More than 2,000 mission leaders representing 140 countries have gathered in Tokyo for a major conference on how to finish The Great Commission.
Tokyo 2010 Global Missions Consultations opened Tuesday evening at the Nakano Sun Plaza with the 2,200-seat auditorium filled to nearly full capacity. The four-day conference purposely coincides with the 100th anniversary of the landmark Edinburgh meeting – the first-ever global missions conference.
Pastor Tsugumichi Okawa of Yamato Calvary Chapel in Kanagawa Prefecture near Tokyo said on the opening night that what is most important is that attendees be filled with the Holy Spirit during the conference and that the event not be a mere formality.
Okawa, who pastors the largest church in Japan with 1,300 worshippers each Sunday, noted how small the Christian population is in Japan. Less than two percent of the Japanese population is Christian.
"I want to believe again that miracles can happen in Japan," said Okawa. "The soul is saved by the work of the Holy Spirit."
The Japanese pastor called for Christians to pray for revival in Japan.
During the Tokyo missions conference, leaders will be engaged in serious consultation about world missions in the morning, and then be joined by the public in the evening to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Edinburgh 1910 meeting.
Day-time sessions are dedicated to give mission leaders from many areas of outreach around the world the opportunity to interact through plenary sessions and workshops and to focus on the most effective way to move forward as a united body of Christ.
Dr. Yong Cho, international director of the Global Network of Mission Structures and one of the key organizers of the Tokyo 2010 meeting, said in an interview with The Christian Post last year that the gathering will be a time when mission groups can learn from each other and when hopefully inter-mission strategies will emerge.
"Our Protestant mission is individualistic," Cho said in the interview. "We want to have more open communication and partnership. This meeting, in particular, we are encouraging the new or emerging mission organizations from different countries to come and hopefully be more encouraged and learn from the West and other more experienced mission organizations."
In the tradition of the Edinburgh 1910 meeting, no one was invited to the Tokyo conference. Instead, all delegates were selected by mission associations and agencies as their representatives.
But unlike the Edinburgh 1910 and 1980 meetings, the 2010 gathering is more representative of the world with more attendees from non-Western backgrounds. About two-thirds of the Tokyo 2010 attendees are from non-Western countries.
"As of yet, there is still no global network of mission organizations networking together to fully engage all the peoples of the world in a systematic way," Cho said, according to Mission Frontier magazine. "We remain largely ignorant of what each other is doing. We need more cooperation in research and joining planning to address this, and our hope is that Tokyo 2010 will get us moving in that direction."
According to the Tokyo 2010 handbook, there remain about 3,500 people groups that are still unengaged. The total population of these groups is over 350 million.
The term "unengaged" is designated to people groups that do not have any active church planting occurring.
"These groups don't represent the largest percentage of the world's population, but they have been waiting 2,000 years for the gospel," states the Tokyo 2010 handbook. "The most pressing need is to recruit at least one full-time worker for every 50,000 people in the group."
Mission leaders also point out that there are only 448 languages that have a complete Bible out of the some 8,000 languages in the world. Another 1,185 groups have a New Testament. And 843 language groups have only a portion of Scripture.
"It is estimated that there are 2 billion people in these 2,000 language groups without any Old Testament," the handbook notes. "It is extremely difficult to make disciples without the Old Testament Scriptures explaining the character of God."
There are 2,000 language translation projects that have begun. But as of yet, they do not have a complete book.