June 2, 1861
As the United States was just beginning to arm itself for the conflict that became known as the American Civil War, a Russian student in Japan was preparing to leave his homeland to serve as a chaplain to the Russian embassy in Japan.
Ivan Kasatkin, who became known more familiarly as Nikolai, studied Chinese and Japanese for eight years while working in the consulate. His first three converts were baptized in 1868.
Nikolai was committed not only to winning converts, but to building churches. He trained converts to become priests and lay workers in the Orthodox tradition. He established a Japanese synod that met every two years.
In later years, it became clear that Nikolai had planned well. The Russo-Japanese war made Christians very unpopular in Japan. The Bolshevik revolution and the beginning of communist rule in Russia put an end to Orthodox missions from that nation, resulting in no support for the ministries Nikolai had established in Japan. The independence of Japanese churches aided their survival, in small numbers, even to this day.
Nikolai had a long-term vision. It wasn't enough for him to build a huge church, or have a lot of followers. He saw beyond himself. He built churches, and encouraged converts to study and begin their own ministries. He didn't make the ministry all about himself -- he made sure he trained disciples of Christ, so that they could have a part in the work Christ was doing in Japan.
Leaders of the 'mega-churches' of today should take note. A church's glory shouldn't be in it's size, or it's membership. It should glory in how many mission churches it has started. How many pastors and teachers it has trained and sent out. How many missionaries it has sent to the field. What impact is it having for Christ in the long term, not just this year. A truly growing church is a church that reproduces -- it creates new bodies of believers everywhere. That should be our goal -- not increasing the amount of bodies we have in a Sunday morning service.