What if your community leader is a Shinto priest?

Posted on: October 25th, 2012

When you are doing live ,web-based video training with Pastors and leaders in Kyoto, Japan, references to time can be very confusing!  While you have the advantage of not dealing with the jet lag of travel, there is still the challenge of time lag. Such was the case Tuesday evening October 23rd, no wait, Wednesday morning October 24th – or both!  But understanding cultural differences can pose an even greater challenge.

Thanks to our skilled Pinnacle volunteer, Dan Thompson, Gary and Ray had a near flawless connection for 41/2 hours with key Rengo pastors to discuss the issues of church and community assessment, vision, and, community impact in the context of churches in Japan.  This was the fourth in a series of visits and web connections designed to contextualize and implement The Retool Kit Pathway. These sessions set the stage for a group of 8-10 Japanese pastors to come in January for 3 days of final training and planning for the future.

Using Japanese slides in the presentation, we presented and discussed key elements from Retreat 4: Renewing Vision. They presented work they had done on creating assessment tools for engaging the community and the congregation to inform the vision for ministry. Although the tools included in The Pathway are useful in US churches, Japan poses it’s own challenges.

One pastor asked: What if your community leader is a Shinto Priest?  That is a key question because interviewing community leaders to discuss ways the church can cooperate in meeting community needs is an important part of the process for developing vision for ministry.  When the Temple owns the property used by many of the local businesses, he explained, the power of the priest is very strong and a willingness to cooperate with the local “cult” church is non-existent.

How do you create a Vision Community of 15 -20 people if your congregation includes only 25 people?  And the pastor is the only recognized leader? And the people are not used to be involved in discussions regarding the direction of the church?  (Of the 66 churches in the Rengo, 60 have 30 people or less in worship).

These are just a couple of the issues that the pastors and Rengo leaders are willing to wrestle with because they are committed to Kingdom impact in their communities throughout Japan.  They have worked hard in the process of translating and contextualizing materials and processes because they believe in the power of God to transform lives.

Pray that God will bless their work and multiply their efforts in this spiritually needy country!