The 2020 Vision:
- to establish 1,000 reproducing congregations...
- to enfold 1,000,000 new followers of Christ...
- who will, in turn, send 1,000 missionaries from Japan to the cities of Asia...
- that will be home to 1 billion people by the year 2020 AD.
Passing the Baton in Japan
Recently the A3 international board and A3 Japan board held a historic joint meeting. At this gathering, we solidified our commitment to Japan by officially passing the leadership and legal "shukyo hojin" (religious corporation) to the leadership in Japan.
In the new agreement, A3 still keeps missionary management responsibilities but the overall vision and leadership sits with A2/Japan.
Celebrating the 2020 Vision
We took the time to celebrate the completion of the 2020 Vision together. We highlighted the many achievements accomplished over the last 35 years. I want to personally thank every person since 1986 for their part in helping achieve those milestones. Many of our missionaries were part of the church multiplication teams that were sent to help fulfill the vision. Praise God for them and the diligent, faithful work they have been doing!
A few of the milestones celebrated included seeing reproducing churches become part of the mindset of many in Japan, something that was not widely adopted prior to casting the vision. In addition, various ministries were sparked like church multiplication networks, mission networks, and Barnabas ministries, just to name a few.
At our last joint board meeting in Tohoku a few years ago, Pastor Jiro Chida felt that we had achieved our focus of the vision in that 1000 churches have been mobilized to reproduce. While all the metrics embedded in the vision may not have been completed, the focal point of seeing 1000 reproducing churches was something Chida sensei felt confident has occurred. The other parts of the vision in many ways were perceived as in God’s territory because they were beyond the capacity of men and women and, for that matter, beyond what one particular mission could achieve on their own.
Peter Thompson, former field director shared this about the 2020 Vision recently:
The 2020 Vision served as a significant catalyst to:
1) propel the mission forward to plant churches in areas with few churches,
2) strengthen partnerships and collaboration with the national church,
3) bring together cross-denomination teams to serve together,
4) equip and release a new generation of church planters (missionary and national) with new, unique and concrete tools,
5) recognize the priesthood of all believers for doing ‘ministry’ and celebrated the accomplishments of everyone, and
6) allow A3 to radically love Christ’s bride and those who are yet to know him in Japan.
These are achievements worth praising Jesus over. As for the numerical goals, they were not achieved. But having those ambitious goals led us to a place where we were forced to think completely outside the box and push ourselves in new ways, knowing that it would take something completely new and original to even make an attempt. I don’t want to dismiss the numerical goals as insignificant, nor downplay that we didn’t reach them, but what we did accomplish because we had them is much more significant.
Early in my tenure as president, there was a shift in ownership (perhaps even before my time) where it was Japanese leadership assuming the responsibility for the vision. And, with that, there was a keen focus on seeing the 1000 reproducing churches mobilized. This focus also sparked collaborative innovations such as Vision Festa where new approaches across Japan were highlighted to large groups of leaders hungry to see breakthroughs in their local setting. A3 leaders have also been key speakers at Church Planting Institute (CPI) training and had a significant role at the JCE6 Congress in facilitating training and conversations in the first-ever church planting sessions within the program.
With all vision, the real metrics come through the mission and the strategic plans being implemented because a great vision is larger than anyone can possibly fulfill. It’s a preferred picture of the future ideally and the mission and plans help us move toward seeing them come to fruition in concrete ways.
For me, the most exciting part of this era of our ministry together is seeing the vision expand to reach 2% of the country and someday see 50,000 churches planted. That is enormous! And, one might even say that without the 2020 Vision, the groundwork would not have been laid preparing for the ideation of this new vision.
I praise God for enabling us to get this far. May we all strive toward our part in seeing the Christ-following population double in the coming decades.
The perseverance of our missionaries serving Christ in Japan—a place with the toughest Gospel soil on the planet—is to be commended. I am so proud of our people and excited to partner together in fulfilling God’s vision for Japan!
I'm looking forward with eager expectation to what God will do in Japan!
Rev. Joseph W. Handley, Jr., Ph.D.