Nagoya, Japan, is a busy place. With over 2.2 million residents, the city is abuzz with activity. Located in central Japan, Nagoya is one of the nation’s major cities. It is an economic powerhouse that is considered an important industrial and cultural center.
The city has everything you would expect in a major metropolis — thriving businesses (local as well as international), museums, a university, plenty of night clubs and opportunities for socializing.
It is the home of many shrines and temples. The Nitta Temple houses relics of the Buddha, presented to Japan by Thailand.
The Togan Temple features a seated Buddha and has ties to the Hindu religion, with a temple honoring the goddess Saraswati.
Kosho Temple hosts the annual 1,000 Lantern Festival at the harvest moon.
Charles worked part-time as pastor of Meito Christ International Church and part-time for a local Japanese congregation, Nagoya-Kibo Lutheran Church.
“As a missionary I experienced an ‘emerging church’ in Japan. Change has nothing to do with ‘emerging’; rather it is doing ministry with people who are jaded by materialism and ‘paganism’ and are looking for authenticity.”
For example, one of the members of Meito Christ International Church grew up in a conservative Christian denomination in the U.S. When she first came to Japan to teach English, she was struck by the overt paganism in the Japanese culture. According to Charles, “She found Japan and its religious expressions novel and refreshing, but increasingly became disenchanted.”
She was drawn to the Meito Christ International Church congregation because “we provided a Christian worship experience where questions were welcome, yet we did not demand a commitment. Our worship is casual, authentic, global, multisensory and thoughtful.”
Charles talks about another regular attendee who also grew up Christian. “She has explored and chosen various religious views and synthesized them into her faith. On one hand she is ‘born again’ and charismatic in her Christian faith but very liberal in many of her views.
“She had increasingly found the materialism of society troubling. Giving, serving and volunteering are very important in her life.” This woman was struck by the congregation’s commitment to giving. Charles quotes her as saying, “We are not afraid of talking about Jesus’ words to the rich and what they mean.”
When asked what their worship service looked like, Charles reports that it was liturgical, following the seasons of the church year, and they follow the worship pattern of Gathering, Word, Meal and Sending.
The sermon tended to be 15 to 20 minutes, with comments and questions asked during the sermon. They usually had a band of four to five volunteer musicians that use a mix of Baptist and Lutheran hymns and songs, since those are the hymnals the congregation owned. Everything in worship was projected on a screen, and personal Bibles were encouraged and used.
Congregation members are active givers. However, non-Japanese are dissuaded from participating in distributing food because of issues of shame in the Japanese culture. The Japan Evangelical Lutheran Church considers and supports this ministry as a ministry of hospitality.