Shared Vision and Effective Strategies in Japan

Coming to Japan these days really doesn’t seem like a “foreign” experience for us anymore. Since our first meeting in the airport over breakfast in 2007, Dr. Makoto Fukui has not only become a partner and an advocate for mobilizing churches, he has become a friend, as have many other leaders and pastors in the Rengo association of churches.

How do you mobilize churches that are often small, typically unnoticed in their community, and often led by bi-vocational pastors? Pinnacle Ministries believes that can only happen if they do the hard work of assessment, engage community leaders and the people God has given them, and, develop a shared vision with effective strategies that lead to transformation.

Six pastors have been engaged in the Pastors’ School of Retool over the past year, under the leadership of Hikaru Kishio and Makoto Fukui. Monday they gathered at Tamagawa Christian Fellowship for Step 5 of the process. The spirit of the day was amazing as each shared the results of their assessments, including their NCD results, the SWOT analysis with their key leaders, and, the draft of their new vision.

Rengo step 5

The amazing thing for us is hearing the stories of what God is already doing since they began shifting their focus outside their church. One church lost their building just a few months ago, but during our session received a text confirming their miracle bid and financing for a new facility had been secured. Another church has experienced significant growth over the past five years and is expanding into new areas of ministry.

Each church is discovering creative ways to reach out into their community and boldly live out their faith. In the process, they have engaged the people of their churches in both assessment and planning, something which is new to their experience.

These pastors will be joining us in California the end of March to complete their training and present their ministry plans. From that point forward, it will be up to the leaders we have partnered with to lay the path for future mobilization as they engage the next school of pastors for Retooling.

Your prayers are so vital to this work! The challenges of ministry in Japan can be overwhelming and often lead to discouragement. But Jesus’ promise to build His church remains true, and these men and women believe in the power of the Gospel and the Holy Spirit to accomplish what they have been called to do.

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Becoming A Church of Impact – Cebu, PI

IMG_0637About one hundred pastors and leaders…seventy some churches…three cities…several denominations.  That one line summarizes why we haven’t put many posts up this trip.  It seemed like we either teaching, traveling or sleeping, with a bit of eating and meetings thrown in for good measure!

That’s NOT complaining!  We’re in Tokyo now (Sunday), getting set for a day with the Rengo Pastors’ School.  What it means is
that it’s been a full trip teaching and working on church effectiveness.  Thanks to Cirilo CebuDoguiles for arranging the trip, Lem Doguiles for being our own personal caretaker, Pastor Ep, Pastor Ilde, Pastor Steven, President of the Baptist Conference of the Philippines, host pastors and participants.  We are so very blessed to be a small part of helping start a movement of healthy, effective churches.  We are excited to see how this will develop over the next year.

Tomorrow, we are working on Session 5 (we call it Retreat 5) of the Retool kit with our Japanese brothers and sisters.  Over the past several months they have done some truly awesome assessment, research and working to better know their communities, identify their churches’ strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, and write a vision statement around the issues they surfaced.  Tomorrow we talk about how you translate the planning into action, which will be challenge given the cultural realities of Japan.  But, just like in the Philippines, these men and women are the start of a movement.  Dr. Fukui is already planning for the third cycle of pastors, this time taught entirely by the Japanese pastors themselves.  Retooling churches in Japan won’t be easy work, but it will be worth all the effort.  Pray for these men and women as they work to take the challenges of Jesus seriously and partner with Him to “build His church.”


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Becoming A Church of Impact – Bohol, PI

He who has an ear, let him hear…” Rev 3:13

BoholWe’ve been experiencing the truth of that scripture in a number of ways over these past couple days.  After a very long day of travel that involved a jet from Manila, hours stuck in traffic in Cebu, and a two hour high speed ferry ride across the ocean, we arrived in Bohol, the tenth largest island of the Philippines.

The first thing we discovered is that the majority of the serving staff in the hotel in which we’re staying is deaf!  The hotel is an initiative to give the deaf residents of Bohol meaningful employment.  It makes for an interesting meal in the restaurant as the menus also come with a pad of paper, and there are some basic deaf signs included therein.  But, with a minimum of confusion, the food is served and a delicious meal is enjoyed.

