MINISTRY IN JAPAN
Insight from Andrew Buchanan, Artizo Graduate
There is great potential for the Gospel to take root in Japan, even as there are also great obstacles. The Japanese are a refined society with a strong national identity. Being a collectivist culture, it is difficult to step out of line. While the Japanese will often express interest in foreign ideas, there is little inclination to adopt them as their own. The challenge is to present the Gospel as a global phenomenon. That being said, in contrast to Greek ideals, Japanese aesthetics have an appreciation for the ephemeral nature of reality. Placing value on that which will pass away, the book of Ecclesiastes can speak deeply. And Isaiah’s lament of “all flesh is grass, and its beauty like the flower of the field” will undoubtedly ring true to them. Rather than bemoaning this fate, an attitude of wonder and quiet contemplation is cultivated. In this soil, the beauty and significance of Christ’s death and resurrection could be wholeheartedly apprehended.
By partnering with TEAM (The Evangelical Alliance Mission), I’ll have a strong network of missionaries and indigenous churches to partner with in Japan. Further down the road I am interested in either seeking ordination and planting a church in rural Japan, or perhaps starting a school of discipleship. But for now my main focus is evangelism.
In a culture where toeing the line is paramount, it is very difficult for the Japanese church to get a foothold. As a foreigner, I have the advantage of not being expected to know or follow the usual formalities in building relationships. Rather than taking months or even years to get past the small-talk, the Japanese often relish the opportunity to quickly build genuine friendships without all the hassle of ceremony. Foreigners have the unique and important opportunity to act as a mediator between secular Japanese and the local church. Churches are well equipped and eager to make use of any foreigners willing to go on the streets with them. For this reason, even short-term missions in Japan can be highly effective.
Personally, my favourite method to encounter people is with my typewriter. Setting up on a park bench, I simply ask passersby if I can write them a poem, and then ask them to tell me about themselves. It is remarkable how much a person will reveal. I ask about their hopes and dreams and fears and failures, and then point them to some pertinent promise of God. I tell them about our Father in Heaven who loves to hear us pray, and ask how I can be praying for them. And I give them my contact info on the back of their poem and tell them I’d love to buy them a cup of tea or a smoothie sometime and get to know them better.
This is how I’ve been working as St. John’s evangelist as well. Kits Beach and UBC are my favourite fields to sow seed in. I continually offer to go out with fellow congregants, it’s so much easier when you have a partner. Even Christians unexperienced in witnessing are a great help to me. They can stand by and pray as I get into conversations, but more often than not, once the passersby have started talking, the members that come with me find that they also have something about the greatness of God they’d like to share. Please contact me with your availability, and I’d love schedule a time to head to the beach with you for an hour or two. Even if you don’t say a word, it’s so encouraging to have company. Jesus knew what He was doing when He sent them 2 by 2.
I love to share how God is working. I pray that many will be encouraged to come join in this great work of lifting high His Name.