Jet Set Japan: ReTrain Rendezvous

Two Years Later: The Fruit of ReTrain

Almost two years ago to the day I sat in a small class room at the Ballard campus of Mars Hill Church in Seattle with the nine men that made up the "Global Massive" cohort. Our assignment at that meeting was to spend twenty minutes presenting a final project that encapsulated our year at ReTrain. I can't say that I remember well all of the presentations given, but there was one in particular that I do remember and served as a bit of a catalyst for me ending up for ten days in Japan. That presentation belonged to Steve Sakanashi.

Steve is a fourth-generation Japanese-American. From the first day I met him at ReTrain in August of 2010 he was talking about his passion and the need that Japan has for the gospel. His aim was to do whatever he could, however God led and called him, to reach the nation of Japan as a church-planter. So in that small little room at Mars Hill Church as Steve shared his vision and plan to plant a church and make disciples in Japan I wrote down one note to myself in my notebook, "Steve is going to be the William Carey of Japan."

What I didn't expect in the two years between that presentation and today was that I would get caught up in the momentum of the Holy Spirit to reach Japan. I always figured I'd run into my ReTrain brethren at different Acts 29 Network functions or in Seattle whenever I had the chance to get there. I never figured my next rendezvous with Steve would happen on the soil of the country he was so passionate to reach.

Since that presentation Steve will tell you that a lot has changed. He is now married to a lovely lady and is expecting their first child. His vision has been sharpened and his skill as an entrepreneurial leader has magnified.

Today Steve is leveraging the few commodities that Japanese students eagerly desire to have from American's to place them in contact with faithful Christians. As a business leader Steve has developed a model of "faithful presence" that puts the Japanese in contact with American's to learn English and to give Steve and his team a relationship that is long-term and sustainable with these Japanese college students. He is leading entrepreneurial workshops for Japanese business leaders and venture capitalists.

Steve has launched the Megumi Iniative which includes Sekai Creator an entreprenurail training course for Japanese business leaders and Eigo Partner. On Wednesday Steve met up with our team in Tokyo to cast vision for us about his ministry. That conversation reminded me a whole lot of the vision casting Steve did two years earlier to his whole cohort at Retrain.

Honestly, I don't think I would have ended up in Japan this time if Steve hadn't been the first to call out the need of Japan to me. Sure I knew that Japan was out there, but I didn't have any sense of what it's spiritual condition or need was. Steve identified those needs to me. Now my adventure in Japan has come full circle with the vision Steve set forth two years ago. He has moved forward in accomplishing what God has called him to and he has helped me see a place that needs the gospel so deeply and is so unreached that I won't stop ringing the bell for mission work in Japan until that nation is reached.

I would like to ask you too to put your life and resources into the gospel-work being done in Japan. One of the ways you can do that is by supporting guys like Steve and others financially and with your time. You can support Steve financially by following this link. You can support his work with Eigo Partner by enlisting to be an English conversational partner.

I'm thankful for friends like Steve, thankful for his vision for Japan, and thankful that God allowed our lives in intersect two years ago in Seattle and then once again Wednesday in Tokyo.

Re:Train Reflections


Today I am submitting my final written project for the Masters degree program I have been enrolled in at The Resurgence Training Center over the last year.  The project itself is a subject for another post but thinking about really being done with Re:Train has led me to reflect on what the last year of higher education has taught me and more importantly how I have been changed as a result.  A few reflections on the entire year have emerged:

Reflection #1 – Having a Gospel Coach Could Save Your Life
For me at least on three occasions that I can recollect off the top of my head the man that Gospel Coached me this last year literally kept me from making terrible decisions and choices that would have not only brought harm to myself but to my family and even others that I was leading.  Re:Train not only taught me Gospel Coaching, but provided a Gospel Coach to help shepherd me in my own walk.

Reflection #2 – There is Great Value In Being In A Community
One of the genius designs of Re:Train was not only the program content, but the design of the program to put me into a small group of ten to share my life with.  The "Global Massive" Cohort (as we labeled ourselves) was another measure of God's grace to me in the entire Re:Train process.  As I began the program I was convinced that I wanted to hang out and spend as much time with the Acts 29 church planters at Re:Train as I could so I could discern my own call to planting.  At one point on the first day of the program I even tried to jump ship on the cohort I was assigned and find another more focused church planting team.  However it was the good Providence of God to keep me in the cohort I was assigned, and to ultimately find a group of men who love Jesus deeply and are really going to impact the world with the gospel.  I was placed alongside men both young and old who are from and are going to places all over the globe.  I love these guys and am grateful for the joy of learning and being blessed alongside them.  

Reflection #3 – A Good Learner Reads Outside of His Tribe
Before coming to Re:Train I was pretty constrained to who I would read or what publishers I would read from.  A bit of this was my own desire to be fed well from the books I was reading, a larger portion of it was my own pride and stupid ideas of separation.  As I worked and read this last year I found myself on a few occasions reading people I wouldn't usually have read. What I discovered in them is that even though I might not be theologically or  philosophically compatible in every degree of doctrine and practice they still can be wise in Scripture and helpful in my leadership and development as a pastor.  So I have to broaden the base and platform from which I can read.

Reflection #4 – I Am Not Defined By My Job, Church, or Successes and Failures
Probably the greatest benefit I received from Re:Train is a clearer understanding and love for the gospel.  I don't know why it took so long for me, probably because I am slow and dumb, but it seems like this year the truth of the gospel and the identity that I have in Jesus as the defining factor for who I am before anything else has come into view.  Through several successes and several failures this last year the Lord humbled me to remember I am not defined by what I do, where I work, how many people I preach too or even how monumental my failures are.  In Christ I am defined as a son of God, holy, chosen, adopted, beloved.  The gospel, Jesus' redemptive life and work on my behalf, is the very thing that defines who I am.  


