This was one of the questions that was asked while interviewing the pastor in Osaka on the mission trip several weeks ago.
We were able to ask about the pastor’s personal experience with his experience of decades of ministering in the country of Japan, how his education and experience in the land of the missionary’s graveyard has shaped his thinking and concern for the future of ministry in Japan.
Here are a few of the answers he shared with the team.
1. The Church that is Only Aging with Older Members
If we continue with what we have, then the church will eventually disappear in the future. Today, the greatest danger the church is facing in a sense is to prevent the church from not to die.
For where the ministry is, is where the church is at. Therefore, where the church is at, is where the people are at. If the church no longer exists, then the people will be on their own.
So, for the church NOT to disappear, what should we do? That is the fundamental question that daunts us on a day to day basis.
2. The Old Ministry System Facing the Rapid Changing Culture
Many decades ago, missionaries have come and shared revival service to call out people to repentance, but it’s not like that anymore. Time has changed and that doesn’t work anymore. People are not the same way as the thought process back then and how it used to be anymore.
It is huge when each believer to walk humbly / faithfully unto the Lord. When that crumbles, everything else falls apart. Ultimately, Christianity is a personal relationship with the Lord rather than a group voted in sort of organization. Christians need to be able to disciple and follow closely unto Jesus. For there is a lack of unity within the minds and hearts of people in corporate prayer for the sake of the gospel of Jesus.
Our generation lives in a time marked by tiresome weariness. As a result, Christians too are tired and attending Sunday service seems all they can give.
American Churches are in the Exact Same Crisis
As I was listening and interpreting (translating) for the interview, I couldn’t help to think, “That is the same struggle American pastors are asking.”
For recently, there was a new study from Exponential done by the team lead by Scott McConnell who serves as the Executive Director for Lifeway Research that came with a staggering number. The research gives a clear picture of the state of Protestant churches in America today. The primary purpose of this study was to obtain a set of objective measures on churches.
A 1000 churches in America participate in the survey over the phone. Here are the top concerns for the pastors in America are facing as they are facing the future.
The question asked was, “What most concerns them as they look at the future of the church?” What is on the front burner? What keeps them up at night?
Pastors who took the survey were spread out, yet there were mainly 9 answers that were given, but the majority of the people zoned in the following two.
1. Reaching the next generation
2. Lack of discipleship within their congregation.
I guess, truly there is nothing new under the sun (Eccl 1:9).
The Solution to the Problem and Challenges Churches are Facing
We are in a dilemma, aren’t we? We don’t need more critiques to the problems, but people with answers to solutions to the current situation. I’m not a prophet of doom but let me tell you something; I don’t have to point out the obvious.
Many are affecting the Christian faith such as financial commitment, biblical church membership, changing demographics in their community, public distrust of the Christian community and so forth.
Here’s the only solution. Ready? Discipleship. Jesus gave us, “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:19). We live in a day-and-age for many churches the Great Commission has become the Great Suggestion of life. It is the Great Option to be considered, rather than a command to be obeyed.
I believe these top two problems will be altered once the church returns to a Christ-Centered Discipleship.
The fundamental question the church needs to ask is, “Why are we here? What is the single most important thing we cannot forget?” Everything else needs to fall in the line of that and when we go back to the Great Commission.
God told me then, “Jonathan focuses on the depth of your ministry rather than the width of your ministry.” I realized then my church was 10,000 miles wide in ministry programs yet an inch deep in spiritual maturity.
When we go back to the Word of Christ, the mission is to make disciples. For while churches are looking for decisions, Jesus is looking for disciples.
Let’s get busy. Let’s do this. Let’s go live out what we are called to do—to equip saints for the work of the ministry.