For Sagi, attending church often feels like a burden.
“On Sundays, after a long, stressful week, it’s hard to find the motivation to go to church,” Sagi said. “It’s not that I don’t like church or don’t believe in God, but work and day-to-day life make it hard.”
Sagi lives in Japan, so her “day-to-day life” includes living in a place where less than 2% of the population openly professes Christianity. One of the reasons it’s so rare is that being a Christian and attending church is often seen as shameful and dishonoring your family, friends, and co-workers.
“That shame is such a burden that some believers even wait for their parents to pass away before attending church for the first time,” says Rev. Masao Yamashita.
As the Japanese ministry leader for Back to God Ministries International, Yamashita wants to help people like Sagi. He knows the importance of building connections with other believers.
Working closely with Reformed Church in Japan congregations across the country, Yamashita helps pastors and church members create videos introducing the church to people in their area. The video series, The Church in My Town, gives people interested in church a glimpse into the building and the people who make up the church.
Such videos, along with radio programs and online devotionals, create an easy, relatable, and safe entry point into the Christian faith. The typical barriers that keep people like Sagi from attending church begin to break down.
But the barriers don’t end with one visit to church.
Yamashita remembers a period in his life when he wasn’t attending church regularly. When he did attend, people would usually comment on his lack of attendance.
Yamashita strives to make church feel more like going home.
“You don't need a reason to go home,” Yamashita said. “It should be the same with the church. God is always there, saying, ‘Welcome home.’”
For Sagi, Yamashita’s advice was to find small reasons to motivate her to attend church. He also encouraged her to start viewing her church as her second home, where she is always welcome.
With most churches in Japan closed because of COVID-19, Yamashita and BTGMI’s Japanese ministry team recognize that there will be even more people like Sagi once churches reopen. Please pray for these people who faithfully follow BTGMI’s programs each week but need encouragement to take the next step in their faith.