It was a full day today…up early and then to my first exposure to the faith community of Japan. First a quick couple of facts..this ministry was begun by the leading of the Spirit on the life of a German man by the name of Mr. Beck. He and his wife have labored for the Kingdom in Japan for 50 years…much of what exists in Myoto and Tokyo are the result of what the Lord has done in and through his ministry…he is not the "pastor", per se. He is the leader of a missional movement…each of the two churches here are lead by what many of us would call, "lay people"…they have a very effective home church ministry…they worship, do spiritual retreats, teach bible studies and live their lives in the midst of their culture. Because of the fact that most of japan is hostile to Christianity, it is an environment that is markedly different than what most of "us" encounter but what many, including myself, believe our culture is heading. As many of us have discussed, we have entered a time in the "west" (that is the USA, Europe and Canada) that is "post-Christian"…culture is not informed by the Gospel any longer…biblical values and stories are not common knowledge and value/cultural reference points.
The Worship experience was simple – songs, readings from scripture, prayer time…readings and prayers were shared as the Spirit led…there was NO, I repeat, no visible facilitator of the worship experience…that went on for a hour…there were many times of silence…after 50 minutes, we took communion and sang some more songs…each song was simply "requested" spontaneously by someone in the congregation.
After communion, there were more scripture readings and prayers and songs…in many respects, what this community does reflects what Paul spells out in Ephesians 5:19 and Colossians 3:16 and 1 Corinthians 14:26 – "When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification."
After and hour and a half, we moved into a Testimony time that was led by one of the men in the congregation…he shared Multiple Scriptures based on the theme of God’s mercy and our need to cry out to God – "Lord have mercy on me". It was a simple message…spoken in Japanese (I had a man by the name of Masa translate most of it for me). The "service" was finished in a little over 2 hours…then Lunch (which included good food and another 1 1/2 hours of fellowship/conversation). I LOVED THE SERVICE – simple, Spirit-led, organic…participatory…more scripture was read today in two hours than most of us will hear publicly read in a span of 6 months.
By the way, did I mention that people take off their shoes and put on slippers once they enter building…that's kinda cool and very much a Japanese cultural habit.
I better close this up…I had alot of fun, challenges, prayer, and food…oh, and conversation. Tonight, dinner at a very nice restaurant that must have cost a mint. It was time to put into practice my “I’m going to be a gracious guest” mantra…food that was “Fresh”…ah, fresh enough to have just eaten it right out of the ocean – NOT cooked! I didn’t ask any questions…I just ate everything until I got full. The only thing I didn’t eat was the shrimp and that’s what I wanted to munch on. The problem is though – I have been going through a gout issue…shellfish – bad! So, I’m going to post a couple of pics to show you the delectable delights of the meal. On top of that, our “hosts” bought us some sake – to be drank cold by the way…only “bad” sake is served hot. We didn’t have bad sake and our Japanese friends find great joy at serving their guests until all is gone. So, that’s the rest of the story. Tomorrow a visit to a home church in Nagano…Tuesday a visit to a home church in Toyko and some time with the leader of this “movement”…a man by the name of Mr. Beck who has spent 50 years in Japan sharing the Lord. As I mentioned, he’s a German man who has made Japan his home and “sphere of influence”…now there are 100’s of Japanese men and women who follow Jesus because of how the Spirit has worked through and in him. More to come tomorrow…stay tuned!
Dinner pics – yep, that is a fish with an eye you see – actually a shrimp!