Thirty-five pastors and leaders from 12 of the 30 Converge Philippines churches thorouBCOI Bohol 2ghly engaged in the teachings of our BCOI Conference today.  While the event in Lucena on Monday was a mix of English and Tagalog, today’s was a blend of English and Cebuano. Whenever comprehension broke down, Cirilo Doguiles or one of the pastors filled the gap so that everyone could partake of the food being offered without barriers. It was sort of a new twist on “team teaching.”

Another new twist we added involved a practical exercise in the building of a strategic plan. We chose a “key issue” Filipinos all know, that of “Overseas Foreign Workers” – spouses who work outside the Philippines and send money home.  We identified the unique needs and challenges these families face, some of the trauma they experience, and set a SMART goal.  Then we brainstormed initiatives and ministry plans.  Soon, we had the whiteboard filled with a plan, and strategic planning moved from concept to reality.

Cirilo’s goal is to establish S-2 centers strategically across the Philippines, starting and strengthening churches, and wisely deploying The Church Retool Kit Pathway.  These conferences represent the start of two centers, with a third in Cebu to launch on Friday.

BCOI BoholRevelation chapter 3 mentions the church of Philadelphia, a church with little power.  But the Lord said that because they had kept His word, he would place before them an open door that no one could shut.  Then he finished with, “He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.”  While the churches of the BCP don’t always have “great power,” they certainly have kept his word, and today, the door of opportunity is wide open.  Pray the Lord of the Harvest to pour out His blessing.

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Becoming A Church of Impact – Lucena, PI

It is now the end of a long day of ministry.  Ray and I just got back to our “base of operations”, The Legends Hotel in metro Manila.  We arrive around 11 pm Saturday night local time, and by mid-day Sunday we were on our way to Lucena City, about 60 miles south of Manila.  After a good night’s sleep, we started the day of training at Bethel Community Church, where we were ably assisted by Converge Worldwide missionary Joyce Watts.  Twenty-two pastors and leaders from six churches, some of whom traveled over five hours to attend the conference, gathered to learn principles that make a church a “Church of Impact” (as an aside, we also ran into our first “cultural collision – impact in Tagalog means “Monster”!  We’ll settle for “Church of Influence”).

IMG_0567It was a long day, with a lot of intense thinking and wrestling with the Five Mile-markers on the Road to Impact – Clear Vision, A plan for growing disciples and leaders, Healthy Community, An Ouside/Inside Look, and, A Roadmap with Biblical Goals and Practical Strategies. We overheard one pastor  comment, “We didn’t get this in seminary!” – a sentiment we’ve heard many times before.

Why are we doing this?  Cirilo Doguiles, director of the S2 Initiative for Converge Philippines, is using these events to launch S2 Centers, places where church leaders will learn these principles, and have the opportunity to engage in The Church Retool Kit Pathway, with a caveat.  Church that go through Retool must be committed to pay it forward by coaching another church in the process.  We are excited about the movement potential this holds.  Cirilo envisions S2 Centers across the Philippines, Starting and Strengthening churches for maximum Kingdom impact.  We are grateful and humbled to be a part of this nation-changing effort.

Tomorrow, we fly out to Cebu, take a fast ferry to Bohol, and get set for our second session on Wednesday, and the start of another S2 Center.                                               Gary

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Philippines & Japan: January 16-28, 2015

From January 16-28, Gary Harrison and Ray Swatkowski from Pinnacle Ministries will be serving in the Philippines and Japan. They will be conducting “Becoming a Church of Impact Conferences” (BCOI) across the Philippines, and working with the Rengo Pastors’ School of Retool in Tokyo.

The BCOI Conferences will focus on Five Mile-markers on the Road to Impact for local churches. The Mile-markers come out of The Retool Kit Pathway and enable Pastors and leaders to engage in first-step discussions towards more effective ministry and greater community impact.

Cirilo Doguiles, director of the Starting and Strenghtening Ministries of Converge-Philippines, says:The “Retool Process” serves as our primary strategy in starting and strengthening churches in the Philippines. It is an excellent ministry resource and training system to expand the ministries Converge missionaries established over sixty years of missions engagement. Other evangelical denominational leaders expressed interest in learning more about the Retool training. Converge Philippines leaders believe that strengthening churches will result to new churches planted.”

