An illustrative example from history

I’m editing a book on the history of the Japanese Orthodox Church. It’s a fascinating story for me because the pioneer missionary period was by far the most successful in Japanese Christianity. One missionary and a couple of short-termers planted hundreds of churches and a hundred thousand church members. It’s amazing. Read more about An illustrative example from history

Evangelism: For whose benefit?

I’ve heard it said that one of the big differences between communication in the West and communication in the East is about who has the burden of understanding. In the West, it’s up to the speaker to make themselves understood—if a listener doesn’t understand, they ask questions to force the speaker to clarify themselves; if you do any speaking in the East, you will find that there are much fewer questions—it’s up to a listener to understand, and if they don’t, they go away and think about what was said until they do. Read more about Evangelism: For whose benefit?

Why we need another Japanese Bible translation (or two)

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)

Beating the Bounds

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

Learning to love the liberals

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

Base ecclesial colonialism, part 3

I was planning to write a post defending Rick Warren (which, let’s face it, is news enough) from the suspicion and criticism aimed at his plans to establish a Saddleback Church franchise in London. I was going to say something like this:

I’ve been on both sides of this debate: initially as a Christian when a new denomination was looking to plant “one of their churches” in a very well-churched area; and then on the other side right now, as I’ve been questioned for planting churches in an area which area does have churches in it. I don’t believe as some (including the agency we work with) that church planting is necessary the best way to share the Gospel, nor do I believe it is the commission we’ve been given. (which I think said something about disciples and nothing about churches, which makes it a lot harder to carry out. If I can plant a church, then any fool can.) But there is still a merit in planting churches, even in an area with lots of churches already. First, people are different and we should contextualize the Gospel to as many tastes and subcultures as there are—no single local church can hope or expect to serve everyone. So there is always room for a church which is bringing something new to the area. Second, what’s the threshold for describing an area as well-churched or under-churched? You may actually find that an area which appears well-churched actually has difficulty serving all the people in that area, if you just try running the numbers.

Obviously the first point doesn’t apply to Saddleback, since it is practically the apotheosis of franchise Evangelicalism—it both defines and reflects the culture which many, many other churches are trying to achieve. Which leaves point two: try running the numbers and see. So I tried running the numbers. Read more about Base ecclesial colonialism, part 3