Japan (MNN) — Of the 127 million people in Japan, only one percent of the population is Christian. The nation has been engaged with the voices of many believers for centuries, yet the Church has remained stagnant in its growth.
These facts may sound pretty disheartening; however, Pastor Joshua Hari, Asian Access Japan’s national director, has hope. He has a goal to double the percentage of believers in the nation by the year 2023. How? By ‘pouring new wine into new wineskins’.
Asian Access’ President Joe Handley recently shared in a blog post the challenge from Matthew 5:38: ‘new wine must be poured into new wineskins.’ The challenge pushes Asian Access to use the younger generation to start a revival in the Church in Japan. They want to equip and raise up the next generation of Christian leaders to help bring new growth to the Church.
To do so, Asian Access is launching a pastor training course for evangelists under 30 years old this April. It’s through this course Asian Access hopes to begin planting new churches for the unreached and new believers. Hence the “new wine” (or in this case new Church), being poured into “new wineskins” (or the lives of new believers).
Hari knows the younger generation is an integral part of the revival of the Church. He says the current average age of Japanese outreach pastors is 67-years-old, and the lack of younger leaders has suppressed the Church’s growth.
“The study at the Church gets old,” Hari says. “Their crying needs are to start the new wineskin, which means that we need to start the new Church for the new people groups or [a] younger age.”
Making a Lasting Impact
To make a true, lasting impact, Asian Access has a vision for as many churches to be planted as there are 7/11 convenience stores, which is a lot. Right now there are about 8,000 Christian churches in Japan. One Asian Access pastor, Pastor Chida, even says, “We need 50,000 churches in Japan. We need as many churches as there are convenient stores in order to truly reach Japan with Christ.”
While the gap is big, the dream is bigger – a dream Asian Access knows cannot be stopped because they have the helping hand of God.
“The heart of the Lord [is] to send the workers among the non-believer, not yet Christian,” Hari says. In Japan, there are more than 1,700 municipalities, yet one third are unchurched areas. Asian Access in Japan wants to mobilize the Gospel into all these unreached areas to start church planting.
God’s already been preparing Hari and other Asian Access pastors to lead these new wineskins for some time.
Training to Train Others
In 2016, Hari and pastors in Japan attended the annual coverage vision training conference. It took place in northern Tohoku which Hari says is the “evangelist area in Japan.”
One of the reasons why the conference was held in Tohoku was because of how the Lord has raised up the Church in that area over the past years. Since the 2011 earthquake and tsunami devastated the area, pastors have seen a revival in the Church. Amidst the tragedy and loss, many nationals affected found hope, comfort, and encouragement in the arms of Jesus.
Pastors in the affected area invited other evangelists to Tohoku in order to share how they planted churches. Hari says every year there is a topic chosen for the pastors to learn about at the conference. The 2016 conference centered around how evangelists could plant, raise up, and grow churches specifically in unreached areas.
A Christian trainer from India was invited to give advice on how they could do just that. Hari explains the trainer shared “how to find a personal piece among the no church area, and then how to start the Church, how to train the Church.”
Hari and other Asian Access pastors who attended the conference will be using the tactics they learned in 2016 to begin training 12 selected evangelists for the new pastor training program in April. The idea is to mobilize the church through the younger generation pastors and to let it spread and start new churches all over Japan.
“We identify the specific area to mobilize [the] local Church, not just the main thing [of] their church, but to catch a vision to start a new Church among the unchurched area,” Hari says.
How to Get Involved
Pray for Hari and Asian Access as they begin to train future Christian leaders this April. “My every day’s prayer is [to] send the workers. So, pray for the workers… Please pray for the harvest worker, for the future, and then also the [raising up of] the younger pastors.”
Want more ways to help mobilize the Gospel in Japan with Asian Access? Through your support, these pastors will be equipped to spread the Gospel and plant churches in Japan.
Finally, you can also go to Japan and personally share the Gospel with nationals. You have a chance to help reach some of the least reached people.
For more information, click here!