To Understand Returnees (8)- When a person feels, “I will come back to this Church.” #2

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The previous articles links.


  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
  5. How can I approach them? ー”Are Returnees Space Aliens? #4
  6. How can I approach them? ー”Are Returnees Space Aliens? #5
  7. When a person feels, “I will come back to this church” #1


When a person feels, “I will come back to this Church.” #2

Well, we are in Japan!?

We may hear the voice that says, “That being said, sticking to the past events forever and cannot focus on what is in front of a person is not healthy, so would not it be better for the person to have let bygones be bygones?” It could be true. However, experience of living abroad has a powerful influence on that person, and it already became a part of his/her personality. As it is written in Bible, “Rejoice with those who rejoice; mourn with those who mourn.“ (Romans 12:15), I think we can help the person to truly “live” the entire life including his/her overseas experience when we accept his/her ideas and feelings, stay there for him/her and treat him/her with the love of Christ.


When “In other countries,” is repeated, I feel that my church and the way as a Christian is denied.

If this makes you feel such a way, I do not know how to apologize to you. Whether the person who talks about churches outside Japan is a returnee who does not know church in Japan or someone who knows both churches to a certain degree like us, he/she never means it. When we say it, it comes from our wish that, “please understand the differences. If you understand them, it helps you to understand and welcome returnees,” meanwhile, for the case of returnees, they may do so because of their simple desire to share their experience, the sense of nostalgia, as an expression of reverse culture shock or the frustration at himself/herself not being able to fit in a Japanese church in front of them. They may pour out, “I wish it were like church outside Japan,” even though they know it is impossible, but they are not denying or hoping it to be changed overnight.


About “culture and good news”: From a worker involved in cross-cultural ministry called overseas Japanese ministry

Now, I think it is necessary to talk about the ideas on “culture and good news,” which is the premise of this work. In our work of overseas Japanese ministry, we always mention that there is the “true nature of good news (permanent)” and “expression in each culture (changed by culture)” to those who became a Christian outside Japan. When my husband and I studies at seminary in the UK and in the US, how we draw a line between these two was the major theme. Learning of Missiology was a big help. In the modern Protestant missionary history, Western missionaries brought in the culture of their homeland as well as good news to the country where they were. Therefore, the study to distinguish permanent things and things that could be changed by culture (things that are OK to be changed) was advanced. Currently, in the area of cross-cultural ministry, encouraging the expression based on each culture is becoming all the more valuable.

Christianity (Protestant) in Western countries is also Christianity that flourished in the culture. Before that time, Christianity was a culture in Near East and Mediterranean Sea regions. How the good news in Judaism culture recorded in the Bible and the good news in gentile culture are different is the basis when we think. Christianity was already introduced in the UK in the 4th century. As time went by, each era had the way of expressing good news. Mistakes that should not happen, such as confrontation against Catholic, religious oppression and bloodshed because of that, were experienced. Modern English church seems to deal with potential issues with the developed knowledge through the long history. It is not completed at all, but I think there are many things we can learn from them as older brothers and sisters with longer experience in Christianity.

150 years have passed since the good news was introduced to Japan through a missionary form the western nation. Although it was popularized and grew in the postwar period it seems to be still in the phase of “how to protect what was introduced.” We have to find answers as Japanese for issues in daily life and the issues of how to live in the environment with pagan religion by learning theology from Japanese perspectives. Western theology provided us the framework. We have to apply it to our reality as Japanese. That should be put into practice by each Japanese Christian. That is what we are thinking when we challenge our work.

The way and/or ideas of each religious community and denomination and the form of service and/or administration policy have historical necessity and a reason for existence. When a change occurs there, that is the time when a person becomes a living stone of the body of Christ and dedicates oneself, one who loves the body of Christ recognizes the needs of change, find way to change, find answers and put it into actions.

Whether the person is a returnee or not, a newcomer must respect and accept what has developed there, and he/she needs to be a living stone himself/herself. If wishing for a change, as a living stone, one must live together with other living stones, brothers and sisters.

Therefore, when we lead returnees, we try to deliver the message of 1 )it is a mistake to seek for a church that is similar to the one the person has experienced before returning to Japan, in other words, to distinguish the expressions brought by the nature of the good news and each culture, and teach him/her to seek for permanent things beyond culture (Bible, God in the Bible, faith to believe that Christ is the savior, and others, 2)we try to teach, “you never lived in Japan as a Christian. Church in Japan teaches it and supports you. Learn deliberately there.” How our Lord will develop churches in Japan? We are praying that He will returnees as a catalyst, but how would He give answer to it? I would like to look forward to it and protect, and sincerely obey with what is given to us as our role.

to be continued….

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