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Gifts from God: A Kindred Spirit and My Next Assignment

28 February 2011 (19:30) | posted by mwilson |

by Michael L. Wilson

Today I had a good talk and prayer time together with a dear brother from India who shares my passion to see believers transformed by God's grace to play their rightful part in meaningful redemptive encounters with unbelievers. He looked over my curriculum for Asia and thought I might be able to teach a class at the seminary where he teaches. We found many parallels in our lives and prayed for fulfillment of one another’s visions and special grace for our families. Both are families are being attacked through our youngest children and we prayed for deliverance.

After skyping with Rev Kawasaki in Japan, it's been decided that my next assignment with the mission will be to recruit churches in Japan for the West Tokyo Church Multiplication Network. I need God’s grace to open doors and hearts so I can share the vision of collaborative effort to develop new churches. These pastors are very busy and my time this trip is very limited!

Thank you for your prayers in this adventure!

Michael L. Wilson - signature


Tokyo Cooperative Effort to Plant Kiyose Grace Chapel

25 February 2011 (05:22) | posted by mwilson |

by Michael L. Wilson

My ministry is based on the model presented by Henry and Richard Blackaby and Claude King in Experiencing God (Revised and Expanded Edition 2008). Recently my case study of planting Kiyose Grace Chapel was published by Wipf and Stock in the book The Facilitator Era: Beyond Pioneer Church Multiplication. I've alreadly blogged about the best practices of successful church multipliers from that book. Here's the case study I submitted that eventually morphed into Chapter 4. I would welcome comments or other feedback.

