SNAPSHOTS OF DISCIPLESHIP
by Bethany Crowson
To read more about Free Will Baptist missions work in Japan, visit the International Missions website at www.fwbgo.com.
“Do you get the sense that God is doing a new
thing in Japan?”
The sentiment is echoed by an overwhelming majority of Japan’s missionary community. Evidence found in Japanese society, the Japanese Church, the greater missionary community, and among Japanese Free Will Baptists indicates God is indeed moving in Japan. Isaiah encourages, “Remember ye not the former things…Behold, I will do a new thing…I will even make a way in the wilderness, and rivers in the desert.” (Isaiah 43:18-19)
Japan’s society can accurately be described as a spiritual desert or wasteland. Less than one percent of Japan’s 127.5 million people profess Christianity. Of those, less than one-third claim to be Evangelical.
Japan has the world’s highest suicide rate. Suicide is the leading cause of death among those 25-39 years old. Almost 35,000 people a year take their own lives.
Until 1998 domestic violence was never discussed, much less condemned. Yet several recent surveys show one in 20 Japanese women live in fear of life-threatening violence.
Japan’s sex industry is nauseating. Pornography addiction among Japanese men is so prevalent the Tokyo department of transportation instituted “women only” train cars to run during rush hour. Alcoholism and gambling are growing addictions. Among a people who pride themselves on family and heritage, the family is disintegrating.
Streams in the Desert
On the surface, Japan seems like a lost cause. But through this country’s desolation trickles God’s plan for spiritual awakening. Pockets of people admit the seriousness of Japan’s problems and, consequently, the great need for healing. The younger generation, when given the opportunity, shows a sincere longing for change. The mold that has so tightly shaped the Japanese mind is beginning to crack.
So where are God’s people during this process?
Above: Bethany Crowson walks through a crowded marketplace in Tokyo.
The Lord’s army is strategically deployed and—ready or not—everyone is on the front lines. In recent years, a desire for networking and cooperation has trickled through the ranks of missionaries and Japanese believers alike to give new direction to the Japanese Church. The work of CPI (Church-Planting Institute) was born out of such teamwork, and now includes over 90 denominations and agencies working together to promote Church Planting Movements.
One Japanese pastor recently stated: “I believe the Lord is about to bring about a new wave of church multiplication throughout Japan. What we need to do is go beyond our denominations and go beyond the walls of our churches to see that the Gospel reaches every person—that the body of Christ develops new flocks. …Each one of us is a witness of the Lord Jesus. Even though our roles and the ways we function are different, we can move forward together.” Do Free Will Baptists have a similar vision? Absolutely.
A Bamboo Oasis
September 2004 marked 50 years of Free Will Baptist ministry in Japan. A celebration weekend was planned and our churches came together to praise God, evaluate the past, and look to the future. A positive outlook with a goal of cooperation, networking, and thinking outside the box was evident. As a result, Friends in Christ (FIC), a fellowship of young people with a heart to reach their peers, was formed. Churches in the Tokyo area are seeking nonprofit status with the government. New home English/Bible study groups have begun. A need for more effective discipleship and leadership training has been identified and steps taken for improvement. Some visionary pastors are seeking to lay groundwork for ministries among Chinese immigrants and college students. Free Will Baptists have just begun to scratch the surface of what God desires to do through us.
God is making streams in the desert of Japan; and
He is starting with the repentant and needy hearts of people—the hearts of future Japanese believers, the Japanese Church and its missionary community,
and Free Will Baptists.
By God’s grace, power, and with much prayer, the future of Japan will mimic the early church. “They continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine, and fellowship, and in breaking of bread and in prayers…with gladness and singleness of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved” (Acts 2:42,46-47).
About the Author: Bethany Crowson, an MK whose family ministered in Côte d’Ivoire and France, served two years as a short-term missionary in Japan. She used English conversation to reach teens and college students with the gospel.