Tackling the threat of Japan’s ageing population.
Having become the world’s first ‘hyper–aged’ country, with over 25% of the population over the age of 65, Japan is facing something of a demographic crisis. The country’s Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida, has warned that the ageing population and low birth rate pose an urgent risk to society.
The church is not immune to this risk. Today, a significant percentage of Japanese pastors are over the age of 70, and some predict that 50% of all churches in Japan will be without a pastor by 2030. With evangelical Christians making up well below 1% of the population (and declining), there is not a vast pool of young believers from which future leaders can be found.
However, our partners in Tokyo have established an exciting initiative through which this problem is being tackled head on. The Samurai Project trains people to read, understand and faithfully proclaim the Bible, aiming to raise up the next generation of Bible–centred servant leaders for Japan. Their prayer is that as the Samurai (students) wrestle with God’s Word, they will be made more like Jesus, growing in their ability and passion to serve the Lord in the churches of Japan. Many participants originate from Tokyo, but some come from further afield to undertake the training alongside a ministry placement in a church. Through these placements, the Samurai are trained by an experienced church leader in a local ministry context.
At first, the training syllabus adopted a classroom–style approach, but teaching practice sessions have now been introduced alongside, giving the Samurai opportunities to prepare and give a short message and receive feedback. Kumi was a Samurai apprentice in 2021–22, and said, “the Samurai Project transformed the way I read the Bible – not just plucking a verse out of somewhere but paying attention to its literary, historical and theological context.”
Shutaro planned to undertake ministry in Turkey until the pandemic thwarted his plans. Stuck in Tokyo, he sought greater involvement in his local church. His pastor pointed him towards the training, offering an internship within the church alongside. Shutaro said, “I was given abundantly more than what I was looking for, and I joyfully decided to join the project because I felt that this was what God had given me.”
Reflecting on the training, Shutaro felt that he learned a lot of good practical theology and was blessed with many opportunities to think about what it means to work for God: “I have been given opportunities to preach, to write and lead Bible studies, and I have been able to face the Bible more than ever before. I am so grateful for the wonderful opportunities, teachers, and friends I have been blessed with, and I hope to grow as a Christian and a servant through this.”
We long to see many young believers follow in the footsteps of Kumi and Shutaro, grappling with God’s Word and learning to serve the Lord alongside experienced pastors. We are excited to support this project in the eager anticipation that God will use these Samurai to build His church in Japan. What a joy it will be if, in ten years’ time, we see the trend of ageing elders and church decline reversing because the Lord has been at work through the Samurai Project, raising up leaders who bring God’s Word to the nation and bear much fruit!
HOW TO PRAY
- Give thanks for the Samurai Project and all who have been trained so far.
- Pray that Japan’s church leaders would actively seek to disciple a new generation of leaders for the church.
- Pray that many young believers would be eager to study God’s Word, going against the culture of extreme dedication to the workplace.
- Lift up those undertaking ministry training taking in the local churches and pray that they would be faithfully discipled by wise leaders.
- Pray for wisdom as the team look to expand the work and partner with new churches.