Discipleship in the Time of Coronavirus

中村佐知(JCFN理事、霊的同伴者、キリスト教書翻訳者)

How are you doing? The US was a few steps behind Japan in responding to the coronavirus pandemic, and several states are now under Stay at Home Orders. Schools, churches, restaurants, convention halls, and any places for gatherings are now closed. Even when we go out for grocery shopping or for a walk, we are told to strictly keep a distance of 6 feet away from each other. The turn of events over the last ten days were so fast-paced that everyone is at a loss. As Japan enters into a new school year, will the schools reopen?  Will people finally be able to go back to work? 

As we were suddenly thrown into this situation, I can imagine that many are feeling quite anxious. This morning, I was reading an article titled “Discipleship in the Time of Coronavirus” and came across this passage. 

“What is the way of Jesus in such a time as this? First, we must remember that we are disciples of the living, ascended, and enthroned Jesus. …… The Jesus who said, “And surely I am with you always, even to the end of the age,” remains/abides with us by his Spirit. When we are tempted to isolate and turn inwards, we need to repeatedly turn our gaze to the availability of Jesus. Throughout our days we need to develop the habit—now more than ever—of finding encouragement and comfort in the real presence of Christ’s love (Phil 2:1). ……. Our Lord, savior, friend, and lover is paying attention to us, the human situation, our needs, and the needs of those around the world. We need to pay attention to him—fixing our eyes, setting our minds, abiding—while we attend to the news, our needs, and the needs of those around us.”

What we choose to pay attention to and focus on will influence our emotions,  cognitions, actions and attitudes. (see Philippians 4:8) The author of the above article recommended several disciples such as breath prayer (Japanese only), stopping occasionally during the day to turn our hearts to the Lord, and praying and meditating on the Lord’s Prayer in the morning, noon and evening. For those who are taking this course, those spiritual disciples are probably already very familiar to you. Even in regards to the coronavirus, may we seek the Lord for discernment to clarify the boundary line between the things we can and should do, as well as things that are beyond us that we need to entrust into God’s good hands, since worrying about it won’t do any good.  

The author of the article says,

“Returning one’s gaze to the competent gaze of Jesus throughout one’s day is not simply a nice idea. Discipleship to Jesus is a learning way (Matt 11:28–30). With Jesus’ leading and the aid of his people down through the ages, we make tangible plans to reorient our minds to Christ and his Father’s kingdom resources in the midst of daily life.”

Even when we are anxious and fearful of what lies ahead, or when we are exhausted by the sheer number of things to attend, may we still turn our eyes to the presence of the One who is with us in the midst of them to encourage, help  and protect us. May we be able to comfort those around us with the shalom of the Lord that is within us. I hope that the spiritual disciplines (*) that we have been learning about through this course will be helpful you to do so.  

 

*Please refer to the spiritual disciples that I have mentioned in the JCFN blog in the past. 

 

Post  articles on the eLearning course “Boundaries from the Point of View of Spiritual Formation” (Japanese only) 

Central Conference(CC20) is held online!

【Important Announcement】

CC20 will be held online!

For Those of You Who Are Considering To Attend CC20: We praise the name of the Lord.
 Currently, various measures are being implemented world wide to contain the spread of novel Corona Virus. Stay-at-home order has been in effect in Chicago since 3/20, and many people are having to change their schedules. CC is no exception to this. It is still a little ways off, but the preparation team pondered together on whether it is in line with God’s will to gather face to face in one place on 5/23 to 5/25, to deepen our fellowship and encourage one another.
  We discussed various factors such as that the United States has yet to see the peak of the spread of infection, there will still be a risk of mass-infection in May, even if the peak has passed by then, and for considerations for those who will be traveling a long distance. With all this in mind, we regretfully came to the conclusion that it would be prudent to give up getting together at the Chicago venue for this year’s CC. This was not an easy decision. At the same time, we have conviction that CC is still relevant for encouragement and fellowship of Japanese people living in the U.S., and for those who have heart for ministering to Japanese.
Hence, we came to decide that we won’t just cancel getting together at the Chicago venue, but also to build a new CC this year to please the Lord, using the Internet.
 At this point, we are considering broadcasting worship by a team in Chicago and the main session by the speaker, and also more interactive elements like small group fellowship via ZOOM. The preparation team will be working out the detail, so we’d appreciate it if you could remember in your prayers that we can offer the very best. It is our sincere hope that you can join in this fellowship.
This change of direction does not stem from the fear of virus, but to express our love for God, and for our neighbors. (Matthew 23:37 to 39, 1 John 5:18). I was able to come to peace that under the circumstance, this is the best method of worshipping and glorifying God as a community. And especially in the time such as this, I feel the need to learn CC20’s theme, how to live a life of walking with the Holy Spirit.
  The preparation team will be hashing out the details for schedules, etc. We are still feeling things out in a sudden directional shift, but hope to go forward together and take this as an opportunity to build something new. Please support us in your prayers that we can serve the Lord faithfully, and work in one accord.
 Please check the website as we will be releasing updates on details!
With thanksgiving,
3/23/2020
CC20 Preparation Committee Chair: Yuki Hata

