Psalm 49:12-13 But man, despite his riches, does not endure;
he is like the beasts that perish.
This is the fate of those who trust in themselves,
and of their followers, who approve their sayings.
Looking at the Japanese along with the English, I see that the translators of the NIV inserted an interpretation. Where the NIV says, “those who trust in themselves,” the Japanese, sticking with the Hebrew, simply says, “the foolish.” It is certainly foolish to trust in yourself, but that remains an interpretation of the text. That said, the way the NIV puts it certainly brings to mind the founders of many religious cults. Japan has dozens of “new religions,” to the point that younger Japanese today view anything with the word, religion, attached to it with considerable suspicion. That can make evangelism even more difficult, because even people who are spiritually hungry are skittish about turning to “religion” to meet that hunger. That forces us to go back to a more Biblical pattern of evangelism, that is, one-on-one telling people about a heavenly Father who loves them enough that He sent His Son to die in their place, getting them born again before they ever step foot in a church building. That is how the Church grew in the 1st Century, and we need to get back to it. Flash and glitz and show can attract crowds at times, but they can’t get anyone saved. This Psalm as a whole is talking about the foolishness of wealth, but even Christians often seem to be seduced by wealth. As it says in the last verse of this Psalm, “A man who has riches without understanding is like the beasts that perish.” (Psalm 49:20) You could replace “man” with “church” in that statement as well.
I don’t know when I came to this position, but I have long been convinced that “event evangelism” was largely futile. It’s not that it never works, but rather that the efficiency is extremely low. The problem is, if you can’t grow the Church through events, that puts the onus on individual believers to witness to their neighbors. Surprise! That’s exactly how Jesus said it was to be. (Acts 1:8) We want to leave “doing church” to the “pros,” when the New Testament knows very little of “professional Christians.” There are indeed functions in the Body of Christ that are performed by specific people, (Ephesians 4:11-13) but even there the emphasis is on individual believers doing the actual work. When it comes to evangelism, it generally takes a personal connection to convince someone the Gospel is real and that it applies to them. Japanese are very hesitant to open up to others, and matters of faith are considered extremely personal. I must not let that discourage me, but keep speaking the truth in love so that each of the believers in this church may have the joy of leading someone to salvation.
Father, thank You for the sister who, at the end of Sunday’s business meeting, called us as a church to consider what we want, and what You want, this church to be, so that we may work toward that. Thank You that Word didn’t come from me. I pray that each person in this church would indeed yield themselves to Your Holy Spirit, so that we may move into all that You intend for us, for the salvation of many and for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!