The Church Multiplication Vision Festa 2019 was held at Ochanomizu Christian Center in Tokyo on July 8 and 9. Started in 2014, and hosted in different cities each year, this was the fifth Vision Festa.
The event featured the “waves” of church multiplication in disaster areas, as well as in rural and urban churches in Japan. Pastors from diverse backgrounds presented on what the Lord has been doing in their respective churches. With the Rugby World Cup, the Olympics, and the Paralympics in Japan in 2019 and 2020, presentations on trends in sports ministry were also part of the program. Reports on trends in evangelism were shared from Asia and other parts of the world. Participants engaged in small group discussions exploring: urban and rural evangelism, unreached areas, sports ministries, prayer, human resources development, and ethnic groups in Japan.
Yoshiya Hari, a member of the steering committee for the event, spoke at the opening. He outlined the purpose of the gathering as providing a place for visionaries to get together and to share their visions of saturating Japan with the gospel through church multiplication.
Naohiko Kakumoto was one of the presenters sharing what the Lord has been doing in rural settings. Originally from Mutsu City, Aomori Prefecture, Kakumoto became a Christian while studying in the US. After eight years of serving a church in Fukuoka Prefecture, pastoral difficulties led him to leave the ministry. He worked at a citrus farm for three years, and then God called him anew. He moved to serve in Aomori Baptist Church.
On the first Sunday in Aomori, a man came running toward Kakumoto. He was a seeker and wanted to be baptized the following Sunday. Kakumoto learned the new believer had been attending church only once a month, because it took two hours to get there. So he offered to go to the man’s neighborhood to hold worship services. Thus began their worship at a restaurant run by a Christian, in Mutsu City, which also happens to be Kakumoto’s hometown. God added one believer after another in Mutsu. Over the period of a year the three-person worship service grew into a community of between 10 and 15 people.
Through connections he made at the Coverage Vision Seminar in Akita Prefecture in 2017, Kakumoto went to India for a week, where he observed how quickly people were being saved and churches were multiplying. He experienced a “paradigm shift.” He began to pray that his own churches would see the same growth as those in India.
In June 2019, a fifteen-person mission team came from Maranatha Vision Church in California to work for a week in three cities in Aomori and Akita Prefectures. As the evangelists in India do, they asked God for a child of peace in each household or group—someone who would invite their family and friends. Upon visiting each house and workplace, the team introduced themselves, sang praise songs, shared testimonies, preached the gospel, and invited people to receive Jesus. The team saw fifteen people accept Jesus, including Kakumoto’s parents. This convinced Kakumoto that God hears every prayer.
Pastor Makoto Saeki of Kochi Grace Church shared how God has been working in his church. In 1987 Saeki was appointed to serve Ochi Christ Church in Kochi Prefecture. Since then the population of Ochi Town has dropped from 9,000 to less than 5,000. In 1991, seeing that most of the church members were already over 60, Saeki decided to launch a church plant in Kochi City, the capital of Kochi Prefecture.
By 1994 the small gathering in Kochi City had grown to become Kochi Grace Chapel (now Church). As the Christian children in Kochi City grew to be young adults, Saeki’s primary focus shifted to Kochi City. The group in Ochi has now become a house church.
In 2016 Saeki’s church began to utilize “Train & Multiply,” a discipleship program of lay trainers teaching other believers. Since then, the church has seen four baptisms and nine restorations of faith. “Our church was on the brink of dying, but God breathed new life into it,” recalls Saeki. “What has happened in our church can certainly happen in every local church in Japan.”
From the Christian Shimbun, July 21 & 28, 2019
Translated by Atsuko Tateishi