When we first came to Japan, there was a missionary who told me, “Japan needs oaks.” He meant that the condition of the church in Japan is in need of mission work that will last a looong time. 

My wife and I have been in Japan for 10 years now. That’s not very long… especially when you compare it with an oak. 

Something I’m learning about oak-y mission work is that it’s not done alone. Missionaries who work alone don’t seem to stay long. If they do, sometimes it’s hard to discern what they’ve been doing here all this time. 

Also—and this won’t sound very spiritual at first, but it’s actually extremely biblical— mission work that lasts a long time and has lasting influence is institutional. If you want to make disciples that make disciples for the next 300 years, don’t start a “movement.” Start an institution. Movements come and go (that’s why they’re called movements). Institutions are established, and they stay in place for a long time even as their surroundings change. 

Now, that doesn’t sound very spiritual does it? After all, Jesus compared the work of the Holy Spirit to the wind (John 3:8). So, shouldn’t we all just be like waves tossed and blown by the wind so that “God can do whatever he wants when he wants” and we can just feel “led by the Spirit” to do things contrary to God’s Word and think it’s the Holy Spirit’s work?


The Holy Spirit doesn’t do anything contrary to God’s Word. (Deuteronomy 13; 18:20-22; Isaiah 57:20; Ephesians 4:14; Jude 12-13.)

In John 3:8, Jesus was talking about the work of the Holy Spirit to make people born again. And in that same place, Jesus said that unless you are born of the Spirit, you cannot see or enter the kingdom of God (John 3:3, 5). 

“Kingdom of God? You mean like with a king and soldiers and a throne and laws and order?”

“Yes, like that.”

“Sounds oppressive. I’m not sure I like that.” 

“Well, it depends on the king, doesn’t it?” (Isaiah 11; Daniel 7:13-14; Matthew 20:25-28.)

A kingdom is like the ultimate institution. When Jesus came, he came to establish a new covenant community—a new covenant institution called the church (Matthew 16:18; 18:15-20; 26:26-29). He appointed Apostles to be the foundation of the church (Matthew 10:1-4; 28:16-20; John 20:19-31; Acts 1:8; Ephesians 2:20). They wrote the foundation documents for Jesus’ church, the New Testament (1 Corinthians 14:37-38; Ephesians 3:1-6; etc.). And now, the kingdom of God grows and spreads on the earth through the planting of churches that are in submission to the teaching of the Apostles (Acts 14:21-23). 

And guess what! Jesus’s kingdom will fill the whole earth! And it will last forever! “Of the increase of his government and of peace there will be no end.” (Isaiah 9:7; 11:9.) 

Ethan + Audrey Greer

Ethan and Audrey serve with Mustard Seed to plant churches in Japan. Most of Japan is considered unreached which means people haven’t had the chance to hear the Good News about Jesus. The Greer’s started out serving with a church in Osaka and are currently working with a church plant in Sendai, Japan.

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