Facilitational Church Planting in Japan


Asian Access' policy calls for partnering with national church leaders to start a church multiplication movement in their respective countries. As the group's name implies the ministry focuses on Asia. 
Currently, Asian Access missionaries work in Japan and nine other Asian countries. Plans are in place to open cooperative works in all 20 Asian countries before 2020. The vision driving this process is "to see a vibrant community of servant leaders with vision, character and competence leading the church across Asia."
    The foundation of this vision was the evangelistic work of the Language Institute for Evangelism Ministries (LIFE) started in 1967 by Kenneth Wendling. Meeting the felt need of many Japanese to learn conversational English, LIFE missionaries taught English in partnership with a Japanese chaplain or pastor who presented the gospel during "chapel time." Even though a very fruitful ministry for decades, society began to change with the bursting of the Japanese "bubble economy" in the 1990's.
A new pervasive competitiveness prevailed. Several commercial English teaching schools sprang up seemingly overnight, quickly developing into school chains. LIFE's church-based classes with their primary objective of friendship evangelism no longer looked as professional as the schools that focused on helping people get high-paying English-requisite jobs. Sensing the closing of one door of opportunity from the Lord even as another was opening, LIFE's vision gradually shifted to a focus on church multiplication-planting churches that reproduce themselves. 
    From the start, LIFE's two-pronged approach to church multiplication involved developing Japanese church leaders in order to multiply churches. The Japan Church Growth Institute (JCGI) division of LIFE Ministries has trained over 300 of the top pastors in Japan inculcating the vision and competence to play their role in developing a church multiplication movement that will encompass the entire nation of Japan, and overflow to other Asian countries.
    As the leadership development work eventually expanded from Japan into other Asian countries, the name of the group had to be changed due to politically-sensitive reasons. Asian Access became the new name, continuing to work to develop the vision, competence, and character for long-term involvement in church multiplication. 
Only in Japan, does Asian Access deploy missionaries "on the ground" to partner with Japanese pastors and congregations that desire to develop new reproducing churches. These expatriate partners in the church multiplication cooperative relationship engage in evangelistic outreach in a variety of ways, and participate in some of the planning for the new church. 
Missionary involvement in outreach has two goals in addition to the obvious one of evangelism. First, their evangelistic activities are to provide a model for members of the mother church, and to engage Japanese lay Christians in the cooperative evangelistic activity in order to recruit any whom God would call for the church development team. Second, their input and encouragement in the prayer and planning process is meant to synergize creative involvement by participating lay Christians.
    As LIFE Ministries/Asian Access transitioned into a church multiplication ministry focus in 1996, a number of expatriate families went to Japan to become part of this exciting new work. One of them, the Wilsons, was assigned to work with a church in Tokyo after a year in fulltime Japanese language school. This assignment was unique in that the Wilsons would work with an individual church to plant another church. More commonly, one missionary unit is assigned for each church participating in a network although specific forms and strategies are in a continuing state of flux.
As the pace of the movement has picked up, the number of Japanese churches wanting to participate in a church multiplication network has greatly surpassed the number of available missionaries. The result has been the formation of some "missionary-less networks," networks with two missionaries serving five churches, and other combinations. The networks without missionaries on site receive coaching support from JCGI National Director Rev. Hiroshi Kawasaki and other national leaders. 
    This evolving process has resulted in a fluid job description for Asian Access missionaries working in a church multiplication role. Some are assigned to an individual church in a network and model evangelism while recruiting a church planting team from among the church membership. The more experienced may serve in several churches to model evangelism and coach national church planters.
    Returning to the fledgling days of the movement in 1996, the Wilson family was assigned to work with Nerima Grace Chapel in Tokyo. Mike had just completed a year of fulltime language school. Mary Jo, his wife, who already spoke intermediate Japanese from her previous ministry experience as a single in Japan, cared for their small children aged 5 and 2. Their daughter and son attended a Japanese pre-school/kindergarten (yochien), providing Mary Jo opportunity to reach out to other preschool (yochien) moms.
During the initial work at Nerima Grace Chapel, which was planning to birth a new church, Mike engaged in outreach through teaching some English classes, an English Bible class, and an evangelistic Bible study entitled "God's Love Letter." At least one Nerima Grace Chapel member teamed up with Mike in each evangelistic work. Another opportunity for outreach came when a student from nearby Musashi University came to the church office and asked if anyone could help him start a Christian English club on campus if he procured a charter for such a club.
    As time went on and Mike became more fluent in Japanese, Nerima Grace Chapel's Pastor Ogasawara asked him to preach on a number of occasions. At these times, a lady in the church would help Mike craft his sermon in Japanese.
Mike had a habit of asking the housewives in the church about their husbands' work, hobbies, and interests. Seeing so many housewives attending church alone burdened him. The average ratio of women to men in the Church in Japan is about 70 percent female to 30 percent male.
His language helper told him that her husband used to play tennis before he became so busy at work, and that his doctor had recently told him to take up tennis again to maintain his health. Mike arranged to go to his language helper's family residence at a time when he could meet her husband, ostensibly for help on a sermon.  Mike met his helper's husband, Toshi. As the two talked, Mike mentioned that he was looking for a tennis partner to get some exercise. Toshi agreed to join him. A close friendship quickly formed. 
