Discipleship: A Challenging Area in Ministries for Japanese Christians
(An article in Rival Japan 〜By Mayumi Pohl）
Convicted by the Holy Spirit and the truth in Scripture, I strongly believe that discipleship – the training process of becoming a true disciple of Christ - is the key to revival in Japan! However, in spite of the command in Scripture, discipleship in Japanese ministries is still a neglected area.
The terms, ‘discipleship’, ‘making disciples’, ‘spiritual growth’ etc… are common concepts in biblical based churches. Why is it so difficult for Japanese Christians to stand up strongly for discipleship?
One of the reasons may be that in Japan there is often a disconnect, since the word for discipleship-deshi kunren- can be at times a stumbling block for Japanese Christians because of its dictatorship image. It creates an uncomfortable undertone and many Japanese don’t feel that it applies to them. We all need to follow what the Bible says, instead of succumbing to cultural and language values.
Another possible hindrance in comprehending the importance of discipleship is Japan’s spiritual situation and culture in general. Since Christians make up only 1% of the Japanese population, they are surrounded by an on slot of pagan values and influences. Christians are commanded to be a witness to everyone, but many Christians are satisfied just leading someone to Christ. Of course, we are overjoyed when someone accepts Christ; however, it is not the end goal but a new beginning when they meet Christ. Consider the biblical aspects of salvation such as justification, sanctification, and glorification.
Many don’t spend the time or energy to help new believers grow. If we do not follow up with new believers through discipleship, it is as if we planted a seed in a pot and never come back to water or tend it. Growth might be likely, but it is more limited and stunted without proper care. There are many Japanese Christians who plant the seed, lead someone to Christ, and leave them to try to grow on their own. The new convert may attend church and read the Bible to attempt to understand their new life and calling. All too often, they become frustrated, and discouragement sets in. Under a discipled relationship, a mature Christian can come along side, with the aid of the Holy Spirit, and encourage the new Christian in their faith.
In addition, there is a problem of a shortage of people who are equipped or willing to disciple new believers. We often find many Japanese Christians who are content just by gathering at churches or various Christian fellowship groups. It is hard for them to realize that real spiritual growth needs to be more than just Christian relationships. The concept of discipling is not strongly encouraged by church leaders. Discipling requires a lot of time and energy for those who provide it. But without discipleship, it is difficult for true spiritual fruit to occur. Discipling is a spiritual investment and can strengthen the church body. It is all God’s work, but I believe we can all make a significant impact through the Holy Spirit.
Christians who have an opportunity to be discipled one on one (or in a small group) soon after coming to faith are more likely to establish a strong foundation for their faith. We all need to know which gear to take in order to get to where the Lord wants us to be. Guiding new believers in the right direction usually promotes a mature perspective and enables them to share the Gospel, and disciple others in Christ more effectively!
Considering this key factor to revival, I pray that the Lord would use Second Level Ministry (www.seocndlevel.org) which focuses on the discipleship of Japanese Christians. Second Level offers one on one discipling, in addition to an online discipleship program. The internet has proven to be a useful tool and an easy way to connect people. We also provide helpful resources, conferences, and retreats for Japanese Christians. Our prayer is that all Christians would become true disciples of Christ, and multiply through discipling others.
If you know anyone in need of discipleship, of if you would like to receive our monthly report/prayer requests, please feel free to contact us firstname.lastname@example.org