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Samurai Discipleship

Just before COVID-19 hit Japan, Masashi felt that he heard God asking him a question: “When do you plan on growing up?” 

Only months before, Masashi had completed a men’s discipleship course at the Ishibashi MB church. The course incorporated many elements of the traditional values of the samurai, the Japanese warrior class. 

So, when God spoke to Masashi about growing up, he did not flinch from the challenge. 

“Masashi did not always have such courage,” reflected Cory Giesbrecht, one of Multiply’s global workers in Japan. “He and another man from our church who went through the course with me experienced enormous changes. They went from confusion to clarity, apathy to passion, timidity to boldness, secrecy to vulnerability and shame to freedom. During this time, God told Masashi that he was to lead, and he replied that he would lead only if God would lead through him. He has been completely transformed!”

Cory described how he and the two men bonded together during thirty-three days of intense discipleship. “Building a relationship with a warrior brother is key to success,” he explained. “Together we hold each other accountable to the ways of Jesus, which in many respects is similar to the ways of the traditional Japanese samurai.” 

Cory pointed out that the warrior creed of the samurai Obey Heaven, Serve People, Conquer Self, Crush Evil parallels Christian values. “But we learn how to do these things as brothers of Christ,” he explained, “not as individuals. We seek to find a brother, and to be a brother, in community.”

Admittedly, this perspective can conflict with the traditional Japanese spirit of self-sufficiency. Masashi himself is painfully aware of his own tendency towards proud self-reliance.

“I am a paramedic,” he said. “and I have taken pride in that. Like many Japanese, I have very high standards for myself, and rely on my own strength. I have taken action based upon my own judgment and I have succeeded in my own power! Experiencing this success made it difficult for me to submit to God or acknowledge my need of him.” 

Masashi’s self-reliance had isolated him both from God and from others. However, after experiencing the intimacy of brotherhood through the discipleship course, he began to see that honesty and vulnerability with other believers offered a freedom that he had never experienced before. He found his appetite for fellowship growing with each day, and more and more he enjoyed spending time together with his brothers in Christ, studying the Word of God and worshipping together. 

Until everything stopped. 

With the advent of COVID-19, all gatherings
were banned, including church gatherings and discipleship groups. 

“But God had prepared me for this moment,” Masashi said. “I knew it was time for me to grow up! The restrictions of the pandemic made me realize just how much I hungered and thirsted for worship, true worship, with others. In some ways, quarantine was a gift to me! It made me even more determined to stay connected to my community.” 

Masashi began to meet online every day with his brother warriors, and they strengthened one another’s resolve to follow in the ways of Jesus, confessing their sins to one another and finding freedom from shame. Their commitment to God and to God’s people grew deeper and richer with each passing day of quarantine. 

“COVID-19 cannot stop God!” Masashi said. “God has already won! I will fight with joy and hope and shine in the dark by serving others!” 

Masashi now knows that this is what it looks like when a warrior grows up.

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