ICRC Report #5 – Reformed Presbyterian Churches of Japan & Australia.
There are at least two good things that come out of hearing about churches in other parts of our country and in other countries. First, it is encouraging to hear of what God is doing in other places. It gives us a slightly bigger perspective of the immensity of His Kingdom plan and the unfolding of that plan. Seeing God at work in other places moves us to worship and thankfulness. Second, it helps us to look beyond ourselves and partner in prayer with the Body of Christ in other places. My prayer is that today’s meditation will help us in both of these ways.
For those who have been following along in this series, you will recall that earlier in the year I had the opportunity to fellowship with various other national and international reformed churches. With that in mind, I am continuing to share with you some of what God is doing in and through these churches, and to help us pray for them.
The Reformed Presbyterian Church of Japan: As I talked with two brothers from the RP’s in Japan, I couldn’t help but think that their country must be one of the most barren spiritual places in the world. In Australia, we typically think of Australians as “hard” to the gospel. They don’t want to talk about spiritual things, and they aren’t generally open to hearing about it. In Japan, it is worse. According to these dear brothers, Japanese people are profoundly naturalistic, and think of the gospel as childish. On the other hand, and as a worldview contradiction, true paganism is experiencing a revival, even the government seems intent on reviving Shintoism (which is a traditional Japanese approach to spirituality). Our brothers also described their national culture as “purified atheism,” and one which is profoundly rooted in pride. From the perspective of Christians, it is difficult to keep the Lord’s Day in Japan, and churches are few. The RPs consist of 4 churches and 1 mission church. Reformed and evangelical churches generally also have many elderly in them, and they are short on pastors and elders. These are desperate times for God’s people in Japan. Please pray for powerful preaching and a real work of grace in that country.
As a note of encouragement, there were two pastors on hand from the RPs at the conference I attended. An elderly pastor, and his son, a fresh pastor about my age (34). Both of these brothers were a delight to be with. I had the particular privilege of sitting next to the elderly pastor during a meal. As a young, green, inexperienced Pastor, it was remarkable to hear of this man’s longevity in ministry. Upon his return to Japan, he had just 2 more weeks of preaching until he will have preached through the entire Bible in his congregation!! For 40 years, he had been faithfully expositing the Word of God to God’s people, and he was two weeks away from bringing “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) to the flock in a comprehensive way! He particularly appreciated his congregation’s patience through the Book of Jeremiah, which took about 3 years, although with great joy he recounted that his son had been converted somewhere in the preaching of that book (the same son that I mentioned is now serving in ministry, and whom I had the privilege of speaking with). Give thanks to God for these two dear brothers, and those who do profess Christ in their churches.
As another note, I passed on our church’s details to these brothers, as they wanted to have good churches to recommend in the event that their members and friends moved to Melbourne. Keep an eye out just in case we receive international visitors looking for a church home!
The Reformed Presbyterian Church of Australia: A sister church to the RPs in Japan is the RPs in Australia. The RPs, like their counter-part in Japan, are a very small denomination here. There are two RP churches here in Melbourne, and one in Geelong. Similar to the Reformed Churches of New Zealand, we have a strong historical connection with the RPs in Australia. The Reformed Theological College has a strong connection with three particular denominations: our own denomination, the Reformed Churches of New Zealand, and the RPs of Australia. I benefitted personally under the instruction of Prof. Alastair McEwen (of the RPs) during my studies. In many ways, the RPs face similar struggles to us here in Australia. It is difficult to reach out with the gospel here, and we are surrounded by a culture that constantly tempts us and tries us. Please give thanks to God for the long testimony of the RPs in Australia, and pray that God would richly bless their members, that they may know and love God more deeply. As a note of encouragement, Graeme Hart, Pastor of the RP church in McKinnon (Melbourne), reported at our last Synod that God had answered their prayers for new converts in recent times. May that be an encouragement to us to specifically ask the Lord for conversions in our church as well! I believe that they asked for 2 new believers one year, and the prayer was answered. And I believe that they asked for 4 the next year, and again the prayer was answered. I do not know if they went on to ask for 8! It’s an encouragement to us to be asking the Lord specifically that He would bring in new converts in our church, and enable us to reach out with the gospel to that end as well.
Soli Deo Gloria!