One day as they were playing tennis, the two friends finished a set and were walking to exchange sides when Mike thought he heard the Holy Spirit tell him to tell Toshi about the little spat he had had earlier in the week with his daughter. So Mike shared the conflict with him, and added that conflicts with his wife or children were usually quickly resolved through application of biblical principles and prayer.
Toshi stopped in mid-stride and asked to hear more. What Mike did not know at the time was that Toshi and his high school age daughter were in the middle of a serious conflict. Toshi was at his wits end trying to find resolution and reconciliation. Mike told his friend he was forming a men's small group to learn together and encourage each other as men, husbands, and fathers. Toshi's response: "I can't wait!"
    The men's group composed of Toshi, Hiroshi, another newcomer, and four church members began with Mike leading the meetings using the 4 W's: Warm-up, Worship, Word, Work. Warm-up questions were gleaned from a number of sources. At first worship began with singing a familiar song like "Amazing Grace" acappella. But after a short time it became known that Toshi had been a rock guitarist and he still had six guitars at home gathering dust. So this seeker became the leader of the group in praise songs using an acoustic guitar.
    For the Word portion, Mike led the men in an inductive study of John using a translated text from Precept Ministries. This fit Mike's advanced beginner's Japanese language level, and it engaged the men, providing insights they had never perceived before. Toshi and Hiroshi remarked that they had heard of the name of Jesus but had not known that he was the Creator of everything or that he had become the sacrifice for sinful humans. With every meeting the two newcomers to Christianity were being drawn closer to Christ by the testimonies, inductive study of the Word, and the warm fellowship.
    One cell member had cerebral palsy and had never experienced acceptance or love, even from his family. The men's cell group changed all that. Some of the work projects included service projects for Tsuyoshi and some of his friends with physical handicaps.
Toshi and Hiroshi were deeply touched by the active compassion shown by the group as they participated in service opportunities. All the cell members were strongly impressed and grew to love God and each other more as they saw Tsuyoshi transformed by their active love and compassion extended to the community.
    About the same time two of Mike's English students accepted Christ and then the two of them led both of their husbands to Christ. It was harvest time at the mother church, and Mike and the church member partners were rejoicing daily. Most of the church members had never been involved in leading anyone to Christ before. The new experience lit a fire in them.
    After about a year of the Wilson's partnership with Nerima Grace Chapel, the pastor and church elders arranged for a number of meetings to be held in a rented room on the sixth floor of a bank building in the nearby community of Kiyose. The Wilsons and cell group leaders would attend to discuss and dream together what God might want to do to establish a new church through them.
During the discussions the group eventually developed a plan to plant churches at approximately 30-minute intervals up and down the Seibu-Ikebukuro train line located near Nerima Grace Chapel in northwest Tokyo. The pastor would commission five cell groups based in the Kiyose area to plant the first new church.
Initial outreach efforts focused on the cell group members' friends and families (oikos) in the Kiyose area, just over 30 minutes north of the Nerima Grace Chapel location in Tokyo. Mike made some advertising flyers for English classes and English Bible classes and had them distributed through members. They discovered that "word of mouth" referrals were much more effective than just distributing the flyers to strangers.
Mike taught a dozen classes-some three times a week, some twice a week, some only once a week-all around the Kiyose area. He went to class carrying his books and materials on a bicycle. This proved to be somewhat challenging in the winter when a wet snow sometimes falls.
    During this phase, outreaches included a celebrity Christmas concert in a rented hall, a concert in the lobby of the city hall, home parties, barbeques, the ever-present English classes, cooking classes, kids' clubs and many cell group initiated activities designed to provide "fishing pool" opportunities for members. It was very gratifying for Mike to see his old friends Toshi, Hiroshi, Setsuko, Megumi, and others, leading outreach events targeting their friends and families, the next generation of believers.
    As time went on, Mike realized this type of disciple multiplication was not that common in the Japanese churches to which he had been exposed during his six years of ministry in the hierarchical "Land of the Rising Sun." Rather, believers tended to compartmentalize their faith. Often they did not even let their faith be known in the workplace. Most churches left evangelism to the professional pastor or missionary. In addition, many believing housewives were forced to continue ancestor veneration rituals in order to keep their marriages and families intact.
One question increasingly challenged Mike: How could these dear Christian brothers and sisters be freed from the cultural "prison of disobedience" that kept them from multiplying disciples generation after generation so that they could reach their loved ones with the good news of Jesus Christ?
    From the beginning the vibrant spiritual DNA of the Kiyose Grace Chapel plant had a stimulating effect on her mother, the Nerima Grace Chapel. The core of the new church consisted of 25 members from the Chapel. The friendship evangelism and resulting multiplication of new Christians became an item for study by teams of elders who came periodically to learn more about what God was doing in the Kiyose location. 
A number of Nerima church members were mobilized for evangelism like never before, in part through exposure to the multiplication that was occurring at the church plant. It was almost as if a holy envy took over at Nerima Grace Chapel, spurring certain members to try new things, including a round of home parties and barbeques. A number of conversions resulted.
A monthly combined worship service brought members from both churches together. This created mutual stimulation and encouragement, resulting in increased fruitfulness at both locations.
    As the final year of the Wilson's stay began, it became obvious that no one on the church planting team seemed ready to take the reins of the new work and become the pastor. The Wilsons prayed long and hard about who would be the right pastor to take the fledgling Kiyose church to the next level in extending Christ's reign in the Kanto, the region around Tokyo.
As noted earlier, the mother church and daughter church had maintained a close relationship, which included financial support. As the offerings increased at Kiyose, financial support from the Nerima church ceased. 
