On Monday morning I will teach my first day of an M.Div course on evangelism in Nagoya at Christ Bible Institute. I have never been there – it actually will be the first time I’ve gotten off the bullet train and entered Nagoya itself. I’m looking forward to spending the night with our friends the Chapins, who are on staff at the seminary.
Evangelism in Japan- wooh. Perhaps one of the greatest challenges in one of the most difficult countries in the world. The catholic author Endo Shusaku says in his famous novel Silence that Japanese culture is a “mud swamp… because it sucks up all sorts of ideologies, transforming them into itself and distorting them in the process. It is the spider’s web that destroys the butterfly, leaving only the ugly skeleton.” There have been times in my prep where I have felt stuck in the mud swamp! But oddly, this topic has made me really excited. Exploring the Japanese perspective has remained the biggest challenge, but I’m thankful for the colleagues who have helped with resources and ideas.
When I first started working on the class, I made a first-draft “slot-filler” – a layout of possible lectures. What has surprised me a bit is how the lectures, and the reading materials, have changed. The process of preparing for this class over the last five months has been amazing in terms of the things that I have learned and grown in; the ideas that were out there floating in my head somewhere that have come together and created new models that I hope to be able to share.
Monday’s classes will include: 1) a spiritual formation about the power of one — what God can do when we share our faith with one person; 2) lecture/discussion on conversion and paradigm shifts; 3) a theology of relationships — looking at several models on relationships and evangelism that “work” in Japan.
I’d love your prayers for me and this class — that God would keep teaching all of us; that the aroma of Jesus would fill our room and guide our discussions; that there would be some wonderful break-thrus for us as we tackle this topic that I believe is so dear to our Lord.
We are expecting a possible snow storm tomorrow – I’m not sure what that could mean for getting to Nagoya in late afternoon. Eric will be on the home-front until Monday evening, when he flies to Hawaii to be with his family. We’re all going to miss him too much! There will be a two-hour gap before I get home, and our friends the Boehmes will come and hold down the fort.
I will end with a wonderful paragraph about our motivation for mission and evangelism:
Many well-intentioned church leaders have simplistically presented the words of Jesus “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations”, as some remote order barked by a stern sergeant-major. If Jesus said it, we should do it! But Bosch points out that missionary service that is motivated by blind obedience to an impersonal order from Jesus is built on a flimsy foundation. If our commitment to mission is only based on Jesus “order” in Matthew 28, it makes mission and obligation for us rather than an act of love and grace. It’s not unlike a woman who complains that her husband never brings her flowers. When the guilty husband rushes out and buys her a bouquet and presents it to her, she is still dissatisfied, because it wasn’t that she wanted flowers in particular. What she wanted was for him to be motivated by his devotion for her so as to buy a gift. When we engage in mission only because we feel guilty that we haven’t pleased Jesus and his order in the so-called Great Commission, we satisfy neither Jesus, nor our own sense of calling. Rather, says Bosch, mission emerges from a deep, rich relationship with Jesus. The woman whose husband never brings her flowers doesn’t want flowers. She wants him and his devotion. (Mike Frost and Alan Hirsch from ReJesus: A Wild Messiah for a Missional Church p.50 (quoting Bosch: Transforming Mission: Paradigm Shifts in Theology of Mission )