Week 5: Christianity and Japan October 4-10

Week 5 Christianity and Japan

Reading:

  • Chapter Eight: A Brief History of Christianity in Japan
  • Chapter Nine: Christianity in Contemporary Japan
  • Chapter Ten: Japanese Theology

Listening:

  • If you have time:
  • Watch video from the Nobita from Japan channel: Being a Christian in Japan. This video provides a deeper look into lives of various Japanese Christians in Japan and barriers they experience.

Writing: Weekly Paper: “Impressions and Points from Your Reading”

  • Reflective Writing
  • Read as many of the other students’ writings as you have time and comment on at least two of them.

Pray:

  • Pray daily for Japan and Japanese, using Operation Japan. Make a note in your blog concerning the information and/or your prayer.

Extra Suggestions:

Questions

  • 3

    Max Reflection week 5

    Max Chau

    For this week’s readings, Anjiro’s answer to Francis Xavier’s question: “if I went to Japan, would the people become Christians?”, his answer of “…they would observe whether your conduct agrees with your words”, such a great and true answer, unfortunately, the church has failed and from this failure, missionaries will need to be able to answer Anjiro’s question by the way they live out their faith.

    Reading about Ibaragi Kun’s faith and perseverance in the face of persecution and death, such a good testimony.

    Another phrase that caught my eye “becoming a Christian is often viewed as betraying Japanese culture”. It reminded me of my missiology class where my teacher said the gospel needs to transform the culture. The ‘how’ is another thought exercise, maybe one that only God can reveal to us.

    • Faith Minter

      Your points spoke to me as well! We definitely need to make sure that our actions represent Christ and what we are sharing well. I think the verse John 13:35 “they will know you are my disciples by your love” is definitely pertinent here.

      It definitely was interesting for me as well to see that Christianity could be viewed as betraying Japanese culture. I think it is wonderful for us to see this and understand how difficult of a choice it can be for a Japanese person to accept Christ. Hopefully this will allow us to have sympathy and grace with them instead of rushing or expecting them to be able to make this decision quickly or lightly.

    • Paxton Blunier

      Max, thanks for sharing. I had very similar thoughts. These chapter have a lot of good thoughts and things to think about.

    • Naoko Brown

      Thank you, Max! I agree with your statement about the Gospel transforming the culture. “The ‘how’ is another thought exercise, maybe one that only God can reveal to us.” Cultural Specific Evangelism teacher Daniel Kikawa always says, “Becoming Christian should be COMING HOME for the Japanese people” instead of betrayal. May the Lord trains us and empower us to bring many Japanese to HOME!

  • 4

    Faith: Reflections

    Faith Minter

    I found the barriers of bringing Japanese people to Christ very interesting in this week’s reading.
    “Becoming a Christian is often viewed as betraying Japanese culture.
    Christians are frequently perceived as being antisocial and selfish for
    disrupting the harmony of the family unit by refusing to observe many
    traditional Shinto and Buddhist rituals, especially those of praying to
    spirits and reverencing the dead.”

    This quote specifically spoke to me. I think it is so fascinating how becoming a Christian could be seen as antisocial and selfish in a Japanese family. I doubt I would have recognized that on my own without reading this.

    I also thought these stats were interesting:
    With less than 1.5% practicing Christians, Japan is considered one of the most unreached people groups in the world.

    According to Operation World (Mandryk, 2010), the annual growth rate of Christianity in Japan is –0.2%. This is lower than the annual growth rate of 0.1% reported in the 2001 edition of Operation World. Thus, Christianity is currently experiencing negative growth.

    Lastly in regards to Japanese theology, I enjoyed this description: “God the Father suffered by sacrificing His Son in order to redeem humanity. This is tsurasa
    love: enduring pain for the sake of another.”

    And thought it was really sad when the book talked about missionaries westernizing as well as christianizing. And that the Japanese felt like they had to give the missionaries their souls on pg 114.

    Overall, another very interesting week! I’m going to be sad when the class is over. I feel like I’m learning so much.

    • Max Chau

      Hi Faith,

      As I reflected a little, I just realised that I have a friend who is a recent believer and the reason why he is hesitant to be baptized is because his mom feels that if he gets baptized she loses a son…although it’s not necessarily the same level as betraying Japanese culture, it’s interesting that the mother would feel this way, like a sense of betrayal and abandonment.