Please pray for Gary and Ray and all those who will be participating in the following events:Philmap

Jan 16-17  Travel to the Philippines

Jan 19 – BCOI Lucena

Jan 21 – BCOI Bohol

Jan 23 – BCOI Cebu

Jan 25 – Fly to Tokyo

IMG_0426Jan 26 – Rengo Pastors’ School

Jan 27 – Meetings with leaders

Jan 28 – Fly Home

Dr. Mokoto Fukui (Japan) –  (following the October training)[The pastors were] given new energy and commitment. [One pastor] was so encouraged that she recovered her ministry. I think they felt that they were loved, nurtured and trained.”

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Sunday/Monday – Blessings in the Face of a Typhoon

Sunday – Tamagawa Christian Church

Ray had the opportunity to preach, worship and fellowship with the members of IMG_0426Tamagawa Christian Church located on the west side of Tokyo Bay. It was exciting to see how this church has grown as Pastor Makoto Fukui has applied the principles of The Retool Kit to his own ministry. Watching and meeting two new deacons who have been trained to share leadership responsibilities was inspiring.

Worship was followed by a time of food, fellowship and fun “game show style” to get to know Ray better. He also had an opportunity to spend time with a pastor seeking God’s direction for future ministry.

Sunday – Niiza Shiki Baptist Church

Hirkaru Kishio also has done great work in extending the reach of his ministry into the IMG_0417
community.  After talking about the impact of “Ordinary Christians” during the morning message, Gary had the opportunity to share and participate in Pastor Kishio’s “Cancer Philosophy Café”, which in reality is a support group for patients and survivors of cancer.  Gary was invited to speak by virtue of being a cancer survivor, and had an opportunity to gently tie his faith into the experience.  The highlight of the day, however, was being able to spend time with Pastor Kishio and his family. (He’s also a great servant leader as you can see in the photo).

Monday – RTK Step 4

Vision. It can be inspiring, motivating, captivating, and even scary. But it can also be elusive, contrived and even manipulative. What, then, is the secret to articulating the vision for a church? The 6 pastors in the Rengo Retool Pastor’s School wrestled with the factors that will enable their church to discover their unique vision for their unique churches, even while Typhoon Phalfone raged outside.  Typhoons can also be captivating, scary and somewhat unpredictable.  It was, perhaps, symbolic of the process taking place in the classroom of the Covenant Evangelical Seminary in Seikei.

Blackboard work Pastors' SchoolBy Monday afternoon, the sun emerged and the sky cleared outside, while indoors the creative lights turned on and excitement grew in anticipation of discovering what God has in store for their churches. We stepped back and let them wrestle with identifying key issues and formulating vision on their own and realized they not only understand it, they are beginning to own the process.


As we prepare to travel home, it is with a sense of thanksgiving for these pastors and IMG_0433leaders who have a passion for their churches, their communities and the seemingly overwhelming spiritual need in Japan. Seeing a growing number of leaders taking on additional responsibilities to create healthy, reproducing churches fills our hearts with joy and excitement for the future. Not to mention the new doors God seems to be opening for Pinnacle Ministries, in partnership with the Rengo, for even greater impact in the days ahead.


  1. It has become even clearer that the Retool Kit Pathway is a tool that will mobilize churches in Japan for greater community impact. We have moved out of the translating and testing phase to implementation. New leaders are stepping up to the plate that will enable us to phase out of the training process for Retool.
  2. New opportunities are emerging for Pinnacle Ministries and relationships and partnerships are being explored to engage in the training and care of pastors. That will facilitate a proactive approach to planting and mobilizing churches in the future.
  3. God is doing some amazing things in Japan! As pastors and leaders become more proactive in engaging their community leaders, God is changing attitudes and transforming lives in Kingdom advancing ways.

Keep praying for Japan!









Photo: Pastor Hikaru Kishio demonstrating servant leadership as we visited the Edo Museum in Tokyo.


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Rengo Pastors’ School – Step 4

Friday the Pastors’ School began in earnest as the pastors gathered to present the assessment work they have done since our last meeting .  The questions are deceptively simple; the answers are not!  The day was spent answering, 1) What did you discover from your congregational assessment? 2) What did you discover from your community assesment?, 3) What feedback did you get as you considered your Strenghts, Weaknesses, Opportunities and Threats?

Pastors SchoolThe basic idea is, “Where are we now? What opportunities in the community present themselves, and how do we connect the two.  Remember, however, these are small churches, from 8-50 in size.  Limited resources, limited manpower, limited time.  That should sound familiar, however, as that also pretty much describes the church in the opening chapters of Acts.

