According to missionaries in Japan the average Christian church has 10 to 20 people in it. I found myself asking "why aren't they bigger?"
The answer: profesionals tend to be the most responsive to the gospel, but they often move every four years or so with their company. College students are even more responsive, but they move even more frequently. When these baby believers move there often is no church in their new city, or back home in the more rural parts of Japan, or they fail to find a church they feel comfortable as part of the body. Imagine the pains of "church shopping" with a fraction of the options we have in America. Thus, many of these new believers tend to fade away or try to continue by themselves. Of those who don't move, 25% typically leave on their own accord, become disgruntled, or are led astray. Thus, to maintain a church of about 20, at least 2-3 new believers must be discipled every year, 5+ if the church is to grow.
Sounds easy enough right? Back in America we have families move, people simply leave, disgruntled members, and false teaching and we still see 5 new people on any given Sunday right? But how many of those new people are actually coming from another church? Statistically most if not all of them.
How many "healthy" churches in America can boast of 25% growth from brand new believers? From first zero to baptism?
Annually how many "healthy" American churches can boast of even 5 such believers with a membership 10 times the average Japanese church?
It would appear that the problem isn't with Japan (yes, Japan does have its own unique set of hurdles making evangelism far more challenging than western cultures). The problem seems to be that the universal Church has not been as effective at actually sharing the gospel and then discipling potential followers of Christ. Whether training, motivation, or discipline (or something else) is the problem probably varies. Regardless, it would seem that the problem is simply exacerbated in Japan by the church's size and cultural barriers.
We need to be praying not only for churches in Japan to reach a tipping point of growth, but also for all churches to be effective at following the Great Commision.
Brett & Beth record their milestones in academia and medicine as they roam far and wide with Jethro, Edessa, and Genevieve in tow.