      I think your point on missionaries westernizing and christianizing is an unfortunate truth from the past, but the good news is missionaries have realized this truth and working towards a new way of spreading the gospel to the people in Japan.

    • Paxton Blunier

      Faith, I totally agree with what you had to share. The statistics and numbers are very shocking and sad. This information is super helpful in knowing more how to pray for them and having a better understanding of the Japanese people. I have really enjoyed reading your thoughts. Thanks for sharing!

    • April Buben

      Faith, yes it is very sad that the church is actually decreasing in size…who knows, maybe some have just become house churches? I do hope that these churches can find deeper roots in society and be able to populate. Thankfully I have seen more people want to understand the culture and I believe that is an important step to reach them spiritually. I’m happy we can all be doing this together and learn more about their culture to do just that!

    • Naoko Brown

      Hi, Faith! Thank you very much for your comment. There was a Japanese family who came to the US and got baptized. But when they were ready to return to Japan, they said, “We cannot practice Christianity once we get home because our parents will not be happy about it.” Unfortunately, this is a very common case. If you know any Japanese who became Christian here in the US and planning to go home, there is a wonderful organization called JCFN (Japan Christian Fellowship Network). They equip Japanese Christians before they leave here and support them even after returning to Japan.
      Here is their website.
      https://jcfn.org/jcfnhome/index.php?option=com_content&view=featured&Itemid=755&lang=en
      Just for your information!

  • 3

    Paxton: Week 5 Reflections

    Paxton Blunier

    Chapter 8:
    Reading the conversation of Xavier and Anjiro on the boat was very cool and interesting to hear Anjiro response to how he thinks the Japanese people would respond to the gospel. With Ajiros response in a way that they would have to think about what was being said. I think in many cultures they have to count the cost a lot more than we do. Following Jesus is not an easy life but other cultures have more of a cost than others in following Jesus. For some people it may cost them their life, cultural, identity, relationships. I think this challenges me in my own life of what am I willing to give up, count the cost in my own life when following Christ in what He is calling me to. How can I be obedient to His calling? Also our actions need to match with what we are speaking as well. I believe those things go hand in hand. Through Xavier obedience in sharing with Anjiro he followed Christ and was baptized. That’s so cool to see!!

    I also thought reading about the Silk Road was fascinating and I learned something new about it. I’m not even sure if I had heard about it until I then.

    It also grieves my heart when I hear about christians being persecuted but at the same time what a great honor to experience that for God to get the glory!! I was very surprised when reading about the hidden Christians and how they were isolated and undercover for 250 years.

    When I was reading the story of the 26 martyrs and how the 12 year old boy faith while about ready to die, brought me almost to tears but more of joy than sorrow. Knowing that their suffering would be short but that they would be before the Lord. That little boys faith challenges me in my own life, it burns a desire in me to have a childlike faith and walk with Christ. When I read this chapter a verse that comes to mind is: “For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.” Matthew 16:25
    It is cool to find out that the first missionaries sent to Japan was in 1859 and that the first church/prayer meetings started in 1872.

    Chapter 9:
    What really stood out at the beginning of the chapter was that Japanese people when coming to Christ is the fear of betraying the Japanese culture and who they are. It’s hard to hear that they do not believe christianity belongs in Japan and that churches are dying off due to the congregation being older. I pray and hope that God brings up the younger generations to lead the churches.

    It shocked me to read that Islam is one of the fastest growing religions in Japan and how christianity is hardly growing at all. As they believe that there are many gods, I pray that God would reveal Himself to them as the one and only.

    Chapter 10:
    I have been discussing a lot lately with some friends about contextualization and how important that is in any culture. It upset me when I read in the book about how people have scrutinized the idea of it and don’t think it is right. How are we to share the gospel with the Japanese if we can’t meet them where they are at? I pray that Westerners understand the importance of contextualization as being effective and to humble themselves, as well as being a learner in reaching the Japanese.

