Churches in the 17 districts of Kyodan utilize substantial funds, received from offerings, to promote cooperative evangelism through “mutual aid” in each district, subdistrict and congregation. Without such a mechanism, small rural churches, as well as churches without full-time pastors (i.e. multiple-charge churches and churches with interim pastors), would not be viable.
For this reason the former mutual aid system known as Kyodan Subsidies for District Activities, which was administered by the districts with voluntary contributions for mutual support, was phased out by the 2014 Kyodan General Assembly. Following this overhaul of regulations by the Kyodan, a mutual aid system was reinstituted under the name of Evangelism Fund System, through which all districts participate responsibly on a weighted contribution basis that is now administered by the Kyodan. With this, then, the Kyodan initiated an epoch-making, church-wide mutual aid system on a large scale. We can now honestly say the Kyodan is a church that is sustained by its mutual aid system.
Relevant to this, the Kyodan presently consists of 1,714 churches, with 173,672 members, among whom 85,001 are communicants, and 2,061 active ministers. (Figures are from the 2016 Kyodan Yearbook). As we consider these realities, it is important to be aware that, for example, 35% of the 50 churches in the East Chugoku District spanning Okayama and Tottori prefectures are without a minister, as is the case in 13% of all churches nationwide. Looking at this data, we can generally say that while the number of churches has not changed much from before, there is a great change in the numbers of members, especially communicant members, which has fallen drastically. This leads to a decline in the capacity for offerings. In fact, this problem was very strongly related to the startup of the aforementioned Kyodan Evangelism Fund System.
From within this reality, the Kyodan has chosen “Let us be on fire for gospel evangelism” as its watchword. On this subject of evangelism, Kyodan Moderator Ishibashi Hideo gave the following message in his greetings to the 2016 General Assemblies of each district:
“To be sure, there are many churches facing difficulties due to the advance of aging and declining birth rate in the church, even to the point of threatening the existence of the church in some places. But it is by the power of evangelism that churches, which make up the body of Christ, have been erected in these regions. I am encouraged to see, in areas where evangelism is difficult, churches living in faith that ‘The Lord of the Church is present in this town’ and formulating visions of evangelism uniquely suited for each community, and to hear their voice, ‘We are on fire for Gospel evangelism!’”
The Kyodan is seeking to unite on this point and is receiving the hope given to the Church that lives in the Lord. (Tr. DM)
—Nagasaki Tetsuo, general secretary