What is needed for these to happen in Japan?
Our shared dream is to see Japan “filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord as the waters cover the sea” (Hab. 2:14 NIV). Only a movement of God can make that happen.
CPI (Church Planting Institute) has cast the vision of “mentoring leaders to be a part of a movement that is multiplying churches that are multiplying disciples.” What would a church planting movement look like if it happened in Japan? We would see followers of Christ virally sharing their faith, growing as disciples, and transforming society as they multiply congregations of believers.
Historically, Japan has seen periods of incredible movement towards Christ. About 100 years ago, the Japan Holiness church had rapid growth, outstripping all other Christian groups; it grew from 1,600 believers to over 19,500 in just 16 years!1Today we are seeing reproduction in some places in Japan and multiplication in other areas.
Church history around the world has stories of remarkable movements like the Methodist movement in the 18th century. China and India are two modern examples of movements, where hundreds of thousands have become disciples, and tens of thousands of churches were planted in just a few years. Missiologists are currently tracking over 990 known Kingdom Movements around the world.2 (Kingdom Movement is an umbrella term that includes Church Planting Movements and Disciple Making Movements.) Unfortunately, we have not yet seen these true disciple making and church planting movements in Japan.
Church planting and discipleship making movements
Nearly 20 years ago, several mission practitioners gathered to describe the phenomenon of these worldwide movements. David Garrison described a Church Planting Movement (CPM) as “a rapid and exponential increase of indigenous churches planting churches within a given people group or population segment.”3 They also listed ten universal elements of these CPMs that included rapid mobilization of lay people, simple churches (house/cell/micro models), and the priority of planting churches that plant healthy churches.4
Many early CPM workers sought more emphasis on obedient discipleship and began church planting focused on the early stages of evangelism and discipleship. They began to use the term Disciple Making Movement (DMM). A DMM is born out of gospel-sowing that leads to believing disciples who, in turn, multiply themselves, growing disciples beyond four generations that continue to multiply.
The terms CPM and DMM are currently used interchangeably. While a DMM emphasizes “disciples making disciples,” a CPM emphasizes “fostering and multiplying churches.”
Principles leading to movements of disciples and churches have been taught in Japan for many years by Training for Trainers (T4T), Jonathan Training (OMF), Train & Multiply (OMS), Ten-nai-gai, Four Fields, etc. Currently, in over a dozen networks, workers learning these approaches are applying them to Japan with some success.
The hindrances to multiplication
One of key factors in seeing disciple making and church planting movements take place is to understand the hindrances.
Three big hindrances in Japan are 1) dependence on church buildings, 2) reliance on formal theological training for leadership, and 3) insistence on full-time, paid clergy. These are not wrong; however, they are expensive and difficult to obtain, thus making spontaneous movements difficult.
I’ve observed some church leaders in Japan move away from the status quo. They’ve seen the Word of God has authority to confront Japanese culture and church traditions, then changed their approach. They redefine church, the role of clergy and laity, and the requirements for church multiplication. These leaders develop creative and innovative approaches to deal with meeting places and qualified leadership.
What is needed for Japan?
What would be necessary to have church planting movements in Japan as seen in other countries? Here are a few key areas that missiologists have identified:
- Abundant evangelism—that is ongoing, relational, and engaging.
- Discipleship redefined—by faith and obedience, not merely by activity.
- Mobilized laity—by training all believers to evangelize, disciple others, and plant churches.
- Enlarged leadership training—beyond formal school education to include non-formal training and informal mentoring approaches.
- Prayer for the nation—that God would make all of this possible.
Imagine if we addressed the first four, and covered it all with prayer? We would see viral evangelism, obedient disciples, communities changed, and congregations multiplying. Movements would happen.
1. John Wm. Mehn, Multiplying Churches in Japanese Soil (Pasadena, CA: William Carey Library, 2017), 55-57.
2. Mission Frontiers, Sept-Oct 2019, cover.
3. David Garrison, Church Planting Movements: How God is Redeeming a Lost World. (Midlothian, VA: WIGTake Resources, 2004), 21.
4. Ibid, 172.