It was during a committee meeting in August 2013, held at the conclusion of the annual Japan Lausanne retreat, when we deliberated how best to present Michael Oh, the new global leader, to Christian leaders in Japan. A plan quickly emerged to celebrate the 40th anniversary of The Lausanne Movement by hosting a reception with the invited guests, and then by having Michael speak at an open-to-the-public gathering. The date and the venue were set on the spot, and preparations began toward 3 February 2014.
The Japan Lausanne Committee (JLC) set the goal of the event to gain support for The Lausanne Movement from a broad spectrum of Japanese churches, through connecting the domestic church leaders with Michael. The invitation to the reception encouraged senior leaders to bring younger leaders along. The JLC members willingly took up whatever responsibilities assigned to them, to model servant leadership. A number of JLC friends and a few volunteers also played some key supporting roles for the event.
Some 70 guests gathered for the reception in Tokyo on the unusually warm afternoon of 3 February. Following the emcee’s greeting, Satoru Kanemoto, Chairman of the JLC, greeted everyone and prayed. Masanori Kurasawa, Vice Chairman of the JLC, then delivered a speech on the contributions of The Lausanne Movement to the Japanese church to date. Thus, the stage was set for Michael Oh to give a personal testimony in Japanese.
In his speech, Michael honestly shared the anger he had once felt against the Japanese, when he learned of the sufferings of the Koreans brought upon by the Japanese during the colonization. By then, he was already preparing for ministry in Japan. By the grace of God, Michael saw how he had been reconciled to God, even when he was his enemy. The Lord has taught Michael to love the Japanese. So much so that Michael has brought the headquarters of The Lausanne Movement to Japan! It was a powerful and deeply moving testimony of what the living God has done in him.
The reception was intentionally designed to allow plenty of time for socializing over refreshments, preceding and following the speeches. Also present at the reception were Darcy Staddon, Executive Assistant to Michael Oh, and Bobby Ryu, a member of the Lausanne Theology Working Group, two of the global Lausanne staff members based in Nagoya.
At 2:30 p.m., a short audiovisual presentation opened the lecture session in front of some 150 attendees, tracing the history of The Lausanne Movement up to Michael’s inaugural speech in June 2013. The lecture was entitled ‘The Reality We Are Facing – the Agenda of Christian Mission and the Roles of the Church’. This time, Michael spoke in English, while Nobuyoshi Nagai, a JLC friend and a CT2010 delegate, translated into Japanese.
Looking ahead the next 40 years, Michael stated that the first focus of Lausanne is mobilizing the whole church. He specifically pointed out three key areas of mobilization, i.e., women, lay people, and younger leaders. He reminded everyone that 99% of Christians are lay people. He then challenged the audience to mobilize that 99% in order to reach the 99% of the people in Japan who are not Christians.
After touching on the other two foci of Lausanne on fostering faithful Biblical theology and on mission strategy, Michael concluded his lecture by leading the audience to think again on who our God is. ‘If God is truly the almighty and living God’, he said, ‘he surely can do’ in Japan what he has done in other countries, ‘and much, much more!’
The event successfully received a wide range of representation from churches and Christian groups in Japan. It was endorsed by the Japan Evangelical Association, the Japanese arm of the WEA, and the Japan Evangelical Missionary Association, a network of missionaries in Japan.
The event also attracted strong media attention. Three Christian media outlets covered the event. CGNTV (http://japan.cgntv.net) taped the lecture for their seminar program, which is now available for video on demand on the web.
One guest, new to Lausanne events, made a revealing comment. He was impressed by the Lausanne leaders, as they seemed to be really having fun! He saw personal connections and networks truly alive in Lausanne. To this, one JLC friend responded by observing that each person comes to Lausanne events as a believer, simply to enjoy being together.
All in all, I believe the event was a success, and certainly worth many a sleepless nights and running around all day on the day of the event. It was teamwork with God as the leader that pulled together all the details. At least two young men now eagerly desire to attend the Younger Leaders Gathering in 2015. The young volunteers are asking when they can help next.
I, too, must ask what is next. Is it now, I ask, that God is gathering Japanese people into his presence, so his name will be glorified? With humility and prayer, and walking side by side with the community of believers, I seek to discern his voice.
Photos by Kirisuto Shimbun.