Today has been a “sick” day…came down with a bad cold last night…I haven’t been sleeping well. Many reasons: new bed, noises in the house…mind and heart racing!
Here are a few more things I’ve been doing today:
- Sumo wrestling – we are in the middle of one of the big tournaments in Japan…it is shown everyday on TV…yep, kinda interesting and fun to see what Sumo is really all about! They are rock stars in Japan…they all have their “gig”…their own style, reputation, etc.
- Talk with Shingi – Shingi is the leader of much of what happens in the Miyota fellowship – we talked about many things that I’ll be highlighting below in some reflections.
- I spent a lot of time reading today – Vicky gave me a Kindle for Christmas – all I can say it is the BEST thing to have when you are on the road – if you love to read, you can carry a whole slew of books on the Kindle without breaking your back carrying heavy luggage laddened with books – I have The Voice New Testament on the Kindle as well as the ESV Study Bible. In addition, I have subscribed to a couple of blogs that get updated daily…I have also completed Dan Brown’s Book, The Lost Symbol (skip it…it does give some interesting perspectives on Freemasonry but the author “preaches” his own worldview in a shameless way in the last number of chapters…that ticked me off)…now I’m reading Steven Coonts book, The Disciple – political thriller about Iran launching nukes at Israel.
- We ate Sukiyaki tonight – of course, this isn’t American Sukiyaki…it was delicious…I didn’t like the fresh egg part…so I skipped it! Besides that, we had some Japanese “bananas”…which are essentially Twinkies with banana creme in the middle…for many of you, you know that I have been a recovering Twinkie-holic…this may have been my moment to fall off the wagon…of course, the banana filling is MUCH better than they mysterious creme filling of Twinkies! Right!
- I have come to “love” Japanese Sake – mmmm, good. Pour a small glass, all say, “Kumpai” (basically cheers), and enjoy! It is cold NOT hot. Hot Sake is bad Sake (that’s what I’ve been told). The best Sake is cold! Now I know why!
A few thoughts after my conversation with Shingi:
- In their Assembly (or fellowship; remember I'm using Assembly or Community or Fellowship as my translation of the word, "ekklesia", which in many translations of the bible is "church") there isn’t a big emphasis or teaching on spiritual gifts. We started to talk about it when I asked him what he felt were his gifts – after a moment or two of silence, Shingi basically said, “we don’t need to coax people into action”…that was a very curious answer – people serve and share their lives naturally after they come to Jesus…in many settings of Christianity, we have to “convince” people of their need to serve by talking gifts, etc. Not that they don’t teach on spiritual gifts it is just that they assume that one a follower of Jesus is filled with the Spirit, the Spirit will lead them into an arena of serving the Body…everybody is assumed to be serving as the Spirit leads. Shingi is right – many times, we have to come up with “gimmicks” to convince people of their need to “get off the bench” and be a player in the Kingdom…spiritual gifts teaching can become a gimmick. Think on that one!
- Their fellowship doesn’t talk about “growth” of their fellowship…they talk about sharing their lives and faith with others – that way growth happens. In other words, it isn’t growth for the sake of growth…it is growth that comes as a result of every follower of Jesus living their lives “on a mission”. Good way to look at it! It might not look on the surface to be something profound, but it is!
- Shingi said, “Robin, the Gospel and the Bible is still good news in Japan”. At first, I didn't really know how to take that…but then I thought, "well, that sounds like a no-brainer doesn’t it?" You see, the point is this – we have become so acclimated or so accustomed to the Gospel/Bible being around that it appears to be “old” news…it doesn’t hit us or impact us as “new every morning”. We are addicted to the “new”…new presentations, programs, etc…the Gospel doesn’t impact us as the good news that it powerfully is!
- Mr. Beck, the missionary I told you about a couple of days ago, said, “the people have to do it (the life of a follower of Jesus) by themselves”…in other words, the individual follower MUST take responsibility for their faithfulness and fruitfulness. Mr. Beck confessed, before he “got” that, he tried to take too much responsibility for the health of the fellowship – it was only when he gave up the responsibility of doing everything for the fellowship that people started taking responsibility for their own growth and the community’s life together in the Lord. I hope you can see the implications of that for us!
- Growth has to be important and vital to everyone…in other words, it isn’t the leader’s responsibility (or Pastor’s responsibility) for people to develop into fully devoted followers of Jesus! Unfortunately, we have set up addictive, codependent systems in many of our churches where the people “depend” upon the church, the church’s structure, programs, and leaders for their development/maturity. Once that happens, a codependent system is enabled that actually detracts from people taking responsibility for themselves and their community’s faithfulness. A good word to the wise!
- Shingi also made an astute comment – “you Americans are into entertainment, aren’t you? You always desire something new. We are holding on to our culture and finding meaning in the flow of living a normal life…family, friends, fellowship…not the latest and greatest…it demonstrates our consumeristic culture.
- One more thing – communication. There is a great communication system in this huge fellowship without having a specified system…people communicate naturally because they are passionate about their brothers and sisters in Jesus. I was wondering, ”what prevents us at our congregations from making everyone part of the prayer circles and chains?“ It should be a given in our congregations…if you are a part of a fellowship of followers, you are ”in“ the circle of communication whether you request to be or not! I’m going to ponder that for a while too!
That’s it for today…I told Shingi that I wanted to come back to Japan…for no other reason than to keep my heart and my mind focused on the right things…it reminds me of why I went to the monastery and certain teaching conferences in the past…there were issues that I needed to be reminded of…I needed to keep my vision fresh! So, I told him, ”I’m coming back whether you want me or not“. I offered to do some teaching next time…but that’s not the point. To see a vision for living and Kingdom experience ”lived out“…to see a missional understanding of life incarnated does good for my soul…it keeps me motivated and hope-filled! We all have to remember, Christendom "convinced" us that we need not live a missionary lifestyle…but times have changed. We need a mission mentality more now than ever before! It is way past time to discover what people on a foreign mission have known for quite sometime – we are living in a time where we are missionaries in our own land. If only we all had that mentality and passion!