Akita is the prefecture which boasts the oldest population in Japan, with one third of its people being over 65, and just one tenth under 15.
Until recently, there was no registered missionaries at all working in Akita.
To be honest, I don’t know what to think about that. Of course a place doesn’t need missionaries for a church to thrive. But they do need spiritual leaders, they do need a people committed to glorifying God with every aspect of their life, encouraging their brothers and sisters in Christ to do the same, they do need people who rest in God’s grace and who place their primary identity in him.
Of course in a prefecture with so many older people, this will be reflected in the church, but what does it mean if there are NO young people in a church at all? What does it mean for a church’s ability to serve the community, sharing God’s love in practical ways and testifying to the ultimate love showed in sending Jesus to die for us, if the average age within a church of 6 people is 88 years old?
We heard about a denomination which has 26 churches in this prefecture, which hold to a theology of salvation through faith in Christ. While these churches were originally planted by missionaries, the denomination in the home-country where most of these missionaries came from stopped teaching the need to believe in Christ’s death and resurrection for salvation, and hence no longer had people who felt motivated to go as missionaries.
Maybe these churches lost their spiritual leaders before the next generation of passionate leaders were raised up. Many of these churches now have no pastor and no pastors are being trained in the denominational seminary.
Without leadership, it sounds like these churches are in maintenance mode. But they are slowly dying. Numbers dwindle as members age and die. I’m not saying these individuals are not important by any means, but how can they now pass on their faith to the next generation?
Do they need missionaries to come in and jump-start their churches and give them a new lease of life? Or what will it take?
Pray with us for the dear old Christian folk Akita, that they might remain firm in their faith and age gracefully, that they might yet make a startling impact on their youngers.
“Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness….” – Titus 2:2
Written by Naomi H.