Planting Gospel-Centered Churches in Urban Japan
Yuuki is an evangelist—and, according to his pastor, a “fierce” evangelist, at that. A professional drummer from Japan, Yuuki organizes concerts to share the gospel at his Osaka restaurant gigs. To date, Yuuki has played a part in leading seven other Japanese men to Christ. He has preached a few times at his church, and he leads apologetics classes where he vigorously defends the faith.
But it wasn’t always this way.
When Yuuki first came to the church in Osaka, he was an atheist with several hard questions. But “the cross finally gripped his heart,” his pastor says, and in December, Yuuki was baptized. The thing that pushed him over the edge in following Jesus? Yuuki says it was the gospel message of grace—God’s unmerited gift of salvation to sinners. Grace, Yuuki says, most baffled his logical mind and made him believe that this message must have come from God and not men.
The baffling message of grace turns atheists into evangelists. The baffling message of grace changes professional drummers into faith defenders. And the baffling message of grace…the good news of Christ’s work on our behalf…is what led Yuuki’s pastor, Ozark grad Jay Greer, all the way from Joplin to Japan.
A World Away
Born in Oklahoma and raised in Colorado and Missouri, Jay Greer grew up in the church, a world away from Yuuki and Osaka. Jay’s parents, OCC’s Kevin and Debbie Greer, brought up their sons in the truth of the gospel. Jay was baptized at just eight years old, and in 2003, he headed to Ozark for college.
“My freshman year, I was learning to be an adult rather than a teenage doofus,” Jay recalls. “I remember at the beginning of my first semester barely passing a few classes, playing video games, and saving money for punk rock t-shirts and concerts. But by the end of my first year, I was done with video games, and I was spending all my time learning. In May, my mom asked me what I wanted for my birthday, and I said, ‘Money to buy commentaries.’ The transformation of my values was enormous. The gospel made me repent. The rigor of OCC forced me to grow up. The whole environment at Ozark made me a serious learner of the Bible.”
“I came to college rather aimless, but that changed when I experienced the power of preaching. During an internship, I preached my first sermon to the youth group at the First Christian Church in Champaign, Illinois, and after seeing it lead some to repentance, I realized that this—preaching—is how God wants to change people” (1 Cor 1:17-2:5).
As a student, Jay served part-time as a minister with the First Christian Church in Cassville, Missouri. “The practice of learning the Bible in class and then teaching on Sundays and Wednesdays made me a better student, hungry for more truth so that I could continue to feed the church.”
Jay met and married Caitlin Vallely during their time at OCC. After graduating in 2007, the couple attended Japanese school for 18 months in Okazaki, Japan. From there, they served on the church planting team with Mustard Seed Christian Church Nagoya—the first Mustard Seed church, planted by OCC’s Mike Ackerman and currently led by grad Andy Rodriguez. From Nagoya, the Greers served at Mustard Seed Christian Church Osaka for nearly eight years. Today, Jay is preparing to serve as the lead pastor of Mustard Seed Christian Church Tokyo, which will officially launch in March. Jay also serves in leadership with Mustard Seed Network, an organization that seeks to glorify God by making disciples through planting gospel-centered churches in urban Japan.
12 Churches in 12 Cities
“Gospel proclamation to the unreached is the heartbeat of Mustard Seed Network,” Jay says. “Romans 1:16—the truth that the gospel is the power unto salvation—is so important. Our character or kind deeds are not the power unto salvation. Our acts of service, morality, winsomeness, or cleverness are not the power unto salvation. Faith comes by hearing the message of what Jesus has done (Rom 10:17). Therefore, our ministry is filled with sharing the gospel with as many people as we possibly can.”
“The biggest need in Japan,” Jay continues, “is the good news of what Jesus did to reconcile us to God forever.” To meet that need, Mustard Seed began a campaign to plant 12 churches in 12 major cities in Japan.
“Planting in these 12 cities will put 78.6 million people—or 62% of the second largest unreached people group in the world—within reach of Mustard Seed Network churches. Each of these 12 churches will become ministry hubs to catalyze further church planting in their regions. Less than 1% of the 126 million people in Japan claim to have faith in Jesus. Japan needs more gospel proclamation, more churches, and more disciples shining the light of Jesus in Japan’s massive cities. By God’s grace and through the prayers and financial support of gospel partners, we endeavor to complete this task by 2025.”
It was the gospel that transformed Yuuki. It was the gospel that made Jay repent in his student days. Only the gospel is the power unto salvation, and only the gospel—that baffling message of grace proclaimed from gospel-centered churches—can change unreached, urban Japan.
“Japan needs more gospel proclamation,” and Mustard Seed Network is making an eternal impact, thanks to the transforming gospel proclaimed by Jay Greer—and Yuuki, the fierce evangelist.
To partner with Mustard Seed Network as they plant 12 churches in 12 cities, visit mustardseed.network.
To partner with OCC as we train students like Jay, give to the Alumni Phonathon today. We’re raising $60,000 by November 7 toward our need-based grants.
This article first appeared in the most recent issue of The Ambassador magazine. Read the entire issue here.