It feels like there is so much God is doing in Japan, so much on the horizon of God’s grace that is about to and is already taking place. There are some awesome ministries that labor with great effort and talent that people would know that Jesus Christ is alive, resurrected in his body right now ruling and reigning over every nation and people group.
Jesus is God, he came from heaven into human history as a baby born of a virgin, and lived a perfectly pure life free of any sin, cowardice, or regrets. This Person when he grew into a man allowed the creation he created to murder him on a cross, but he used this most horrible event in history for the greatest good through which he absorbed the sins of the world and reconnected humanity to a relationship of peace with the God of all creation… Also freeing us from the power and influence of evil spirits due to our sins that kept us separated from God’s love deserving only his wrath and judgement. It’s the greatest news ever! In Japan as well as other places through out the world this message is not yet known but that does not mean that God isn’t already at work within those places and people groups.
I have written in the past about a traditional festival in Japan call Hadaka Matsuri that seems to reflect the gospel in a very unique way. I’ve also come across other elements of traditional Japanese culture that seem completely pagan and unredeemable for Christians to have anything to do with. But those same cultural elements have strikingly similar resemblances to Ancient Israel and practices observed in the Old Testament of the bible. Japan indeed has a very mysterious relationship with Christianity. Here are some other links I believe are worth looking into that I’ve posted in the past.
It appears as though these topics and the questioning of what it means to contextualize the message of the gospel for a Japanese audience is growing, at least from my vantage point surveying various websites and social media.
JapanCAN.com is a good website to learn more about missions and Christianity in Japan, but also specifically about the tension of contextualization verses syncretism. Syncretism basically meaning that you compromise fundamental biblical truths and merge with other religions and spiritual practices in order to make the gospel more appealing. This in and of itself changes the gospel message itself and does not honor God. It can be a hot topic for those who are serious about evangelism in Japan. Nearly all of the criticism I’ve received online are from the links I’ve posted above, some of it very rude and trolling… surprisingly from Christians!
But honestly I’m excited to see that this topic is at least gaining more attention because I do believe God has something for it with helping Japanese comprehend the gospel and receive it as something from within their own culture and not just as the western God. Western Christianity itself in it’s various forms is contextualized from the gospel message that originated in the Middle East. JapanCan.com recently posted an interview with author and sociologist Samuel Lee on this very topic of contextualization and syncretism, I highly recommend checking it out as well as a few other articles from JapanCAN below.
For me contextualizing with the gospel while remaining true to the biblical message is a very serious yet tricky issue. But the interpretation and implementation of God’s word culturally and contextually is very important. I myself am a five point Calvinist… Well, maybe four and a half point Calvinist ;). I have convictions but am willing to work together with and learn from those who have different theological interpretations. As long as there is an attitude to learn from each other and work together a lot can get done in the name of Christ.
I believe there is so much the Christian community in Japan can learn from Samuel’s research and heart for the gospel in Japan as he talks about in the interview mentioned above and through various books on Japan he has written.
This doesn’t mean that I agree with everything he emphasizes with gospel mission in Japan. For example, Samuel writes a lot about Uchimura Kanzo and his influence in starting the non-Church movement during the Meiji period… Non-church movement?! I’m still trying to understand why the emphasis on that. Yes Uchimura Kanzo was a great thinker and did a lot for Christianity during that time. But Jesus loves the church, the bible uses language that compares it to how a husband sacrificially loves his wife. It is true the church collectively are people and not just buildings, organizations, and denominations. But there needs to be order in how God’s people organize themselves as the church in for harmony and in order to have the most possible impact for the gospel in society. Large portions of the New Testament address church organization so it must be pretty important for God’s people and his plan for evangelism through out the world. But maybe there are just somethings that I am misunderstanding about what the non-church movement actually was.
I’m glad to learn of the lovejp.org conference coming to Japan later this year, I really wish that I could go. John Piper, D.A. Carson, and Michael Oh are just a few of the speakers who will be in attendance. I believe that they bring a well balanced theological preaching that encourages the kind of doctrinal foundation needed for all to receive the gospel as well as engage culture with this message that everyone needs to be engaged with… And how to maybe do that with the approach Samuel Lee talks about in his interview with JapanCAN.
For me it’s so exciting to think about and wrestle with these specific ministry related issues in Japan. How far can you go into culture with the gospel as a Christian without losing the it’s message and our Christian witness of Christ at work in us. God’s people are to be holy, set apart, and perfect as God is perfect (Matthew 5:48)… But then also to be like Jesus; who many times was accused of syncretist like accusations, being a friend of sinners and participating in their sinful acts (Matthew 9:10-13) while his only motive was one of love to bring healing to those in need.
So I guess I could go on and on. This blog has changed a lot from the days when I first started it, just about 5 years ago now. I was learning a lot then that I wanted to make available to those interested. Since then I’ve experienced a lot. Life has had it’s tragedies but God has continued to be faithful to provide for our needs between living back and forth in Japan and the States, getting married, and now becoming a father. Our family just grew by a baby girl!
I like to blog about big picture things like Japanese culture, contextualization, missiology, and evangelism. But my wife, who joined me on this blog, likes to write about our memories, cooking, and date nights. East is married to west in our relationship and something new is being born… Someone more specifically, my daughter. But what could come about from Christianity in Japan if east and west came together as family, what could God cause to be born? Something powerful for his glory I bet.
What I write about I feel will be changing. Being married and having a family… Black and Japanese mix. It’s a big deal in Japan especially if your wife is from the Japanese countryside. But it’s been a while for me to write anything here and it feels good just to write from my heart with some updates and things. For those who stuck it out with me this far, thanks!