“You don't need a reason to go home. It should be the same with the church. God is always there, saying, ‘welcome home.’”

Rev. Masao Yamashita shared his thoughts with Sagi, a young listener to his online radio program, whose story was recently featured in The Banner. Yamashita serves as the Japanese ministry leader of Back to God Ministries International.

Only about one percent of Japanese people openly profess Christ (the same percentage of Hindus or Buddhists in North America) and many of these Christians have never stepped foot in a church.

“Church can feel intimidating to many Japanese people, Yamashita shares. “Japanese culture tells them it’s not something they should do, or be interested in. And most people don't even know what really goes on in a church building.”

Yamashita’s team is working to change the perception of church in Japan and how BTGMI, through its partnership with the Reformed Churches in Japan, bring church to the Japanese people right in their homes.

The Church in My Town video series shows people all over Japan what their local churches look like inside and what to expect in a worship service,” says Yamashita. “They are a key way of addressing any uncertainty surrounding church and lets people attend virtually before attending in person.”

A Step Closer

A look at the videos, hosted on YouTube, shows how thousands of Japanese people have taken a step closer to their local church through this ministry.

“Each video has around 2,000 views, with the most popular one at 7,500 and counting,” says Yamashita. “Even without the ability to speak Japanese, you'll also be able to see what a Japanese church looks like.”

This church in Yokohama currently has the most views in the  Church in My Town series. The video shows how vibrant and welcoming the church is and how it might appeal to a newcomer.

“Right from the very beginning I was welcomed in and the church feels like a really big family,” says one person in the video. “For me, being far from home, this is really important.”

In another popular video in the series, you can see quite a few young families at this church, which isn't always common.

“Like many churches around the world, churches in Japan often have an aging congregation,” Yamashita says.

Prayers for the Japanese Church

Yamashita asks that you please continue to pray that more Japanese people will hear about Jesus. He shared three ways you can pray.

Please pray that the Church in My Town videos break down cultural barriers and that more people in Japan feel welcome to explore their local church.

Also, pray for people in Japan like Sagi, who face many external pressures against visiting a church in a land where only about 1 percent of the population profess faith in Christ.

And pray that God uses this time during the pandemic to stir hearts and bring more people into relationship with him.