I could probably write another ten reflections of the last year, but these will suffice as the top four for now.  I am so thankful to the Lord for allowing and providing for me to go to Re:Train and the change He has affected in my life as a result.  The education, gifting and skills He has given me and I am eager and excited to be using them for the glory of Jesus and the advance of the gospel. 


Reading in April or The End of ReTrain Reading


I have to say I'm writing this post with a bit of melancholy. You see the four books on this list constitute the reading requirements for my last class at ReTrain.  The finish line is in sight and while I am excited about completing this program and finishing well, I have to say I'm going to miss the learning format and most of all the relationships that I've developed with the guys in my cohort.  This next weekend I travel up for my last class, "Leader as Priest" taught by Sam Storms.  These are the books that we were required to read for the course.  All of them have been excellent, Piper however, has been devastating. Maybe one day I'll write about why. For now here's the list:

Reading in March

I realized today that I had not yet posted the reading that I have been doing lately and wanted to get a record of my reading in February/March on the list.  


Three books were the result and an excellent article from the Harvard Business Review.  Here's the books.

All in all it was some excellent reading, especially as I worked through the issues of leadership in the church and leadership of a church.  What did you read in the last month?

Reading in February


We're already into the second month of 2011 and I needed to bring my faithful readers (thanks mom) up to speed on what I've been reading.  This afternoon I take off for Seattle for my next Re:Train course called "Leader as Prophet".  The aim of the course is to equip guys in Christ-centered preaching.  Bryan Chapell is the teacher for this course and this is the one I have really been looking forward to this year.  Here's the reading list I just completed:

None of these books were a dud and I would recommend you read the last three.  If you are going to be preaching or teaching someday you should read the first one listed, but everybody would be served well by working through the final three books in the list.  I am excited to learn more about the ministry of preaching and how to better do it.  I am praying that God would show me more grace and help me continue to develop and grow in bring the gospel to bear on the lives of people from the Scriptures in a clear and compelling way by the power of the Holy Spirit.  

Re:Train Final Project Proposal

Today I submitted this as my final project proposal for the graduate-level degree program I am going through at The Resurgence Training Center.  I'd love any input or feedback you'd like to give.  Of course if you already know of something like this then please let me know.  I don't want to recreate the wheel.  Let me know your thoughts!

Thesis:  As it is a call of mine to lead the local church in training and equipping men to train and equip men, my project will be a tool designed to facilitate the training and development of potential elders in the church.  

Paragraph Summary:  

My project will focus on developing a tool for training and discipling men in our church to be elders. The tool will seek to help men in four particular areas; who they are as a man of God, who they are as a man in the home; who they are as men in the church and who they are as men in the world. Each section will deal with the Biblical qualifications for eldership in that area, flesh out the gospel identities for the man and provide assessment and practice for the man in relationship to the specific area. A coaching component will also be included to create an external level of assessment and discipleship for the man in process to be an elder.  The tool will address the intellectual life, source beliefs and attitudes as well as practice and behavior.  




Reading in December (and half of November)


The next 6-8 weeks is a bit of a break for me with my work at The Resurgence Training Center (Re:Train).  We do not have class in December but have a week-long intensive the second week of January.  In preparation for that course our required reading looks something like this:

  • The Peacemaker by Ken Sande
  • Gospel Coach by Scott Thomas and Tom Wood
  • A biography of a dead evangelical pastor - has to be 200 pages.  

The biography is of special interest to me because I really enjoy church history and I learn a ton from biographies.  For this course I wanted to read a biography on a man I don't know too much about.  That knocked out reading on Edwards, Calvin, Luther and a few others.  When I started asking around many pointed me to D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones and said I should read a bio on him.  The problem with that is unless you read the large two volume, 1200 page, book by Iain H. Murray, you aren't going to find another biography on him.

So... I'm taking the plunge.  At least on the second volume of Lloyd-Jones' life.  I figure this volume has the most immediate lessons for me to learn from and puts his time-line in closer proximity to mine.  I'm excited about this set of reading.  Scott Thomas' book Gospel Coach has been excellent and when it finally is released it will be a benefit to leaders everywhere.  Read along if you like the next couple months!

Reading in October

At some point I will have to back up and do a post on what I read for my Re:Train course on missional ecclesiology.  However since I'm thinking about it and and getting started on my course in November I thought I would post what I am reading this next month.  Here's the list:

I've been told this class was the best one at Re:Train so I am excited for it.  Read along if you have a chance!

Re:Thinking Discipleship

As many of you know I am in Seattle this week working on a graduate program with The Resurgence Training Center (Re:Train).  Each month for the next year I will be traveling to Seattle to take a different course through Re:Train with the outcome being a Masters of Missional Leadership degree.  

This weeks course is entitled "Leader as Disciple" and is taught by one of the Mars Hill campus pastors, Bill Clem.  After two days of class we have begun to plow through the question, "what is a disciple?"

In many ways it has been a great question to ask because it not only relates to my own personal life as a follower of Jesus and how that plays out, but it also gets right at the core of how churches engage in the mission of "making disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:18-20).

I won't play out my thoughts on this question here in this post other than to say much of my "disciple-making method" is under assessment.  Pray for me as I marinate on two days worth of teaching/thinking/observing and learning.       

Re:Train Reading for August

Here's the list with links for the reading I am doing this month in preparation for my September Re:Train course taught by Dr. Bruce Ware.