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Japan’s Desperate Need for Christ

by | Fri, Aug 6 2021

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Photo credit: Karolis Kavolelis /

It’s been so exciting to watch the coverage of the Tokyo Olympics, but it’s always challenging when there are controversies. The good news for nations around the world is that they’re seeing their athletes competing and being part of a winning spirit for their nation. There’s such a sense of pride that comes when we see our athletes performing well.

We know that in Japan, just 1% of the population are Christian. So there’s been a prayer focus that says, how do we get the church to grow? How do we get the church to flourish? To provide some insight into what’s happening as the Tokyo Olympics continue, Mary Woods joined this 20Twenty discussion. Marty is the ‘Japan International Sports Partnership Leader’, and he’s been a part of Olympic movement over the past five Olympic games.

Marty has been reflecting on the prayers of people coming from all over the world, and how moving it is to see the heart of mission for Japan to be transformed. “We’ve got to pray like we’ve never prayed before,” says Marty. “Obviously Japan is the centre of the news, but it’s been really wonderful seeing Christians stepping up and saying, we want to pray. It’s going viral. That’s the incredible thing about the internet. We have been super encouraged by people that we never would have expected, saying we want to pray for Japan at this time, for the church and for transformation. We’re so grateful and so humbled.”

Marty says it’s quite challenging for many churches in Japan. The average age of congregants is 63, and many of the Pastors are over 80 years old. Younger people just aren’t coming to church. But Marty believes that when things are bad, there’s an incredible opportunity. “I think the greatest thing about my job is that I meet with people who see beyond that disappointment and sadness. There has to be a way to reach the Japanese people. Our goal is to have 500 community support partnership teams, where a group of Christians are working together to reach out to their community. I think that’s the hope. It’s unity.”

67% of Japan's population practice Buddhism. (Photo credit: Carlos_Pascual /

Marty says that they are praying constantly for the fire of the Holy Spirit to fall. He wants to see expressions of the Kingdom everywhere, and to see that grow across Japan. Marty is actually mentoring 15 young Japanese men at the moment, and they’re the people who give him such hope for the country.

“We really believe that God is at work,” he continues. “If people visit our website, they can get some of the prayer points and find out more about Japan. We need you to just cry out for this country. We long for it to be the land of the Risen Son. That’s what our dream is.”

The goal of course, is a spiritual awakening for Japan. But what are the ingredients that are needed to get that awakening happening and how can we be a part of it from Australia or anywhere in the world? Marty says there are three things we can all be doing.

“One is unity in the church. I just feel like that’s what God loves. We’re praying that Christians can get to know each other and work together. This is what I love about our festivals. We just want people to meet Jesus, and so I think doing mission together is crucial.”

“The second thing is just praying for a softening of people’s hearts. We just long for people to be open to the work of the Holy Spirit. And then the final one is we want to find ways that we’ll really see the kingdom come. We want to empower local churches to be able to reach out to the community.”

“Our goal is by 2024, to reach a million people. We want to help the Japanese church to be in the community and to be active. We’re trying to do things creatively at church, and we have a football club that has over 400 young people.”

“We’re trying to use sports particularly as a way of helping the church to be in the community and to get to know people and to watch as they come into the Kingdom.”

Listen below to hear the rest of Marty’s discussion with Neil about growing Christianity in Japan. 

Tune into 20Twenty and join the conversation with Neil Johnson, weekdays on Vision Christian Radio. Click here for your local times.

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