I would like to introduce the “Church of England’s Findings from the Church Growth Research Program 2011-2013,” (hereafter “report”) which was translated through the collaboration of the Diocesan Missionary Council’s Ministry Department and Educational Department in 2017. The report is titled “From Anecdote to Evidence 1.0,” a good reference in studying the case on growing churches even in Western Europe where there tends to be a decline in Christian churches in general.
The reason the word “growth” is being used is that the current situation of decline is so rapid that it cannot be helped but to demand for growth.
When speaking about church growth, it is largely divided into numerical and contextual growths. Since the time of European imperial colonization, churches for a long time have been using the Great Commission from Matthew Chapter 28 and believed numerical growth to be as a high priority value. Granted, the increase in number has a direct relation to church operation and therefore, difficult to lump together, but alongside numerical growth, contextual growth (glorious life) has been mentioned as a keyword more serious, and internal, holistic, and social growths have come to be valued.
Especially in England, this report tells about how it has now become an era where churches must come closer to the people who have left traditional churches, and with the young generations and multi-cultural residents. And with the start of the new era with rapid changes, not churches just waiting and making themselves familiar to the people by saying “welcome,” but churches must listen to the words of the people by stepping outside. The report tells how Western European churches who had never faced such huge changes with passing of time have overcome those circumstances.
Of course, this is not saying that growth will be seen in our Japanese churches imitating in such a way. I would like you to read this from a standpoint of not how to convey Christianity, but how to relate the values of God’s Kingdom.
Looking at the story of the “Good Samaritan” in the bible, the thinking of the Jews in those days did not include Samarians as neighbors. (A thinking that will not be broken.) However, repeating questions and answers to “Who is our neighbor?”, it is important to find our new neighbor in this era. (A thinking that there is not a thinking that can’t be broken.)
I feel present churches with traditional faith may grow together through the working of aggressively finding their new neighbor. Of course, there is a certain distance between churches in Japan, where England and Christian culture are not the mainstream, but there are similar points in the circumstances of missionary. Due to the shift of younger generations, the existing local community is falling apart, and an increase in the elderly population has been greatly proclaimed. The commonality is the phenomenon that the church itself is losing power of address from the younger people.
The church missionary work will be targeted not only to the member attendants of the church, but to the whole living area where the church belongs to. It is important that common awareness is present in the whole body of the congregation. And, not only the laity securing the religious calmness, but the purpose of the church is for all people of the society to live a glorious life. (To be able to feel God’s Kingdom).
Please take a moment to read this report in that sense, and have a chat about it.
Revd Ignasio Yoonsic Jung
Sanjo St. Mary’s Church; Nagaoka St. Luke’s Church