Becoming a Church

Peter Pan premieres at the box office. Eisenhower becomes President of the United States. The Korean War ends. The first color television goes on sale in the United States. These events all occurred in 1953, the same year that a church plant was created by the Japan Baptist Convention (JBC) in the town of Buzen on the island of Kyushu.

Star Wars VII will premiere. Obama is President of the United States. The war on terrorism rages on worldwide. Flat screen televisions can be found in homes around the world. These events have or will occur in 2015, the year that the same church plant became a self-sustaining congregation called Buzen Baptist Church.

Sixty-two years have passed since the church was planted by its mother congregation in Kitakyushu, a city of around one million people, about an hour’s drive away. The town of Buzen is a small dot on the map that many in Japan have never heard of. A town of 30,000 people on the eastern shore of Kyushu is, to most who know it, simply a train stop between larger cities. A lot has changed over the last 62 years in Japan and around the globe, but little has changed in Buzen, including the number of church attenders in the town.


Kyushu, Japan’s second most populous island, has a long history of Christian influence, even receiving Japan’s first missionaries in the mid-1500s. Christianity and especially Baptists have had a strong influence on the island, boasting over 110 of some 280 JBC churches. However, the success that has been found in other areas on Kyushu has not translated as well over the years to Buzen.

The process of becoming a self-sustaining church in the JBC entails churches meeting certain requirements, like many other organizations as they grow. The benchmarks are for items such as membership and annual budget. The membership requirement is only around 20 people, but for its 62 year existence, the church has not been able to sustain such a feat. Like Kanazawa, where we live on the island of Honshu, Buzen previously hosted a Buddhist seminary, making it a stronghold of the Buddhist faith. The influence of the church has been positive, but the numbers have been slow to show it, even though they are the only Christian church of any kind in the entire town.

Four years ago, Mount Zion Baptist Church, Buzen Baptist’s mother church in Kitakyushu, decided to send one of its seminary-trained members to serve as its pastor. The arrival of Rev. Daisuke Motoyama has helped in moving the church plant towards its goal of becoming a church. Alongside the deacons, he has assisted the congregation in continuing the work they have done for the previous decades, while helping to mold a vision for its future. With these changes has come growth and an even more vibrant community.

The church has seen new people from the area walk through its doors and will baptize several in the coming months, a great accomplishment in a country where Christianity is a vast minority and baptisms are much more scarce here than even in other nations in Asia. The church has made it a mission to hold monthly concerts to draw in people from the community, ranging from acoustic guitar acts to its own handbell choir. This is where Laura and I actually first encountered the church. They responded to an advertisement we sent out to all JBC churches about receiving a youth choir from Smoke Rise Baptist Church in Stone Mountain, GA this June. The church leaders thought it was a shot in the dark when they applied, but were overjoyed to know that we had accepted their invitation.

In January, we had the chance to visit the church and spend time with the congregation. The warmth with which we were received was humbling, coupled with the knowledge that we were the first international missionaries to enter their doors in over 20 years. A few of the senior ladies shared that they were going to study with church members who can speak English in order to learn greetings they can offer their American guests this summer. These are the types of Christians who have been moving this church body forward through the years: Christ followers who continue to find new ways to gain a foothold in their town that knows so little about the Gospel.


The same Sunday we joined the church for worship, we also attended a meeting with Rev. Motoyama at Mount Zion Baptist Church in Kitakyushu. The gathering included a church vote on whether Buzen Baptist Church, a congregation that had finally met the JBC benchmarks to become a church, was ready to take the next step to becoming its own church. The vote turned out to be an overwhelming confirmation of the progress the church has made and where its pastor and leaders have taken it. At that moment, they became the newest church in Japan!

What does it take to become a church? Organizationally, it may mean meeting certain requirements that can prove that a body is ready to support itself financially and that it has enough people to sustain the work. However, faithfully there is a different story that has been told. In the case of Buzen Baptist Church, it took communities of faith in Buzen and Kitakyushu standing together in the name of Christ until the goal was achieved. It took a pastor and leader with a passion to see Christ’s love spread across its town and region. It took the patience of 62 years of journeying with God.

God does not always move at the pace we may expect. Patience and faith were virtues that Buzen held to and with it came the great reward of a becoming an official church. The journey is actually just beginning; however there is little doubt that Buzen Baptist Church has what it takes to be a light to its community as it waits on and moves faithfully with God no matter how long it may take.

Carson_Laura_Foushee_c_sm_for webCarson and Laura Foushee are Cooperative Baptist Field Personnel living in Kanazawa, Japan. Both natives of North Carolina, Carson and Laura met at McAfee School of Theology after graduating from Elon University (Carson) and N.C. State University (Laura). Carson’s passion for global missions and Laura’s passion for the local church have blended together as they serve in Japan through English language education and through Kanazawa Baptist Church as co-pastors of its international congregation.

They can be reached by email at Feel free to also to check out their website and the Kanazawa International Baptist Church website.

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