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.
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)