Newsletter (Equipper)
We praise the name of the Lord.

Following the article last 2 months, we would like to share the final issue of the series of “Preparing for Japanese Churches” in order to help out returnees. Also please enjoy the testimony from Central Conference held in May.

“Preparing for Japanese Churches” - part 3
Things To Consider When Choosing A Church
Shigeru Suzuki
Sendai Bible Baptist Church, Pastor

What is heresy? What are its characteristics?
     We must be careful of heretical churches (cults) and their teachings. There have been people teaching incorrect doctrine since the beginning of the Church. Paul, Peter, and John all fought against the heretics and heretical teachings of their time, and they taught in great detail the doctrine necessary for the protection of the health of the Church. Their goal was to cultivate the aroma of Christ and to be cautious of our susceptibility to false teachings.
     Heresy is nothing new; it has been repeated throughout history. In Japan, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witness, the Unification Church, and others are spreading. Cults always target the core teachings of Christianity and understand the Bible based on their clever presupposed teachings. They teach this understanding as the truth. Their warped teachings are based on our beliefs, making it necessary for us to know the truth well.
     Cults twist the truth about the Trinity, Christ, the Holy Spirit, salvation, and the End Times. The churches mentioned above deny the Triune God. They deny the divinity or the humanity of Christ. Regarding the Holy Spirit, Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, consider Him simply a power, not a Person. Also, they believe that Christ alone is not sufficient for salvation, but that we are saved by our good works. They deny the position that we can trust Christ the Savior for salvation by faith in the End Times, saying that our salvation is uncertain.

What do I need in order to choose a church? How should I understand the difference between churches in Japan and North America?
     What kind of life of faith do you want to have when you go back to Japan? You might understand the importance of local churches, but how do you actually decide what church to belong to?
     I already wrote about this, but there are many churches belonging to different denominations. You might feel that choosing a church is unexpectedly difficult. I am going to introduce a few things that I would like you to think about when you are making your decision.
     First, it is important to be sure that the church is teaching the gospel. The teachings of the Bible are absolutely necessary to our growth as Christians.
     Next, spend some time attending worship services, Bible studies, and fellowship. It is important to experience the church firsthand. Also, each Christian, family, and church is growing, and there is no church without problems. However, if people are often fighting, judgmental, or gossipping, this is a problem. This is my own opinion, but as servants of Christ, as we are working out our salvation (Philippians 2:12-13) and praying, it is important to have wisdom as we decide what church to belong to. Therefore, I believe it is important to have friends in the faith as well as trustworthy mentors who we might go to for advice.
     The problem returnees will likely encounter when choosing a Japanese church is confusion regarding the differences in number and atmosphere of churches overseas and in Japan. Many of these are not good or bad; they are simply differences. However, the difference in atmosphere may cause an unexpectedly deep impression; therefore, it may take some time to accept all of the differences, without compromising on what is important.
     I attended an American church for 11 years and experienced firsthand the differences between churches in America and Japan. When comparing the atmosphere, North American churches feel more lively. It also seems to be easier to get to know people. If you are saved and live as a Christian for some time in this kind of gospel culture, you will probably feel some loneliness at first in many Japanese churches. Many people in North America will, upon first meeting you, come straight up to you, give you a hug when greeting you, and welcome you joyfully, whereas, in Japan, this will likely be rare. It may be necessary to accept from the start that these kinds of differences exist.
     I spent 11 years at various American churches, and it has been 22 years since I returned to Japan and became pastor of the church where I am currently. Of course there are differences between being the pastor of a church and being a member, but I learned several things from my 22 years of experience in a Japanese church.
     Essentially, we grow by knowing and experiencing differences. It can be said about many things that it is difficult to get used to at first, but it becomes an important experience. It is God who makes churches as well as countries different, and these differences enrich us. At the Mongolian church I visit and serve at every year, there are differences from both North American and Japanese churches. American churches have a sense of freedom, but Mongolian churches feel even more free. They are the opposite of Japanese churches. I learn a lot from them. However, if I am honest, there are some elements I cannot get used to, but I can also learn from these differences. I also believe that Mongolian Christians can learn from us Japanese. It is not about who is the best; rather, God gives different grace to each of us for our growth and for the spreading of the gospel. We, too, accept the gospel and grow at our own home church, but God has also given us various experiences in our lives, which allow us to, as we grow in trusting relationships, share new points of view and new directions with our churches. As God has given each of us ministries with wisdom and right timing, we can help to bring about small “reforms.”
     As for what those reforms might be, God will bring them about in His timing. On our small journeys of endurance and obedience, things will be fulfilled in the right time. For me, it is my 23rd year since returning to Japan and starting at my current church. Looking back, God has brought about some small changes as well as big ones, but they have all happened in mysterious ways. Our individuality, as well as our personal experiences (such as studying abroad), can be used by God for the sake of the gospel. Therefore, we can be thankful to God for our experiences overseas, and with wisdom and God’s love, we can be used for the gospel in the Church (1 Corinthians 12:7).

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.
[Testimony from Central Conference]

     Central Conference 2016 was held from May 28th to 30th during Memorial Day weekend near Chicago. Here is the testimony of one of the participants.

My sharing from CC16
Kyoko Kojima
CC16 participant

     CC (Central Conference) is a place where God provides me what I need in that “moment.”
     My first CC was in 2015.  At that time, I was not a Christian yet, but I was curious about Christianity because I had met Christians after arriving in America and they were very kind to me.  I wondered why these Christians were so nice and wanted to live like them with love.  However, I was afraid of making a decision to believe in God.  Until then, I thought I had to live my life in my own strength alone.  So believing in Christ meant I had to admit my weakness and to deny myself completely.  CC15 theme was “Just as you are –You are loved by Jesus.”  From this conference, I learned how much God loves me and that there is no shame in my weaknesses.  I remember feeling surprised because God gave me such a timely and much needed specific message as though He knew exactly what I was feeling.
     After that, different things happened, but finally I was able to accept God’s message. I was baptized one month before CC16 and attended this time as a new believer.  Also, I was scheduled to return to Japan 3 months after the conference.  Till then, my big goal was to become a Christian.  After doing so and accepting Jesus as my Lord and Savior, I didn’t know what it meant or how to live as a Christian.  I was very afraid of returning to Japan in such situations.  This year’s CC theme was “Surrender All –Christ is in you.“  I was surprised even more!  God prepared everything I needed.  Through messages, I realized that even though I invited Christ into my heart, I was still holding onto my life and wanted to live my life according to my will and belief in myself.  I also realized that all I had to was to invite Christ to sit in my life’s throne and pray to Him to help me because I can’t do it with my own strength.  When I learned about this, my fear had disappeared.
     Through CC, I met so many wonderful people.  Of course, meeting Japanese Christians in the US was special, but meeting others who will be returning to Japan gave me courage. It made me feel that I am not alone even after I return to Japan.  The JCFN Returnee Kit has been helping me to prepare and am encouraged by that as well.
     I want to attend CC next year!  That is my heart’s desire.  I wish I could return to CC as though I return to my spiritual home once a year.
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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.