Churches in Japan and Italy Experience ‘Gospel Renewal’ Adapting to Online Discipleship

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TOKYO — On normal days, Pastor Joey Zorina is keenly aware that his church, The Bridge Fellowship in Tokyo, is like a tiny candle flickering in a very dark place.

The gravity of that truth is even stronger now that he feels a bit like he’s having to keep that light to himself.

“In a country of less than 1 percent Christian population, we are saddened that we cannot meet onsite in person,” said Zorina, whose church — like many others around the world — now meets online because of COVID-19 gathering restrictions.

“It has affected how we seek to disciple others and build relationships with our non-Christian friends,” he said. “Since our church is located in an artistic neighborhood, we have many musicians and their friends in our outreaches. That had to be postponed for the future.”

But Zorina can see a glimmer of light in this crisis — one he hopes sticks around even after the doors are reopened.

“When we were meeting offline, we did not have the chance to hear from everybody, as conversations were more scattered in different corners of the room during our Sunday gathering,” he said. “But after meeting online, it forced us to see who is missing on the screen, who is cared for and who is sick or needs encouragement, and the whole community has taken the responsibility to listen well and extend pastoral care to everyone.”

They’re able to ask how everyone is doing and pray specifically and personally for each other, he said.

“We are also able to slow down with a renewed community rhythm and pace, learning to be patient and confront the idols of control and repent and rest joyfully in the Gospel,” Zorina said. “You could say this is a Gospel renewal, or at least the start of one.”

Loren Holland, pastor of Rome International Church, said the COVID-19 gathering restrictions have done unexpected things for his congregation’s ongoing discipleship also.

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Source: Baptist Press