We’re thrilled that you’re considering serving in Japan! While the land, people and culture here are beautiful in so many ways, there is a depth of darkness that lies right beneath the surface. Despite over 150 years of missionary activity in the modern era, the nation has remained consistently unreached, with fewer than 1% of the population identifying as Christian. Among Protestant churches, 1 out of 8 have no pastor, and nearly half of all Japanese pastors are over the age of 70. Christian leaders here envision a Japan where there are 50,000 churches, one for every community, but at the present time, there are fewer than 8,000 Protestant churches. The need is significant. By God’s grace, after many years of dwindling missionary numbers, God is raising up a new generation of laborers here. Will you consider serving in Japan?
The mission of Japan Launch is to provide an environment in which Pioneers missionaries and their families can prepare themselves for thriving and effective long-term church planting ministry in Japan.
The prospects are as bright as the promises of God.
Adoniram Judson, missionary to Myanmar
Do you not say, ‘There are yet four months, then comes the harvest’? Look, I tell you, lift up your eyes, and see that the fields are white for harvest.
What is the purpose of the Launch program?
Japan Launch is a program that prepares Pioneers missionaries for long-term church planting by focusing on three legs (heart posture, skills & knowledge) as they apply to five strands (language learning, cultural engagement, spiritual formation, collaboration & church planting). The length of the program depends entirely on each Launcher’s rate of progress towards goals related to the legs and strands; for the average new missionary, this typically takes a minimum of just over two years, but new missionaries are encouraged to move at a pace that works for them, even if that means taking three or more years.
Church planting work in Japan can expose the deepest of insecurities and vain ambitions. At Japan Launch, we aim to ensure that our hearts are growing steadily warmer towards God, the Japanese people, and each other.
While we come with our own sets of gifts and skills, there are many new skills that we must add to our tool-belt in order to have thriving and effective long-term ministry in this nation that holds excellence as a high value.
Japanese culture is a high context culture, meaning that things are often expressed indirectly or through other means. We strive to establish a solid foundation of knowledge that will enable us to sensitively love our Japanese neighbors.
New missionaries to Japan are coming from different places, backgrounds, experiences, skill sets, and gifts. In a complex and often challenging ministry environment such as Japan, the Japan Launch team exists to help missionaries to not merely survive, but also to thrive. Furthermore, with its long missionary history, the Japanese ministry context is uniquely complex. Japan Launch seeks to equip missionaries so they can be fruitful and effective in this notoriously difficult field. It’s our hope that, coming out of Launch, you would have even greater faith and hope for the people of Japan!
Since much of the curriculum of the Launch program is created and taught by other missionaries and ministry leaders serving all around Japan, Launch members will have the opportunity to interact with all of the church planting teams, in order to discern which team(s) might be a good fit for future long-term ministry. Upon completing the Launch program, Launch members apply to join an existing team or start a new team.
Who should consider serving in Japan and joining the Launch program?
If you have a passion for God and a humble heart, and you desire to see God glorified among unreached peoples, then we invite you to pray about serving in Japan. There are many significant needs here, including but not limited to: sports ministry, counseling ministry, engagement of certain subcultures (ie, surfers, musicians), discipleship, disaster preparedness, English classes, children’s ministry, web design, and much more. Above all of these things, there is an urgent need for more people to bring the gospel of Jesus Christ to their Japanese neighbors and friends.
At the same time, due to the rigors of serving in Japan, you might consider the following factors when praying about whether the possibility of serving in Japan:
These are but a handful of common challenges that await those with a heart for Japan. Serving in Japan brings with it fewer material sacrifices than serving in most other unreached fields. But as you can see above, there are significant sacrifices of the heart that must be made. If you have hesitations or questions about the above, please reach out and we’d be happy to help you process whether Japan might be a good fit.
If you continue to feel excited about serving in Japan, then we invite you to give serious consideration to the Japan Launch program. Apart from those who’ve had extensive experience serving in Japan, all Pioneers appointees who feel the Lord’s leading towards Japan are strongly recommended to complete the Japan Launch program before joining a church planting team. While Launch is a training program, it’s by no means limited to new, inexperienced missionaries; in fact, counted among its alumni are several missionaries who’ve served terms in other countries, as well as missionaries who’ve served in Japan for several years.
What should Launch members expect?
Based on our own experiences as well as observations of missionaries in different field contexts, the first term on a new field is almost always disorienting and difficult in ways that missionaries could not have anticipated. The Launch team and other Pioneers missionaries serve and assist Launch members, creating a supportive and safe environment to work through surfacing insecurities and temptations, as well as providing practical help and guidance as needed.
Launch members should not expect Launch to be a “soft landing” into church planting work in Japan. It’s often through severe challenges that God shapes us into the people and ministers he wants us to become. It’s our responsibility on the Launch team to help shepherd missionaries towards the God who has called them here, even as we help inspire a love and appreciation for the Japanese people whom God has uniquely made in his image. Thus, while there is some intellectual content that’s covered through the program, it’s not primarily academic in nature. We’re most concerned not with what you know, but how your heart is growing warmer towards God, the Japanese people, and one another.
Practically speaking, most Launch members will spend the majority of their initial year or more in full-time language study, after which they will transition to a missionary practicum that gives them opportunities to practice using the Japanese language in ministry contexts. Sometime during the Launch program, all Launchers will participate in an observational period with a local Japanese partner church, during which time they can develop an understanding and appreciation of how the local body of believers gathers.
In the case of families with children, one spouse will be required to reach at least a lower intermediate level of proficiency before arriving in Japan. Once in Japan, they will enter directly into the missionary practicum stage while the other spouse begins full-time language study. Due to the demands of language learning on a family, the Launch Team recommends a number of options for childcare and children’s education in the area, which can free up parents to focus on their language learning.
During our weekly team meetings, we cover topics related to the five strands above, spend time in prayer together, process the language learning journey, and serve our children through the Jr. Launch Program. Additionally, we gather for biweekly Journey Groups (men’s & women’s groups) and regular meals.
Step #3: Invitation & Pre-Field
After completing your survey trip, here are some of the common prerequisites before moving to Japan:
We look forward to dialoguing with you and hope to meet you in person!
Get in touch if you’re curious about any of these programs or have questions for our team. We’d love to hear from you.