A Surprising Question
John Worcester, Asian Access faculty from ChurchPlanting.net, recently taught for us here in Japan after teaching for us in Mongolia. The seminar here in Tokyo was done in concert with Biblical Church of Tokyo.
Prior to the seminar, we had a dynamic discussion where John made a provocative statement:
“It’s as if 'conversion' has become a bad word.”
After reading the news and following the reports of Billy Graham’s legacy, John's statement struck me even more powerfully. The essence of Graham’s ministry was all about people converting to Christ.
Is Evangelism about Fads or Conversion?
John pointed out how many of the church planting seminars today have become the ‘in’ thing. But, they are often about being cool and hip, about the worship and atmosphere, more than they are about evangelism. They often try to be the hottest church in town to attract other believers. He said what the world needs today is church planting that focuses on conversion growth.
My colleagues and I couldn’t agree more! Asian Access' fourth outcome is Planting Multiplying Churches, and it’s always been about evangelism not about being cool or hip or in. As I listened to John share practical examples of how a church can grow and be planted through conversion growth, I’m so impressed with Billy Graham’s legacy and example for all of us.
John talked about developing a Blue Ocean Strategy for church planting, looking to places where the market is thin. Of course, here in Japan, nearly everything is Blue Ocean in this regard.
Learning from Jesus' Approach
John taught principles of Jesus’ approach of sending evangelistic teams that eventually started churches. They went to places where no one else had gone before and did a lot of what John called “pre-evangelism” activity. He called the Sermon on the Mount a pre-evangelistic sermon in that it focused on real-life issues and how to live well in this world. By addresses real needs that people experience, Jesus was able to cast the nets wide into spaces not touched by others.
John suggested that we do the same. He offered the following advice:
- Beg Jesus for something new: New Wineskins to reach new people.
- Throw the nets elsewhere looking for new pockets of people.
- Trust God and Try Stuff (using the scientific method you’ll learn what works).
Time to Give Birth
My colleague, Takeshi Takazawa, affirmed John’s approach and said the problem in Japan is that we tend to have an early Abraham- and Sarah-like faith. We’re so old that we laugh when God says it’s time to have a new baby.
But John reminded us that God loves the impossible. He gave a child that became an entire nation to Abraham and Sarah and he loves to turn the impossible into the possible.
What a joy it is going into this memorial season of the 7th anniversary of 3.11 here in Japan. The horrific tragedy has become a springboard for hope and today pastors have huge vision, believing in the impossible.
Join us in praying to reach 2% of Japan by 2023 and 10% by 2024. Those are actual dreams and vision by younger Japanese pastors today. Come and serve and be part of conversion-focused church planting teams!
And, let’s pray for the Global Church to not make conversion a bad word. As we celebrate the life of Billy Graham, the world is desperate for evangelistic hope!
I hope you’ll join us in this venture!
Joe Handley, President