Ken Lee never forgot Rev. Takayuki Ashida’s words urging him to return to Japan.
“Ken, please come back. I want to work with you,” the Reformed Church in Japan (RCJ) pastor had said.
Ken Lee and Rev. Takayuki Ashida planning together.
An evangelist at the Korean American of Orange County CRC in California at the time, Ken had taken some of the church’s young people to Japan for a mission trip.
Rev. Ashida was so impressed by the team’s ministry focus—to bring people to Christ and nurture them as leaders to share the gospel—that he wanted Ken to help him do something similar.
A few years later, Ken became a Christian Reformed World Missions missionary and began working with Rev. Ashida.
In 2006, Rev. Ashida became the pastor of Shin-Urayasu Church—a 12-year-old church plant in the Tokyo Bay area—with a weekly attendance of only about 20 people. With Ken’s help, Rev. Ashida started a process of transformation by establishing close relationships with the members and helping them to discover God in new ways.
Rev. Ashida also encouraged the church to add some contemporary touches to traditional RCJ worship, which used a style that was more than 60 years old. The church, for instance, created a praise and worship time geared to the younger generation. At first, a few people were unhappy with the changes, but slowly they came to enjoy them. New people started coming to Shin-Urayasu, drawn by the worship and Rev. Ashida’s leadership.
Rev. Ashida and Ken then turned to building leaders. They trained small group leaders and began men’s and women’s Bible studies, youth and adult Bible studies, and a breakfast Bible study. The groups provided a comfortable setting for church members, new believers, and seekers to ask questions and gain fresh insight on what it means to follow God.
The church grew to over 60 worshipers as its discipleship and outreach ministries expanded. By June 2010, it had matured enough to become an organized church—18 months ahead of schedule.
With Shin-Urayasu’s outreach efforts taking off, Ken started helping two other churches in evangelism outreach. “Like a parent who marries off a child, I have mixed feelings [on leaving Shin-Urayasu],” says Ken. “At the same I time, I am looking forward to seeing how God is going to use them to expand his kingdom.”
Although their partnership at Shin-Urayasu has ended, Ken and Rev. Ashida continue to work together on something dear to their hearts—preparing the wider RCJ for ministry beyond Japan by training young people for missions.
About the Author
Sarah Van Stempvoort is a writer with Christian Reformed World Missions.