While sitting around our family table the other night, my kids started asking Pam and I about our experience in Japan. I told them that when Pam and I arrived in May of 1993 the church in Tokyo was about 200 members. When our family left 10 years later, there were over 1,000 members. The fact that this happened in Japan, considered by the Wall Street Journal as the “Mount Everest” of mission fields, is a testimony to the power of God and to the leadership of Frank Kim. When I told my kids this, they wanted to know more about what I learned from Frank’s leadership. Here is how I described Frank to them:

Relentless

Frank’s focused intensity on saving souls on top of the underlying cultural commitment to hard work redefined for me what it takes to make a ministry grow. It started with his language learning. An early missionary described Japanese as “the devil’s language” because of the difficulty of learning it and understanding it. Frank went to language school and within a year or two was leading Bible studies and preaching in Japanese. His relentless pursuit of the mission also showed up in a grueling schedule, sustained focus and patience to save people. The best way to describe it is Acts 5:42, “Day after day, in the temple courts and from house to house, they never stopped teaching and proclaiming the good news that Jesus is the Messiah.” It takes about twice as much time and effort to help a Japanese person become a Christian than in many other countries. This is because they must first be taught that Jesus is a powerful historical character, not a fairy tale, that God really exists, and that Jesus is the divine Son of God. A visiting minister asked me during that time how I would describe Frank’s leadership style. Only one word came to mind: “relentless.”

Christ-Centered

I don’t remember many lessons that Frank preached that didn’t center around Jesus. I can still see the faces of Japanese disciples and guests leaning forward and listening to him talk about Jesus. The sense of wonder and amazement on their faces always blew me away. I always felt like Japan was a spiritual wasteland. There were few churches or other traces of Christianity that we are accustomed to in many of our “Christianized” countries. Frank would preach and teach consistently to meet this spiritual hunger in both seekers, staff and disciples.

A Master Preacher

If you have ever heard the collective sigh of relief and happiness when a skilled pilot lands a plane smoothly after a turbulent flight, you have experienced what I call a “cushion landing.” Frank had that same skill when he preached. He would preach with power, authority and volume. He would cut, convict and challenge. Then in the last few minutes of the lesson, his voice would drop in volume, so low you had to lean forward to pick up every word. He would share some story about a person who had sacrificed, overcome or triumphed through the power of Christ. The room was quiet, tears would fall, and hearts would change. I don’t know how he always had the perfect story to share. I don’t know if he read Chicken Soup for the Soul before every sermon, but that guy had a way to preach to heart of his listeners.

In a country where there is less than one-half of one percent Christian affiliation, where a “large church” is 100 members, the fact that Frank led that church from a handful of members to 1,000+ is unprecedented, amazing and inspiring. I told my kids that night I am grateful for my 10-year ministry apprenticeship under Frank’s leadership. I learned what it means to be relentless, Christ-centered and how to preach to the heart.

Please join us in May for the Look Up Small Church Leaders’ Conference: LookUp2019.com. Send any questions to Rob@tucsonchurchofchrist.org.