Yoshiya Hari



Stories from Asian Access Japan

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by Yoshiya Hari
Director, Asian Access Japan

I became a pastor in 2003 and took over a church planted by missionaries. Ever since, I have been blessed to preach the gospel together with missionaries. Since 2011, I have served as the National Director of the mission organization アジアン・アク セス・ジャパン (Asian Access Japan). This has allowed me to collaborate with local churches in various places in Japan by sending missionaries to them.

When I was asked to write this article, I made a list of the names of all the medium- to long-term missionaries who have worked directly with our church for longer than one year during the time I have been pastor. I was surprised to realize there have been 14 units (counting a couple as one unit) during the past 20 years. As I remembered their faces, I sincerely thanked God for his grace in giving them to us. At the same time, all of the troublesome memories about working with foreign missionaries came back to me—although most of those difficulties happened because of my inexperience.

The blessing of cooperating with missionaries is, of course, that a church can stay on the missional cutting edge. A church can gain centrifugal force and create missional expansion.

In 2014, the Lord guided me to work on getting churches planted in unchurched cities in Japan. During our research, we found that the biggest unchurched city in Japan was Sakura Ward [ed.—pop. nearly 100,000], one of the ten wards of the Saitama City metropolitan area—only 10 kilometers from our church. So as a congregation, we decided to plant a new church there. Three Christians were found to live in that ward, so we shared our vision with them. Since Sakura Ward is home to a university, we decided to start with outreach to university students.

hari yoshiya 2023The blessing of cooperating with missionaries is, of course, that a church can stay on the missional cutting edge. A church can gain centrifugal force and create missional expansion.

Around the same time, two missionaries were assigned to our church, so we shared the church planting vision for Sakura Ward with them. We read Luke 10 together over and over and then started outreach by finding children of peace the Lord prepared among the students. Starting with the service of the two missionaries, core leadership living in Sakura Ward was birthed. Presently, two couples are guiding the group as church planting leaders. The missionaries in the project have changed several times, with a total of eight different units having been involved. They serve as supporting members of the planting team under the leadership of church members.

You may be envious to hear that we have received 14 missionary units. However, I would say, “It’s not easy to serve together with missionaries.” There are not only cultural differences, but differing theological positions, differing sizes of churches each missionary grew up in, differing perspectives toward finances, and so on. These factors are all brought into a setting where missionaries have significant influence because of their perceived status. If pastors and church members are not equipped properly, missionaries will be a source of trouble rather than help.

On the other hand, when such diversity comes into a church, imbalance is introduced into the community, a “chemical reaction” occurs, and the church has the opportunity to grow to the next stage.

Japanese pastors may be willing to accept missionaries to help with their current church activities. However, if the church’s missional vision is not clear, it will be difficult when a mission organization provides missionaries. When talking about “church planting,” some churches think of starting another flock in different location as we did. Others might try to reach a people group they have not touched before. For example, now that we are in a post-COVID-19 era, this past June our church started Alpha (an introduction to Christianity course) for people in their twenties. Our current missionary has been bringing more than 10 guests to each gathering, so we have had the chance to share the gospel while providing a meal for them. This can be another approach to church planting.

In order to make use of the good gifts of missionaries, we need to share our vision clearly and provide accountability—while at the same time trusting them and giving them a certain amount of freedom. Sometimes, treating them like ordinary church members and micromanaging them makes them feel suffocated. In this post-COVID time, the number of missionaries who want to commit to Japan seems to be increasing. Actually, each mission organization in Japan has been busy accepting new missionaries and arranging their assignments. This trend is expected to increase. In the meantime, local churches in each region of Japan must take leadership, have a clear mission vision, and cooperate with missionaries. To fill every corner of Japan with the gospel, I dream that churches will continuously be born in cooperation between Japanese churches and churches around the globe.

Yoshiya Hari

(Translated by Tomoko Kato)


Yoshiya HariRev. Yoshiya (Joshua) Hari is the pastor of Saikyo Nozomi Chapel and has been the A3 Japan National Director since 2011. He works with leaders across Japan to grow networks and inspire a church multiplication movement with an eye for those areas without a church. Due to the Great East Japan Disaster, he had a special assignment to serve for one year in relief work through CRASH Japan and maintains close ties to the Tohoku region.

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 More Information

  • This article was originally published in Japan Update, Issue #85 Autumn 2023 and reposted here with permission by Japan Evangelical Association.
  • Photo credits:
    • Header photo of Tokumeien Zen Garden in Takasaki, Japan by Lucas Calloch on Unsplash [IG: @dreiimos]
    • Photo of Japanese maple with Fall colors (below) in Portland Japanese Garden by David Wirzba on Unsplash
  • If interested in serving in Japan through a missional partnership between A3 and SIM International, visit go2japan.org.

go2japan = A3 + SIM



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