As the 30th year of our arrival in Japan came and went this month (on the 7th) some review has been done in thinking about the work here, the hopes, prayers, plans, and actions that have gone into seeing the Japanese in this area come to Christ!! And that proverbial question, “So how many do you have attending every Sunday” came to mind once again. It’s easy for Americans to think in numbers–not that they only think numbers and not souls, but that at times, while not intentional, seems to be the base of what gives meaning to a ‘successful’ church work! Especially after 28 years in this same location, we must have a thriving work! Well if you by ‘thriving’ you mean a consistent witness in the area, consistent services throughout the week, classes that lead to Bible studies, and steps made that bring individuals to more of a saving knowledge of Christ? Yes, then we have a thriving work! If you mean a medium size number of people that meet regularly Sunday by Sunday, Wednesday after Wednesday, year after year, that are constantly knocking on doors to reach others and we are seeing others baptized and joining our local work on a regular basis, then no, you will be disappointed.
“What? Well then what are you doing there after all this time? That doesn’t sound like a very successful ministry to me.” There are moments of discouragement even in our lives when Satan tries to tempt us with the fact that numbers are not a part of our work and certainly we must be failing in our call for church planting here in northern Japan. But God in various means has, over the years, continued to send us encouraging steps that reminds us through various ‘moments’ in time as well as His Word– “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” (I Cor. 15:58)
So let’s share a little of the differences here in Japan as to why we feel it is important to keep on keeping on in this work and why we know that our labor is not in vain. This will probably be too long for one writing so will divide it up for your study and convenience.
So let’s begin with who the Japanese are:
1. a land of one people versus a land of people who are, for example, Americans but come from many backgrounds so this means that
a. they mostly participate in the same Ancestor Worship, they have Many Idols of Deities, they all believe in Evolutionism, and they believe in the concept of the Basic Goodness of Human Nature.
b b. they will almost always begin an answer to a possible discussion on the truths of God’s Word with “well, that’s fine for you but we Japanese…..”
So….anything outside of what the typical Japanese will say and believe is not Japanese; therefore, it is not worth considering. This is the number one wall we face when trying to reach any one person. And that is just the first wall they might have in their minds without truly even thinking about it. While they might not understand all that the think they believe and do (customs), it is Japanese so it is right and ‘who we are’. Therefore, anything outside of that realm is not Japanese.
We pray often for openness of heart to even begin to think that it is OK to listen to the foreigner give his thoughts about what they think is just another religion. This has to be a first step of acceptance–which does not mean they think our way is truth and alright for them, but they must first have made a decision in their minds that they are not betraying their basic Japanese makeup by listening to us and taking part in any study for further truth.
Many of our contacts will not even step into the building here unless they know they have a reason to be here (such as English learning) so we use English to build relationship and we use our car port/deck–many will come up and visit with us on the deck outside the building. It’s one of the ‘steps’ for breaking down walls!
Continuing next time! Lord bless your ministry to others –be patient!
It takes a long time to see fruit here as well (village in South Africa). There are different reasons for that related to the culture here, but I'm sure there are many similarities to what you will be writing about. Looking forward to hearing more on the topic from some vets! It is so hard for Americans to understand, though…I like a term I heard once in a sermon–we are "stone-pickers
I wanted to read lots more! I'll be looking for the next installment. It is so true that people who have been almost homogenous for years are more reticent to listen to foreign ideas, especially about "religion." I know that here (Spain) many think we are a sect, simply because we're different. Thank the Lord, He is able to build bridges and break down walls. Looking forward to
Thank you for sharing your field and may the Lord bless your faithfulness in patience in the race set before you!!