It is a “snow day” in Japan today…woke up to fresh snow and it has been snowing most of the day…so instead of traveling anywhere today or spending time in gatherings, etc, I’m having a “down day” to do some reflecting and relaxing.
My time with Mr. and Mrs. Beck (the original missionary from Germany who was used by God to initiate this movement) was powerful. It is hard to describe being in a room with someone who truly has the gift of apostleship. Currently, there are over 40 Sunday worship locations and over 100 house meetings throughout Japan. If you let that roll around in your heart for a while…they got off a boat in Japan 57 years ago and this is the fruit of their spiritual labor. Let me remind you of something that many of us in Idaho have discussed through our Faith Communities Project – the numbers aren’t the issue…this is a very organic movement of people who love God sharing their faith and passion for Jesus with the friends and family. The truth is Mr. and Mrs. Beck are ministers “TO” the people who call this fellowship their spiritual home…they are NOT ministers “FOR” the people…in other words, they really do see their ministry as equipping the followers of Jesus for THEM TO DO THE WORK OF MINISTRY. That’s the difference – we’ve hired pastors and leaders to do the ministry FOR us…so our system of structure has actually pulled the plug on the average follower of Jesus taking full responsibility for what occurs in our sphere of influence.
Another thing – I sat in awe as the Becks told me, in response to my question about the amazing hospitality that we have experienced since we arrived in Japan, “the gift of hospitality you are experiencing only comes from the Lord”. So, I asked him point blank – “do you mean that the Japanese people are not inherently hospitable?” He said to me, “the Japanese are courteous but the loving hospitality you are experiencing is the result of what happens in each heart when the Holy Spirit transforms their life.” In other words, read Acts 2 –
Acts 2:42 They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.
Acts 2:43 Everyone kept feeling a sense of awe; and many wonders and signs were taking place through the apostles.
Acts 2:44 And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common;
Acts 2:45 and they began selling their property and possessions and were sharing them with all, as anyone might have need.
Acts 2:46 Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart,
Acts 2:47 praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.
People were transformed by the Spirit into loving community – the sense of community was a powerful testimony to the world at large of the power of Jesus. I wonder – are people “moved” or in awe about how we as followers of Jesus love one another? In light of all the inner church “bickering”…church splits…brokenness within the Body of Christ, ask yourself, “is there any difference in our fellowship together that would be the result of the transforming power of the Spirit?” Are people in the culture SEEING a difference or being moved by the incredible love we have for each other? Significant question, huh?
- There is NO pastor – the most important thing is the Word of God and the Lord Jesus – people who are part of the fellowship (from a variety of professions and backgrounds) voluntarily take and share the responsibilities of the “movement” without any pressure or obligation (note – I hesitate using the word, “church” because of the fact that most of us still think of what church as become than what the “ekklesia” is supposed to be). There are certainly spiritual leaders in the movement (obviously Mr. Beck would be in that camp) but their role in the fellowship is to equip, disciple and support the people of the fellowship in their own ministry. I’m not saying that casually either – most pastors I know would say their job is to “equip the body”…but the reality is most pastors do the work of ministry while the congregation watches and judges.
- There are no boards, councils, annual meetings, or church regulations…the most important thing is that everyone gets together to adore and worship the Lord with repentance and joy.
- There is no formal membership in the movement…there is no list of members…being a part of the movement is the decision of the individual follower of Jesus and each person is completely free to “come and go”.
- There is no obligation to support the movement financially – the offerings are voluntary and and NOT recorded.
- Worship on Sunday: has no printed bulletin; has two parts – (1) worship/singing and bible readings, communion; (2) evangelistic teaching/message that lasts for 50 minutes; all the services are broadcast on the internet for people to hear
- The distinctive aspect of their ministry are their home meetings – there are currently over 100 throughout the country. House meetings are held regularly and weekly with 50 to 200 people attending each one. Messages and testimonies and meals are shared at each. This is the FRONT LINE of ministry for this movement…people are challenged, urged, even “called on the carpet” to bring their friends and family to these meetings…they are very serious about making sure that there are new people every week in the home meetings.
- Camps – the movement has a building in Myota (this is the facility that my friend, Merlyn has worked on for over 20 years) which accommodates 1000 people and can house 300 or more people for weekend camps during the summer. Food, fellowship, teaching, testimonies, singing…all are part of the camps…many families bring their friends to these camps.
So, there you go…I’m not going to editorialize here…I guess you can tell that this has been a moving experience for me to see…it is very rare to see a missional movement happening right before your eyes…I also need to warn you – this has happened over 50 years…another thing, the numbers aren’t the significant issue for this movement – the numbers are rather a “sign” of the movement’s blessing and anointing by the Lord. If we lived this way, would we see the same and bear similar fruit? Can I be bold enough to say, “you decide”? I guess I just was bold enough…more tomorrow!