The Connect 2020 Plan: Bridging the gap
The Southern Baptists are partnering with others to leverage next year’s Olympics to generate gospel conversations and spur the local church on in reaching Japan
Often when talking about the mission field in Japan I call attention to the activity of the church in Japan. God, in his grace, has gone before us and allowed his gospel to affect the hearts of men and women across the country. At the same time, even in places with larger Christian populations like Tokyo, it is easy to find large pockets of lostness with no Christian presence. This should alarm us and the church in Japan. What can we do and where can we start?
The Connect 2020 Plan offers an opportunity for the church to leverage the Olympic atmosphere to show God’s love to the lost in Japan. It has three goals: connect Japanese to God, connect Japanese believers to other believers, and connect Japanese believers to the world. This plan has three main projects. The aim of each project is to foster gospel conversations, not merely gospel presentations. These projects would be impossible without healthy partnerships.
The ECHO Project
The first component of Connect 2020 is the ECHO Project. It will be a stationary space active during the Olympic Games and will offer a free coffee house, a stage space, play zones, and booths.
Key partners for this project are Daniel and Ronaele Hamilton and their US home church. The Hamiltons used the coffee-house model during the Nagano Olympics and saw an estimated 18,000 gospel engagements happen. The Hamiltons are playing a major role in the ECHO Project thanks to their experience and drive to see Japanese come to know Jesus.
Japan International Sports Partnership (JiSP) is another key partner for the ECHO Project. Many churches and parachurch groups in Japan are looking to JiSP to help them answer the question: What are we doing for the Olympics? We are doing everything we can to help them answer that question. Hajime Okazawa, a staff member of JiSP, attends ECHO Project planning meetings and is one of many Japanese consultants that Connect 2020 looks to for help as we develop the project. Together, JiSP and Connect 2020 will provide training in evangelism, prayer, and discipleship; and the Connect 2020 projects will serve as a discipleship lab.
Open Crowd Festivals
The second project is Open Crowd Festivals.1 Connect 2020 will use festivals to help local churches to engage their community and connect them to God by exhibiting Christian joy in a festival setting. We will work in partnership with Marty Woods of Fusion International. Marty and his team will help us identify locations for these events and train volunteers to serve at these events. Their goal is to hold Community Festivals in 500 communities between the start of the Rugby World Cup and the end of the Paralympics. The festivals Connect 2020 organizes will contribute to that goal.
The third project, viewing parties, encourages local churches to engage their community by throwing parties to watch the sporting events together. At the parties, athletes, coaches, and other Christians will use natural breaks (i.e. commercials) to share their testimonies and initiate gospel conversations. Tokyo Baptist Church hosted several viewing parties on their premises during the Rugby World Cup. The model is simple and designed to be reproducible at other churches across Japan. Tokyo Baptist Church invites local churches to learn more about the model and consider hosting parties. Connect 2020 desires to assist local churches in hosting parties by providing volunteer teams as well.
Another one of our partners, the International Sports Federation (ISF), has committed to help Connect 2020’s international volunteer teams with logistics during the 18 days of the Olympics. ISF is also involved with all of our other partners; it is a joy to see how God uses this cross-networking to bring us all together for his glory! With ISF’s help, volunteer teams will be able to maximize their time and resources during the Olympics when housing, travel, and other factors become nightmarish.
Empowering the church
To use metaphors from sports, the heart of Connect 2020 is that of a coach, water-boy, and cheerleader. From a coaching perspective, we hope to offer training and opportunities for the church in Japan to reach new potentials which the Bible says are possible. As a water-boy, we want to be a source of healthy support and refreshment for the local church as we work hard together in obedience to the Lord. Lastly, as cheerleaders, we hope the church will see the efforts it puts forth as worthwhile and be spurred on to keep fighting the good fight.
To learn more about the plan and how you can be involved, please visit: https://www.Connect2020.net
1. Marty Woods, “Bring Celebration into your Community” Japan Harvest, Summer 2019, 26–27.
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