Celebrate with us as we welcome our 600th church – Soma Fuchu, Tokyo, Japan. By God’s grace, Acts 29 has been facilitating and catalysing the planting of churches for over 15 years. It is with great joy that we are able to announce that there are now over 600 churches which form this diverse, global family.

We are especially excited that our 600th church is Soma Fuchu, Tokyo, Japan, lead by Yoshito Noguchi. Below you can find out more about how this church was planted and how you can support church planting in Japan.

Since 2013, 25% of our member churches have been planted outside the US. As a diverse, global family we are working hard to see this increase, particularly in Gospel Priority Areas around the world. Japan is one of those areas. According to Operation World (1), a mere 0.5% of the population claim to be evangelical. This is why I’m particularly thrilled that Soma Fuchu is joining Acts 29. My prayer is not only that many will turn to Jesus through its ministry, but that it may even help energise a passion for planting throughout the region. – Steve Timmis, Acts 29 Executive Director

It is exciting to see the ways that God is building his church in countries where there is no Acts 29 presence and often little gospel witness. We have been able to fan the flame of this gospel activity by connecting like-minded pastors, resourcing churches and sending new planters into these contexts. Getting to know Yoshi has been one of the highlights of this year for us, and we look forward to both supporting his efforts and learning from his experience to see more churches planted in east Asian countries. – Will Bostian, Associate Network Director, Emerging Regions

Below Yoshi gives us a snapshot of his story of planting in Tokyo

It’s telling to see the statistics in Japan, each year more than 30,000 people tragically take their own lives. Even as I write this article, the morning news speaks of two junior high school girls who committed suicide holding hands and jumping in front of a train.

Our culture has many stories to interpret life that people believe and live by, but none of them work. It is a culture that is highly demanding, resulting in constant overwork and fatigue. We are repetitively fed the lie that if you work hard enough and become “somebody” then you will be satisfied. The truth is only the gospel story is able to save and transform our beautiful culture.

The Greater Tokyo Area is the most populated metropolitan area in the world with over 37 million people. One of the big challenges we face is sharing the gospel in a way that makes sense for a people who have never heard the gospel before. My conviction is that missional communities believing and living the gospel together are the only hope for Tokyo. Through these missional communities the gospel is seen and experienced in tangible ways. Here are three things I have learned from trusting in the sovereignty of God as we plant missional communities in Tokyo, believing that one day the gospel will be seen and proclaimed in every area of Tokyo.

1. Go

Trusting in the sovereignty of God helps us to go wherever God calls us. Abraham was called and by faith he went, not because he was great, but because the one who called him was great (Genesis 12:1-4; Hebrews 11:8-10). When Jesus called his disciples to go out to all the nations, they went not because they were great, but because the one who called them is great, and to him all authority is given (Matthew 28:16-20).

God gave my wife and me the strong conviction that Jesus was calling us to move to Tokyo to plant a church. Obeying the call always demands that we give up many things. Jesus as our example gave his all for us so that we could be saved. He is asking us to do the same, so that others will be blessed in his name.

We had to trust in his sovereignty to join his mission. Leaving behind the comfortable life we had back in Osaka, my family, with two young daughters, moved to Tokyo not knowing how we would receive our daily needs or how to gather a team to plant a church. We started out with only a small amount of financial support and no employment but after three months I found a job as a home health care aid and started living everyday life with gospel intentionality among the people. Through this job God not only provided for our daily needs, but also brought us people who had never heard the gospel before.

Our God is sovereign. Knowing the truth about who God is gives us boldness to go.

The first person who came to know Jesus was one of my clients who had a neurological disease. He could no longer speak, and so blinked his eyes to communicate. This is how he told me he accepted Jesus, and I baptised him in his bed. Two more neighbours came to know Jesus the following year, followed by a few more in the third year. Later, God also brought us some Christian families to join our church planting team.

Our God is sovereign. Knowing the truth about who God is gives us boldness to go.

2. Stay

Trusting in the sovereignty of God also helped us to stay. God told Israel to stay in Babylon among the people and to seek its prosperity (Jeremiah 29:4-7). Jesus also came and stayed among broken people, and he remains with us today through the Holy Spirit. As Jesus did not give up on us, but pursued us, he wants us to do the same for others.

Japan is one of the hardest soils for the gospel to take root.

The first time Jesus was preached here was 1549, and within 50 years there was a great awakening where more than 450,000 people came to know Christ. However, Christians suffered one of the worst persecutions in church history after the Tokugawa Shogunate government enacted the Kirishitan Kinkyo-rei, an edict banning Christianity. Japan closed its borders to foreigners, isolating the population for 250 years until the 1850s. In 1871, the Meiji Government finally lifted the ban on Christianity in Japan but today many people still refuse Christianity.

In our first year in Tokyo we would often have our neighborhood friends over in our living room. One day I shared Jesus and most of them left. But after a few years of relationship some of our neighbors eventually came to know Jesus. Some of our good local friends have watched everything happen over the last four years, from painful rejections to how we try to live everyday life sharing Jesus. Last week their son came to know Christ and they told us that he had started sharing Jesus with them, saying, “Jesus lives in me. Do you know that he was nailed on the cross?” His parents still do not believe in Jesus, but they are seeing and experiencing the gospel through our missional community. The Kingdom is now breaking into this family’s life.

Our God is sovereign. Knowing the truth about who God is gives us perseverance to stay.

Ministry in Japan takes time! It requires many years of relationship in order to show and proclaim the gospel, this is especially true in an unreached nation like Japan.

Our God is sovereign. Knowing the truth about who God is gives us perseverance to stay.

3. See

Trusting in the sovereignty of God helped us to see that the kingdom is coming. Jesus told us that the Kingdom of God is like a man who scatters seed on the ground. He does not know how the seed will sprout and grow (Mark 4: 26-29). We cannot see below the ground, but through the accomplished, victorious work of Jesus on the cross we can see that he will bring Japanese people to himself. We know that his blood was sprinkled for them, the elect in Japan (1 Peter 1:2).

We have been doing gospel work in Tokyo for five years now and several people we know and love have come to know Jesus. I used to say only several. I had a plan before we moved that if we planted a missional community tons of people would come to know Jesus. I was disappointed because it didn’t go as I planned. I was prideful. God led me to repent and taught me to see Japan through gospel lenses. I learnt that King Jesus will save his people, and his kingdom will come to Tokyo but in his time.

Our God is sovereign. Knowing the truth about who God is gives us grace to see and believe.

Due to the work of faithful saints throughout history, there have been so many seeds planted in Japan over the last 100 years. We are part of this big salvation story. The gospel helps me to see into the next fifty years. The kingdom is coming. As we continue to work hard like farmers, planting seeds for the gospel and relying on God to produce fruit, we know that our joy will only continue to increase (Psalm 126).

Our God is sovereign. Knowing the truth about who God is gives us grace to see and believe.

And they sang a new song, saying:

“You are worthy to take the scroll
and to open its seals,
because you were slain,
and with your blood you purchased for God
persons from every tribe and language and people and nation.
You have made them to be a kingdom and priests to serve our God,
and they will reign on the earth.” 

Revelation 5: 9-10

1 Operation World, Jason Mandryk, 7th edition, 2011

Yoshito Noguchi
Written by: Yoshito Noguchi on August 2, 2016

For more details about Soma Fuchu visit their website: English: www.somajapan.com Japanese: www.somafuchu.com