The world rugby tournament opens the door for Japan to come to God

God is using the world rugby tournament to break the gospel barrier in Japan – a country that loves sports.

Marty Woods, along with his wife, Jenny, is working with 14 football teams from countries participating in the world rugby league to connect Japanese people to churches through community festivals.

Australian couple Marty and Jenny Woods partnered with Fusion – an international youth and community organization that started in Australia 60 years ago and spread to 17 countries.

Fusion was invited by the Japan International Sports Association to Japan to help churches use this year’s tournament and next summer’s Olympics to reach out to the community.

Until now, people often thought that sports kept Japanese people away from the church, because matches were held on Saturdays and Sundays. But the World Cup craze has opened the door of the Gospel in schools and communities in unprecedented ways.

The two teams from Fiji have had the most influence since the tournament kicked off on September 20. irresistible to many Japanese people, especially young men.

In Kobe, local churches held a ceremony in a park in the city center. Takashi Funatogawa, pastor in Sapporo, organized rugby training with two college teams. He was surprised when the Japanese coach allowed them to read the Bible and pray after the game, and realized that this was part of Fiji culture.

The pastor wondered how the Gospel would approach the next generation. And now he saw a way: sharing the Gospel through the power of sport.

At Kamaishi, where the tsunami hit in 2011, the Fiji team held rugby training in a fan zone as people prepared to watch the matches on the giant screen. 

In Japan, only two out of 1,000 people go to church every Sunday. The world rugby league offers the opportunity to attract people to the church.

At the Kobe Rugby Club, the local rugby team asked for a copy of a mission team prayer.

They decided to write it on the board in the club and make prayer a habit before the game. Here is the prayer:

“Thank you, God, for this wonderful opportunity for us to gather here in Your name.

Thank you for creating us with a healthy mind, body and spirit.

Thank you because we can glorify you when we play this great rugby sport.

Thank you because we can play together as a team.

Thank you because we can support each other in and outside of sports.

Thank you because there is no shame in winning or losing.

Thank you for sending Jesus. ”

Seventy percent of Japanese people participate in sports. Interest in the World Rugby League is huge. Viewers are watching TV broadcasts. Forty percent of the country watched Japan defeat Samoa last weekend. But on weekends, they need to choose sports or church.

Marty says the Yokohama Church has solved this by establishing the 350 Junior Boys Football Academy. If they have to play on Sunday, there will be worship at 7 am or in the evening. 

With the Summer Olympics in Japan only nine months away, Marty and Jenny are working with Japanese churches to reach the goal of reaching one million people through festivals and sports in 500 communities.