Promoting youth evangelism:
Thoughts about the future of evangelism in Japan
I am constantly thinking that the future of evangelism in Japan is tied to youth evangelism. Reaching and nurturing young people as committed evangelists is a most vital concern, and to accomplish this, the seminaries have an important function as well as a heavy responsibility.
As a pastor for 50 years, I have put great effort into evangelizing youth. In various regions of Japan, I have engaged in youth evangelism and student evangelism in six churches while serving as pastor. Being young myself, I spoke directly and sincerely about the meaning of life and continually spoke about faith and eternal truth and about the joy of salvation in Christ the Lord. The young people listened well to this, applying it to their own life problems. One after another, they confessed the Lord Christ and began living as part of the church. Among those I baptized during my 50 years as a pastor, many were young people. (Together, the high school students, college students, and working young people totaled around 300 persons.) Among those young people, some answered the call to become pastors and now are engaged as pastors and evangelists in various parts of Japan. Many others have central roles as active lay Christians, serving as elders and deacons in various churches.
Sadly, there has been trouble in the Kyodan for 40 years, and the word “evangelism” has become a dead word. The weakness of evangelistic effort and the indifference to it has been serious. However, at the Kyodan General Assembly in October 2000, Agenda 55 proposed that as it entered the 21st century, the Kyodan should put more effort into its mission of youth evangelism. This proposal was officially adopted.
Approaching the 2000th year since the coming of Christ and looking ahead to the 21st century, it was made clear that all of the Kyodan churches should cooperate in youth evangelism. “As we approach the 21st century, the Kyodan should put all its energy into evangelism”; this goal had been already proposed and passed by the November 1998 General Assembly of the Kyodan. Around the same time, church young people in the Tokyo metropolitan area appealed for a gathering to support 21st century evangelism in Japan, and this was held with the cooperation of Tokyo Union Theological Seminary. I was one of the promoters of this gathering, which continues to be held every year on the last Saturday of September at Tokyo Union Theological Seminary, with about 200 in attendance. This year, 2012, will mark the 14th gathering. From these gatherings, many have made commitments to evangelism, with as many as ten young people making such a commitment at one time.
This year, approximately 200 young people from all over the country were expected to respond to an invitation to meet in Karuizawa in the summer with the theme “For Evangelism in Japan–Calling and Sending.”* This gathering joins together various groups in a nation-wide summer youth-training meeting. Young pastors are cooperating to plan and bring it together. Through the persistent effort of these gatherings, we hope that young people will receive a call from God and, as committed people, will give their lives to Christ the Lord. We will continue to long for them to proclaim faithfully the gospel of salvation, following the path of an evangelist. (Tr. GM)
—Naito Tomeyuki, general secretary
*“Calling” as in God’s call to service and “sending” as in the church sending to serve those who have received God’s call.