Simon's blog

A contextual reading of the concept of sin in Japanese culture

So that title sounds like an essay - and maybe it will become one - but I’m just thinking through some thoughts at the moment. The other day I was at a meeting where someone was talking about how their friend didn’t have a sense of sin, thought they were a good person, didn’t do much wrong, and so on. That’s a typical Japanese approach to sin. Read more about A contextual reading of the concept of sin in Japanese culture

Restricted by the law: Yasuo Furuya and the wartime Japanese church

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Here is another chapter from Furuya’s new book and I should really try to sort out translation rights pretty soon. Anyway, this one’s about the Japanese church in the Second World War, something I have written about myself.

Quick commentary: Wait for the punchline at the end. It’s brilliant.

The church: a teaching-meeting or a common-meeting?

Recently, I heard about Yasuo Furuya’s new book, “Is Japanese Christianity Real?” and decided to buy it with some birthday money. It’s a collection of fairly short, simple essays, examining the history of Japanese Christianity and asking some pertinent questions about it. Here’s my translation of a portion of the chapter “Why do we use the words Christianity (基督教) and Church (教会)?”

On becoming an "ideal foreigner"

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The problem that you come up with is that linguistically you want to be as much of a native as you can, but culturally there is a delicate dance that you have to perform. In one scene the dancer behaves like the locals. In other scenes he pulls back and asks am I going too far, am I crossing a bound­ary and interfering now with the local sense of identity. Occa­sionally the dancer goes too far and confronts an attitude of “Look, you’re obviously not one ofus; you’re trying to pretend to be one of us and the more you pretend the more we find problems with that, the more you make us feel uncomfortable. You’re intruding into our identity. You’re being presumptuous that you can really be one of us.” And that’s why I talk of being the ideal foreigner, that there comes a time in which you say, particularly in some cultures, “Look, I’m never going to be anything but a foreigner here.”

- Ronald Walton, National Foreign Language Center, Johns Hopkins University

Passivity in churches, 1961 edition

So, I’ve been rummaging through archives to try to understand more of the history of our churches and why things are how they are. In the course of that I’ve found a whole bunch of field reports, which are the mission leaders’ reflections on how things are going, to be sent back to home bases. Fifty years ago, cultural sensitivity was not necessarily a strong point for missionaries, but the power relationships in churches seemed to be somewhat the same as today:

Missionary Strategy in Japan

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The JEMA Strategy Forum was commissioned to research a guiding strategy for mission in Japan. They’ve done a lot of research and produced a 65-page PDF of raw data, which will be used to create a strategy document. “The final Strategy Statement will be ready for the 2010 JEMA MLC and Plenary meetings.” It’s now obviously mid-2011, and if that did happen, the Internet doesn’t know about it.

But the great thing about having raw data is that you don’t have to wait for other people to do the analysis for you. You can do your own. Here’s mine. Read more about Missionary Strategy in Japan


After a clean-up of the mission headquarters library* - I’m currently reading and enjoying Gordon MacDonald’s Ordering Your Private World.

MacDonald talks a lot about the need to budget your time and, in that budget, to ensure that you are giving priority to the things that you really mean to. If you don’t, then your time will be filled up by things which are not your strengths, which are imposed upon you by domineering persons, or which look urgent but aren’t.

That got me thinking: is my time being filled by the things I really consider important? Read more about Meetings