Japan is an aging country and the population is shrinking.
The number of Japanese pastors is also shrinking,
and the average age of pastors is getting much older.
The average church has under thirty adults in attendance.
Protestant church attenders are less than 1% of the population.
The questions are:
How can we support local churches?
How can Christianity take root in Japan over a hundred years of evangelism?
In order to reach the 99% unchurched Japanese, we need to better contextualize the gospel. Perhaps one of the reasons the church is so small in Japan (>1%), is that the gospel sounds foreign to Japanese people.
In order to reach the 99% unchurched Japanese, we need to better contextualize the gospel. To that end, Jon has been researching Japanese expressions of Christianity, and shares the information with other missionaries via a podcast called JCATS. Maki has been writing Christian content for Japanese moms, both Christian and ‘Christian sympathizers’ on her Japanese Christian Blog.
As we seek to bring God’s light to the community, we are assisting other missionaries on a church plant in the next town over from ours. This church plant is staffed by missionaries, but within the Japanese Church network, great partners for church multiplication!
Most of our local friends aren’t even Christians. Through our time with these ‘regular Japanese people’, we have adjusted our ministry to think how we can reach the 99% of Japanese that don’t hang out in churches.
We are glad to share our lives together with local families and hope to nurture friendships with them long-term to see as many as possible finally come to Jesus!
Camp ministry is a great outreach in Japan, as many Japanese have been saved at camp where people feel free from the pressures of society, so we’re happy to be involved! Joy Bible Camp is the camp in West Tokyo that Elementary and Middle School students play, eat, sing and listen to the gospel for 2 weeks in summer.
Ramen and Jesus is a monthly Middle Schooler club that we started with some other Christian friends several years ago. This is especially helpful, as most churches don’t have Middle School programs in Japan.
You often hear the static 1% Christian number for Japan. Recently I’ve heard more nuance on that number that I find encouraging. First, the number that is often quoted is that 0.4% of Japanese attend or are members of Protestant churches, and another 0.6% for Catholic.
However, in a more recent study conducted by Tokyo Christian University 30% of Japanese declared an interest in or sympathy toward Christianity. 3% of Japanese call themselves Christian, but only 0.4% regularly attend Protestant churches. According to those numbers there are something like 48,000 Japanese regularly attending protestant churches, but actually 3.6 million Japanese identify as Christians.
This is significant, as there is no such thing as ‘cultural Christianity’ in Japan; the status quo is Shinto/Buddhist/non-religious. We personally know quite a few Christians who don’t attend church. Some have had negative experiences, and some don’t know which churches to trust. Sadly, Japanese are very suspicious of organized religion. For whatever reason, there seems to be more opportunities than before to connect with Japanese seekers using creative avenues like social media, but assimilating people into local churches remains a challenge. Pray for breakthroughs!