Because of the close contact between the two churches, the Wilsons were aware of the personal development of Katsuhiro Sugaya, Pastor Ogasawara's right hand man at Nerima Grace Chapel. Sugaya led worship, managed the office and had become a zone pastor for about half of the Chapel's cell groups. In addition, he was exposed to a lot of innovative thinking about "church" by his visionary pastor as well as by the many guest speakers who came to the church to consult with Pastor Ogasawara.
Early on, Mike and Mary Jo had considered Sugaya for the pastoral role of the new church but he was so busy and could not join the church planting team, even though his wife did. In addition, he was not involved in evangelism.
    As the new church core grew at Kiyose, Sugaya developed a cell group back at Nerima, and multiplied it twice through evangelism. Some of the new Christians were emotionally troubled so Sugaya developed a "compassionate competence" in pastoral counseling as well as evangelism. The Wilsons noted the new developments and prayed for an opportunity to talk with Pastor Ogasawara about releasing his key #2 leader to become pastor of the new church. 
The opportunity eventually came for the Wilsons to meet with Pastor Ogasawara and share their conviction that God might be calling Sugaya to pastor the new church in Kiyose. They noted that by releasing the ultra-efficient Sugaya, opportunity would be given to two or three other leaders to emerge in the church who would otherwise likely stay undiscovered.
Pastor Ogasawara, a man of exceptional faith and vision, agreed that Sugaya seemed to be God's man for the new church and began to make arrangements to release. The timing would coincide with the Wilson's departure.
    As a kind of final crescendo for the Wilson's service with the Nerima and Kiyose churches, the leaders agreed that taking a combined summer mission team overseas would be a good way to jump start discipleship with several new believers and younger long-term believers at the mother church. They agreed that Sugaya and Mike Wilson would co-lead the combined mission team.
    Assuming Mike was an expert in cross-cultural missions because of his missionary tenure, the Nerima Grace Chapel leadership asked him to lead the training for the combined short-term mission team. He led team members in intercessory prayer, testimony preparation, and asking the "prior question of trust"-is what I'm saying, doing, or thinking building or undermining trust?
Taiwan, like many Asian countries, still has many citizens who resent Japan's aggression of more than 60 years ago. The language difference provides many opportunities for misunderstanding and breaking trust. Building trust is an essential element of incarnational evangelism anywhere, but particularly in Asia.
The original plan had been to take the team to work with a cooperative of churches in India but at just that time India and Pakistan were flexing their nuclear missiles at each other. So the Nerima Grace Chapel elders decided that the team would do better-and be safer-in Taiwan.
    From the time their feet hit the ground in Taichung, Taiwan, the Tokyo short-termers were amazed at how God had prepared the way and was working through them. Another team from mainland China met up with them. The unity and cooperative spirit on both sides was inspiring to behold. Every morning began with a 5 a.m. prayer meeting, and then a quick breakfast of noodles and tea or juice before heading off to do park evangelism with a translator. 
A number of the older folks doing tai chi chuan exercises in the park were touched by the team's unity and joyful spirit. In the morning team members invited the youth they met to attend afternoon evangelistic events. In the evening there were rallies where someone translated Mike's preaching. When all the outreach activities were over, the leaders would meet to debrief the day and plan for the next. Finally, the exhausted but joyful team leaders went to bed around 1 a.m. most nights.
The Lord opened up an amazing opportunity to go to the largest hospital in Taichung and share the gospel with individuals from the top floor to the bottom. Many came to Christ in moments of crisis or as the Lord healed them in answer to the short-termers' prayers.
There were several other special outreach events that featured cooperative efforts with the Japanese, Taiwanese, and Chinese Christians effectively working together. In ten days, 72 people made decisions to follow Christ, but that was only part of what the Lord had planned for the short-term mission team from Japan.
    About halfway through the ten-day trip, some of the Japanese team members noticed that the Taiwanese pastor was uncomfortable around them. Though the Taiwanese expressed unambiguous hospitality in multiple ways, the pastor would often leave the room when the Japanese arrived. Sugaya eventually told Mike about the situation, and what a Taiwanese church elder had told him-that the pastor's grandparents were tortured and killed by the Japanese during WWII.
The mainland Chinese team leader and Sugaya decided to have a foot washing ceremony to attempt reconciliation by employing identificational repentance. They asked Mike, the only American, to represent the American people who suffered. The Chinese team leader represented the mainland Chinese who suffered. One of the Taiwanese grandmothers who had personally suffered terribly at the hands of the Japanese represented the Taiwanese people.
At the start of the ceremony, the entire Japanese contingent crawled into the room on their faces, many weeping uncontrollably. They washed Mike's feet first, and there were a few sniffles in the crowd. Then they washed the feet of the Chinese team leader. More sniffles. When they washed the feet of the Taiwanese grandmother, there was not a dry eye left in the gathering of about 400.
From that time on the pastor often embraced his newly reconciled Japanese brothers and sisters. A cooperative relationship between the Taichung, Taiwan church and the Tokyo, Japan church, was initiated. God's special surprise capped a trip that was transformational for everyone involved.
    At this writing the Kiyose Grace Chapel is preparing to participate in the North Kanto Church Multiplication Network scheduled for April 1, 2009. The church plans to develop a granddaughter church for their parent church, Nerima Grace Chapel. By the time the Wilsons had left the Kiyose church for their next assignment, it had grown to 40 members. 
The Kiyose church has since grown to 90 strong. And as it contributes members and funds to birth a new church, God will no doubt infuse it with a renewed passion to reach souls for Christ, and again increase its numbers. In addition, the process will provide a catalytic effect for members to grow into all that God wills for them.

