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Japan’s Ageing Pastors

A gray-haired man slowly gets up and walks to the pulpit, as he has done for several decades. He looks out on a congregation of 40 people, mostly women, and begins preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ, the good news of God’s grace and the rescue of sinners.He exhorts the fledgling congregation to follow Jesus wholeheartedly. Jesus is worthy of their praise and devotion. He’s worth more than the ample sums of money that sit in some of the church attendees’ bank accounts. He’s worth more than the social stigma that often comes with being a follower of Jesus. He’s worth more than being just one among many “gods” in people’s spiritual lives. Jesus is the Lord and there is no other.

As he finishes the sermon, the aging pastor returns to his seat, exhausted. He then bows his head and prays. He prays for those who heard the message, that they would respond with new or deeper faith in Jesus. He also prays that God would raise up more members to be actively involved in the church’s ministry. Finally, he prays for God to provide a successor to his ministry. At his age, he doesn’t know how much longer he can keep up the hectic pace of pastoral ministry. Currently there are no suitable replacements among the church members. Furthermore, the pipeline of young pastors in the country has slowed to a trickle.

Such is life for many pastors in Japan. Nearly 89 percent of Japan’s pastors are over the age of 50.[1] They lead churches that average about 35 attendees every week.[2] Unfortunately, in recent years the growth of the church has stagnated, along with the number of Japanese Christians in full-time pastoral ministry.

The Japanese church needs shepherd leaders. In a country where less than one percent follow Christ and where materialism and the traditional Japanese religions of Buddhism and Shinto keep millions in spiritual darkness, living a life committed to Jesus often comes at a significant cost. Like Christians everywhere, Japanese believers need encouragement in their walk with Christ, that they would persevere and be the light of the world that Jesus calls them to be.

[1] 2015 survey by Christian Shimbun Company (a Christian newspaper company in Japan). The data was published in a Japanese book, Databook: Seeing the future of mission in Japan (title translated from Japanese). Book published by Word for Life Press Ministries as an initiative of the All Japan Congress on Evangelism.

[2] Japan – State of Missions Infographic, TEAM.

Will you pray for Japan?

  • Ask God to raise up more pastors among Japan’s younger generations.
  • Ask the Lord to move in the hearts of Japanese men to respond to the gospel and stop worshiping at the altar of work.
  • Pray for Japanese believers to look for ways to use their talents and spiritual gifts for the building up of the church.

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