Why Japan - part 2

Japanese boy

Japan is a free and highly developed society.

By almost every measure they are a model society, effecient and productive. But spiritually speaking, Japan is a dark and needy. It is a land filled with superstition and many, many idols. Shrines can be found in most neighborhoods and temples are very comon. However, in the midst of all this darkness, missionaries are able to easily come and go among these people. But while many are open to hearing about the things of God, few have been willing to accept the Gospel as truth.

crucifixionThis was not always true. It was the Tokugawa shogunate who systematically worked to extinguish the Christian flame that had ignited under the missionary efforts of the Catholic church. Catholic missionaries had written that the Japanese people were the most receptive people to the Gospel that they had ever encountered. The leadership of Japan felt threatened by this and feared that the introduction of Christianity was a first step by foreign nationals toward the takeover of Japan. 

The Tokugawa regime began crucifying and slaughtering Christians and kept up the pressure until they were all but wiped from the face of Japan. 

Many years later, after World War Two, protestant missionaries answered the call to bring the Gospel to Japan. Many of them poured out their lives unto death as they labored to bring the Gospel to this strange land. Now, after nearly 70 years of this renewed missionary effort, Japan remains unreached. The Japanese people have proven to be a difficult (perhaps one of the most difficult) people groups in the world in regards to receiving the Good News of Jesus.

In recent years the strain has taken it’s toll. Japan has been called the graveyard of missionaries. Dan Iverson in speaking of the need for missionaries at a conference of The Japanese Evangelical Missionary Association gave some sobering statistics. He compared statistics from 1993 with those of 2013. In 1993, the Southern Baptists had 159 missionaries — they now have 46. TEAM missions, one of the oldest, well-established missions in Japan had 195 missionaries in 1993. They now have 60. The Japanese Evangelical Missionary Association (JEMA) shows 2,613 missionaries in 1993 and now shows 1,868. Today there is one church for every 16,000 people compared to roughly one church for every 800 people in the United States. In order to reach the point where Japan will have one church for every 1000 people there need to be 50,000 new churches planted here.

The suicide rate is among the highest in the world. Hopelessness and depression have been declared to be a national epidemic with the suicide rate highest among young people between 15 and 25 years old. 

In the face of such enormous need, the number of missionaries is steadily declining. Not only are the workers few, they are becoming church in japanfewer. Tragically, when the 2011 earthquake/tsunami disaster hit Japan so many missionaries fled the country that the term “fly-gin” was invented to describe them. 

But things are beginning to break open. There is a new spirit in the air. Many believe that it is Japan’s turn at the spiritual table. It is an expensive country to live in. The language is hard and the spiritual darkness is everywhere. But new ideas are on how to reach them are gaining momentum. Now is the time. (isn’t it always?) and Japan is the place.

If you have any sense of God's urging you to Japan, please come . . .