Tempe church hosts Japanese Church Planting Network’s 20th anniversary

By Irene A. Harkleroad | Aug 15, 2023

Participants at the Japanese Church Planting Network annual meeting in Mesa commission a new church planting couple.

When Tom Yaso became pastor of Japanese International Baptist Church in Tempe in 2020, God gave him a vision and the passion to bring the Japanese Church Planting Network (JCPN) annual meeting to his church.

JCPN is an international network with 18 churches, including one in Canada, plus one planned for San Diego.

“At that time, hosting [the network’s] 20th anniversary conference in Tempe was thought to be impossible for a small church like ours,” Yaso said. “Our average attendance is 30 to 40 people each Sunday morning.”

By God’s grace, support from the Japanese Church Planting Network, and Yaso’s prayers and determination, the vision became reality when 100 leaders from 11 states and two from Japan met June 19-22 in Arizona. Leaders enjoyed fellowship and encouragement, while gaining a better understanding of the past, present and future of the network. They saw the scope and importance of the network.

Japanese International Baptist Church in Tempe bless the guests attending the Japanese Church Planting Network annual meeting.

The network’s annual meetings serve to encourage and equip pastors and leaders, to invite new workers from Japan to pastor new church plants, and to support each other financially and through prayer.

This year’s theme was “Find Your Identity,” based on Ephesians 4:11-16.

Speakers included the network’s founders: Mike Yokoy, network director; Jeremy Sin, national church planting catalyst with the North American Mission Board; and Hiro Sasaki, first pastor of Japanese International Baptist Church in Tempe. Sasaki was pastor of the Tempe church from 1999 to 2019.

Pastors Yuji Hayashi, Go Kaned and Masaomi Takeuchi presented the main sessions.

The Arizona Mission Network of Southern Baptists provided a grant to help with expenses, and Fil-Am International Baptist Church in Mesa graciously provided its campus for the conference. Monty Patton, associate executive director of the Arizona Mission Network, and Joel Padilla, Fil-Am pastor, welcomed and encouraged the leaders.

Fil-Am International Baptist Church Pastor Joel Padilla (left) welcomes participants in the Japanense Church Planting Network annual meeting as Tom Yasso, pastor of Japanese International Baptist Church in Tempe, looks on.

The Japanese Church Planting Network began when Japanese International Baptist churches from Tigard/Portland, Oregon; Tacoma, Washington; and Tempe banded together to pool their resources, focus and passion to better reach Japanese people with the gospel. The network coordinates with Hasune Baptist Church in Tokyo to send and receive missionaries from Japan.

“Reaching a non-believing Japanese group is hard,” Yaso said. “Less than 1% of Japanese go to church. In the middle of the very slow growth of Japanese churches in the world, this conference is a revolutionary event.

“I am grateful for the support of Arizona Southern Baptist Convention, North American Mission Board, Japanese Church Planting Network, Fil-Am Church, our faithful speakers, all who traveled and those who contributed to make this celebration a success.”

Irene A. Harkleroad, a freelance writer living in Carefree, is a member of Black Mountain Baptist Church, Cave Creek.

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