Sunday, December 4, 2011

The Search for a Home-Church

When I moved to Japan, and even for quite a while afterward, one of my biggest concerns was finding a home-church. Growing up, I was blessed with a really good home-church with solid preaching and a wonderful church community. I struggled to find a home-church during college, and there were several very long stretches during those 4 years where I simply didn't go to church. College was a very tough time for me (and possibly the only time in my life that I'm tempted to regret... of course, my college years have much to do with where I am today, so I could never seriously regret them).

So, when I moved to Japan, I was determined not to let that happen to me again. It's taken a few years of attending several different churches, but I think that I have finally found a place that feels like it could be a good home-church.

I started attending Grace City Church in August when I returned to Japan from the states. I found it while running a Google search for churches in Tokyo, and what had immediately caught my eye was a YouTube video on the website with a short description of the church by Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. I was familiar with Keller, as my pastor in Lynden occasionally quotes Keller, my dad has used Keller's study materials in teaching Sunday School classes, and I have read several books by Keller. I have always appreciated Keller's perspective and enjoyed his writings; as I watched the YouTube clip, I learned that Redeemer had sponsored a church plant in downtown Tokyo.

As I read more materials on the website, I learned that several of the pastoral team were CAJ parents (one even a board member). Several days later, I traveled downtown to attend their Sunday afternoon service in Ginza. What I found was a small congregation meeting in a rather cozy venue on the 11th floor of the Caspa building. Though everything was in Japanese (with English translation provided via headset), I appreciated the mixture of contemporary songs and hymns (all of which were familiar from my own home-church), and the solid, expository sermon.

In the intervening months, I have not made it downtown for church as regularly as I had hoped--from the time I step out my door, it takes roughly an hour to arrive at church. Some weeks, my laziness gets the best of me. Yet, every time I've attended, I have felt nourished; fed. I particularly appreciate the preaching--Pastor Makoto has been preaching on Isaac, Jacob and now Joseph. He takes a passage (typically an entire story) each week and unpacks it, explaining the context and story, while making broader connections to the person of God and fulfillment in Christ. It's a very similar approach to the one used by my pastor in the states, and beyond the familiarity, I find it to be a style of preaching that not only informs and illuminates, but challenges as well (and all without the superficiality, gimmickiness and emotional manipulation that plague so many pulpits today).

I am beginning to feel at home at Grace City. My challenge to myself in the coming weeks and months will be to fully invest in this church community. Up till now, I've tried my best to be a spectator; a fly-on-the-wall--simply there to worship and listen to the sermon and nothing more. Increasingly, I'm realizing that there's more to church than that--church is about community: fellowship in Christ. Yes, it is more difficult to make a commitment to a community that requires just under an hour of commute, but I think that the investment will be more than worth it. I need to dive in--get involved; get to know people; become a member and not just an observer.

I think I could be in Japan for the long-haul. I am not sure what long-haul even means, but I am fairly certain I am not leaving before I'm 30. In college, I would rationalize my lackluster church attendance by saying, "well soon I'll graduate and then I'll go home to Lynden and catch up on all the church I missed at Wiser Lake Chapel." Aside from being a rather lame rationalization, it's simply not feasible as there's no permanent return to the states in my foreseeable future. Japan is my home now, and I need to care for my spiritual health. This means finding a new home-church, and I believe that God has answered nearly 3 years worth of prayers by leading me to Grace City Church. The next step, to commit or to drift, is up to me.

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