"You just got here. Leaving already?"
Thankfully, Oyumino Christ Church has called me to be their pastor with an unanimous vote. It was both humbling and encouraging; however, at the same time, before the vote, I announced to the congregation that I will be applying to PhD programs this year and may go back to the US to do a PhD in 2019. And of course, I get the question, “Mark, you just got here! There’s so much need! Why are you going to get a PhD? Is it some sort of golden ‘badge’ you’re just trying to pursue?”
To be honest, I considered but did not want to pursue a PhD when I started seminary--it was absolutely terrifying. Comparing myself to other students, I felt that I did not have the gifts, and I saw no need. However, as I understood the situation of the PCJ, receiving encouragement from various people, and having a clear plan of what I wanted to do in the future--I felt like I needed to step out in faith and at least try. Below is a draft proposal of a project that I hope to be pursuing in the next 20-40 years, which is one of the reasons why I want to do a PhD Program. Please pray with me for the PCJ, the training of new PCJ pastors, and that I can get into a PhD program...
Draft Proposal of ‘Company of Pastors in Japan’
Current Condition of the Presbyterian Church of Japan:
As of 2017, out of the 90+ pastors in the PCJ about 33 pastors are over 65.
There is an increasing number of churches without pastors and a small number of men who are in the pipeline to become pastors.
There is no seminary in the Kanto Region/Greater Tokyo region that teaches Confessional and covenantal Reformed theology; thus, producing pastoral candidates who are not equipped for PCJ exam and fail the ordination exam multiple times.
Many young Japanese men feel inadequate in terms of life and doctrine and also desire mentors and community to encourage them in this direction.
The PCJ is struggling to grow because of lack of church plants, evangelism, discipleship and robust education of covenantal children.
A Reformation example: When the Reformation started in Geneva, there was literally ZERO Protestant knowledge, seminary, or training ground. It was a Catholic city for hundreds of years. Therefore, Calvin and the Genevan church leaders, called the Company of Pastors, held a weekly gathering of pastors to break bread, study the Word together, and keep each other accountable morally, spiritually, and theologically. At this gathering, every pastor would take a turn to share from the Word, then the other pastors would either affirm, sharpen, correct or add to the insights. It was a training ground for younger pastors as well. Research has shown that the reason why Calvin’s legacy held on for so long in Geneva was not because of his books, but because of institutions like these that made sure the Reformed tradition would be passed on from generation to generation. Although there are many differences, I believe there are many things that the PCJ can draw from.
The Need for a ‘Company of Pastors’ in Japan:
A organic and regular gathering of PCJ pastor/elder hopefuls and candidates is needed to mentor, encourage, and pray for them.
A distinctly Reformed and Confessional theological education is needed to supplement current seminary education
A place to model, develop, and discuss how robust Reformed and Confessional orthodoxy should produce robust orthopraxy in Japan is needed. This should be a platform to discuss how the Reformed faith manifests itself in church planting, evangelism, discipleship, counseling, and children’s theological education.
Overall Goal of the Company: To create an institution(s) under a presbytery(ies) of the PCJ that will recruit, identify, encourage, train potential teaching and ruling elders and sharpen current elders (teaching and ruling) in order to produce a ‘company’ of Confessional shepherds who are pious, evangelistic, pastoral, and committed to church planting that is balanced in shepherding, discipleship, and evangelism.
Principles of the Company of Pastors in Japan
An institution under a PCJ Presbytery, for the training up PCJ pastors/elder candidates for ordination
A distinctly Reformed and Confessional theological education geared for pastoral ministry in Japan
A gathering for potential and current teaching and ruling elders for the sharpening of life and doctrine