    I didn’t realize until doing this class the weight of what the Japanese believe on not wanting to follow Jesus or go to heaven because some of there family will not be with them. It was very insightful to read about the different stumbling blocks of theology wise of what holds them back from coming to Christ. It is very helpful for me to think how I can better be aware but also know how to bridge the gospel.

    • Max Chau

      The churches dying off due to aging population, I don’t think it’s only a problem in Christianity, it’s like the main sociological problem in Japan. I’m still sorta wondering what is preventing the older generations to pass down the gospel to the younger generation. My main answer is usually hypocrisy, but I don’t think it’s that simple for Japan. Guess maybe we will know as we continue exploring.

    • April Buben

      Max, that is such a good question to ask. Why won’t the older generation share the gospel to the younger? It makes me think of the idea of Unity and being in the group. I’ve heard that a lot of churches don’t actually like outsiders because they change the dynamic. Maybe this is why they are staying so small? Also due to a very traditionalized Christian walk that has not meshed well with modern times. I believe there is a time and place for tradition (and of course ALWAYS keeping in mind reverence) but to be able to reach the youth, pews and hymns might not cut it anymore.

    • Naoko Brown

      Hi, Paxton!
      I definitely recommend you to take CSE 101 class when you have a chance if you would like to learn about contextualization. The class does not offer the formula or the key to bring Japanese to Christ, but it will help you by changing your way of thinking about God.

  • 1

    April: Week 5

    April Buben

    This past chapter reading was very enlightening for me. I was excited to pair the reading with Movies as well such as Silence and The Last Samurai. I realized just recently that Silence was actually written by a Japanese Catholic!!

    I’m yet again discouraged at all the hurdles that Japanese living in Japan have to go through to be a practicing Christian. I wish I could say “By you standing firm in your faith and saying “no” to situations due to your faith shows how strong you are” but that sadly can’t be the case. There are MANY social stigmas that come into place by being a Christian in Japan. It’s ironic since the country isn’t necessarily banning Christianity but almost all religions that upset the “status quo”. This still makes me think that there should be a major overhaul in the systems in order for Christianity to take deeper roots in society. On that same coin, maybe being a Jesus follower will just look different in Japan and that “way” just hasn’t been found yet. I’m hopeful that Japan still at least remains open to Christian missionaries entering the country and is educated as to what being a Jesus follower really means.

    One of my biggest take aways from this reading, listening to the podcast, and watching the youtube videos, is the lack of flat out knowledge of the gospel and who Jesus is. I believe that if we unveil the true nature of Christianity, Japanese people will start to be drawn to it. Just like in the video, “The samurai are one of the best achievements of Japan, if married with Christianity, it would be an absolutely stunning thing.” There are many values that Japanese don’t realize are already Christian. So focusing on the ignorance will probably help the church flourish with more understanding.

    • Naoko Brown

      Thank you, April! Yes, many Japanese are ignorant about who Jesus is, so we need to be ready to talk about Him whenever we have the chance. But as we all know, we have to depend on the Holy Spirit to open their heart. There must be some long-running spiritual warfare over Japan up above, and God’s angels are fighting for Japan. Let’s continue to pray for the country!

  • 0

    Andrew: Week 5

    aepina

    When I first listened to Gordon Kaneda’s talk, I was moved when he said the reason why the Japanese have a barrier to the gospel is because they simply have never heard. I know this fact but it reminded me of the huge need for the gospel to be proclaimed among the Japanese people.
    Previously I have heard of the Jesuits impact on Japan 400 years ago and the great persecution that followed after that. Though I had never heard the story of Ibaragi Kun. I find his faith to be inspiring for a young teenager to rejoice in the Lord even until the end.

    Though in there is a decreasing numbers of members in the Japanese church and most of the pastors are elderly, I believe that in the near future Christianity is going to blossom in a way that makes sense for the Japanese. The few believers that are in Japan are going to become solid in their faith and draw true believers to lead a discipleship movement. Though it is sad to see the buildings empty, but I believe we will see the Japanese will worship together, preach the gospel, and have a gospel movement that will multiply many Japanese believers in a way that serves the Japanese Church.

    The theology section is thought provoking and poses some very challenging questions that I have never challenged myself personally. I will need to be thoughtful and considerate of how I answer questions addressing hell and the inerrancy of scripture.