The author draws from his experience working long-term in Japan and applies his theories on how to tell the gospel in Japan as well as in his home country, the UK. It’s not a report on all his work in Japan, but I guess that’s what I was hoping to read about. So in that way, I was slightly disappointed. I think one reason might be that after living in Japan for twenty years or so, the author doesn’t see Japanese people as “foreign” anymore. It’s just like after me living in the UK for eight years, I seem to see the similarities and common human features more than the differences between two nations.
The second thing I want to discuss is Jesus’ “unplanned encounters” with people. The author argues that telling the gospel doesn’t have to happen only at “structured” or “organised” events, which I totally agree. But he backs up his argument using the example of Jesus meeting random people along his journey, teaching them and healing them. It might look random to us, but surely they were not “haphazard” to the Son of God.
The ethos behind his church activities is very different too: The first priority is “How can I be a friend”, rather than “How can I get an opportunity to tell them about Jesus”. Maybe both of them sound fine at the beginning, but it affects the approach of church activities greatly. He gives the example of Christians having night out regularly and inviting friends along for a chat with no formal or planned gospel content at all. That might be seem to be a bit of a wasted opportunity to people from my church background.
We visited Belfast a while ago and came across a Christian cafe near the waterfront. It was run on a “honesty box” system. There were a range of hot drinks, light lunches and desserts on offer. All we had to do was to take and put some money in the honesty box. My husband thought it was a great idea, an intriguing talking point, a comfortable space for informal church activities, in summary, an excellent place for gospel opportunities. But to our surprise, they didn’t do anything specifically “Christian” at all. I guess they operate with the same idea as the author of the book: Friendship first. In contrast, even a baking afternoon for girls will not be complete without a five or ten minute gospel talk, or a testimony in our church.
The author emphasises we must communicate truths of the bible “with the same richness as the bible does – with parable and poetry, story and illustration…”. I never thought of this intentionally before. The ways we usually explain bible concepts has often been pretty “dry” to me. There is a really good example: I have been reading a book by Francine Rivers recently. By summarising parts of the story, I realised that I was explaining God’s love and grace without using any Christian jargon. Also because it’s a novel, people were not as defensive and suspicious. I guess this is what the author means what he says, tell more stories!
I also like his idea of re-learning someone’s own culture by watching TV. I wonder if it will become my excuse for watching Chinese TV dramas all the time…