Evangelism and the Japanese churches





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Evangelism and the Japanese churches

Sushi, McDonald and Kobe Beef

Dr Alex Tang

I.                   Some Facts about Japan

i.                     Japan’s population of 126 million people live mainly along the coastal region of the biggest island, Honshu.

ii.                   99% of the people are ethnic Japanese making this one of the most homogenous nations in the world.

iii.                  12 million people live in Tokyo. Its size is 770 square miles. In Tokyo most people spent 2-3 hours commuting daily.

II.                Brief History of Christianity in Japan

i.                     At one point in time, Japan seemed the most fruitful mission field in all Asia. Francis Xaxier, a Jesuit landed there in 1549 and spent two years establishing a church. Within a generation, the number of Christians has swelled to 300,000.

ii.                   There was a lot of divisions between Spanish, Portuguese and Dutch Christians. One of the interesting  development  from this era is the teaching of missionaries on bathing. The Japanese people have always been very hygienic in their habits and bathe at least once a day. Missionaries from the West regard bathing as sinful as they themselves bathe rarely. One 85 years old ‘saintly’ old women from the West boasted that she never had a bath in her life. Thus the missionaries initially forbade the Japanese Christians to bathe but after much hustle, later allowed them to bath once every two weeks. But the damage has been done. The Japanese regarded the missionaries as dirty smelly barbarians.

iii.                  In 1603, Tokugawa Ieyasu became Shogun and founded the Tokugawa Shogunate. In 1612, he issued a ban on Christianity. The Shogun expelled the Jesuits, required all Christians to renounce their faith and be registered as Buddhists. Persecution followed soon.

iv.                 In 1629, the fumie testing for Christians began in Nagasaki. The fumie is an icon of the Madonna and Child. Those who step on the fumie are pronounced apostate and set free. These who refused were hunted down, tortured and killed. Some were force-marched into the sea, others were bounded and thrown off rafts, others were hung upside down over a pit full of dead bodies and the priests were crucified.

v.                   The persecution was so effective that it annihilated the Japanese Church.

vi.                 In 1873, during the Meiji Reformation the government withdraw religious sanctions.

vii.                The Japanese Church has not recovered. In 1990 there are 1,075,000 Christians (less than 1 percent of the population). There were 436,000 Catholics with 800 parishes and 639,000 Protestants with 7,000 churches. Average church has 30 members.


III.             Paul’s Singular Passion (1Cor 9: 22b, 23)

i.                     Paul’s calling is to be an apostle to the Gentile. He is very clear in his calling and he has directed his whole life to the fulfilment of his calling. His single mindedness enabled him to endure much trials and tribulations (beatings, starving, humiliated, rejected, misunderstood), giving up things not relevent to his calling ( his status as a Pharisee in Jerusalem, his lack of home and belongings, his bivocation as a tent-maker) and be focussed on his vision (being open to the leading of the Holy Spirit and his fellow workers).

ii.                   Paul’s singular passion is to lead souls to Christ. He knows that not all will accept what he preached with open arms. He knew some will reject him and even do him harm. But he also knew that some will accept. And for these few he is willing to sacrifice all.

iii.                  Paul is a man with a purpose. Paul is a man with a vision.

iv.                 The pastors and missionaries in Japan are also people with vision.

IV.              Paul’s Purposeful Actions (I Cor 9: 22a)

i.                     To achieve his purpose, Paul was flexible in his approach in preaching the gospel. To the Jews, he started arguing from the Old Testament, to the Athenians he spoke of the Unknown God and to gentiles he preach of the God of the Universe.

ii.                   The purpose is fixed but the modes of evangelism varied.

iii.                  Learning from the Japanese churches.

a.                   Hope Chapel Tokoroyozawa – being there with people, being a friend.

b.                  Hope Chapel Waseda – food, music, love

c.                   Kobe Bible Fellowship – being Japanese

d.                  Hope Chapel Osaka – anything Hawaiian, surfing

iv.                 The Japanese churches also recognize the need to focus their ministries. They want to develop POGAS driven Ministries.


Purpose – what is the reason for this project?

Objectives – What do you hope to accomplish with this project?

Goals – How do we want to ends?

Actions – Where do we begin?

Standards – How do you evaluate and measure performance?


V.                 Lessons for Us

i.                     Heart for People – especially the non-believers

a.                   sacrifice in time, status and emotions

b.                  prayer and fasting


ii.                   POGAS for our church

a.                   need for our lives to be focussed.

b.                  need for our church to be focussed.

c.                   need for our church ministries to be focussed.


                                                                                                                    Soli Deo Gloria



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