I’m constantly struck by the parallels between these two churches.  And I take heart as we have the record of history to show us how the little church of Acts went on to change history.  I can testify that these pastors exhibit a  dedication, focus and heart that would make the Apostle Paul proud!  The School continues Saturday morning. and again on Monday.

We also had the opportunity to meet with President Takanori Kobayashi, Ph.D., of Tokyo Christian University, to explore the potential Retool might hold for the college.  It was a great meeting, and we deeply appreciate the time this busy man gave to us and the pastors of the Pastors’ School.

Pray for:

* Clarity as we continue to help them assess their ministries and discern next steps

* Rest and preparation for preaching in churches on Sunday


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Future Pastors and Leaders

One of the greatest needs for the future of the church in Japan is trained pastors and leaders. As is often the case in the United States, seminary education in Japan focuses more on Biblical knowledge and theology than on practical theology,  personal growth and spiritual maturity.

But that is beginning to change and there are hopeful signs for the church as a result. It was our privilege to engage with future leaders this evening as we taught the first class of the semester in Leadership and Church Formation at the Ochanomizu Bible Institute. Dr. Makoto Fukui is the professor for the class and has taken the lead in translating and introducing The Church Retool Kit Pathway in Japan. While Pinnacle is engaged in training current pastors in Retool, this was an opportunity to train those who are preparing for ministry in the near future and provide a foundation for starting and strengthening churches of the Rengo Association.

The class of seven was a mixture of deacons and church leaders-in-training of various ages who appeared eager to learn how they can help their individual church impact its community. In 90 minutes (including translation) we were only able to give them an overview of the Becoming A Church of Impact Conference. But they seemed to resonate with the practicality of the 5 mile-markers (or kilometer-markers) on the road to impact.

Pray for:

* Dr. Fukui over the course of the semester as he unpacks these key principles in ways that will enable them to apply them in the Japanese culture.

*Gary and Ray as they lead Session 4 of the Rengo Pastors’ School on Friday (and Monday)

*For our meeting with the President of Tokyo Christian University on Friday at 4:00

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Safe Arrival

We arrived safely in Japan on Wednesday at 5:00 PM. After checking into our hotel and enjoying a light meal we managed sufficient rest (off and on with the jet lag and all) and are now ready for our first day of ministry.

Somehow we jumped from September 30 to October 2nd in what seemed like less than a day which can be a bit disconcerting if you spend too much time thinking about.

Right now we are using our Retool strategy to plan our day, asking the three basic questions: where are we now (Narita), where do we want to go (Ochanomizu Seminary), and, how do we get there (by 2 trains).

Pray that our strategy is correct and that our teaching will be clear and beneficial to the students of Dr. Makoto Fukui’s class. We will be giving them an abbreviated overview to the Church Of Impact Conference which will provide the background for his class on Leadership.

We will keep you posted at the end of the day. Thanks for praying!

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Next Phase Training in Japan

FukuiKishioTuesday, September 30th, Gary Harrison and Ray Swatkowski will be heading to Japan to minister to the pastors and churches of the Rengo and beyond. It’s part of an on-going effort to strengthen and mobilize the churches of Japan as they seek to spread the Gospel under incredibly difficult challenges. With a population of 128 million, it’s the 10th largest country in the world, but Christians comprise less than 2% of the population. The average Japanese church has 35 people and a part-time pastor! Dr. Makoto Fukui (Right-Director of Mission for the Rengo Association of Churches) says he sees Retool as a tool that can help break through the walls that surround the church. Pinnacle brought Dr. Fukui and Pastor Kishio (left) to the US this past week to help train them in Natural Church Development, and now we return to Japan. We need your prayers, and for those so moved, your financial support to make this happen.

Prayer Schedule

Sept 30 – Oct 1 – Safety in travel

Oct 2 – Teach at Ochanomizu Bible Institute

Oct 3 – Teach at Rengo Retool Pastors’ School

Meeting with President of Tokyo Christian University

Oct 4 – Meet with Converge WorldWide Missionaries

Oct 5 – Ray preaching at Tamagawa Christian Church

Gary preach at Nizashiki Baptist Church

Gary to share at Cancer Support Ministry sponsored by the Church

Oct 6 – Teach at Rengo Retool Pastors’ School

Oct 7 – Free day

Oct 8 – Safety in travel home

Thanks in advance for praying! We will keep you posted as the week progresses.

For more info about Pinnacle and how to support our ministry, go to: 

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