Out of a population of 126 million only 0.3 percent are evangelical Christians, making Japanese people the second largest unreached people group in the world. That population is, however, shrinking and births are at a record low. Japan is a place of great scenic beauty, advanced technology and apparent social harmony. But there are significant concerns beginning to be shared by society at large such as long working hours, a high suicide rate, bullying and hikikomori (social recluses).
Most Japanese identify as both Shinto and Buddhist. Many people have little problem practicing more than one religion, since they view each religion as beneficial in different ways at different times. In this context, preaching Christ as the only way of salvation is a huge challenge. Pray with us for spiritual breakthrough in Japan leading to vibrant churches where individuals, families and communities are transformed by God’s love.
Most Japanese do not know a Christian and have little, if any, idea what the gospel is about. There is a real need for Japanese Christians and missionaries to be bold and creative in making Jesus known in their families, neighborhoods, workplaces and schools. New ways of evangelism are also needed to reach the next generation.
In Japan nearly 1,500 communities with populations of 3,000-50,000 have no church. There are also many social groups in large cities that are unreached. As the population of Japan is projected to halve by the year 2100, many regional towns could disappear. Wisdom is needed in deciding how to plant new churches that will thrive in this context.
The average Japanese church now sees less than one baptism a year. With increasingly elderly congregations, the church needs to reach the next generation for Jesus in order to survive. Yet 30 percent of churches do not have any children’s work.
Nearly half of Japanese pastors are over 70 and only 10 percent are under 50. Thirty percent of churches have no pastor. Missionary numbers have also dropped 40 percent since 1997. There is an urgent need for more gospel workers and more lay ministry. Yet with long working hours and little free time, few Japanese are able to make room for much more than attending a worship service.
As a whole, the Japanese church is declining and quite divided along denominational lines. It is easy to feel discouraged. May the church remember the Great Commission and be one that goes out to the whole world and tells the gospel to all people. The number of foreign residents in Japan is also increasing, presenting both a challenge and an opportunity.
Partner with God’s work in Japan through prayer. Visit omf.org/pray-for-japan for more information about prayer resources for Japan.
Mobilizing your community to join God’s work in Japan is a vital ministry. Will you encourage others to pray and serve?
We’re praying for 200 workers by 2020—could you be one of them? There are short, mid, and long term opportunities to be involved in making disciples in Japan through church planting, assisting Japanese churches, student work and youth outreach, as well as variety of support ministries. For more information visit opportunities.omf.org.