Broad thoughts to start..
The spiritual need in Japan is overwhelming. Statistically they are less than half of one percent are involved in any form of Christian Churches. (.044%).
Japan has a population of 128 million people.
Many missiologists refer to the country as one of the most unreached places on earth.
Key Statistics: Operation World speaks of specific challenges facing the Church in Japan:
a) Christianity is still regarded as an outside, Western religion rather than a universal faith with the capacity to be truly Japanese. This is despite 500 years of Christian presence in Japan. This also allows for confusion between various Western cultural imports and genuinely Christian expressions of the good news.
b) The minority complex. Christians are a tiny minority in a society where consensus and conformity are important. Too few families come to faith, and too many individuals feel exposed. Pray for the Church to reach the size of critical mass and native character that will give it social credence and acceptability.
c) Unity is lacking in a Church that numbers so few of the population. Literally hundreds of denominations and groups exist along very fragmented lines. Such organizational and theological divides and lack of nationwide cooperation hamper progress and increase attrition rates. The United Church and the JEA have started enjoying much improved relations.
d) A new way of doing church needs to be discovered. Too often traditions and forms of worship have authority nearly equal to the Bible itself. Nonessential forms of the Church must be adapted to look less like the introduced Western culture of years past and more like 21st-century Japan. House churches are another way of reaching Japanese who are uncomfortable with being part of traditional churches.
e) The strong Confucian tradition in Japan has admirably created a society with high ethical standards; the need for the Church to maintain these standards as a minimum can often lead congregations into legalism.
f) Non-active membership and withdrawal. Church attendance is low; less than half of church members regularly attend. Often, Christians are influenced by the Buddhist/Shinto religions, which have no regular attendance requirements, and they carry this thinking into Christian activities. Although evangelicals number up to 0.5% of the population, regular Protestant church attendance may be less than half of that.
g) Too few viable, active congregations. At least 70% of all churches have an average attendance of less than 25. Too much is expected of the pastor. Pray for pastors willing to activate lay people to engage in persistent, innovative outreach to non-Christians. Most churches will not have even one baptism in any given year!
h) The lack of men in churches. The drive for success and desire to satisfy the demands of employers make it hard for men to openly identify with and become active in a church. On average, women attenders outnumber men 7 to 1.
i) Dispair. Japan ranks in the top two (South Korea is also there) highest suicide rates in the world. Predominantly men. 27,000 a year. 78 a day. 1000 on average jump in front of trains. - Intensive, compliance to achieving, pressure driven society, no “grace” in the moral fabric being the primary drivers of these staggering numbers. So very sad.
Into this setting comes an opportunity for Japan.
Many see it as a moment for the Church in Japan 2019/20120 global sports events provide an opportunity for the Church to connect to the community in a way they never have before.
Recent and historic gatherings of Japan’s key evangelical leaders has led to a very special invite to Churches to “Come and help us"
Church leaders are inviting people from evangelical network groups and others outside the country to help them.
The leaders of the team bringing Churches together for the Rugby and the Olympics speak of a goal of unique mission partnered events during the Olympics.
They have extended a specific invitation for gospel centre churches to help.
They want: Leaders, community servants, sports camps, care projects, kid’s workers, youth events, musical events, prayer intercessors, etc etc.
Plans for 2019 and 2020
International Sports Federation is eager to use this extraordinary opportunity to create some kingdom traction in Japan
Our friend and partner, Marty Woods who heads up Community Festivals for the International Sports Coalition has been in Japan training local Church leaders and their congregations in running local Community Festivals. (getting the local communities to do kids community games, music, sport etc. in order to create opportunities for spiritual conversations) He has been involved in every Olympics and World Cup since 2000 and plans to move to Japan in August 2019.
He has been overwhelmed (and thankful) for the responses and the take up from Churches towards Festivals. The Japanese have built a Mission team and have set a goal of 400 Mission Initiatives during the Japan Olympics and (They are also using the Rugby World Cup as an opportunity to explore ideas for the Olympics the following year.
He has been connecting with 13 of the most innovative churches in the country. One of 400 members in Yokohama – they run a Christian school a sports Academy and a range of other programs in the community. Here is an article about their latest building – a modern school and pre-school. There are very few churches like this in Japan.
Others are in the west of the country. One in East Osaka and is involved in several outreach programs. There is a Church called the Good Samaritan Church between Osaka and Kobe. They too are a growing church and have based programs on the Church in Yokohama. Very few others are pushing forward - they love America culture and would be so excited to forge some mission partnerships.
I wanted to raise the prospect of a VISION TOUR for you or a leader of your choosing…
There is one taking place in September 2019 (17-26 September) and one in early February 2020.
Take a look at the PRE-OLYMPIC VISION TOUR Page.