My three PhD applications are in and we'll be waiting to hear back from then. I'm expecting that they will respond with their decision in March or April. We are also coming to the end of our 2-year term with Oyumino in June. At the end of this two years, one thing has become very clear in our minds. The Presbyterian Church of Japan needs more church plants. After looking at the PCJ data, I have concluded (with many other PCJ/MTW pastors) that new church plants are the best solution for both evangelism and revitalization of stagnant congregations. After much prayer and thought, Megumi and I have concluded that whether I become a pastor of a existing PCJ church, a professor, or a church planter, I think we would best serve the PCJ by planting a new church plant with an existing PCJ church. Some of you might be asking, "I thought you're getting a PhD to become a professor?" First, even if I get the PhD, there is no guarantee I can teach at a seminary! Second, even if I get the opportunity to teach, there is an even smaller chance I can do that full time. Lastly, even if I receive a PhD to train other pastors, I want to constantly be applying what I teach and learn in a practical context. John Calvin and many other Reformed thinkers were pastor-theologians--in the same way, I want to be an academic who is also a deeply committed churchman. Therefore, in order to make full use of this waiting time (until April), Megumi and I have started to pray about what kind of church we'd like to plant and who we would like to plant with. I'm hoping to use the below thoughts to dialogue with PCJ churches who may be open to plant a church with us. If I get accepted into a PhD program, I'm hoping to fundraise and recruit (slowly!) during the PhD program. If I don't get accepted into the PhD program, I hope to return to the US to fundraise and recruit over the next 1-2 years for this project. Although funding and prayers are important, I believe forming the best church planting team is the most critical. When I was at Stanford learning about successful start-ups, I asked a venture capitalist what they look for first. He said, "I actually don't really care about the idea. The idea changes all the time. However, what I care most about is who is in the team and how they work together. That never changes." I think church planting teams are the same! Would you consider coming to Japan to church plant with us? If you or anybody you know may be interested and equipped, let us know!. In the next newsletter, I'm hoping to have something more detailed about what kind of team we're looking for. So look out for that next time! Guiding Principles of the Church Plant
Biblically and Confessionally Reformed in Theology and Practice (1 Tim 4:6,16)
Christian life that is Christ-centered, Grace-based, and Gospel-driven
Commitment to the Great Commission: Evangelism and Discipleship (Matt 28:18-20)
Fervent Evangelism by the Word, flowing out of the love for the lost (Rom 10:14-17)
Actively nurturing God’s flock, while discipling new co-shepherds (Ezek 34:16, 1 Peter 5:1-11)
Roles of the Church Plant
PCJ Church - a church plant under the authority of the PCJ church and Higashi Kanto Presbytery. Furthermore, missionaries will be come cooperating-teaching elders of the PCJ.
MTW/JPM Church - a church plant initiated and supported by PCA-MTW
Local Church, Local Campus - a church plant committed to ministering to the local community and the local college campus
Goals of the Church Plant
A lively and mature Confessionally Reformed congregation in faith and obedience - A congregation that is committed to actively believe and apply the biblical principles delineated in the Reformed Confessions and/or the Reformed tradition.
A congregation that is self-sustaining, self-governing, self-propagating.
Self-sustaining: Enough core members to financially sustain two pastors (older and younger) comfortably
Self-governing: Train at least four elders and four deacons to properly govern the church
Self-propagating: Sustained # of Baptisms/Confessions (Healthy PCJ church average 2 per year?); Plant a church plant that aims to plant another church plant
A congregation that is committed to supporting and pouring into young adults and college ministry
A congregation that is mature enough to be a training ground for next generation PCJ officers
20 potential officers in the next 20 years
Methodological Principles of the Church Plant General Methodological Principles
Strong Commitment to Reformed Theology, Practice, and Ecclesiology: Whether in regards to evangelism, worship, discipleship, or church-planting, it should be guided by the biblical principles of ministry (i.e. means of grace) standardized in the Westminster Standards.
Focused, Simple, and Sustainable: With a simple and laser-focused commitment to making disciples (evangelism and discipleship), we hope to focus resources on ministries that are fundamental and sustainable in the long term.
Side-door Ministries for Community-based Evangelism: Creative “side-door” ministries should be centered around getting non-Christians into an evangelistic church community. This is a clear recognition that evangelism cannot happen apart from the church community.
Scalable Discipleship for the Church Family: Disciple using theology, curriculum, and methods that are transferable to any kind of PCJ church to disciple the entire Church family (seekers, children, new converts, young parents, and seasoned Christians).
Intentional and Committed College/Young Adult Ministry: Although young adult ministry is costly, time-consuming, and difficult, we hope that College/Young Adult Ministry will be a permanent fixture of this church plant.
(Possibly) Bilingual Worship and Community: Depending on the needs and make-up of the location, we would like to consider doing a bilingual worship. (Mark is considering preaching and translating for himself at the beginning.)
Potential Location Four criteria for selecting location:
Within Higashi-Kanto (East Tokyo or Chiba) Presbytery
Near a PCJ church that is willing and able to be our session
Location where young families are hoping to settle long-term
Near a college campus