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Point 2. How about experience at church in Japan before going overseas?
If he/she met a Christian, became friends or had contact with Christianity for the first time in their life during their stay overseas, it is apparent that the returnee had no experience at church/Christianity in Japan, so this should be considered when you guide him/her. If the returnee was a seeker in Japan, attended Sunday school when he/she was younger or is familiar with the Bible or service because he/she attended a Christian school, he/she knows what church in Japan is like to some extent, therefore confirming their prior experience is important.
Point 3. How was he/she involved in church outside Japan?
If the returnee attended a local church, he/she could have been treated as a guest (visitor). It is challenging for most Japanese to be involved in church activities in an environment where there are many people and a language barrier. Therefore it is possible that the returnee has no experience in serving.
Meanwhile, in the case of a Japanese Church・JCF, like the businessman in Case 2, often people are actively involved in serving soon after baptism (sometimes even during the stage of seeking) as the church needs to be supported by only a few people.
If he/she is saved at a Japanese church or fellowship such as a home Bible study hosted by a Japanese Christian, it is possible that the returnee was actively serving in the group. It is helpful to know this background information as well.
Point 4. How did the returnee develop their faith? Baptism?
You may think that the question to confirm the spiritual situation of the returnee should be asked earlier, but if the returnee says that he/she was “baptized” at a local church, it is different from the case that he/she is baptized after preparing for baptism and being taught what it means to be a member of church. Thus I believe that the earlier questions are more meaningful considering the importance of this issue.
In case of a Japanese church, many times, a Japanese pastor is providing some sort of learning opportunities before he/she is baptized, so you may confirm how he/she prepared, how much he/she was taught about church and being a member of a church.
If the returnee was baptized at a local church, since some church baptizes ones who wish to be “baptized,” like Ms. A in the first case, it is important to ask, “How he/she was prepared,” and “how the Christian life was led by those who were baptized at the church.” For example, in the UK, a so-called “Christian nation,” as a part of a state church tradition, baptism mainly means infant baptism, and it is common that even nonbelievers have their child baptized when he/she is a baby, just like Omiyamairi* in Japan (*Omiyamairi literary means a visit to shrine. It is a Shinto ritual that occurs when a baby is about 1 month old. They wear special white clothes for the ceremony, and have a special kimono draped over them. As the baby’s grandparents hold him/her, the priest presents the news of the birth to the guardian spirit of the shrine, and offers thanks. He then asks the spirit to protect the baby and keep him/her healthy.). Those who were baptized as Christians attend the same “diocese” wherever they move to, therefore the sense as being a “member of a church” does not exist in general. (Of course, Baptist churches and established churches exist in the UK as well.) Although there is no such a diocese system in the US, Australia・New Zealand, there are many churches that are not conscious about the church membership system, therefore it is not rare to be baptized on the day when one prays for confession. Thus it is often the case that there is a significant difference between being baptized at a local church or at a Japanese church. At a Japanese church, being baptized means becoming a member of the church in many cases, however, baptism at church outside Japanese purely mean the confession of one’s faith.
It is also a rare case, but sometimes when we ask the returnee about their confession of faith in detail, he/she just could not say, “no” when they were asked if they believe in God,” because his/her friend in the area took care of him/her very well and taught Bible politely with patience. This is difficult to understood by non-Japanese.
to be continued…..