NAB UPDATE - June 11, 2012
Part of our role at the International Office is to evaluate the strategies and effectiveness of our NAB mission fields. We have been asked to provide leadership on behalf of our NAB churches, and I believe this leadership must include accountable stewardship and future planning. While one of the most energizing privileges of my job is to explore new mission opportunities (NEXT Nations) that the Lord may have for us as a conference of churches, one of the most delicate challenges is to bring change to an existing work. We all know that change is hard. But it is even more challenging when you effect change in a cross cultural setting.
In May of 2011 I spent a few days with our missionaries in Tsu evaluating the results of our past sixty years in Japan, especially in light of NAB’s newly articulated priorities. (Equipping the NEXT Generation to Impact the NEXT Community and Reach the NEXT Nation). We asked important questions like, “Is our work producing the type of national church that could reach Japan? What current NAB practices are actually working against our intended result?” This evaluation helped us to recognize the need for some changes to how NAB participates in Japan.
In March of 2012, Paul Ewing (Field Director of Japan) and I spent significant time articulating both a strategic plan to empower the national church, and a time line to see these changes in place. Part of this plan involves weaning ourselves from some practices that actually enable an ineffective model. In April we shared the basic concept of our plan with General Council. Last week (May 30) Paul and I were in Japan to present the new NAB priorities with the Japan Baptist Convention, and to outline some of the changes that the JBC should anticipate as a result of our new priorities.
To be clear, suggesting change in a field and culture where NAB is the guest requires walking a very fine line. The challenge is twofold: The first challenge is that NAB, a guest in another culture, would come suggesting changes. It is not the role of the guest or subordinate to initiate change in Japanese culture. This is a difficult paradigm for the JBC leaders to accept. The second challenge involves the specific details, the nuts and bolts, of the change.
Paul and I went into this meeting with an extremely sensitive posture to both of these dynamics. At the end of our day of meetings, we felt that the preparation and prayers had brought a good return. Although the message was difficult to deliver, and equally difficult for the JBC to receive, we concluded with honor and respect. But now the work gets even more difficult.
The JBC has to communicate these changes with the rest of their executive committee, the pastors, churches, and various leadership committees that will all feel the effects of NAB’s changes. This is where we need our NAB churches to come along side us in prayer. We need to pray specifically for the leadership of the JBC as they process our discussions. Both NAB and the JBC must lay aside our respective national cultures in deference to Biblical Culture. What decisions can we make together to establish God’s Kingdom culture in Japan?
I firmly believe that we can have a tremendous impact supporting the national church in Japan, but our current model will not get us there. Change always brings an element of risk, so right now is the moment to pray to reduce that risk, and to increase faith. The JBC has an important meeting on June 18 to formulate an initial response to the NAB priorities and direction. We are doing everything we can to walk alongside the JBC in preparation for their discussions. Paul Ewing even cancelled his trip home this week, and is extending his stay so that he can meet with pastors and leaders of the JBC, and to share face to face our love for the churches of the JBC, and our sincere desire for the church in Japan to flourish.
Paul will be sharing an update on the work in Japan at one of the breakout sessions at the Triennial. We do hope that your investment of prayer over these next few weeks will produce a renewed commitment of the JBC to partner with us for the sake of Christ’s church in Japan. Thank you in advance for joining us in prayer.
Vice President of Ministry Outreach