Newsletter (Equipper)
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In our newsletters from May to July, we will be doing a series called “Preparing for Japanese Churches” in order to help out returnees.

 
     It's May. In America, we're approaching graduation season, and it's the season to start thinking about returnees. In a three-part series titled “Preparing for Japanese Churches,” with the cooperation of Pastor Shigeru Suzuki of Sendai Bible Baptist Church, one of the speakers at EC2014, we will learn from these three points of view:
  • Why is going to church so important
  • Knowing the history and background of Japanese churches
  • Things to think about when choosing a church
     We are hoping that this will be an opportunity not just for people looking for a church for the first time, but for all Christians, to think about the question, “What is the Church?”
“Preparing for Japanese Churches” - part 1
Why is going to church so important?
Shigeru Suzuki
Sendai Bible Baptist Church, Pastor

1. Because God completes the work of salvation through the Church.
     It is very important for Christians to belong to a church. Even though the earthly Church will have struggles, problems, and shortcomings until it (or she) is made complete (Ephesians 5:27-28), she is the very center of God’s renewing and restoring work which eventually will comprise the entirety of His creation (Romans 8:17-24).  Every person who is eternally united with Jesus by the Spirit of the Lord is a chosen, vital part and member of the Church of Christ (Ephesians1:4). Therefore, there is absolutely no one who is not needed. God, who created all things, through the Church that is united with Christ through the Holy Spirit for eternity, is furthering the work of salvation for its intended goal and purpose. The very incipient moment of God’s work of salvation is the second birth often termed “regeneration.” God completes the work of salvation through the earthly Church (Philippians 1:6; Matthew 28:19-20) for His own glory and for the eternal bliss of the Church (Ephesians 1:3-14).

2. Because the Church is the firstfruit of the new creation of the resurrected Christ.
     In this world, where Satan opposes God and humanity with his rule of rampant destruction, the Church is the beginning of the new creation of the Triune God. God sent Jesus to this world of darkness to bring us out of darkness into eternal fellowship with Him (Colossians 1:13). And, as the Church trusts in Christ, we are God's people, who broke out of darkness (“citizens of the end,” or those who bear the burden of bringing salvation to completion together with God). In the reality of this world that is wrapped up in darkness, God saved us, sinners as we are, through Christ, made us His people, and made us the Church. We are God's people, without a doubt the first who were saved out of darkness and resurrected through Christ. Paul says that we are the firstfruits (the first, the basis of salvation) of the new world through Christ's resurrection. Furthermore, he says that we are united with Christ for all eternity through the Holy Spirit, out of the old creation and born into the new world as the firstfruits, the new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). In this age of darkness, God shines the light of salvation and healing in the world through Christ in the born-again Church (Matthew 5:3-16; Colossians 1:27).

3. Because the Church is the body of Christ on earth.
     The Church is called the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12; Colossians 1:18). This word is used as an image to explain the Church. However, more than just a figurative expression, the Apostle Paul in particular stresses that the Church is literally the body of Christ on earth. Moreover, Christ is the Head (meaning the source) and is connected to the Church on earth. The Church receives the life of Christ, who is the Head, and the Church is the body, expressing the life of Christ on the earth. With the Church as Christ's body on earth, which was formed through Christ's death on the cross and His resurrection, we, as the Church, can walk with Him on the earth. The Church is Christ's body on earth, the work of salvation was carried out through His body, and the Church points this dark world that does not know God to the hope of the resurrection.
     Without exception, all Christians, through the Holy Spirit, are made one with Christ for eternity, and each of us is an important part of the body of Christ. All Christians, the Church, are the body of Christ, and each of us is an important part of that body. We are all important parts of the body, and we have been given the joyful responsibility, together with other Christians, to express the life of Christ (the meaning and purpose of service). This responsibility is the crown given to us by Christ, and this privilege and knowledge is a desirable thing (Psalm 8).

4. Because we can learn the love of Christ through loving and serving our brothers and sisters in the Church.
     Just as different body parts work in different ways and yet are one body, just as the love of the cross is incarnated through the fellowship of the church body, it is so important to continue to work together to serve the gospel and to seek and pray to grow in love ourselves. This will deepen our fellowship with God as we go about the activities of our daily lives, and at the same time, as we know that even when we are alone that we are connected to Christ, it is imperative to remember that we are aware of being part of the church of Christ. And, just as was encouraged in the book of Hebrews, it is important to gather regularly in a set place to praise God, receive teaching, spend time with other believers, and share the grace of God. The Triune God gathers His people at a certain place and time, and pours out special grace on those who come. There, we can experience the riches of Christ's love together, and we will live together in the same grace (Ephesians 3:14-21). Through the family of faith that He gathers together, He teaches us, encourages us, and through our relationships with each other, gives us spiritual knowledge and wisdom, spiritual discernment, and consciousness and awareness of sin, as we discover more deeply the forgiveness of sins Christ gave us on the cross, through which He gradually gives us freedom from our sins and makes us holy (growth of character). He also helps us to be more and more dedicated to the spreading of the gospel.

5. Christ and the Church love the same things.
     Loving Christ, the head of the Church, is expressed in our concerted enduring effort and desire to learn to love the Church, which is the body of Christ. Christ gave birth to the Church and sacrificed Himself for it (Philippians 2:5-8; Ephesians 5:25-28). As the ones that Christ has saved, we are to love the body of Christ, which is the Church, just as Christ Himself does, and the love of the Lord is made apparent through the way we continue to learn to love the family of God, which is the Church, as well as the way we love our neighbors. Those who continue to love the Lord will gradually, through His love, be made into the kind of people He wants us to be.

 
 
Shigeru Suzuki
Born in Tokushima. Shigeru played baseball (softball) during high school days. He started studying in Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon. Within a matter of several months after being associated with Christian students, Shigeru accepted Jesus. And after that Shigeru transferred to Idaho State University. There Shigeru decided to continue his education in seminary after finding a church he felt home and encountering Campus Crusade ministry. Shigeru joined Western Conservative Baptist Seminary in Portland, Oregon. There Shigeru met Atsuko, who had been studying there a year earlier, and they got married. They came back to Sendai in 1992, and Shigeru started working as a professor at Baptist Seminary. In 1994 Shigeru became a senior pastor at Sendai Bible Baptist Church and has continued to serve there till today. Shigeru likes to stay active and loves taking pictures of natural flowers and birds. Shigeru and Atsuko have a son and two daughters.
 
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Re-entry Seminar Video (Intro + 4 sessions) is now available on-line (Japanese only). Please use it for re-entry preparation. Clicking the image above, you can watch the introduction. All videos are available at JCFN website.
 
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