Four Lessons from International Missions

I just returned from a trip to Japan where  I assisted Saddleback Pastor Dave Holden.

We trained Japanese pastors on leading healthy churches that reach the lost.

I have trained pastors across the world and I have observed four truths:

1. The unreached far outnumber the church.

There are no easy cultures.

A recent Gallup poll showed that under 10% of the Japanese identified themselves as Christian, while less than 1% actually attend church. Japan is a thoroughly secular nation with the third highest suicide rate in the world. There is a forest at the bottom of mount Fuji where each year the trees are filled with hundreds of students hanging themselves. One subway line I rode shuts down nearly every week from suicide jumpers.

The lost desperately need what the church has to offer.

2. Missionaries exported their form instead of just their faith.

Oddly enough, the second thing I have seen all over the world is western church. So many of the churches were planted by western missionaries who passed on their methods instead of just their message. They sing hymns with organs, they follow a liturgical order of service, they operate with a democratic rule, etc.

Today, these churches are being run by the indigenous population, but still operating with western forms of 100 hundred years ago.

The churches desperately need change in order to better reach their culture.

3. Most of the churches are operating as bomb shelters for believers instead of hospitals for the hurting.

Another phenomenon I have seen in churches all over the world is the tendency towards isolation. While the culture around them is growing darker, the church becomes more of a hiding place than a helping place.

Unable to capture their culture they often settle for satisfying the saints.

The churches desperately need to recapture the Great Commission.

4. Churches that do it different make a difference!

Whether I am in Japan, China, India, Turkey, or even America, I have heard pastors say, “It’s really hard to reach people in my area because [fill in the blank]”

I’ve become convinced that it’s really hard to reach people anywhere.

Most pastors want to sit in the boat and wait for the fish to jump in, but that rarely happens.

Smart fisherman have been catching fish in the worst conditions for thousands of years.

I have found some pretty smart fisherman (pastors) that are getting it done even in the most hostile areas of the world. Their “secret” is always the same.

They put the needs of the lost ahead of the preferences of the found.

They feed the poor.

They clothe the naked.

They care for the sick.

They bring hope and healing to hearts and homes.

They make a difference in their communities and they get an audience for the gospel.

And then the lost get found.


Come to think of it, everything I shared in this post applies equally to churches here in America.

What do you think?

  • bill morgan
    Posted at 21:26h, 06 November Reply

    i know of a church that has no loud “modern” music, only hymns of
    100 years ago, no loud drums, etc., yet they are able to send out
    88 thousand missionaries every year. also the defunct Crystal Cathedral used to attack thousands and they kept to the old hymns
    and classic music. but i realize there is room for many styles of
    music, depending on the desires of different particular churches.

    • Brian Moss
      Posted at 16:16h, 07 November Reply

      88,000 a year? hmmm, I’d be interested to hear what church that is.

      • bill morgan
        Posted at 05:37h, 08 November Reply

        88,000 missionaries—The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
        Sincerely, bill morgan

  • Karen
    Posted at 23:10h, 06 November Reply

    I think it’s AWESOME that you got to go to Japan and share from your experience with leaders there. They were so blessed and I’m sure you were too. I think many people are afraid to think out of the box and try new things. In art, we say “Form follows function.” Functions don’t change, but forms do. The best designers are the ones who design the best forms for the necessary functions. We should be careful we are not doing the same thing with the new forms that has been done with the old forms–just trading American contemporary evangelical approaches for the 100 year old forms. Instead, we should teach them how, through prayer, research and trial and error, to create suitable forms for their OWN cultures. Looking forward to seeing you again soon!

    • Brian Moss
      Posted at 16:17h, 07 November Reply

      Thank Karen! So great to be back!

  • Laura
    Posted at 01:37h, 09 November Reply

    WELCOME HOME!!! NEXT Generation Doing What it Takes without Sin .Loving God Loving People. Come as they Are & Pray We Don’t Stay there Always Growing .Well if we are breathing I Checked I am.We All Fall Short. Thanks for All you Do to Reach the unchurched .Keep Stepping for the kingdom.

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