Japan: Small Church, Big Vision

Twenty-five years ago, Misato Reformed Church in Japan was a small church plant in the middle of rice fields outside of Tokyo. Today it is a light for Christ in an ever-growing city.

Rev. Hiortsugu Mochida, a pastor with the Reformed Church in Japan (RCJ), started Misato RCJ with two Christian Reformed World Missions (CRWM) missionary couples, Mike and Trudy DeBerdt and Richard and Sandy Sytsma.

Initially the church had nine people, five of whom were children. Missionaries preached, taught, and did some evangelism. Mochida led the church’s evangelism activities and handled culturally sensitive tasks. Over time, Misato became an organized church of over 40 people.

Sharing the gospel in Japan has never been easy. Even after hundreds of years of missions, fewer than 1 percent of Japan’s people believe in Christ. Yet Japanese Christians and missionaries refuse to be discouraged. Instead they continually search for new outreach opportunities.

CRWM missionary Ken Lee has been working with Misato RCJ for three years. Along with mentoring young adults, he offers the church ideas and encouragement on reaching out. His work reflects CRWM’s shift from planting churches in Japan to strengthening existing churches for outreach.

“Many missionaries planted and watered Misato RCJ diligently,” said Lee. “Now I see the fruits of their labor. Misato RCJ wants to reach out, even if it means going out of its way to do it.”

Misato RCJ draws people in by offering concerts, cooking classes, Korean lessons, social events, and other activities. It has also offered Bible studies and courses like Alpha. While none of their recent visitors has embraced the gospel yet, the church is becoming known as a welcoming place.

Church members are also trying to start more intentional conversations. About a year ago, many of them participated in a CRWM-led “Friendship Evangelism” workshop. People shared questions, fears, and uncertainties about reaching out. Then they did some role-playing to practice moving conversations beyond surface dialogue. The experience gave people new courage for sharing the gospel.

“Manpower is a big hindrance to evangelism in Japan,” noted Lee. “Japanese churches are small, and many of their members are elderly.” Despite these challenges, the people of Misato RCJ are committed to telling others about Jesus.

Some of the church’s young adults are helping to lead the way. A young married couple moved farther into Tokyo to have a shorter work commute. Since then they have been inviting young adults in the area to monthly gatherings and Bible studies. They hope the gatherings will encourage believers and attract others to the gospel message.

“Rev. Mochida and his congregation are on fire, evangelizing to their neighbors and beyond,” said Lee. “My wife, Jeannie, and I came to Japan to expand God’s kingdom. Misato Church’s enthusiasm for his kingdom expansion encourages and motivates us to take part in it more diligently.”

The rice fields around Misato RCJ have been replaced by tall buildings. But the church’s passion for reaching the community has not disappeared—it’s only grown stronger.

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