Pastor Elmer Inafuku

Shinjuku Shalom Church

How has the growth of the G12 Vision progressed in Japan over these past couple of years? 

We've been experiencing small breakthroughs in the G12 Vision and we've been witnessing God working in many churches. Churches and people are slowly but surely gathering momentum and gradually building up revival – getting stronger and closer to God.

One of the things that have been taking place in our church is a growing strong prayer movement which has helped many believers become disciples and groom disciples. We started a 24-hour House of Prayer which has been a good solid key to stir believers to step up and pray and renew their faith. We've also seen our members become more hungry to serve God and there is this desire to rise above the challenges to win more souls for God. These individuals are really on fire to be witnesses for Jesus. So yes, we are seeing church growth and we are excited. We don't have spectacular numbers yet and growth is not dramatic. But we are experiencing solid steady growth and there is this buzz and excitement about the G12 Vision that is definitely gaining momentum. 

What are some of the challenges and issues that affect the growth of the G12 Vision in Japan?

I believe first and foremost, it is a cultural issue. Japanese people are generally busy people who are always rushing to get things done or going to a destination. As you probably already know, modern Japanese society is very driven and task-oriented, and that usually requires you to work overtime and long hours. So most of the time, people are exhausted by the end of the day – working six days a week and going home late. So it's sometimes really quite hard to energise them to do other things such as School of Leaders or attend cell meetings – it's not easy. This is one aspect that slows down the growth and even implementation of the movement of the G12 Vision in Japan.

The other, spiritually speaking, is the mindset of most Japanese which is quite different from Singapore and other Asian countries. You see, to many Japanese – especially the older generation, Christianity is considered as a "western" concept. And as you know, Japan fought a war and lost. So many older Japanese regard Christianity as a movement originating from a country or countries that defeated Japan. This is a stark contrast to countries such as Korea that viewed Christianity as a religion that came and liberated them. The funny thing about all of this is that Japanese people are not really conscious of this and don't show it outwardly, but subconsciously, they are not opening themselves up to a movement or religion from a country that defeated them.

What are your plans moving forward to deal with this issue - especially encouraging and discipling the younger generation?

I think that the younger generation needs to be engaged with the right kind of activities that can solicit their commitment and interest. Empowering them with responsibilities and ownership is something that has worked well with the youths in our church. In our church, we have Youth Pastors who are working towards taking over the Senior Pastors' duties and have also been implementing initiatives to engage the youths. We also have strong programmes to engage the youths and we are seeing more salvations.

As for discipleship, it was initially a difficult time for some of the Pastors who had to deal with a bag of mixed reactions. Those who stressed on discipleship didn't have a favourable response and experienced splits in their church. Some went to the extreme and were kicked out of their ministry. It just didn't produce good fruit. So the important thing that we have learnt in our church is to teach discipleship in a way that is not top-down. The idea is to create an environment where discipleship is all about learning and it's something for everybody. It's not about being scolded for what you've not done – but about encouraging and backing people, explaining to them that we are making disciples for Jesus, not our disciples or disciples of our church.

What are your plans moving forward?

 The key thing for me is really to continue to encourage believers of all ages, to take on the mantle of discipleship. After all, discipleship training is encouraging people to be a disciple of Jesus. We do that by encouraging and loving them, in spite of all their faults and shortcomings. We all make mistakes, but like I said, discipleship is all about learning and walking in the footsteps of Jesus.