In Japan, Change is the Key.

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Japan (MNN) — Change is hard, but without
change, it’s easy to get stuck.
We spoke to Gary Bauman of Asian Access about
changes taking place in the evangelical Japanese
Church.
Leadership from within
Traditionally, leadership in the church has come
from within. While this has been effective, it’s
become more difficult to motivate members in the
church to become leaders.
Bauman says, “In Japan, the Church is so small
that there just aren’t very many people to come up
into leadership.”
The existing leaders are older, many of them
having started in ministry after WWII. The younger
generation of men is more concerned about their
careers in the business world.
Pastors and leaders are saying there is a different
future for how leadership is raised for the Church–
one that will help the Church ultimately grow.
When Bauman met with the general director of the
Japan Evangelical Association, the director said,
“The leaders of the Church community in Japan
need to come outside of the Church community.”
When Bauman asked him what he meant, the
general director explained that leaders coming
from the outside not only provide more
possibilities, but they would also have the potential
to bring the outside community in to the Church.
Japan is seeing some interesting trends outside of
the Church that go against centuries of tradition,
says Bauman.
“Japan has built right into the culture the whole
sense of apprenticeship, and historically in the
working world there would be an understudy.”
While this still takes place within the church, many
younger leaders are taking charge in the
workplace, in relief efforts, and the like.
Dangers of the Christian subculture
If new leaders are not found for the existing
churches in Japan, growth could halt. There is also
a disconnect between the Church and the world
around them. While it’s true Christians are called to
be set apart from the world, they are also called to
go and make disciples and share the Good News
of Jesus. They can’t effectively do that if they are
not involved in their community.
Bauman puts it this way: “We need the new
leaders coming in from outside because there is
very definitely a Christian subculture in Japan. In
many cases, it can be disjointed from what’s
happening in the general Japanese world.”
This disconnect has forced a sort of paradigm shift
when it comes to the way new leaders are found.
Many churches are realizing the benefits of getting
involved in community events.
Bauman says there are some dangers of getting in
a strong groove within the church.
“As a Christian community, we become
comfortable with each other, and we start losing
connections to people that we knew and enjoyed
and had a lot of good times with before we became
a Christian.”
If people could stay more connected in an effort to
share the new life they’ve found, it could in effect
bring many more people to Christ. After all, as
Bauman reminds us, often new Christians are the
most effective evangelists.
Background on A2 training in Japan
For the first year of their pastoral ministry, pastors
meet up with a network of pastors every three
months for a few days to discuss relevant topics
and ways to implement useful knowledge.
These meetings are a seminar-workshop
combination.
Throughout every area of their ministry, Asian
Access is very careful about one thing. Bauman
says, “The key thing is that we aren’t coming in as
an outside organization telling the Japanese
churches and pastors what to do.” He says the
motto of Asian Access today is that of the
ministry’s founder almost 50 years ago: “My vision
is to help you fulfill your vision. ”
In other words, “In partnership, we serve together,”
Bauman says.
Asian Access therefore becomes a catalyst, not an
organization asking churches to be modeled in
western styles.
Bauman says the greatest challenge for them in
Japan is learning patience. When new ideas are
brought up, there is usually a long period of
discussion and re-discussion. He says this can be
frustrating for a westerner accustomed to fast-
paced decision making.
How should we pray? “The main way to pray is
that there would really be a movement of God to
impress upon any younger people within the
church the need to do Kingdom work– to be
involved in full-time ministry, so to speak, and to
really commit themselves to that.”

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