1 Appreciation goes to my friend Mike Wilson <MWILSON@ASIANACCESS.ORG> for providing the information used in this case study. Mike and his wife Mary Jo serve as missionaries in Japan. They have been involved in facilitational church development in Tokyo and Okinawa for nearly 15 years.


What should reader learn from this case study?:

1.    The purpose of planting a new church is to extend the reign of God in an area.
2.   Newly developing churches can edify and inspire the birthing parent church.
3.   God extends special grace to his servants engaged in extending his reign through the multiplication of churches.
4.   God often gives tremendous influence to expatriate missionaries who submit themselves to national leadership in the church multiplication process.
5.   Supernaturally-empowered relational evangelism is a very effective way to develop disciples who reproduce themselves through evangelism (disciple multiplication) for church multiplication.
6.   God draws people to himself through the active love and compassion of his people in        community.
7.  From evang / discipleship to church multiplication
8.  Fluid job descriptions

The Facilitational Era

(c) Tom Steffen                                                        2/11/11   


Lead Me to the Cross

24 February 2011 (20:28) | posted by mwilson |

Savior I come

Quiet my soul


Redemption's hill

When your blood was spilled

For my ransom

Everything I once held as dear

I count it all as loss

Lead me to the Cross

Where your love poured out

Bring me to my knees

Lord, I lay myself down

Rid me of myself

I belong to You

The last 3 years have been some of the hardest of my life. There have been ups and downs for all of us, but there has been one cross that has been particularly heavy. We are grateful for all who pray for us. There have been times my heart has been too heavy to carry by myself. As I meditate on the words of this Hillsong song, the Lord has often ministered to me and reminded me of so many things including the privilege of sharing in his sufferings.

May we all let every circumstance he allows in our lives to push us deeply into the loving bosom of the Lord of all Comfort.

Mike Wilson

p.s. - If you can't see the video clip, try here: 

Best Practices of Successful Church Multipliers

15 February 2011 (18:48) | posted by mwilson |

This post is a compilation of wisdom from church multipliers all over the world. It appears in a book I was invited to contribute a case study from Japan for. Once again, it proves the wisdom/value of being a God cooperator relying on the sometimes seredipitous grace of God. As you read these numbered points, which ones do you resonate with?


Best Practices of Successful Church Multipliers

1.   Recognize that God orchestrates the changes in global missions.

2.   Expect divine encounters.

3.   Know that relationships greatly determine outcomes.

4.   Implement an exit strategy.

5.   Work in CP-1 (same culture) and CP-2 (closely similar culture) more often than CP-3 (different culture).

6.   Avoid burnout by trusting Jesus to build his church.

7.   Accept that long-term impact requires long-term participation.

8.   See transformation holistically.

9.   Facilitate sustainable human and economic resources.

10. Make sure sound missiology drives the training, strategy, and curricula.

11. Focus on holistic church multiplication.

12. Recognize the reality of persecution and martyrdom.

13. Guard against stereotyping the form facilitation should take.



Take aways from "Facilitative Church Planting in Japan"



1.   God gives tremendous influence to expatriates who submit themselves to local leadership.

2.   God draws people to himself through the active love of his people in community.

3.   Supernaturally-empowered relational evangelism is very effective discipleship.

4.   Job descriptions should remain fluid.

5.   The goal is not evangelism or discipleship, but church multiplication.

6.   Newly developing churches can inspire the birthing parent church.



“Best Practices of Successful Church Multipliers” in The Facilitator Era: Beyond Pioneer Church Multiplication. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers. 350


“Facilitative Church Planting in Japan” take aways in The Facilitator Era: Beyond Pioneer Church Multiplication. Eugene, OR: Wipf & Stock Publishers. 333


Which of the above are counter intuitive for you? Which are "no brainers?" Which ones make you want to make a change?


I would very much welcome feedback.




Being Intentional about Christ's Presence

9 February 2011 (11:43) | posted by mwilson |

by Michael L. Wilson

Kavanah is the Jewish term for being intentionally attentive to God's presence in every aspect of living. For example, I always invite God to get on the bicycle with me when I go for a ride. I often sense his presence on the bike. I dialogue with him processing events as I drive in the car-and he often interjects comments or directives.

