In Japan, statistics show that 99 percent of the population does not have a relationship with Christ. Those statistics represent people – living, breathing image-bearers of God whom Jesus Christ died to save.
While the task of reaching them with the gospel seems daunting, God is stirring the church in Japan to reach the nation. Even now, churches and missionaries in Japan are praying and planning for gospel opportunities as the country opens its doors to host the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
What might happen if churches around the world committed to daily prayer for the churches, missionaries and people of Japan between now and the end of the Olympics?
With its complex culture and history and its former geographical isolation, Japan has been hard to reach with the gospel. Steeped in ancient traditions of Buddhism and Shintoism, religion in Japan is a cultural identity more than a personal reality. The concept of a collective identity through religious history has made for slow progress in reaching the hearts of Japanese people.
Today in Japan, however, winds of awakening are beginning to blow. Prayer strategy leaders in Japan long to see the nation transformed by the hope of Jesus, and they’ve committed to pray daily for the nation. There is excitement and enthusiasm for what they see God doing. Signs point to a growing spiritual awakening in Japan.
- A church in the heart of a bustling shopping and social hub in Tokyo has been languishing. This church’s leaders wanted to know why Tokyo Baptist Church was healthy and growing. When they approached the church for answers, God opened the door for the leaders to speak of the importance of standing on the authority of scripture and yielding to the lordship of Christ. Through ongoing discipleship efforts and prayer, this church could soon be revitalized and play a key role in reaching the city.
- A healthy church near Yokohama has been holding festivals with remarkable results. The festivals allow local residents to meet Japanese Christians and see the joy they have found in Jesus. This has prompted people to visit the church following the festivals to learn more about what they have seen and heard. The pastor of the church is praying for God to reach 10 million Japanese people by 2024.
- Japanese people are choosing to listen to and believe the gospel as it is proclaimed during international sporting events, at ongoing festivals and through personal relationships. Additionally, Japanese businesspeople are learning from Christian business leaders how faith and business can intersect.
Increasing prayer, churches working together, and more people hearing and responding to the gospel through the church’s desire to engage the lost have all been precursors to spiritual awakenings in past generations. The signs point to a growing spiritual awakening in Japan.
A spiritual awakening happened over a century ago in the small nation of Wales in the British Isles. Evangelist Evan Roberts was a catalyst to the Welsh Revival of 1904. When it became evident that God was moving among the prayers and the preaching of those who longed for revival, Roberts asked his best friend if he thought it was possible for God to save 100,000 people. Within six months, more than 100,000 people had put their faith in Christ. As news spread, this led to the larger global awakening that drew thousands more people around the world into relationship with God.
What about an awakening in our time?
Southern Baptist churches in the United States have already been in strategic prayer and planning with International Mission Board (IMB) personnel in Japan to learn how they can collaborate to be as effective as possible in reaching the nation. The statistics are not in our favor, but we can still believe that this supposed missionary graveyard will rattle to life like the dry bones in Ezekiel and that God will raise a vast army to proclaim His truth, not only across Japan, but around the world.
We could very well be on the brink of a spiritual awakening in Japan. Let us commit to being a church defined by prayer and obedience to the Great Commission with the blessed hope that an awakening will sweep across the world in our time, just as it has in the past.
(EDITOR’S NOTE – Bryan Pittman is the family pastor and missions strategy leader at Lee Road Baptist Church in Taylors, S.C.)