Last week I (Brooks) attended a retreat for young people who are part of the Presbyterian Church of Japan. My grandfather was part of this denomination many years ago and trained many of the pastors in Seminary, so I feel a special fondness toward them. They are passionately committed to the Word of God. Yet, like my grandfather, many of these men and their churches are growing older and some have even shut down because there are few young Christians to rise up in their place. I didn’t realize it, but my heart had become somewhat critical and turned off by this reality in recent years, so imagine the conviction I experienced when I walked into the room and saw 120 young people from all over the country worshipping Jesus, encouraging one another, discussing how to share the gospel with their friends, and even considering if God might send them out as foreign missionaries. And even more surprising were the number of older pastors who were attending just because they wanted to invest in the next gen.
In just an instant, I was flooded with a sense of just how foolish I had been to assume that God was not at work and how arrogant I had been to think that the young people of Japan needed US to come rescue them from the aging, curmudgeon church. In this and so many other ways, God has been showing me recently that it’s ME who needs rescue from my sense of self importance, my lack of faith, and my selfish ways. WE don’t know the best way to reach young people in Japan, so we need to be learning from and partnering with these churches instead of putting them down or casting them aside. Please pray for us as we wrestle with different ways we might go about doing that better.
There was one other thing that stood out from the conference, and that was the reminder of how hard it is to be a Christian in Japan. As the week went along, it became obvious to me that one of the unspoken reasons for the conference was to help Japanese Christians find potential mates. Less that 1% of the population is Christian, so marrying within the faith is extremely difficult. On top of that, about 70% of the Japanese church is female, leaving many to patiently endure singleness even though they deeply desire marriage. It can also leave Japanese Christians with a crushing minority complex which sometimes results in the in kinds of church situations I mentioned above. Riva an I have a running list of single Christian friends whose top prayer request right now is for a spouse. Some have even suggested that the best ministry we could have in Japan is to start a dating service for single Christians. Please join us in praying for God to provide companions for our friends and healthy families for the church, so that she can be built up and the gospel can be passed onto the next generation!