennessee think they are Christian, but their understanding of it is merely supersitious and cultural. In both places, they simply need to have a relationship with Jesus.
Second, the pastors here are trying desperately to get their people to live on mission. Just like we try so hard to get OneLifers to do more than attend on Sunday, but to have spiritual conversations throughout the week and look for opportunities to share Jesus, the Japanese pastors and church planters are doing the same. And the same reasons many Americans buck against this idea – fear, insecurity, stubborn rebellion – are the same reasons the Japanese fight against this idea, though probably at even greater degrees.
So at the end of the day, I am reminded that even though I am halfway around the world, the Gospel and its need to be shared in a grass roots, rapid reproduction kind of way are identical no matter where you go. The goal of seeing disciples make disciples who make disciples so that churches can reproduce churches that reproduce churches is no different! It was Jesus’ intent in the Great Commission, and it is my goal to be part of seeing that happen wherever OneLife gets involved.
Please join me this week in praying for the people and churches of Japan that are trying to see this started in a nation where less than 1% know Jesus!