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Monday, October 28, 2013

Do they know of Christ?

The Engel Scale was developed by James F. Engel as a way of representing the journey from no knowledge of God through to spiritual maturity as a Christian believer. The model is used by some Christians to emphasize the process of conversion, and the various decision-making steps that a person goes through before they become a Christian. (Wikipedia)

     +5 Stewardship
    +4 Communion with God
   +3 Conceptual and behavioral growth
  +2 Incorporation into Body
 +1 Post-decision evaluation
New birth
 -1 Repentance and faith in Christ
  -2 Decision to act
   -3 Personal problem recognition
    -4 Positive attitude towards Gospel
     -5 Grasp implications of Gospel
      -6 Awareness of fundamentals of Gospel
       -7 Initial awareness of Gospel
        -8 Awareness of supreme being, no knowledge of Gospel

Without using statistics to indicate where the Japanese are on that scale if they are unsaved, we can safely say for the most part that MOST Japanese are at the -8 level with some overlapping into the -7 state. Maybe they attended a 'Christian' kindergarten when that age.  Maybe they had a Christian roommate in college.  Maybe they attended a S.S. for a short period of time.  But unless they have actually studied one on one with a Christian or made a decision to attend a church to find out more and attended regularly they would not reach the -6 level. So when we introduce the Gospel to the Japanese people it means first of all one thing: You start with the basic of basics: Who is God; What is the Bible; Who is Jesus Christ, and so forth.  If the person is willing, we use a six-week study course (Japanese like set time limited programs) called Christianity Explained. Even this step may be after some time of introduction through conversation and testimony in every day life.  (
At the end of the course we ask the student if they are willing to continue in study as well as approach them concerning their own need and a desire to accept Christ as their Savior then.  Most will choose to go on in their study.
For others we have included a short Bible study time at the end of the weekly Bible study.  Several of our believers have come to Christ as a result of this.  But the key in each was being patient and putting for the truth in small bits, piece by piece. So they don't just add another god to their godshelf but truly come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and reach the "New Birth" step in the chart above. 
Another step that has to be overcome in these steps toward a true acceptance of Christ and becoming a repented, born again believer, usually happens between -3 and -2 steps.  They may come to understand their need and have a desire--so what stops them---group unity. A desire to not break up the 'wa' of first of all their family circle; next would be (depending on the age level of the student) their peers either at school or at work and thereby you have just encompassed their whole life view.  Japanese will go clear around a thought in order to not cause discomfort or trouble for another person.  The view of others around you begins at home in early childhood years...babies are kept with their mother in their own beds (futon) sometimes until they reach school age.  The tie that is begun then continues as the mother watches over that child's school years day by day, year by year and encourages family ties in various ways until the person as an adult, is an individual but not with individuality.  Thereby, creating a 'chain' so strong that to break it and embrace 'Christianity' and tear that family a part will often keep that person from Christ. Or when having already accepted Christ, but not yet told the parents, will cause a break after the fact.
Case in point:
1.  We had worked with a 30 yr old man in a job here in Teshio, which at the most, meant he would be around for about 7 years before being transferred out.  After studying for some time and attending the morning service regularly, he told us he wanted to accept Christ and be saved. He was excited about this step and eager to continue in his studies.  Several weeks later he said he wanted to be baptized and needed to tell his parents who live in southern Japan.  We told him we would be praying for this decision and the action and for his family to accept his decision.  Within 24 hrs. he called and said he would not be following Christ any longer; that we were not to come see him; he would not be back again and no he would not tell us what had transpired!! We were heartbroken! With a western minded thinking one cannot fathom that type of emotional stronghold on a 30 yr grown man through his family. We have no idea what was possibly threatened if he went through with his decisions.  Several attempts were made via phone and going to the house to see him and he completely refused all advances and said he would call the police. That didn't stop us but his complete turn around did eventually mean that we had to leave him with the Lord! All we can pray, is that at some point in later years, where ever he was transferred in his job, God built upon this man's knowledge and he again followed Christ.

2.  A young woman of about the same age started coming to English. Then she added coming to services and came to the point of admitting that she was a sinner and needed Christ BUT (and all Japanese come to this point at some time, where they have to make a decision to continue or to stop) she could not and would not reject all her ancestors and break the chain of praying for them and to them: for after all, who would carry on for them if she accepted Christ as her Savior.  She understood that she needed to be saved from hell but she couldn't accept that what she had been taught all these years was false and that those ancestors she so faithfully prayed for could no longer be helped. All she could see was the chain would be broken and she would not be the one to do that. She quit classes and never came to another service.  Eventually she moved to a small village near Teshio and is involved in the Buddhist worship there.  

While the times of hurt and sorrow over a soul either new to Christ or almost there come and go over the years, we must be faithful to just keep giving the truth and leave the matter to Christ as to their final decisions.  God is the giver of life and salvation. We are just the instruments...may we be found faithful.

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