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The Aging Churches in Akita

Akita Prefecture has the oldest population in Japan, with one third of its people being over 65, and just one tenth under 15.

Until recently, there was no registered missionaries at all working in Akita. I don’t know what to think about that. Of course a place doesn’t need missionaries for a church to thrive. But they do need spiritual leaders. They need people committed to glorifying God with every aspect of their life and encouraging their brothers and sisters in Christ to do the same.

Of course in a prefecture with so many older people, this will be reflected in the church, but what does it mean if there are no young people in a church at all? What does it mean for a church’s ability to serve the community, sharing God’s love in practical ways, if the average age within a church of six people is 88 years old?

We heard about a denomination which has 26 churches in this prefecture, which hold to a theology of salvation through faith in Christ. While these churches were originally planted by missionaries, the denomination in the country where most of these missionaries came from stopped teaching the need to believe in Christ’s death and resurrection for salvation. Hence they no longer had people who felt motivated to go as missionaries.

Many of these churches in Akita now have no pastor and no pastors are being trained in the denominational seminary.

Without leadership, these churches are in maintenance mode. But really, they are slowly dying. Numbers dwindle as members age and die. I’m not saying these individuals are not important, but how can they now pass on their faith to the next generation?

Do they need missionaries to come in and jump-start their churches and give them a new lease of life? What will it take?

“Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness” (Titus 2:2 ESV).

Written by Naomi H.

Will you pray for Japan?

  • Pray for the older Christian folk in Akita, that they might remain firm in their faith and age gracefully, and that they might yet make a startling impact on the younger generation.
  • Older congregations is a reality in most rural churches. Pray for younger pastors to be raised up who are willing to go to rural areas.
  • Pray for wisdom for OMF as we seek to reach out into rural areas in Hokkaido, and Tohoku.

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