Today I was preaching on the mission of God and salvation history, and decided at the last minute to throw in a good example of (a) how God always seeks to restore relationship with those estranged from him, and (b) the principle that, because God does this, we should too. It’s one of my key themes, and a great verse which highlights it is 2 Samuel 14:14. David has become estranged from his son, and Joab sent a woman in to change his mind and gain forgiveness. The climax of the woman’s argument, in every English translation I have checked, goes like this: Read more about Today in Bible translation horrors
The various modes of worship which prevailed… were all considered by the people, as equally true; by the philosopher, as equally false; and by the magistrate, as equally useful. And thus toleration produced not only mutual indulgence, but even religious concord.
Reading about the translation of Jn 3:16 in the Japanese Sign Language Bible reminded me of something that’s been sitting on my ever-expanding “wild ideas” list for quite some time now: we need a new translation of the Bible into Japanese. Or possibly two. Read more about Why we need another Japanese Bible translation (or two)
On my way out today I passed the local Shinto festival. In this particular festival, an ark is paraded around the whole town, carried on the shoulders of the young men, stopping at each houses and business so that the god enshrined in the ark can bestow blessings upon them. (Sounds rather like an Old Testament story, doesn’t it?) As you can see, it’s a very public festival involving a lot of people. That’s fairly common for Japanese festivals. Read more about Beating the Bounds
It’s been four years since the first Japan House Church Conference in Osaka, and much has changed in those four years. As I sit and reflect on the wonderful experience of the past three days, of sharing, praying and listening to God together with fifty other house church leaders from all over Japan, I think the main impression I am taking away tonight is of a movement which is still young and dynamic, but is also growing in confidence and finding its own voice. Read more about Japan House Church Conference - Reflections
When I was growing up, the Church was very simple—there was the Evangelicals, who had the truth of the Gospel, and then there was everyone else: Anglicans (who were all nominal), Catholics, and liberals. There was another very simple equation: Evangelicals spread the Gospel and try to win converts, liberals didn’t really talk about Jesus but just did social and political stuff. You can still see remnants of these equations, in the way we talk about churches today. Read more about Learning to love the liberals
On Saturdays we try to have a family day off together, so often on Friday nights I spend a lot of time looking through tourist information and what’s-on web sites trying to think of something interesting to do. If you look at the official Kyoto city tourist information web site, you will find that the number one most accessed page was (until the new aquarium opened) Kyo Power Spots. So what’s a “power spot”? From the same page: Read more about Is the church a "power spot"?
I walked past a cult church today. Well, OK, “cult” is a subjective labelling. I walked past a sect today. I was out with Caitlin wandering through an area of town that was new to me, and came across a sign on a building proclaiming “Jesus Christ!” Once again, I wondered what I was doing here as a church planter - Japan already has a local church and there are a reasonable number in my area - until I realised that the church was one that I had been warned against by a local pastor here.
How do you tell when a church becomes a sect? The obvious answer is in its teachings, and yeah, this one in particular is pretty off the wall, but in general it’s not so easy to say; there’s a huge diversity within Christian teaching and the boundaries are fuzzy. It’s easy enough to use proof texts from the Bible to pull down other Christians and call them nasty names, but I can’t help thinking that isn’t what the Bible is for.
But there is an easier way to tell. A sect is sectarian; it’s a church that has decided that it already has as much of the truth as it needs, and that it need not learn from any other Christians. We’ve got the Bible, we’ve got the Holy Spirit - we don’t need anything else. It’s a misunderstanding of that same Bible which always talks about greeting one another, teaching one another, learning from one another, having mutual concern for one another, encouraging one another and submitting to one another out of reverence for Christ, but there you go. That’s what a sect does: it rejects the gift of one another that God has given us. So because it thinks it doesn’t need to learn from other Christians, it closes itself off, to the point at which it simply doesn’t have the opportunity to learn from any other Christians, and so will never know when it’s becoming idiosyncratic or heretical. In that sense, ecumenism is a mark of the Church. Churches that don’t work with other churches are sects.
I suppose the logical conclusion of this is that an awful lot of Evangelical denominations are sects. Hmm. Read more about We ghettoize ourselves