Nonogaki Report – March 2016

Our former member in trouble – March 25, 2016

M.O. was a member of the Yokota congregation 2012-2014.   He and his wife were the most faithful members and contributed a lot to the good cause.  From the youth, he was very interested in religion and joined the cult organization Unification Church.  He was in the group for seven years.  While he was with us, he and I studied together about false teachers.  He was  finally convinced that the Unification Church was wrong.  He officially got out of it.  He and his wife moved to her home town because she was expecting a baby in 2014.  His interest in Unification Church has come back to him.  Now he does not attend any congregation.  He wrote me he has been searching truth about Sun Myung Moon.

I pray for him and his wife and a little baby
Taking care of the sheep – March 24, 2016

A couple of months ago a preacher from Ochanomizu Church of Christ spoke to us in the worship service.  He showed us a statistic that tells us about Japanese Christianity in general. That is, “more people leave Christianity than people who became Christian.”  I think this trend is also true in Japanese Churches of Christ.  A dropout rate is extremely high among Japanese Christians.  Lots of people are baptized every year in Japan, but still churches do not grow numerically.  Peer pressure is so great that many may eventually go back to the old life style.  Therefore, the challenge we face is how to take care of the people who were baptized and to encourage them grow in faith in Christ. I was told that during the 50’s 100 people had been baptized per week!  Most of them are not Christians anymore.  Only few of them have remained faithful.

Many people work on Sundays these days.  Sundays are not holidays anymore.  Also many community activities and children activities which they are expected to attend are scheduled on Sundays.  Again here is peer pressure.  Japanese people in general do not want to offend others, so Japanese Christians are likely to yield to others when there are any activities on Sundays.
I have 3 aims to help our members be faithful to Christ.  (1) The worship service must be meaningful to them so that they want to come back to the service.  (2) A Bible class stimulates their thinking and encourages them to seek God’s will.  (3) We encourage one another to focus on the Lord because He is our Lord and Master and Savior.
Reading books on leadership – March 23, 2016

There are two kinds of good leaders: one is a natural born leader and the other is trained to be one.  But some people do not learn to be a good one even though they are in a leading position. I would like to be a good one.  Recently I have started reading books on leadership.  One of them is Overcoming the Dark Side of Leadership written by Gary McIntosh and Samuel Rima.  The authors argue every leader (even good ones) have the dark side.  This book helps me identify my leadership style.  There are five kinds of leadership style: compulsive, paranoid, codependent, narcissist, and passive-aggressive.  I have a combination of major compulsive and minor codependent.  This book also helps me acknowledge my own dark side.  The dark side is developed along with the leadership style.

After I read this book, I realize that I need to re-examine my motives for leading people.  It is natural to assume that a person is doing a good job as a leader when he does great things through the power of God.  It may be true, but in the mind of the leader there may be great struggles which he can hide from others.  Every leader can have self centered motives and ego which consume his spirituality.

Jesus Christ is my Master and Lord who teaches me about leadership.  I can also learn from others by reading books.  I believe this is one of the ways the Lord teaches us about life.
About leadership and confrontation – March 22, 2016
One of my readers raised a concern about confrontation when I wrote about it a week ago.  Here is what I meant.  Let me clarify myself.

I have heard some preachers preaching to a particular individual from the pulpit instead of talking to him directly.  Why do I know this?  Because they told me that they did it.  In fact they think it is a good thing to do.  In my opinion, this does not work.  This kind of lesson sounds certainly negative in tone and has negative effects on other members.  If I know 100% sure that someone is doing something bad or evil, I will go to him or her directly to talk about it.  I have been trained to talk to him or her with love and care and with a big smile even if the subject is negative or bad or evil.  It always works well so far.  This is something God has been training me to do so.  It is not my strength or wisdom to do so but God’s.  Yes, confrontation is only done when it is absolutely necessary.  It must be also done with love and care.  I used to think confrontation was bad, so I avoided it.  I was afraid of it.  I imagined how badly the person would react to it.   I was afraid that the relationship would be sour.  No, it does not have to be that way.  I trust in the Lord that He will be with us when we seek His will.  I believe He will guide our talk.  I believe He gives me wisdom so that I know what to say and how to say it.

Open Bible Class, the work of the Holy Spirit – March 18, 2016

JSE (Japan School of Evangelism) has a class for the members of Churches of Christ.  In January to March 2017, I am scheduled to speak on the work of the Holy Spirit once a month during the months.  Japanese members have not studied this subject any more than just reading the Bible, maybe because missionaries and preachers were hesitant to teach it.  Japanese denominational churches have an extreme view on the work of the Holy Spirit and speculate it more than necessary.  I think it is true a few Japanese Christians in the Churches of Christ have been influenced by Pentecostal teachings on the Holy Spirit.

I would like us to go back to the Bible and help the members understand what Jesus and Paul mean in regards with the work of the Holy Spirit.  This is by no means an easy subject to teach, but I am confident that with the help of God we will understand the work of the Holy Spirit as we pray to Him for His help and guidance.
Helping three people – March 16, 2016

I have been helping three members try to overcome depression.  This isn’t an easy task.  One book has been helping me deal with them.  That is, Feeling Good written by David M. Burns.  This is a self-help book for people who have a perfectionist tendency.  When I read it for the first time about 20 years ago, it was an eye opener for me.  I saw my personality trait and came to realize why I felt so negative about myself.

All of them are perfectionists and see everything in terms of black or white and all or nothing.  They tend to overgeneralize everything by looking at a very small negative thing.  They have developed this bad habit over the years, so it is difficult for them to break it.  However, all of them have been making a progress everyday.  It is very important for them to make a little effort day by day and improve inch by inch.  I have often told them that they need to make conscious efforts to talk back their self negative talk.  Oh, God, help me help them.  I pray for them and myself concerning this matter because I need God’s power as much as they do.
The 1st quarter in JSE – March 8, 2016
The 1st quarter of the JSE will begin in April.  (JSE=Japan School of Evangelism).  I will teach Introduction to the Bible and Backgrounds of the New Testament.  I am busy preparing for the classes.  I always think before the class I am not adequately prepared for this.  Well, I guess this is the way it is always for teachers.  I have to study more myself as students do.
About leadership – March 8, 2016

I know it is difficult to confront a person with something he does not want to hear.  Nobody likes to be confronted, but this is something a leader must do sometimes.  God has been training me in this area; I have seen some people who do exactly opposite.  They use other people and talk to them about him or her in the name of seeking advice.  When this takes place in the church, things are messed up.  Corrupted communication takes place and creates a sense of distrust among members.

This kind of things have not happened in our Japanese congregation.  We are blessed with guidance and wisdom.  Of course, I have made lots lots lots of mistakes before.   I have learned hard lessons.