Key Prayer Issues in the Church
1. Revival and Unity in the Church
The church is divided into over 160 denominations. There are major divisions among charismatic, evangelical and mainline churches with little communication or cooperation between them. Pray that these barriers will be broken down, and the spirit of John 17:21 be lived out. Pray for revival throughout Japan -- that each church will have an effective gospel witness and renewed power in the Holy Spirit.
2. Leadership Training
Ministers need a vision for training dedicated disciples, and the skill to do it. Another concern is that even though the church has been growing at a very slow rate, because of low seminary enrollment and retirements there will be a major shortage of pastors. Ask the Lord to provide such people as described in II Timothy 2:2 for the church in Japan. An encouraging trend is that Bible schools targeting laypeople are experiencing a good enrollment.
Application of biblical truth on a daily basis is a great challenge for believers who are continually being pressured to conform to this homogeneous culture. Many baptized Japanese fall away within the first five years. Ask the Lord to impart a grace to His people that will enable them to live out Romans 12:2-20.
4. Revitalized Worship
Many churches maintain a form-centered worship that lacks vitality. Ask the Lord to break in and give His people a new song to sing for the praise of His name.
The Japanese church has only begun to be a blessing to the nations. Ask the Lord to grant His Church a vision and a burden for the nations of the earth. Japan is remembered among the Asian peoples as the nation that caused great harm and hurt during the World War II. Ask the Lord to make the church a balm and blessing to the nations of Asia (Isaiah 49:6).
Key Prayer Issues Outside the Church
Here are some issues facing Japan which directly affect the church. Remember these as you pray.
1. Rise and Fall of Religious Cults
In the past fifteen years or more, Japan has seen a rise in the number of "New Religion" cults, especially attracting Japanese younger people. A common draw is the promise of inner fulfillment through a variety of techniques of meditation, yoga, mind control and asceticism. In 1995, the Aum Shinrikyo cult's sarin gas attacks on the Tokyo subway and in other parts of Japan shocked the nation. Mind control methods used by cults have received wide attention from the media. This is an opportunity for the church to declare the Truth of God's Word.
Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons and others are active in Japan. The Jehovah's Witnesses experienced growth through 1998, but they have leveled off at about 220,000 followers (publishers). The Mormon report 114,000 members, while the Unification Church probably has more members than either of the other two groups.
There has been at least one case of a pastor in Kyoto who was arrested for raping a number of young girls. He had demanded total obedience in the church. This man's arrest was given wide coverage in the Japanese press, and it has served to cause churches and pastors to reconsider the issue of authority in Japanese congregations.
2. Secularization of Society
A survey taken in August 2005 by the Yomiuri News indicated that three out of four Japanese do not believe in any religion. In response to the question "Do you believe in any religion?" 23% said yes, and 75% said no. To the question, "Is religion important?" 35% responded positively, and 60% said no.
When asked if they had ever desired to receive help from God or god (kami ya hotoke ni sugaritai to omotta koto ga aru?), 54% said yes, and 44% said no. Of those who said they did not believe in religion (75%), 47% confessed that they had desired this help at some time.
Tokyo and Osaka have experienced a drop in population as city-dwellers flee to the suburbs for better living conditions. Commuting two hours one way to work has become the norm. Huge bedroom towns in the outlying areas of major cities are virtually vacant during the day. New approaches in evangelism are necessary to reach these communities with the gospel. There is some indication that this trend is reversing, as people move back into large condominium buildings nearer the city centers.
4. Aging Society
The "graying of Japan" is becoming a concern along with a projected decrease of the Japanese work force. Nursing homes have long waiting lists. The demise of the two and three generation household has begun as young families put their elderly in retirement and nursing homes. Christian groups like King's Garden nursing homes are seeking to step into this open door for ministry.
5. Lack of Moral Values Among Youth
Reports in antional newspapers of junior and senior high school girls selling their virginity to businessmen for $500 to $1000 continue to alarm parents. Church Sunday school aattendance continues to decline. Churches findi it difficult to hold the youth once they have entered junior high. One evangelical university professor declared that the state of the youth is an indicator of the ineffectiveness of the Church's message.
6. Economic Recession
Due to the collapse of the bubble economy of the 80s, Japan has suffered economic decline in the past few years, with many bankruptcies, unprecedented unemployment, and an increase in suicide among businessmen whose companies failed. There is an atmosphere of pessimism because of the long recession. Pray that many will turn to God in their time of need.
7. Education Issues
There is a growing support for reforming the educational system by deregulation and offering wider choices in curriculum and promoting globalization and information technology. Concern over moral and ethical education is also growing. A recent survey revealed that 76.9% of Japanese people do not speak English, so this is still a need that the church can meet through providing English conversation programs.
Bullying among school children has become a serious social problem in Japan. This problem has caused a growing number of children to stay home and drop out of school.
When you pray, remember...
1. Japan is a non-Christian nation with only about 4 out of 1,000 who are members of a Protestant church. Less than half of these members attend a church, and when you include the seekers, there are only 2.1 people in a thousand who attend a worship service. In this context the Lord uses things that may be only indirectly related to the gospel, for example, the Bible being mentioned in a secular novel, a couple being married in a Western "Christian" wedding, children attending a Catholic school, or even studying the Bible with a Jehovah's Witness. Pray that these things will give them a a desire to know more of Him.
2. As you pray for the Christian bookstores, remember that these are not only serving Christians, but are also evangelistic outposts. The Christian radio and TV broadcasts encourage believers, and have a powerful evangelistic potential as well. Church kindergartens and hospitals can provide major first steps toward Jesus.
3. Japanese Christians need encouragement to be faithful. They are such a small minority. There are many family and cultural pressures to conform in this group-oriented society, making it difficult to stand up for their faith. When we ask you to pray for the fellowship and cooperation of churches and Christians in each prefecture, remember that this a very important request.
May the Lord strengthen your heart and make you a blessing to Japan and all nations through prayer.
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