We are not all gifted the same way. However, every believer has the Holy Spirit and can communicate with-and receive whispers from-the God who loves us and wants to relate to us. Sometimes it just takes being intentional. C.S. Lewis writes about our hope of glory in God's presence in Weight of Glory.


Note: If you don't see the YouTube video, go to my blog page.


Mike Wilson


Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader: An Allegory of Transformation

7 February 2011 (18:04) | posted by mwilson |

by Michael L. Wilson

When my children were small, I often read the Chronicles of Narnia to them before they went to bed. It was a lot of fun for all of us and I can see the influence of those times even now.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader was recently made into a movie and Mary Jo and I received a pass to a screening of the movie shortly before it was released.

Dawn Treader poster (c) 2010 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corp & Walden Media, LLC, all rights reserved. Property of FOX.

We had seen the previous Narnian movies: The Lion, Witch, and Wardrobe and Prince Caspian and enjoyed them so much that we procured the dvds of each. Dawn Treader will be no exception--rather it has become both Mary Jo's (my wife) and my favorite of the series to date.

I am convinced that transformation (old name: sanctification) is the forgotten doctrine in the N. American Church. Many Christians are slaves to addictions and other baggage that wreaks their marriage and families and stunts their fruitfulness for the Lord Jesus. For the most part, they find no help in the Church.

The Voyage of the Dawn Treader is all about transformation. Eustace is transformed from a selfish prig to a courageous, even noble hero. Lucy is confronted by, confronts, and finally overcomes her insecurity and resulting temptations.

There are more stories of transformation, but I fear I may have already given too much away and keep some from going to the theater to see the movie in 3D.

On a personal note, let me say that as I have submitted to the Great Physician's healing grace in my life on many occasions, he has consistently increased the scope of my ministry. My work of strengthening and starting churches has gone from Tokyo, to Okinawa Prefecture, to California, Indiana, and Georgia and soon the Middle East and Asia. I am a God cooperator (Experiencing God 2008) and as I have been faithful in a little the Lord has seen fit to expand my opportunities.

My father was an alcoholic and so was my step-father. I grew up with a lot of baggage. But God has poured out grace upon grace as I have sought him and submitted to his potter's work in me. "Those who cling to worthless idols forfeit the grace that could be theirs" (Jonah 2:8).

Do you have something you would like the Lord's help for?

Would you like to talk more with me about how to access God's grace for inner healing?

Mike Wilson 

5 Japanese Evangelistic Multiplier Case Studies

28 January 2011 (13:14) | posted by mwilson |

The following are case studies of Japanese lay Christians who have multiplied through evangelism. I would enjoy feedback. Thanks!

1.) Ai (Office Worker): Marketplace Evangelism 

I was born in Naha, the prefectural capital of Okinawa, Japan. I am the second of four daughters. My father is a carpenter and my mother is a housewife. Both are now believers so there was no problem giving up the family altar (butsudan) or any of the associated rituals.

I’m not married. I started working in an office after high school graduation. I was given the opportunity to have technical training in my company and have risen to leadership in the office. My greatest joy at work or anywhere I go is to tell anyone I encounter how wonderful it is walking with Jesus day by day.

God has given me the joy of leading eight people to Christ. Most of these are not only colleagues at work but very good friends. I was able to develop a trust relationship with each one that helped with leading them to Christ. Most of the eight have since led others to Christ, but some of those others have not been baptized yet. In my spare time, I like to engage in flower arranging, crafts, cooking, and caring for children at church events. My church trains all of us in how to share our faith with others. The most fun I have is when I share how God is blessing me and that leads to the other person eventually believing in Christ.

2.) Hidenori (Newspaper Reporter): Have Gospel, Will Travel

I was born in Chubu Prefecture to a self-employed businessman and a mother who worked in an office. When I was ten years old, my parents divorced. My father moved out of our home leaving mother, my younger sister and me. As a result of this, I was never very close to him.

After graduating from university, I married and took a job with a newspaper, and before long I was working as a reporter. My job involved transfers every two years. In addition I interview people in a job that is communication-intensive. Away from work, I’m a private person, though I do enjoy my hobby as an amateur magician—when I have time for it. I’ve never found it hard to make friends and am often asked for advice though I don’t know why.

