This post is adapted from our most recent newsletter (here).
Remembering The Reformation (and why it matters for Japan).
Who could have thought that the sound of a hammer hitting the church castle door of Wittenberg (Germany) would echo all around the world? As you know, this October 31, many people in the world will shift their focus on Halloween candy, costumes and pumpkins etc. However, for Protestants, we have something far more significant to celebrate on this coming day. Reformation Day was one of the greatest moves of God’s Spirit since the days of the Apostles. At the heart cry of the Reformation was a rediscovery of precious doctrines such as salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone, to the glory of God alone etc.
Theology, for the reformers, was forged in the context of suffering and persecution. Martin Luther’s rediscovery led to a number of other church and societal reforms, often taken for granted today. Luther translated the Bible and put it in the hands of ordinary people, and today Scripture is available in the vernacular language all around the world. Among other things, Luther reformed the Mass liturgy in the common tongue so that non-scholars could understand it with clarity.
There was another reformer, John Calvin, whose theology not only influenced many churches but accelerated a church planting movement. We hear much about Zwingli, Calvin and Luther. But very little is said of the many church planters- whose names we might never hear of, until we meet them in heaven.
The Reformation and Church Planting Multiplication.
By 1555, John Calvin and his Geneva supporters had planted 500 churches in France. 4 years later, they had planted another 100 churches in France. By 1562, Calvin, with the help of others in cities, had planted more than 2,000 churches in France (John Starke). Though Calvin was the leading church planter, there were many church planters who were trained, assessed and sent out but have been largely forgotten because they labored in relative obscurity. In the last 10 years of Calvin’s life, missions became his preoccupation (Pete Wilcox). This debunks the widely misunderstood notion that Calvinists do not engage in missions and church planting. Even at a personal level it is an exciting time to live in Tokyo (among the 2nd largest unreached people group), in world’s most populous city, and to be a part of God’s work in planting a church that is rather “outside of the box.”
Recovering The Priesthood of All Believers in Asian Context
Isn’t it interesting that 39 of the 40 miracles in the book of Acts occurred in the workplace (outside of the ‘church’ walls) ? Luther also recaptured the precious teaching on “the priesthood of all believers” and helped people understand that their vocation had a sacred purpose in which they can glorify their Creator. J. Gresham Machen once said that:-
“For Christians to influence the world with the truth of God’s Word requires the recovery of the great Reformation doctrine of vocation. Christians are called to God’s service not only in church professions but also in every secular calling. The task of restoring truth to the culture depends largely on our laypeople.”
Asians tend to idolize top-down hierarchical leadership styles. But, in a careful study of movements, leadership structures become almost always flat (Tim Keller). For example, take a look at gospel movements that made Mizoram 90 % believers in India today. It was the ordinary people, the ‘lay’ evangelists and ministries, and ‘lay’ led prayer meetings that became key instruments in the movement. Movements are, therefore, every member ministry. They tend to be flat in structure and ideas are welcome from the bottom up. And vision and values are shared and owned throughout the wider body. In Gospel movements, leaders lead by repenting of power idolatry and so true power from the Spirit that works through the lives of everyday ordinary people can be seen in every sphere.
When we no longer care who gets the credit, but God alone, perhaps we will witness a city-wide, even a nation-wide, Gospel movement.
This is possible because Christ emptied Himself and gave up power on His throne. He entered our world stripped of all reputation, and He made Himself weak on the cross in order that powerless ordinary people would be empowered by His Spirit to be His powerful witnesses.
- Pray that church leaders will equip and release lay people for powerful witnessing and church multiplication in Japan.
- Pray that Churches will be renewed with the Gospel of grace, and that they will reform their practices to fully conform to the scriptures for God’s glory in Japan.
- Please pray for our church plant in Tokyo’s artsy district. If you would like to financially support our church plant, you can do so here.