"What thoughts arise in your mind when you hear the words 'cooperative evangelism'?
Holding an evangelistic meeting in cooperation with a nearby church and supporting a church operating on a small scale, or a church in crisis due to a disaster, are all examples of 'cooperative evangelism.' However, as the church is fundamentally one in the Lord Jesus Christ, of which each and every local church is a part, bearing each other's burdens and supporting one another are themselves examples of 'cooperative evangelism. In the various areas of Japan many churches are in a crisis situation, with other churches supporting them. Let us try to understand the various churches' struggles to evangelize and the work of the churches that are bearing these struggles together with them. Furthermore, in order to have a part in the grace of that "cooperative evangelism," let us pray for other churches and take steps toward forming friendships through standing together. That we might know how abundant God's grace is in this regard, I want to give one example of 'cooperative evangelism' that has given encouragement to new faith."
With this introduction, the editor of the Kyodan monthly periodical Shinto no Tomo (Believers' Friend), presented the following report by Kuroda Wakao, pastor of Susaki Church in Kochi about cooperative evangelism in Shikoku District.
One of the neighboring churches of Susaki Church is Chikanaga Church. The borderline between Kochi Prefecture and Ehime Prefecture, as well as the borderline between Kochi Subdistrict and Nan'yo Subdistrict, run between these two churches, which are about 90 kilometers (55.8 miles) apart. There is not even one church between them. Presently, Susaki Church is cooperating with Chikanaga Church and conducting evangelism in the mountain area by renting a home in the village of Yusuhara in Kochi Prefecture (approximate population 4,000 persons), which is about midpoint between the two churches, and holding evening worship services twice monthly. Seven persons attend the worship services, and two of those attending are seekers from Yusuhara Village.
Susaki Church had no pastor 20 years ago, which is how this mission cooperation started. Up to that time, Susaki Church had had two worship services a month in Higashitsuno Village, next to Yusuhara Village, but since the church had no full-time pastor, holding a worship service once a month in Higashitsuno Village was all it could manage. However, Sasaki Michio, the pastor then serving as Susaki Church's legal guardian and presently as the pastor of Aki Church, said: "Particularly in a time of crisis, we must move forward." With this word of guidance, the administrative board decided to continue the twice monthly worship services, and for that reason Chikanaga Church was requested to send someone to give the sermon at the monthly worship service in Higashitsuno.
Not only was there a request for someone to preach but also it was mentioned that from that point on, Susaki Church wanted to work with Chikanaga Church to evangelize the mountain area between them. In response to that request, Chikanaga Church sent Pastor Ashina Hiromichi to preach at Susaki Church. A change of circumstances caused the place of worship to be moved from Higashitsuno to Yusuhara Village, but this mission cooperation is still continuing, with the church pastors reciprocally in charge of preaching at the worship service.
Susaki Church was shown many things through this cooperative evangelism, and I would like to mention two of them. First of all, the meaning of evangelism in Yusuhara was set forth in a new way. With Chikanaga Church being located in a different prefecture and subdistrict, it had been
outside the consciousness of Susaki Church. The opportunity to cooperate together to evangelize the mountain area showed it to be a neighboring church. That is to say, the point of evangelism prepared in Yusuhara Village has become the line of relationship in evangelism between Susaki and Chikanaga. Furthermore, the six churches in Shikoku's Southwest Subdistrict have recognized it as an aspect of cooperative evangelism in the churches in the subdistrict, and from a wider perspective, this has brought about a reevaluation of the meaning of evangelism in Yusuhara.
Second, God provided a means of engaging in cooperative evangelism through the situation of a church not having a full-time pastor. Through this kind of development, we have rediscovered that the real core of the work of evangelism is God, and from the awareness of protecting the extinction of the flame of evangelism in the mountain areas has come a changed consciousness of seeing God's work there.
Considering only the situation, it is difficult to have a bright outlook, but we want to keep walking forward in hope, knowing that the work of God, who has led us this far, will be revealed in some way through the program of evangelism in Yusuhara Village. (Tr. RT)
--Anderson Reiko, member
Saidaidori Church, Kanto District
KNL Editorial Committee member
Based on article in Shinto no Tomo (Believers' Friend)