Giving you a little view of Japan without leaving your home!

Prayer letters, curious subjects, events, people, customs, and more for you to enjoy and learn.

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.

So, Why So Long?? Part 1

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!