TOKYO – The 2020 Summer Olympic Games are more than eight months away but the athletes aren’t the only ones already in training. Jeff Wells, connections pastor at Chesterfield Community Church, just returned from a vision trip working with International Mission Board missionaries to ensure there’s an intentional gospel witness when the nations converge on Tokyo next July.
“I went knowing Japan is less than one percent evangelical, and I kind of assumed it was because they had heard the gospel and rejected it either for traditional religions or materialism,” Wells said. “But the fact is that many just haven’t heard the gospel. It’s shocking to understand that here’s a modern country that’s one of the largest unreached people groups on the planet. They’re very friendly people, and Tokyo is one of the kindest cities I’ve ever been in, but it’s the definition of ‘hard soil.’”
Wells said the local churches there are developing game plans to make the most of the international spotlight and hubbub. They’re going to capitalize on national pride by hosting watch parties, festivals and block parties, thus allowing them to build relationships with people in a metro area that tops 37 million people, but has less than 370,000 believers.
Wells has partnered with IMB missionaries for each Summer and Winter Olympics since 2000, and likens the influx of every nation to Acts 1:8 coming to him. It’s an overwhelming mass of people, but Wells said he has grown to love it. He documents his experiences at beyondtherings.net.
For that, Wells uses pins. Visitors from around the globe bring pins to trade, so he brings pins that help him transition to a gospel conversation. Often, those who may not have any time or care to listen to an American talk about Jesus will stop and listen just to get one more pin for their collection.
“Pray that God will penetrate the hearts and the will of the Japanese people; that they would hear the gospel and understand their need for Jesus,” he said.