To Understand Returnees (5) How can I approach them? ― “Are returnees space aliens”? #4

For the booklet download:  LINK

The previous articles links.

Forward

  1. Who Are Returnees?
  2. How can I approach them? –“Are Returnees Space Aliens?” #1
  3. How can I approach them? — “Are Returnees Space Aliens? #2
  4. How can I approach them? — “Are Returnees Space Aliens? #3

++++++++

Point 4. How did the returnee develop their faith? Baptism? – continued#2

During the second half of the meeting, there is a call from the people there to, “please come to a different room if you would like to learn the Bible.” A “word” from worker Whenever we get an opportunity, we tell about “Japanese who cannot say no,” to local Christians who are guiding Japanese. Those who are interested will move to that room. Christians whom they meet there invite seekers to worship at their church, or invite them for other meetings to lead them further. If the person has a high level of English proficiency, it is possible to move further, but if the English proficiency is not high enough, that person cannot have a good understanding even if the same actions are taken.

 

In the US, ministry to international students led by cross-denominational organizations is actively done as well. It is very common that those organizations build friendships and deliver the good news little by little while assisting international students with their reports in English, buying a car or helping them move, on college campus. They also make friends through a party or an event, and offer Bible study for those who have interest. Many churches hold a “Mother-Child gathering.” It is a place where children below preschool age and their mothers are gathered together to have children play together or to exchange information among mothers. Similar to the English lessons mentioned earlier, the Bible and gospel could be shared for in some cases but not others. With this gathering as a starting point, there are quite a lot of ladies who are led to baptism. Yet, if the person does not have much desire to seek for truth, and English proficiency is not so high, in many cases, they may end up just attending the activities. Still, I am thankful if those people are given a heart to want to go to church after their return to Japan, thus we refer them to a church with our wish that “they attend church as long as possible.” When these “seekers” say, “I was attending church outside Japan,” it is helpful if we can find out what kind of meetings he/she attended, what was the expectation of the people who attended the meeting, to what extent he/she heard・understood the A “word” from worker We frequently refer “seekers” who are led by local Christians to churches. In most cases they are led by local Christians rather than himself/herself asking for the information as he/she responds “yes,” when he/she is asked “would you like to go to church after you return to Japan?” by local Christians who are leading the returnee. These local Christians ask us for the information and we provide it. Since there are too many “seekers”who fall under this, we think deeply “how we can connect them to a church.” I think it is a waste that the soul filled with abundant love and service of Christ is completely lost in Japan. I am led to think what is necessary, is it “low-key” ministry.. Rather than delivering a message for ministry as a form of a“ministry meeting,” and inviting people for a commitment, meetings that lead people to come to church and provide them opportunities to have contacts with Christians are needed, such as a bazaar・concert・gospel café. What is surprising for me when I met Japanese who are saved overseas is that significant number of them had never met a Christian in Japan. I think it is meaningful to expand the opportunity to meet with Christians through such “low-key” meeting.  Gospel/Bible and what is he/her looking for to attend church in Japan. It will be easier for them to attend if there is any meeting that is similar to what he/she has experienced overseas.

 

These are the 4 points that help you to find out the experience at church outside Japan and present status of returnees. In the following section, I would like to share my personal comments on returnees and church in Japan from a viewpoint of a person who is involved in Japanese ministry outside Japan.

to be continued….

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