Pastor Yuta Nakayama Testimony
I was born and raised as a pastor’s kid. At the age of six, I was baptized, really wanting to believe in Jesus. However, because I did not truly understand that I was a sinner, I also did not understand the cross of Christ. That was the start of my ‘religious life.’ In other words, my faith was not really my own, and my relationship with God was weak throughout my childhood. That kind of faith made a living as a Christian painful. Worship service each Sunday, prayer meetings, evangelism with my family in front of the train stations, helping with church activities, etc., was such a burden. It seemed that those who did not believe in God lived freely, happily, and full of joy.
Pastor Yuta Nakayama & his family
I was envious of my friends who fell in love and dated and had fun just fooling around on Sundays. Because I knew the Word, I felt guilty about my own sin. I would think, “What a rotten family I was born into!”
Despite all these internal conflicts, I attended church meetings and never missed a Sunday service. And that made me proud, and I started judging other people! And so on Sundays, I lived as a Christian, and the rest of the week, I lived like a man of the world. I became a nominal Christian and started making lots of mistakes that I was uncomfortable admitting to the people at church.
When I was 20, we were given time to pray in response to the sermon at a meeting. For the first time, I was given the desire to respond to Jesus’ words, “Follow Me.” The Cross appeared in front of me, and I knew that Jesus was in front of me. I experienced His presence for the first time. Surrounded by the love of Jesus, I could only shed tears. When illuminated by the light of Jesus’ love, it also brought my dirty heart into the light, and for the first time, I realized what a ridiculous sinner I was. In my heart, I asked Jesus, “Do you love me even though I am so dirty?” He said, “I love you and was crucified for you.” He spoke so kindly. With that one moment, I understood the meaning of the cross, that Jesus did give up his life for such a ridiculous sinner. This was the moment when my faith became my own, true, genuine faith. Then Jesus told me something else. “You will be happiest working for me for your entire life.” It was an invitation to dedicate myself to Him. I was surprised at this sudden development, but I confessed to Him that I would obey. So my encounter with the cross and my call to ministry happened at the same time.
More than 15 years have passed since then, and I can say what the Lord said was true. There are many hardships in working for the Lord, and it is a good reminder of my weaknesses. But it is the best way to know and rely on the Lord. And now I can confess that there is no happier path that being one with the Lord and serving him with my life.
Tetsuya who has been coming to our worship service periodically since this summer is the husband of Miyuki, who recently made a decision of faith in Christ. Tetsuya is about forty-five years old and is a truck driver. He comes to worship whenever he has free time on Sundays. He is a long-distance driver who travels all over the country so he says work can feel very lonely. We send him cassette tapes of my sermons so he can listen in his truck and video messages from my cell phone. He and his wife are friends of Sadao, who recently had a revival of his faith at last year’s Christmas service. Tetsuya attended the worship service with us and is becoming very attracted to a new faith in Christ.
We had a church retreat and Rev. Takashi gave a lecture on the theme of Church and Family. We learned about church formation based on the principles of worshiping with adults and children together in the same service. We have five children at our church ranging from an infant to grade three. We continue to hold services together and have not been able to do a separate Sunday school due to logistical reasons including lack of space, time, and volunteers.
However, in the past, two elderly families left the church because they were dissatisfied with not hearing the sermon well when children, especially toddlers, were incorporated into the service for adults. We are trying to form a church that nurtures children as we anticipate them being the future of the church despite a declining birth rate and aging population. We are encouraged by the fact that our church plant has four young families who are attending, supporting, and being a part of the church. In our region, there are three elementary schools with six to seven hundred students attending. The recent composition of the community reminds us that we are a city of young families, and we also need to remember to have a good balance in reaching out to the multiple generations in our community. I sense the importance of reaching the older generations who have funds and time to spare for ministry and involvement.
The last weekend of the month, there was a joint cooperative distribution of tract flyers from churches belonging to the Kanto West District Council. Pastors and members from seven churches participated, traveling three hours each way and visiting three-thousand houses with flyers. The purpose of the visit was to publicize the concert of Ryoji, a former cellist with the Tokyo Symphony Orchestra. A total of thirty-four people attended the event. We stopped distributing flyers for three years due to covid and are grateful to be able to continue this outreach event. We have had three people connected to the church so far through this outreach. One is Ms. Chiaki who made a clear decision about salvation and attends the introductory class. We are grateful to the participants who circulated the flyers and for their support and cooperation.
I was invited by the Yasu Evangelical Free Church in the Kansai area, the west central region of Japan, to give a sermon at their service and share my testimony of church planting during the afternoon. When I received the initial request from them, I asked why they wanted me to come to their distant Kansai region. They replied that one of their congregants remembered my involvement in resolving a church conflict and they wanted to hear my testimony as a pioneering missionary, and so invited me to the church during their pastor’s summer vacation. I also learned that my experience with an incurable disease was a great encouragement to them. A former core member of their congregation who lost his eyesight suddenly due to an incurable disease attended the service and looked up to the Lord with me. The pastor later contacted us to say it was a great encouragement. I praise God that our church planting testimony was helpful to this church group.
- Pray for the successful completion of the renovation of the parsonage for the evangelist that was approved by the church general assembly.
- Pray for God’s direction and guidance in the next Nagano church planting and development at our pastor’s meeting. A new discussion began last month, and I was getting the impression that the voice of certain generations with no experience in church planting is getting more dominant in making future decisions.