In case you hadn’t gathered, yesterday I wasn’t all that impressed with CPI at the end of the day. Today, everything has changed.
The first talk of the morning was essentially a sales pitch for the “Church Planting Network” concept. These things depress me a little because in order to sell them you need to present them almost as an end in themselves. And so it came across that propagating “Church Planting Networks” was more important than, say, helping people experience the love of God. Anyway, that’s probably my excess cynicism again.
After that we started the house church planting seminar series. I’ve been really looking forward to this and it did not disappoint. It’s taught by Mitsuo Fukuda, who I discovered in college and have come to really respect. I’ve had a few questions about it already, and although I have very detailed notes, I’ll try to sketch an outline here.
The first thing we learnt was how to teach the Christian life in two minutes. Not because it should take two minutes, but if you have an outline you can get across in two minutes, then you can get it across in a longer period as well. It’s a little Japanese specific, but I think it can work outside Japan as well. It basically teaches that a Christian lives in three love relationships, and uses the kanji for “person” to show how those relationships relate to one another:
The first relationship is our relationship with God, which produces joy - God made you, he loves you, he rejoices in you, and so you can rejoice in Him - and also produces obedience. Obedience to God’s will and an overflow of joy leads naturally into mission and telling everyone else about it, and serving the other people he has made. This may produce a reaction, which causes you to suffer, but suffering produces perseverance which produces character, and that leads to a change in oneself. This change together with fellowship with other Christians creates a testimony, which further enables evangelism and service.
It doesn’t cover the whole of theology but it gives you a framework on which you can hang stuff. The intention is of course that you flesh it out later. But this is something that you can teach to new Christians and they can get started off with the Christian life straight away. And you can get it across on the back of a napkin. I’m not 100% sold on this, since it does miss out some stuff I consider to be important, (this is the only time the word “Jesus” appears in this explanation, for instance) but I think it’s a powerful schema.
We then applied this schema to devotions: two devotional questions or Bible study questions each on the “heaven”, “outward” and “inward” relationships:
- Father, what do you think about me?
- Father, what do you want me to do?
- Father, who do you want me to serve, in what way, today?
- Father, who do you want me to share the Gospel with, in what way, today?
- Father, in the past 24 hours, is there anything I have done that I need to repent of?
- Father, is there some way I can show love to those around me today?
So we did a practical devotion session based on that. Then we applied the same schema to evangelism and I forget exactly how we got there but we ended up with a model of evangelism based on personal testimonies. The rules for the testimony were:
- At most 90 seconds. People won’t listen for longer.
- Include one Bible verse to tie what you’re saying to a Biblical faith.
- Say what was the situation before in your life, and then the situation after.
- Make sure the praise goes to God.
Again we practiced, and then we headed out to Moto-Hakone to do it. I have never been so scared in all my life. But having this schema gave me a - well, call it a crutch if you like, but I couldn’t do it before today and I could do it today.
What excites me about all this is that it’s very, very transferable. The whole concept is that instead of allowing people to get used to occupying pews for the first few years of their Christian life, their “imprinted” understanding of the Christian life is one of evangelism, service, fellowship and internal transformation. I’m looking forward to tomorrow’s session, where we look at accountability and church planting.