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the Japanese translation, which is published as a book by Harvest Time Ministries, than the original thesis, which is unpublished and so you have to order at great expense from UMI.
At one point I was planning to translate the whole thing, but it’s a lot of work, my experience with “Mentoring Like Barnabas” have taught me that it’s a pain to drum up interest in making these translations widely available, there are only a very small number of people who’d be interested, and frankly, if you want to understand Japanese culture, you’re probably better off being able to read Japanese anyway. But I will give you the Conclusions section:
- The Japanese church needs to provide recipient-oriented answers drawn from Biblical teaching to the questions of people coming from a Japanese worldview.
- The felt needs of Japanese with a supernaturalist tendency need to be dealt with within the contextualized church. The church can be seen as being made up of people who have been given authority who can access God’s supernatural power. Thus it becomes a window into the world of the spirits where Japanese people can meet with Jesus who fills the cosmos. Additionally it is a battleground where evil influences are rebuked in the name of Jesus.
- The needs arising from a group tendency need to be dealt with within the contextualized church. The church is a living community where people receive a renewed self-understanding, and it can be depicted as a family corporation unified by the call to mission.
- The church needs to share the Gospel by combining power encounters with truth encounters and faithfulness encounters. It can achieve this by using small group dynamics and mentoring systems, as well as contextualized rituals.
- The purpose of these strategies is to show that, as Jesus is greater than all gods and Boddhishatvas, Japanese can devote themselves faithfully to him.
There’s a great section in one of the chapters on models of contextualised churches where he explains how mentoring, small groups and public worship all knit together to bring people more and more into the church. It felt a little bit mechanistic for me, putting individuals onto an ecclesiastical assembly line, but it’s again a way of providing vehicles for involvement which are often sadly lacking in Japanese churches at the moment.
It’s also interesting to compare the theory, as described in the book, with the practice - what actually happens in Fukuda’s house church groups. Some things are clearly still there, others have gone by the wayside. I aim to make that comparison in a future post.