Pastor Michael Yamamoto
When Mayu and I first visited Minoh International Church back in October of 2012, we were desperately in search of a faith community after having spent the first two years of our time here in Japan doing church at home. One of our non-negotiable search criteria was that the church had to be led by a pastor whom we could respect. Enter Pastor Andrew Miller.
Upon hearing his sermon and seeing his heart and Spirit behind his sermon, Mayu and I immediately knew that we could wholeheartedly serve under Pastor Andrew’s leadership. More than his strapping Australian stature or his dashing good looks, it was his love and care for God’s Word that really spoke to us. After all, “Man looks at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7), and it was quite obvious to Mayu and me that Sunday morning that Pastor Andrew’s heart was trustworthy because of the way he respected the Scriptures. Which brings me to my first point:
I believe that a good church respects the Word of God.
By respecting it, I mean that the pastor does a great job of teaching and preaching from the Bible. Thank you for your faithfulness in this task for so many years, Pastor Andrew! By respecting it, I mean that the members of the church make a commitment to reading and studying the Bible on a regular basis. By respecting it, I mean that the members of the church believe the power of the Living Word of God. And by respecting it, I mean that the members of the church faithfully apply and obey the Word.
The Word of God is powerful! The Word of God is transformative! The Word of God gives life and changes lives! If there is one testimony that Mayu and I take away from our time here in Japan, it’s this.
When we were in the U.S., language ability was never a problem in ministering to people, because it was all done in English. But when we came to Japan, we realized how limited we are in our ability to minister because of our limitations with the Japanese language. It was very frustrating.
I remember so many times, when we were trying to counsel or teach at Bible study, what we wanted to say just wouldn’t come out in Japanese. Feeling so helpless and inadequate, all we could do was refer them to read the Scriptures in Japanese. But you know what? That’s all they needed. We started to see amazing things. People giving their lives to Christ! People being set free from dark thoughts and strongholds! People growing in their faith! These are all miracles that only God and His Word can accomplish.
What we learned? The Word of God doesn’t need a Mike-and-Mayu commentary. The Word of God is sufficient. The Word of God is powerful! The Word of God is transformative! The Word of God gives life and changes lives! It humbled us to know that we could only offer so little, but it also gave us a great sense of relief that all we needed to do was direct people to God’s Word, and God will faithfully and powerfully do His work.
To Minoh International Church, continue to be a good church by continuing to respect the Word of God.
By doing so, I believe that God will be faithful in bearing fruit and fresh testimonies in your life. Which brings me to my second point:
I believe that a good church has members who bear fruit and have fresh testimonies.
And the Apostle Paul shares this testimony:
These verses point to spiritual fruit and fresh testimonies that are born out of personal interactions with the Living God who has revealed Himself through the Scriptures. Fruit and testimonies don’t just happen. They always begin with God speaking, his people responding in faith and obedience, and then God moving.
The famous American author Mark Twain said, “Why not go out on a limb? That’s where the fruit is!” And pastor and author John Ortberg has a book If You Want to Walk on Water, You’ve Got to Get Out of the Boat. The secular world calls it risk-taking. We Christians call it obedience in faith. They are not the same. Risk is based on chance. Faith is based on the Word of God.
God speaks—usually a conviction or a challenge—and it is up to us to obey in faith. If we as Christians cannot respond in faith and obedience to God’s convictions and challenges in our lives, then there will be no fruit and no testimony. But please remember and be careful. The focus of bearing fruit and having fresh testimonies should never be about US obtaining the fruit or the blessing. It should be about glorifying GOD and encouraging OTHERS.
Being a part of the faith community here at Minoh International Church the past 6-plus years, Mayu and I have been encouraged many, many times by your stories of how God spoke to you, you responded in faith and obedience, and then you experienced God move and act in your life in a powerful way. Thank you for exercising faith and obeying, and thank you for sharing your testimonies with us.
Mayu and I want to share with you a fresh testimony of our own. As we get ready to move back to the U.S. next week, I already have a job lined up back at The Garden Church. I will basically be returning to the associate pastor position that I left nine years ago when we came to Japan. Mayu’s job situation, however, is not so understanding or accommodating, because it doesn’t work like that in her field.
She’s currently finishing up her Master of Nursing Administration degree with the hopes of landing a job with the same company she left, because she really likes the company, and a position similar to the one she left. As she began looking, one possibility opened up a couple of weeks ago. An interview was scheduled, and she began earnestly preparing for it.
But as she prepared her resume, one thing was very glaring and very concerning—the nine-year career gap as a result of our time here in Japan. A lot of people have career gaps. A few years off because of having a baby or taking care of a sick parent, maybe. But nine years doing Christian missionary work? In the secular world, it has the potential to be a career killer.
Thoughts of doubt and fear began to creep into her mind. What if I don’t get the job BECAUSE of my career gap? How do I explain my nine years in Japan in a way that it wouldn’t negatively affect my chances? But as she continued to seek God and prepare for the interview, the Holy Spirit soon convicted her that her nine years in Japan would not be a waste and that she should never look at it negatively in any way.
She immediately repented for having negative thoughts and for trying to blame her career gap on her time in Japan. So, instead of preparing to make excuses for a seeming deficiency, she changed her attitude and began preparing instead to highlight the positives in these nine years. She continued to prepare really hard for the interview, both in content and in attitude.
The interview day came, she did her best, and long story short—she got the job! They told her that they would get back to her in a couple of weeks after they finish all the other interviews, but they called her back the next day offering her the position. And the funny thing is, they never even asked her about the career gap!
The testimony here is that what may seem like foolishness in the world’s eyes, God has plans of his own and the power to make those plans a reality. We need to base our decisions NOT on what the world considers wise or sensible, but on what GOD says. It takes faith and courage to trust God especially over trying circumstances, but exercising that faith is pleasing and honoring to God.
I’m very proud of my wife! Of course for her getting the position, but more for her immediate faithful response to the LORD. She could have very easily moped over her career gap, but she responded in faith and obedience, and we got the privilege of seeing God move powerfully once again.
God uses our fruit and testimonies to encourage others in need of that extra measure of faith and trust, so that they, too, will be able to respond to God in faith and obedience, and bear their own fruit and testimonies. It’s a beautiful cycle that all churches should be regularly experiencing.
To Minoh International Church, continue to be a good church by continuing to interact with God and His Word, continuing to respond in faith and obedience, and continuing to bear fruit and fresh testimonies of God’s goodness and faithfulness.
And all this for the glory of God, that God and Minoh International Church will continue to be a light in this community AND this country as you continue to shine in your faith.
Please continue to make Minoh International Church a good church.