My wife became a Christian before me—partly as a result of a personal crisis. My wife is my best friend and so when she asked me to go to church with her while we were living in Tokyo, I agreed to go. The church was very crowded which surprised me. But that was not the biggest surprise that day. After the service, an American missionary working at the church came and started talking with me and invited me to a men’s small group. Later, he told me that God’s Spirit told him to come over and talk to me—specifically. This moves me—that God cares that much for me to have a foreigner approach me picking me out of a crowd, and tell me about God.

After another job transfer, my wife and I started attending a church in Osaka with cell groups. Soon I was made a cell group leader. When the church hosted a black gospel workshop, our cell got very involved preparing handbills and then passing them out in the surrounding neighborhood. When passing handbills out, the other cell members took my lead to strike up conversations with people we encountered. I realized that developing some positive feeling—maybe a modicum of trust—would increase the probability of the person actually attending the workshop.

During and after the workshop, my cell members and I invited our new friends who attended the workshop to barbeques and home parties. As the trust grew between us and our new friends, some of them became open to the gospel. So many eventually came to Christ that our cell group multiplied twice.

Around this time, I met Fukuda Mitsuo, a house church coach for several networks in Japan. This meeting inspired me to continue friendship evangelism to start a house church in a new context after another job transfer. Within the two years in that location, there was a new house church. In all, four of the people I have led to Christ have led others to Christ. Some of those last have led a third generation to Christ.

Wherever my job has led me, God has given my wife and me opportunities to share the hope in Christ we have with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15).

3.) Sakura (Divorced Single Mom): Maintaining Family Ties

When I married, I thought we would have a happy family, but shortly after our first baby was born, my husband abandoned us. Soon after, we divorced. One day as I was nursing my child, I heard a voice say to me, “Re-do your childhood.” But I didn’t know whose voice it was and I didn’t understand the meaning. However, soon after that a friend came from far away and shared how I could be born again spiritually (John 3:3), and I understood that it had been Jesus’ voice speaking to me! I was baptized in my bathtub soon after. That’s my story of meeting Jesus and re-doing my childhood.

I am an oldest daughter. There are not many children in our family so on the 3rd, 7th, 13th anniversary, etc. (odd years) I call the temple priest for a Buddhist memorial service. I think in many families even if it’s not the oldest son or daughter someone calls the family together.

During the Obon holiday, I do whatever needs to be done when the Buddhist priest comes to conduct worship at the family altar (butsudan) and perform the sutra.

Our family grave is registered at the local Buddhist temple and as temple parishioners our information is managed in the temple computer. We receive delivery on letters explaining the family altar procedures. We give offerings to the temple by bank transfer. I don’t actively initiate anything but I respond to temple requests which come often.

Now I will answer your question about why I participate in family altar rituals. But first, I’d like to explain my father’s thinking. He says, “We are protected by a person or persons that we cannot see. I am not alive by my own strength. I have been made alive by another. One clear evidence of that is my parents’ existence, and our ancestors before them.”

The key point of his belief is as follows: “god”(神々) mentioned in the First Commandment and “parent”() mentioned in the Second Commandment is combined in the word “ancestor”(先祖). We cannot see God. But we can be certain that our ancestors—who in a kind of relay of life—have passed the “baton of life” to us—and we can be certain of the presence of this “baton of life” within us. We can see their presence as evidenced in our physical bodies through inherited physical characteristics. My father cannot seem to see with his mind’s eye the past he cannot see physically. Perhaps someday he will be able to see the spiritual. I do not know.

This is what my mother says to me. “Will you speak negatively (deny) our faith? We do not speak negatively of Christianity. Isn’t the one who speaks negatively being narrow minded? Isn’t it a mistake?” For this reason, I have been sworn at, saying I am a self-centered daughter, doing my own thing without any regard for those around me. I am told that I am always thinking only of myself, which has caused me to grieve. To follow the First Commandment (Have no other god), I have to violate the Fifth Commandment (Honor father and mother). This is a very difficult and sad thing. I pray only to Jesus when I participate in the Buddhist rituals. I want to be able to follow both commandments at the same time (honor parents and worship only Jesus).

I have told my family about the time Jesus spoke to me and prepared me for the gospel. And at my child’s birthday, my house church members encircled my mother and prayed for her.

Recently, I have had some good conversations with my father about the source and meaning of life. I sense God is hearing prayer for my parents and I am really, really grateful!

Sakura also indicated on her survey that:

  1. She does not believe that her ancestors can affect her life for good or bad
  2. She prays to only to Christ in front of her ancestor’s memorial photo
  3. She “goes through the motions” of family rituals but does not really believe
  4. She is waiting for family consensus to do away with family rituals completely.

