Determining the present and potential effectiveness of cell church components and models for missionary church planting in Japan, with reference to three interdenominational mission organizations
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- new church development; Japan; evangelistic work; small churches; house churches; Christianity; Missions and World Christianity
Christians comprise a small minority of the population of Japan, and church growth is slow and difficult in that country. Some missionaries and Japanese church leaders have considered the use of cell groups and cell-based churches for planting new churches and improving the quality of churches.This research examines cell-based ministries being carried out by missionaries in Japan and selected Japanese led churches, in order to determine the effectiveness of cell church models for missionary church planting. The research questions deal with measuring the effectiveness of the essential components of the cell church system: small groups, home-based gatherings, and lay leadership, and with identifying existing successful cell church models.This research focuses on church planting missionaries serving with OMF International, TEAM, and SEND International in Japan. A survey for church planting missionaries was used to determine how effectively church planters were using small groups, house-based meetings, and lay leaders. The results of the surveys were evaluated according to the types of items included, such as the response of believers and seekers toward small group participation, use of homes, and equipping and mobilization of lay leaders. The surveys revealed that the majority of church planters were using small groups in their ministry. Home-based meetings and development of lay leaders presented more of a challenge.However, there was some measure of effectiveness in these areas also. The data indicates that the use of the small groups, home-based meetings, and lay leadership are viable objectives for church planting in the Japanese context.Missionaries that were attempting to plant cell-based churches were identified and followed up by interview in order to determine what cell-church models were being used. The interviews were evaluated according to the principles and components of the cell church paradigm. Seven OMF missionary led churches and six Japanese church leaders, who have demonstrated some success in establishing cell-based churches, were interviewed. Another interview schedule was developed for leaders of Japanese cell-based churches. These interviews were used to present the case studies of these cell church models.The case studies of missionary church planters and Japanese cell-based churches revealed that there are viable cell church models in Japan. This indicates that effective cell churches are possible in the Japanese context.The final chapter summarizes the biblical implications of the research. In addition, recommendations for church planting missionaries, Japanese cell churches, and future research related to the cell church movement in Japan are given.