Unity of Faith: The Key to Growth in Mission

by Sasaki Michio, Kyodan vice-moderator, pastor of Shizuoka Church

At the 39th biennial Kyodan General Assembly in 2014, I was elected vice-moderator. Upon taking this responsibility, I have been asked to express my hopes and aspirations in this article. As I said at the assembly after I was elected: “For someone like me to be elected to this position brings a sense of apprehension, but I accept this responsibility as God’s will and will exercise my duties faithfully. I am well aware of my responsibility to support the moderator, and I will make every effort to do so.”

 

Having served as vice-moderator for the 36th Kyodan General Assembly period (2008-10), this will be my second term. Four years have passed since my first term, and the situation within the Kyodan has changed. The reality is that I am starting my work as vice-moderator with some sense of perplexity, but I hope to fulfill my responsibilities with the help of Moderator Ishibashi Hideo and other Kyodan officials and staff.

 

When I was elected to this position four years ago, I was asked to share my hopes and aspirations at that time, too. However, rather than sharing my hopes and aspirations, I wrote the following: “The immediate need of the Kyodan is to determine where it can find unity amidst the deepening confusion and problems within the Kyodan. Unity in our faith, confirming our ordination system, and fruitful service and witness are paths that will lead to the solution of these problems. During this term, finding unity in our faith is the key task facing the Kyodan.”

 

The theme for our 2014 General Assembly was “Building an Evangelistic Kyodan–Promoting Evangelism Based in a Unified Faith.” Moderator Ishibashi has continued his efforts to promote a “Kyodan that is on fire for evangelism,” and we must now move to the next stage, accompanied by an even deeper commitment and united faith. Of course, this entails unity in our understanding of the sacraments and ordination system as well.

 

At the opening worship of our Kyodan Assembly, Rev. Kishita Nobuyo, referring to words from Isaiah 40, reminded us that in “Building an Evangelistic Kyodan,” we need a faith that puts its “hope in the Lord.” On that first Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit gave birth to the Church, the news of salvation through God’s great gift of Jesus Christ was preached. Indeed, the power to preach the Gospel and continue the “birthing” of the Church starts with putting our hope in God’s Holy Spirit.

 

Four years ago I wrote the following. “On one side, the Kyodan is facing the difficult reality of an aging membership and a decline in the number of younger people in our congregations. Every church is facing difficulties as it engages in evangelism and the development of the local church. If this current trend continues, statistics make it clear what the situation will be like in ten years. As we move into the future, there is no solution other than to continue in prayer and evangelistic outreach.”

 

“At that time, the content of our faith as the Church will no doubt have great meaning and prove to be the power we need. During this term, I hope to gain an awareness of where the members of our churches are in their faith journeys.”

 

When the Kyodan as a denomination and each individual church affirm a united faith, find joy in their faith, and join together in prayer, we will find unity and growth in our mission. The powerful work of the Holy Spirit will be with us. My belief in this is as strong now as it was four years ago.

 

Beginning this biennium, we will administer our “Evangelism Fund.” We are also continuing the various relief efforts related to the East Japan Disaster. As our churches recognize the mission the Lord has given the Kyodan, we will join related schools and social agencies and continue to respond to what the Lord is entrusting us to do. Although I lack power as an individual, I will “hope in the Lord.” (Tr. JS)

 

—From Shinpo (The Kyodan Times), No. 4813

第39回教団総会に於 いて副議長に選任され、その抱負をこの紙面に求められています。選任された時に総会の場で申し上げたことは“私のような者を議場が お選びになったことに畏れを覚えると共に、御心と受けとめて誠実に職務に励みたい。副議長の職務は議長をお支えすることに尽きると心 得る。”ということでした。私 は第36回教団総会の副議長を務めさせて頂きましたので、今回が二度目となります。四年を経ていますから教団の状況も変わり、戸惑い ながら仕事を始めたというのが現実です。石橋議長を始めとして教団役員、職員の方々に教えを請いながら自分に課せられた務めを為して 行きたいと願っております。

実は四年前にも 教団副議長に選任されての抱負をこの紙面に求められました。そこで私が申し上げたことは抱負と言うよりも、“混迷を深める教団の状 況とその諸課題を覚え、日本基督教団という教会がどこで一致を見るのかが今や避けて通れない問題である。「信仰内容の一致、職制の確 立、それに基づく豊かな奉仕と証」がそれを解く教会の筋道だ。この総会期は信仰内容の一致こそが教団の課題だ”ということでした。  

第39回教団総会に 掲げられた主題は「伝道する教団の建設」-信仰の一致に基づく伝 道の推進-です。石橋議長が進めて来られた「伝道に燃える教団」形成が、その信仰的内容を伴って 更に深められる段階へと入っていきます。もちろんそこには聖礼典や職制の一致と確立も重なります。

教団総会の開会礼 拝で木下宣世牧師はイザヤ書40章の御言葉を挙げながら「伝道する教団の建設」にも“主に望みをおく”信仰が求められると語られました。ペンテコステの日、聖霊が降って教会は誕生し、すぐ に神の偉大な業であるイエス・キリストによる救いを語り出したのです。福音を語り、教会を形成する力を得ることは、まことに聖霊なる 神に望みをおくことから始まります。

四年前の紙面にこの ように記していました。“教団は一方で高齢化や いわゆる若年層の減少という厳しい現実の波に洗われています。各個教会・伝道所が日日取り組んでいる伝道と教会形成の場には大きな困 難があります。このままの状態で10年推移した時、どのような事態がもたらされるのかは既に統計上明らかにされています。祈りつつ伝 道に励む他、将来に対する手だてはないのです。

その時、教会の信仰内 容が最も大きな意味を持ち、また力であることも事実でしょう。全国諸教会・伝道所の信徒の方々がどこに基を置いて信仰生活を続けてお られるのかを受けとめつつ、この総会期の務めに与って参ります”。教団という教会と全 国の各個教会・伝道所がその信仰内容の一致を確認し、喜び、祈り合う中にこそ、伝道の一致と推進も成る。聖霊が豊かな働きをもって臨 んでくださる。このことへの思いは四年後の今も同じです。

今総会期には「伝道 資金」の運用も始まります。また東日本大震災救援対策諸事業も続いています。主が教団に与えられた使命を全国諸教会・伝道所と共に確 認しながら、関係学校・関係社会事業団体等と力を合わせて主の御委託に応えられるよう励んでまいります。自分に力はありませんが、“主に望みをおいて”。佐々木美知夫副議長(教団新報4813号より)