Friday, November 21, 2008
"What is impossible with men is possible with God." Luke 18:27
I started with that verse because what I am planning to write about seems to be an impossibility. Praise the Lord we serve the God who loves to do the impossible!
In the summer issue of Japan Harvest, the magazine written for and by missionaries in Japan, one missionary wrote about the annual report of the church information service. As many of you already know, I am not a numbers person at all. (The running joke in our mission family is that Shan can go into a convenience store, buy a drink, and not remember how much it cost when she gets back into the car!) So, as I comment on this, know I am looking at the magazine right in front of me and trusting the author of the article to have explained it properly.
According to the report there were 8,665,000 people in Osaka in 2007. (I am just commenting on Osaka since that is where I live.) For those 8.6 million people there are 574 churches. According to the chart that means there is one church per 15,000 people. In this prefecture of 8.6 million people about 26,000 attend church regularly.
Looking at the number of baptisms last year in all of Japan it averages out to one person becoming a Christian every hour. However, in that same hour 115 people die without knowing Jesus.
As the author of the article said, this paints a pretty gloomy picture of Christianity in Japan. (His predictions of what the future looks like if we continue in this same rate of growth paints an even darker picture.) However, he choses to look at the positive side and use this data as a wake up call.
The future of evangelism in Japan needs to be different. Lay evangelism needs to become a central part of outreach here. We cannot leave evangelism to just the professional pastor and missionary. How do we do this in a culture based on hierarchy in relationships, in a culture based on respecting and not questioning leaders?
I don't know. But I do know that I serve the God of the impossible and He will continue to guide and teach. And, the picture of the future of believers in Japan is getting lighter!
Pray to the God of the harvest to send workers-including lay leaders!-into the field!