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My church planting roller-coaster ride

Where I live in Japan there is roller coaster called “Diving Coaster Vanish” that at one point even goes underwater! I have never ridden that particular roller coaster, but every day for the past three years I feel like I’ve been on a church planting roller-coaster.

I’m Jessy Vogt from Germany and I’m nearing the end of my first term of service in Japan. I’ve served in the Connect Yokohama church planting team since I finished my full-time language and culture studies in Sapporo.

Highs and lows

All roller coasters have highs and lows—it’s what makes them roller coasters!

My ride on the church planting roller-coaster has some real highs. For example, there is a lot of freedom in how to do church. There are no hard rules and regulations. We are a new church plant—so we can read the Bible and observe the culture; and then we have the freedom to work out what is the best thing to do in our situation. Another high point is that because Japanese people usually don’t have any Christian or church background, it’s exciting to see them understand things and get excited about the Bible. They are often surprised by the Bible’s teaching.

But there are also deep lows. I find that, in general, Japanese people do not have much interest in Christianity. This is often because it is viewed as something Western. As a result, Japanese people don’t consider it something to concern them personally. I also find that many Japanese Christians often do not do much ministry, and sometimes (even in non-pandemic times) do not even attend church services. This is often because they are super busy.

The highest point of my roller-coaster ride thus far was when one Japanese lady came to an English-language Bible group and to a ladies Bible study. She asked deep questions. She got excited about God’s Word and understanding spiritual truths.

But then another lady, who said at first that she believed in Jesus, drew back over the next year and now doesn’t show any interest in the Bible. That was the lowest point of my “ride”—maybe like going underwater.

What keeps me strapped in?

In physical roller coasters passengers are strapped in—they can’t escape. In this roller-coaster that is church planting in Japan, what keeps me ‘strapped in’? What keeps me going?

Well, it’s important to remember that it is Jesus’ church, not ours, and that he has promised to build it. This is an encouragement. It reminds me that I only need to be faithful. It also helps to remember how the prophets in the past proclaimed God’s message—but no one listened. This makes me realise that it’s not about the numbers; I just have to share what God has shared with me.

But when I see Japanese people honestly seeking God—those moments encourage me to keep me going. For those few, the church is still here.

So we have to keep riding the roller-coaster of church planting in Japan! We must do it so that Japanese people no longer see church and Christianity as something strange and foreign. We must do it so that desperate or searching people have a place to find hope. We must go on doing it so that Christians can influence their surroundings and seek the best for their community. And we must do it so that God’s kingdom is built.

If God is calling you, I challenge you to join us for the roller-coaster ride of your life.

By Jessy, an OMF missionary (as told to Peter)

Will you pray for Japan?

  • That God would build his church in Japan.
  • That God would enable church planters in Japan to be faithful, through the highs and the lows.
  • That God would raise up many more church planters: Japanese and missionaries.

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