Gospel to Okinawa

Catalyzing church planting and renewal for a gospel-saturated Okinawa.

For the earth will be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD as the waters cover the sea.

Habakkuk 2:14

Okinawa's need for church planting and renewal.  
  • According to a 2020 government survey, there are 1.7 churches in Okinawa for every 10,000 residents (this ranks 40th out of the 47 prefectures in Japan for churches per capita).1
  • The churches included in the survey fall at different places along a wide spectrum of gospel alignment and health. Some will have drifted from the gospel, some will have never preached it, and some will have abandoned a missional posture and entered survival mode.
  • Despite the existing number of churches, it remains that less than 2% of Okinawans are Christian.2
  • The average size of a Japanese church is 30 people, meaning more churches are needed to reach more than 2% of Okinawans.3
 
In light of this reality, we believe that Okinawa has a great need for both church planting and church renewal. We also believe that one of the most effective ways to bring about the latter is to do the former. 

How church planting is a major factor in church renewal.4
  • Renewed Church Culture. New churches challenge other churches to self-examination. In general, the success of new churches often challenges older congregations to evaluate themselves in substantial ways. This may even bring about humility and repentance for defeatist and pessimistic attitudes. It can also lead to renewal of the body of Christ and the local church culture.
  • Outreach Innovation. New churches can boost outreach effectiveness for all churches in a city by introducing new ideas. They have freedom to be innovative, so they become the Research and Development Department for the whole body in the city. 
  • Leadership Farm System. New churches attract a higher percentage of venturesome people who value creativity, risk, innovation, and future orientation. These new leaders eventually benefit the whole body in the city and could take the baton from aging pastors. In Japan, 90% of pastors are over 50 and almost half of pastors are over 70. In addition, 1 out of every 8 protestant churches is without a pastor.5
  • Sharpened Focus on the Unchurched. New congregations, in general, are forced to focus on the needs of its nonmembers, simply to get off the ground. Dozens of denominational studies have confirmed that the average new church gains most of its new members (60–80 percent) from the ranks of people who are not attending any worshiping body. A congregation filled with people fresh from the ranks of the unchurched will thus have the power to invite and attract many more nonbelievers into the church’s life and events than will the members of the typical established body.
  • New churches may be an evangelistic feeder for the whole community. Contrary to the belief that new churches will cause existing churches to lose members, they often produce many converts who end up in older churches for a variety of reasons, such as not fitting the socioeconomic makeup of the new congregation.

1 https://bit.ly/3hjOM7a

2 https://joshuaproject.net/people_groups/11136/JA

3 https://www.om.org/en/country-profile/japan

4 Except where otherwise noted, these bullets were adapted from City to City Asia Pacific church planting intensive materials. 

5 Beneath the Surface: 30 Ways to Pray for Japan. OMF and Pioneers Japan. (2020)

The Core of GTO

The mission of Gospel to Okinawa is to catalyze church planting and renewal for a gospel-saturated Okinawa. Our vision is Gospel-centered churches reaching every part of Okinawa.

The following statements summarize our scope of work:

  • Facilitate training, coaching, assessment and resourcing of church planters and church planter candidates.
  • Cultivate interchurch collaboration on church planting initiatives.
  • Support the planting of new churches and renewal of existing churches.
  • Provide an onramp program to church planting in Okinawa.

The 2 x 2022 Challenge

Gospel to Okinawa currently has a goal to see two churches planted by 2022. Pillar Church of Okinawa has committed to planting one of these churches, and the churches participating in GTO cohorts have been challenged to work together to plant the other church.

How You Can Help

  • Pray. Here is a prayer list we put together with the help of an Okinawan pastor.
  • Connect. If you know anyone who has a desire to church plant in Japan/Okinawa or to serve on the core team of a church plant, please connect them to us. We have a church planting residency program for church planter candidates (more info can be found at the Pillar Okinawa site referenced above) and we’ll be looking for core team members for upcoming church plants
  • Stay informed. We release information on GTO developments through our mailing list (we also send more specific up-to-date prayer focuses in the monthly email). You can subscribe here.
  • Give. You can give to GTO through this page (instructions are under the bold header “designated giving”).

GTO Staff

Church Planting Residency

Pillar Church of Okinawa is offering a church planting residency for applicants who desire to plant a church in Okinawa. The residency is intended to last 2-3 years. At the conclusion, the ideal candidate would transition to the role of church planting partner, staff member at Pillar Okinawa, or both, depending on the gifting of the candidate and the needs of the church at that time. Please use the links below to find out more and to apply. 

Church Planting Residency Description (English)

Church Planting Residency Application (English)

教会開拓の研修 – Church Planting Residency Description (Japanese)

教会開拓研修期間申請書 – Church Planting Residency Application (Japanese)

Connect with GTO

If you are interested in learning more about GTO, to find out how you can partner with us, or to pray for us more specifically, please contact us at [email protected]

Also, be sure to like us on Facebook (page link and like button below) and follow us on Instagram (@gto_gospel_to_okinawa)