Why Can't the Japanese People Find Freedom in the Gospel?
Believe it or not, in Japan, Gospel knowledge of Jesus is readily available.
So to speak.
Nearly every member of Japanese society can read. Searching for truth in books, or on YouTube is definitely an option.
Amazon.co.jp sells Japanese Bibles, in multiple Japanese translations.
Christian bookstores in Tokyo distribute resources to help people understand the gift God offers. People freely give Christian materials. Our Church faithfully passes out multiple resources to visitors each week.
There's even a manga (Japanese-style comic) series about the Bible.
Anyone can freely download timeless truth and holy wisdom in multiple formats. Pick your favorite. No need to sacrifice the comfort of your seat on a morning train ride.
Theoretically, we can all find these essential pieces that lead to God. Paul's Epistle to the Romans indicates that pouring through books on philosophy or world religions isn't required either.
According to Romans, we can simply take a closer look at what God has made to see who God is! (Romans 1:20)
Back to those Bible translations into modern Japanese, most anyone here could pick it up, read it, weigh its teachings, and meet Jesus in that way.
Of course, humans don't always see compelling reasons to discard ideas that are not pleasing to God. Myself included, sometimes. ☹️
The New Testament again is pretty clear to say that people aren't looking for these truths because we are wicked. (Romans 1:18-20)
According to Apostle Paul, our excuses aren't going to fly on the last day.
Of course, we can choose to ignore Jesus even when we have been introduced to His good news. The parable of the sower remains as accurate as ever. There are rocks out there. The sun blazes hot.
People come into Church, hear the Gospel, and occasionally leave anyway. Maybe they came once, perhaps they came months.
Perhaps the Church didn't take good care of them. Things like, we:
- Missed real conversations with them.
- Didn't follow up with them.
- Had selfish motives.
- Followed misplaced priorities.
God forbid, but things like these happen.
Some haven't seen the Gospel's value just yet.
The most accessible and necessary ingredient in this mixture is the Holy Spirit.
Fortunately, He lives inside us to display God's love. Christian lives led by the Holy Spirit are prime examples for others to see Jesus.
The most accessible demonstration of the Holy Spirit's love is in the family of faith. The Church. "You will be known by your love for one another."
I've read on one site that Evangelical Christians comprise only 0.6% of the population. No idea how that site actually came up with that percentage. 🤔
I've been trying to look through the most reliable numbers on-and-off over the last few weeks.
Evangelical Christians likely make up a percentage lower than 1%. The 2020 Fact-book by Japan's Statistical Bureau puts the total rate of all Christian groups in 2018 (the latest data for religion) at 1.52%.
Considering there wasn't really a detailed write up on what Christian means to the bureau, I'll assume that Catholic, Jehovah's Witness and Mormon believers also make up a decent percentage of that.
The religious categories listed were less than helpful.
Shinto, Buddhist, Christian, and "Other." Pretty broad categories, to say the least. Apparently, when totaled, religious adherents totaled comprise more than the total population. This is noted on the fact sheet, "people in Japan adhere to multiple at the same time."
It seems that the bar for "religious adherent" in Japan is considerably low for any religion.
Of course, any Church is a mix of mature Christians, baby Christians, and non-Christians. God only knows the real percentage of influencers for His Kingdom, among that current 1.52%.
The Holy Spirit allows us to have an outsized positive impact for Jesus. (Jesus also doesn't strictly need us for the work. More on that next time.)
In the best case, each Christian would need to really influence around 100 people each to lead the whole population to Jesus. (Nature also exclaims God's goodness all the time, 24/7.)
That's (an extremely optimistic) 1,922,000 existing believers + God's Creation x The Holy Spirit's help to reach the remaining 124,521,000 people in Japan.
God's got it covered on influence there.
But even with supernatural influence and favor, we can't currently take care of that population of disciples. Not well, at least.
Physical distance also proves a significant issue, discipling-wise.
Communities of 100+ created around the most influential single Christian wouldn't work. God didn't build the Church to function like a customer-service corporation, but instead like a generous family.
Close, call-whenever-you-need-to relationships with God and man are not optional. That's like a 12 person-per-group thing, not 100.
Jesus had a high-contact, core-group of 12 himself. It would be a great challenge to have 12 one-to-one Discipleship meetings a week in Tokyo.
I'm not close to that just yet. Our family group has a rough, average attendance of 12, though. Taking good care of people, one family group at a time is a significant focus of the vision of our Church.
Evangelism requires time, without and within. Some time is definitely spent reaching newer members in an existing and healthy Church.
Administrative tasks abound for Pastors, volunteers, and ministry groups. This means more time is required to facilitate training and growth.
Personal time with the Word is vital. After all, Paul indicates it is possible to run the race and be disqualified in the end.
In reality, it's a small subset of the 1.52% that are influencing the more substantial portion of the 1.52% through pastoral care and discipleship.
And they spend nearly all their effort on that ministry to the 1.52% task. By equipping these saints, a small part of the population is controlled by the Church members themselves.
We need more workers within to train, equip, and encourage the saints. Then we also need more workers on the outside to bring precious people in.
Purely looking at the numbers, the average 日本人 (Japanese person) has almost no model for what a Gospel-centered-life filled with joy and peace is like.
This means there are fewer methods for the Holy Spirit to impact their lives.
Taking care of people is a lifetime calling and the responsibility of the Body of Christ. We need more workers to care for existing members and workers to care for new believers.
Furthermore, there is resistance. From within churches and without. The good news is bad news for only one group in particular. The spiritual powers opposing God and all things good.
Administration, Evangelism, and Pastoral Care are essential aspects of the Church.
Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Matthew 9:37-38
The harvest is plentiful, and the workers are few. Jesus makes it clear that we are not facing a demand-for-the-Gospel problem but a supply-side issue. We need help.
Divine and human assistance are required to supply a healthy, sacrificial community that grows organically.
It's a grand opportunity, and Grand mission to reach all of these people.
With the Holy Spirit's help, we can do it. Without, impossible.
Why can't the Japanese people find freedom in the Gospel?
- For the average Japanese person there are currently too few relevant examples of what relationships with Jesus really look like, and too few people to take care of the people when they find Jesus.
- Spiritual and practical distractions abound, preventing a search for more fulfilling answers.
What are some barriers you've noticed for the people around you preventing them from finding freedom in the Gospel?