Living Way Church History
Prior to moving to Shizuoka, Sarah and I worked with George and Lois Bostrom in Kakegawa shi. We started Living Way Church on May 12, 1988. In May of 2019 LWC celebrated its 31st anniversary. Starting with just our family of six, an American and his Japanese wife, their 2 daughters, a Filipina lady and her daughter, a lady from Singapore, and about 2 other people, the church has grown into a congregation of about 90 believers. Now our church members represent people from Japan, America, China, The Philippines, South Sudan, Indonesia, Singapore, and Cameroon. We are about 70% Japanese. Most of the foreigners are currently from other Asian countries. We have former church members living in 24 countries around the world including Benin, Nigeria, Indonesia, Singapore, Vietnam, France, Poland, China, Taiwan, Ghana, Brazil, central America, Scotland, England, Australia, Canada, the United States, the Ukraine, and Austria.
Living Way Church Founding Vision
The founding vision of Living Way was different from many of the other churches started by missionaries. Most were committed to having a totally Japanese church with all the services conducted in the Japanese language only. Our church was started with a commitment to the following
1. EVERYONE IS WELCOME
Living Way Church will be a place where anyone Jesus accepts will be accepted and welcome. We started with a commitment to do all our services in both Japanese and English. Occasionally we have people sitting in the audience providing translation into an Indonesian dialect or one of the many versions of Chinese. We started with a commitment to being International and trying to make all people from all nations, cultures, and traditions welcome. Acts 10:34-35 God is no respecter of persons…every nation welcomeMatthew 28:18-20 The Great Commission—make disciples of every nation“nations” in both places is ethnos, which can mean, “world, nations, races, tribes, or people groups.”Psalms 2:8 Ask of Me and I will give you the nations for your inheritance
2. IMPORTANCE OF THE WORD
Our primary function, at least in the founding days, was Teaching. We have consistently stressed the value and importance of the Word. Most of the people who first came and have stayed with us came because of the teaching. For 4 years we had a Bible school in the church with very intense teaching. We continue to build around this gift. Psalms 119:1602 Timothy 3:16-17
3. VIBRANT PRAISE & WORSHIP
Lively, modern worship has always been very important to our church. In the very beginning we only had one keyboard for music. We have a grand piano, an electronic keyboard, drums, bongos, djembe, electric bass, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, flute, saxophone, 2 or 3 singers, and a troupe of tambourine dancers. These musicians and performers vary depending on who is currently in Japan. Music continues to be a very important and powerful tool of evangelism and ministry.
4. THE FELLOWSHIP MEAL
From the very beginning we have eaten together after the Sunday morning service. As we have grown it has become increasingly difficult but we have persisted in this practice. We believe the time of fellowship after the meeting is very important to building relationships. We learn a lot about each other while sharing a meal together. Often people sit around the tables and talk, sometimes for hours, after the meal.
5. CHILDREN ARE JUST AS IMPORTANT AS ADULTS
We have always and continue to have children and babies at church. We have never seen the children as just inferior beings to be tolerated and babysat until they can join the adults in the big meeting. Therefore we have provided just as high a quality program for the children as we have for the adults. If the adults get good teaching, the children should, too. Matthew 18:2-4
6. BRIGHT, BEAUTIFUL SURROUNDINGS
The physical atmosphere of the church should be as bright, colorful, and beautiful as we can provide. We don’t want people to get depressed walking in the door. We usually paint or wallpaper in bright colors. Also, the ladies have sewn incredibly beautiful banners appropriate for different occasions and seasons. Since we are a bilingual congregation we make sure each banner is bilingual or we have 2 banners depicting the same scene, one with English lettering and the other with Japanese.
7. A GLOBAL VISION
From the beginning we wanted the church to have a global vision. A local politician has this slogan in English, “Think globally, act locally.” We have always stressed the need to look at the bigger picture of the church and the world and tried to imprint that on the people of LWC. We provide opportunities for local people to take mission trips to other countries. We have taken Japanese believers and foreigners to Malaysia, Kenya, China, Indonesia, and India. Also, as part of this “global vision” we have had gifted men and women come from all over the world to share with the church. We have had a Mexican brother now living in Texas, a man from Amsterdam now living in Germany, brothers from Switzerland, pastors from India, a Romanian, Americans, a Swedish man who works in Myanmar and Nepal, and a brother from Cornwall, England who has an international children’s ministry. Summary of the Vision of Living Way Church: The founding vision of Living Way Church included a commitment to the following seven concepts: (1) Regardless of race, nationality, or religious background all people are to be welcomed and accepted. (2) The Word of God is of primary importance to the lives of believers and the foundation of the church and shall be taught and emphasized. (3) Vibrant, modern praise and worship are crucial to the corporate life of the church. (4) Fellowshipping over a meal at the end of the Sunday meeting is important to building and maintaining healthy relationships. (5) Children are as important as adults so the church will provide just as high a quality program for the them as we have for the adults. (6) The physical atmosphere of the church should be as bright, colorful, and beautiful as we can provide. And, (7) since the local church needs to have a global vision we have always provided opportunities for the church members to take mission trips to other countries and to support the work of others in those countries.