I’ve always wanted, as a missionary, to be involved and engaged with the local theology coming out of my target context. It makes sense, doesn’t it? After all, nobody knows how to contextualise an understanding of God to the Japanese culture better than Japanese theologians.
But what I’ve found, after a few days of reading, is that there is no Japanese theology. Well, that’s a little controversial - I’ve obviously spent my time reading something. It’s just that I’m not sure that I’d call it “theology”. The foreword to one of the books I was reading puts it in fairly stark terms: Read more about There is no Japanese theology
OK, I just finished reading 文脈化教会の形成, the Japanese translation of Mitsuo Fukuda’s PhD Thesis “Developing a contextualized church as a bridge to Christianity in Japan”. It’s much easier to get hold of the Japanese translation, which is published as a book by Harvest Time Ministries, than the original thesis, which is unpublished and so you have to order at great expense from UMI. Read more about Contextualization in Japan
Just a quick few thoughts this morning:
- One of the big problems I had in my BA dissertation was reconciling Japan’s consensus culture with its hierarchical structure.
- You’ll be hard pushed to find “leadership” (as exercised elsewhere) within Japanese society or history. Autocratic leadership is disparaged. (see the word ワンマン)
- Instead the exercise of power in Japan is incredibly diffuse. (van Wolferen)
- People’s lives are determined less by externally imposed leadership structures than by complex webs of relationships. (Nakane)
So I mentioned that church is on the whole passive. And myself and others have mentioned that we want to look at a different way of doing church - Simple Church, House Church, whatever you want to call it - which is more participatory. But what does more participatory church look like? Last year I went to a training session on a simple church methodology coming out of Japan, which I’ll call “Upwards, Outwards, Inwards”, and what they do there could well work over here as well. Read more about Upwards, Outwards, Inwards: Simple church from Japan
The mission section of this site isn’t totally up and running yet, but I do want to draw your attention to the deputation resources section which will appear properly at some later date. Every time we go and do a speaker meeting somewhere - and that’s normally once or twice a week these days - we try to come up with some new way of communicating with people about Japan, about the church out there, or about mission in general. Read more about Deputation material for missionaries to Japan
The good news is that God is calling lots of people to become missionaries in Japan. I’m almost falling over them these days. Something is definitely moving.
The bad news is, they want to talk to me about it, and I’m cynical. So when I get asked about how to lead a Bible study for Japanese, I’m getting to the point where the answer is: don’t. Read more about The answer is: don't
I'm still reflecting on my experience working in a Japanese church. I've written before about the sense of expectations I've felt put on by myself, and by my church in the UK (or at least my perception of what they expect) but I didn't really think before about the expectations of my local congregation, the church I was working for. Perhaps at the time I was too close to the action.