4.) Taro (Businessman): A Valuable Exception 

I am currently Vice President of a large corporation. Part of my work responsibility is to oversee a nationwide project.

A few years ago, I met a missionary at the church in Tokyo my wife attended. My doctor had told me I needed to take up tennis again to exercise for my health. The missionary accepted my invitation to play tennis and we played most Saturday mornings for 2 years. We drank a lot of tea together and also played chess and shogi.

Whenever we would get together, the missionary would often tell me some way God had blessed his life. Little by little my interest in his God grew. One time, I remember, the day before we went to play tennis, I had a big argument with my daughter who was in high school at the time. She left home and did not come back that night. Needless to say, I was very worried. Between games of tennis, my missionary friend told me about an argument he had had with his daughter and how using principles in the Bible they had been able to resolve their conflict very quickly. I really wanted to hear more and eagerly accepted his invitation to join a men’s cell group he was forming.

My wife had been a Christian for many years before me.  She invited me to go and see Arthur Holland, a famous evangelist, and other famous people whenever they came to her church. She posted Christian things around the house which I would often see. The following is a good example which I saw everyday (cf. Figure 8).

For many years, I know my wife prayed for my salvation. During that time, I sometimes heard her pastor’s sermon tapes, I occasionally saw a Christian TV show, heard Christian music, read a Christian book, and attended a Christian wedding. All these contacts with the gospel gradually changed me.

Figure 8: Sin Chart  [click graphic to enlarge]

The Sin Chart developed by Rev. Ogasawara; permission to use.

Finally, the men’s cell group became a good group of friends for me—something I had not had for a long time. The way they all accepted a handicapped member made it easy for me to accept him also. Through the inductive Bible study in the cell, I understood John chapter one for the first time. Aha! I thought. “The Word” is Jesus Christ who made all things and who came to take away our sins. When the missionary told me one day he wanted me to be his spiritual brother, I gladly accepted the idea and prayed with him to accept Christ as my Savior admitting my imperfections and asking forgiveness.

After my missionary brother and his family moved to Okinawa, I became a part of another cell group. Our members had a number of barbeques, dinners, book discussions, game nights, etc. on a rotating basis to which we invited our unsaved friends. One year from April to October, six couples from my and other members’ workplaces believed in Christ and were baptized. In addition, I have led two people to Christ who have gone on to lead other people to Christ.

Though Taro’s survey responses reflected the lowest correlation with opinion leadership characteristics, he has been able to multiply through evangelism—twice. Interestingly, among the Christians Toshi teamed with in outreach is one research participant who had one of the highest response correlations with opinion leadership. Perhaps as a microcosm of the Body of Christ, this team of outreaching church members shared one another’s spiritual giftedness as well as each other’s homes as their events moved from house to house. The research suggests that this is the case since Taro had the lowest opinion leadership and yet multiplied evangelistically.

5.) Haruka (Housewife): Miracle Turnaround

I first heard the gospel when a friend shared it with me. There was a crisis in my life and in the midst of the stress a friend’s lifestyle witness and personal testimony, along with a pastor’s Bible message given in our home made me first think I wanted to become a Christian. These factors along with a Christian book I read gradually led me to put my faith in Christ.

About four years after I was baptized, my 29-year-old son who was serving in the Japan Self-Defense forces was killed in a helicopter accident. He was a believer, and so even in the midst of my pain, I took great comfort in knowing he was in heaven with Jesus. About a year later, my husband was told that he had terminal cancer and would not live long. My pastor prayed for him and miraculously my husband was healed so completely that he was able to go back to work!

After these two things—about five years after my own baptism, I became passionate about telling others about Jesus because of the hope and comfort I had received about my son and my husband. Two of the people I met at church events and led to Christ have led others to Christ. I have found it very helpful to develop a trust relationship with people I am working with in order to witness Christ to them.


What do you think?

As you've read these case studies, what are your thoughts? Please share your comments and reflections. . . 

Hoping to Encourage the Church

27 January 2011 (18:58) | posted by mwilson |

This is a new blog I have just launched to begin posting some of my writing. I hope that in some way it can serve to inspire and encourage Christians to grow in the area of evangelism. My heart is for church multiplication, and my prayer is that God's Spirit will bring revival to His Church.

To start things off, my next post will be case studies of five evangelistic multipliers in Japan, which I hope you will find encouraging. As always, I welcome your feedback.

For His Glory,

Michael L. Wilson