The Call to Missions
Our path to Japan began shortly after we were married. Prior to marriage, Caroline had long had an interest in serving as a missionary overseas; Matt did not feel such a sense of call (thankfully, Caroline still agreed to marry him!). During Matt’s first year in seminary (2005-2006), however, his understanding of the Bible as a whole and the gospel in particular was radically transformed as he began to see the centrality of God’s call on the church to spread the gospel to the ends of the earth. Now, with both of us sensing the call to serve as missionaries, we began thinking and praying about where God might send us to minister.
The Call to Japan
As we thought about where to serve, we identified two primary components in our sense of call: (1) we wanted to serve in an unreached people group, and (2) we wanted to serve in a place where theological education was especially strategic.
An unreached people group is an ethnic or ethnolinguistic group without enough Christians and resources within it to evangelize the rest of the group. Japan is currently the second largest unreached people group in the world, with only 0.22% of its 128 million people attending a Protestant church of any kind.
We wanted to serve in theological education for a couple of reasons. First, this type of ministry aligns well with our gifts and interests. Matt loves to teach, and both of us love to practice hospitality, which is a great way to encourage seminary students and their families. Second, theological education is highly strategic, as it is much more effective for an indigenous Christian to minister the gospel to their own people rather than for a foreigner to be the primary minister.
Theological education is especially strategic for reaching Japan, as one out of seven churches in Japan is currently without a pastor, and of those churches that do have a pastor, 80% are led by pastors in their 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s. This means that if new leaders are not raised up, the tiny Japanese church will decrease substantially in less than a generation.
Since Japan met both of these criteria, it seemed like the most strategic place in the world for us to serve as missionaries.