Jet Set Japan: Pre-Flight Checklist

Tomorrow morning the majority of our team from Journey the Way and Karis Community Church depart for Japan. While there we will be visiting several different cities, meeting numerous leaders and seeking to discern the Lord's calling and will for us as individuals and churches. The central mission for our team is to gain a sense of the movement of the Holy Spirit for planting churches and partnering with pastors and leaders already on the ground in Japan. As we depart here are a few ways you can pray for me and the team while we are away:

  • Pray for discernment, wisdom and spiritual understanding of the needs of Japan while we are there.
  • Pray for clarity in conversations and meetings with leaders in Japan.
  • Pray for mercy in our travel, health and engagement of the Japanese culture.
  • Pray for unity on our team.
  • Pray for a movement to grow of churches planting churches in one of the least reached countries of the world.
  • Pray for my family that is remaining behind in the U.S. while away.

Thanks for your prayers. I'll be posting frequent updates here while away but if you want to follow more of the action be sure to check out the Karis Japan page as well.

Jet Set Japan

Four weeks from today I will be setting foot on the other side of the globe once again, this time in Japan. To say that I am a bit excited about this trip is a little bit of an understatement. Ever since my friend Steve Sakanashi started telling me about his heart for Japan and the need there for the gospel I was burdened. Japan itself is one of the least reached people-groups in the world with the gospel. Around 1% of the 126 million people that live in Japan are Christians. It's one of the most difficult places to plant a church and to see the gospel advance, and yet at its cultural core there is fabric that is in line with the gospel itself. My friend Steve has been referring me to the code of bushido as a reference point for that. Steve's also written some excellent posts on how bushido is fully realized in the person and work of Jesus.

The purpose of my trip in a few weeks is to understand the nature of the church there in Japan and meet with church-planters and Christian leaders and understand their needs and vision for the country. In some ways I feel a bit like an apostolic tourist trying to get a better feel for the culture, people, needs, and opportunities for the gospel and then to come back and formulate a plan for Journey the Way to be involved in seeing the gospel spread in Japan.

Not only am I going as a representative of Journey the Way, but I am also excited about going with my good friend Kevin Larson and Karis Church in Columbia, MO. Kevin was kind enough to invite me and a couple others from Journey the Way to come along with them to Japan this year. One of the things we are eager to see built is a networked partnership of churches eager to see the gospel spread and churches planted in Japan. As two Acts 29 churches we are excited that there seems to be a growing interest, and a movement of the Holy Spirit to send and resource planters for Japan. Karis has set up a website for this trip to Japan as well as a way to give financially to support the cost of the trip for the ten members that are going.

In the next month would you please pray that God prepares the ten members of the team that are going? Pray God would give us wisdom, a heart for the nation, and a clear sense of calling to serve and invest in Japan for the sake of the gospel.

[vimeo 43502269]

The Lewis & Clark Guide to Church Planting: Have a Clear Mission

Recently I have been leisure reading through Stephen Ambrose’s study of the exploration of Lewis & Clark, Undaunted Courage. Something about my own drive across half the continent over a month ago prompted me to read about the first group of travelers that did it over two hundred years ago. For those of you who are unfamiliar with American history, I would commend this book to you. It’s part adventure story, part travel-log, and like all history should be helpful for our own lives as we learn from the successes and failures of others.

As I have read some clear lessons (or best practices) have jumped out at me in relationship to church-planting and the advance of the gospel. On Tuesday’s I will relate some of what I have read with the much more glorious, and just as difficult task of church planting.

One my first misconceptions about Lewis & Clark was that they were two buddies of Davey Crockett and liked to explore and hike and ended up crossing the continent one day. No mission, no real goal, just out for a hike and one day, “Hey! Is that the Pacific Ocean?!” The reality however is that there was a clear and specific mission from the highest authority given to these two leaders.

In 1803 the United States, and more specifically, Thomas Jefferson purchased the Louisiana territory from the French for a bargain price. But, unlike purchasing a home or land today, there was no pre-purchase inspection or appraisers that went out to tell you what condition the land you just bought was in. It wouldn’t be far from the truth to say that Jefferson bought the Louisiana territory sight-unseen.

So what did he have? He had to know. Hence Lewis & Clark. Jefferson wanted to know all about the rest of the continent. Scientifically, he wanted to know the botany, zoology, geography, and minerology of the Purchase. Politically, he wanted to set up relationships with the native Indian tribes and bring them into the realm of the United States. Economically, Jefferson was looking for a way to monopolize the fur trade in the North Pacific and undercut the British operating in southern Alberta and Manitoba.

Yet the biggest question and the main purpose of the mission was to answer the question that everyone in the world had been guessing and rumoring about since the discovery of the New World. Was there an all-water route from one coast to the other? Could someone get on a boat in St. Louis and, by boat go all the way up the Missouri River and then hop out and jump into another boat and cruise down the Columbia to the Pacific Ocean?

Jefferson's charge to Lewis & Clark was straight forward and clear; find the best route to the Pacific, survey the land and peoples, and document everything!

Now what does this have to do with church planting? Essentially, it comes down to the purpose. Why do we plant churches? Did a couple of guys get up one morning and decide to start preaching and singing and just have a church because it sounded like a cool idea? Many might have that perspective in planting a church, but it won’t be effective.

We have to know our purpose! We must clearly know what the mission is and let that be the guiding focus for us. There were so many things that Lewis & Clark could have done on their voyage. Yet their fidelity to the mission kept them on task and let them be able to say “no” to good things that weren’t necessary or even harmful to the overall mission.

Do you know the mission? Do you know what Christ has sent all believers out into the world to carry out? Will you be obedient to the King who has called and is sending us out on mission? Just as Lewis & Clark were under orders from the President of the United States, so we are under orders of the King over all kings. And just as Jefferson made it abundantly clear to Lewis & Clark regarding the purpose of their mission, so Jesus has made it crystal clear to his people what their mission is.

"All authority in heaven and earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations" (Matthew 28:18–19). That's the mission. Make disciples! Are you on obediently living on mission?

"I don't want to build a museum..."

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/14551672 w=500&h=281]

Everyone once in a while a little video clip or a book hit me right in the heart.  This trailer for Darrin Patrick's new book Church Planter is a clear shot across the bow for me. Legacies don't need to be left behind, leaders do. It's time to move, not build museums.