Today, Japan is the largest, currently* non-evangelized nation that is completely open to missionaries.
*Japan was initially reached by Jesuit missionaries in the 16th century and even believed to be reached by Nestorian missionaries prior to Buddhism in the 8th century. However, years of persecution and more than 200 years of closed access to the country between the 17th and 19th centuries resulted in the almost total eradication of all remnants of Christianity. (More to come about that in a future post).
“One of the least reached nations in the world.” In rural towns on the west coast of Japan, you will only find one Christian out of 10,000 people.
In Japan, 0.43% of the Japanese are church members and about half of those regularly attend church. The average attendance of a good-sized church is about 30 people. Churches in the countryside often have only 4-10 believers.
“According to the Global Research Team, in 29 of Japan’s 47 prefectures, at least 50% of the towns do not have a church. Two prefectures have no churches at all.”
The majority of people in Japan have never heard the gospel and have had little opportunity to hear the Gospel. My heart breaks to think about this.
There is also a desperate need for pastors and especially evangelists.
It is said that the average age of Japanese pastors is between 60 and 70 years old. More than 75% of the Pastors are over the age of 55. There are more pastors over the age of 80, than pastors under 30. When pastors retire, churches close down.
Graveyard for Foreign Missionaries
Many missionaries have traveled to Japan only to return to their home country, discouraged. Northern European, North American, Australian, and South Korean missionaries often go to Japan, but have a difficult time because of cultural differences and language barriers that take years or even decades to overcome. Japan is said to be a “Graveyard for Foreign Missionaries.” As a Japanese citizen, fluent in the language and culture, God has already given me open access to the people in two areas that remain the most complicating factors and constant obstacles to foreign ministry in Japan.