The Rev. Akira Hatori
Thirty years ago, I was a Buddhist. But now my whole family has
become Christian and among my relatives there are more than twenty full-time
Christian ministers including a missionary to Laos.
As I stand here before you, my heart is full of gratitude to the one and only Saviour and Lord. But at the same time, I fear and tremble, because my heart is burdened as we a mere handful of Asian Christians, face this tremendously great unfinished task of evangelism in our native lands, in our day.
Japan consists of four main islands no larger in land area than the state of California. Since the war this nation of 100 million serious, diligent and active people has achieved amazing prosperity.
The monument of Kanzo Uchimura, a noted Japanese Christian leader, bears this inscription: I for Japan; Japan for the world; The World for Christ; Christ for God. I wish this were true of present-day Japan. Who can make this nation an instrument for God in the world? Only the Church of Christ, and I am ashamed that we are so powerless.
The number of Christians in Japan is about 460,000 or less than one half of 1% of the total population. In the past five years eight million people were born into this country, but only 56,000 were brought under the influence of the Church. The churches, moreover, are losing ground even among their baptized members. Many Christian leaders estimate that only one third of the reported number of Christians are true believers. The task of evangelism in Japan is overwhelming.
During the war the government leveled Satanic pressure against the Christian Church. Those who survived had to begin all over again. Hundreds of missionaries were poured into the country. Everything possible was tried and in a sense the sound of the Gospel covered the nation until the Church in Japan was restored almost to her pre—war stature.
But in 1951 came a standstill. The Church began to feel very real and insurmountable walls about her and now senses anew its lack of impact on society.
From about 50 papers submitted by mission leaders in Japan, I have gathered the following observations which many seem to share.
1. The Japanese church failed to penetrate all levels of society for two reasons: first, there was a foreignness as well as shallowness in presentation of the Gospel; second, the Church lacked vision.
2. The Japanese church failed in motivating believers to witness and reach out in society because its life was too formal and minister—centered. There is very little evangelistic fervor and actual witnessing among the laity.
3. The Church failed in unity and cooperation. Almost all denominations of the world have been transplanted to Japan, and have been independently minded. There are about 100 church groups and l40 missions.
4. Many of the younger church leaders try too hard to be relevant to the present world situation and force themselves into social betterment movements along with the ecumenical movement; consequently they have no energy or time for real evangelism. (1)
There are many outside obstacles to the growth of the Church in Japan. Among them are strong heathen traditions, social relationships, secularism, materialism and new national religions such as Sokagakkai. But there are even more acute obstacles inside the Church: lack of spiritual fervor, lack of a living witness among the laity, and lack of unity among Christian groups.
To fulfill our great task we need revival, total mobilization of all believers and a unified program of evangelism.
Thank God at least some Japanese Christians have awakened to these needs and are anticipating a visitation of the Lord. Here and there we see evidences of a new movement and work of the Holy Spirit.
How long will we enjoy liberty to preach the Gospel? There are vast open doors among students, among people in newly developed “Danchi” residence areas, through city-wide united campaigns, radio, TV and newspapers, through businessmen, factory evangelism, etc.
A. In its ten-year plan of evangelism the United Church of Japan
is being guided by two principles:
1. The Church should be challenged to become a witnessing Church.
2. The Church should take full responsibility for evangelism in all levels of life in a given community. (2)
B. Evangelicals are experiencing a rising sense of urgency and desire for an overall strategy to motivate, train, organize and activate every Christian for the task of evangelism.
C. The national Church has caught the vision of foreign missions, evidenced by the fact that it has sent out 80 missionaries from its own ranks.
The key to new vitality is “total mobilization.” And we fully expect God’s mighty hand to move us out. If the Church of Japan can be completely mobilized in this generation, it will be able to take a leading role in the evangelization of Asia. Please pray for us!
The picture in Taiwan is far brighter. A Taiwanese minister wrote: “The Christian work here has been marching on at a steady pace. God is giving unusual grace to us as we are the ‘remnant’ of the Chinese people. In other words, we are like the densely—grown rice plants in a ‘seed—bed,’ soon to be transplanted in the huge number of our countrymen in the whole country.” (3)
The population of Taiwan is 13 million and the approximate strength of the church numbers 283,000. Perhaps half of these are adult born again Christians.
Although Protestant work was begun in 1621 by Dutch missionaries, the real growth came after World War II.
Taiwan has 1,959 churches and 2,100 full time Christian workers, and 610 missionaries; 45 denominations and groups are represented. Generally speaking, the Church is growing steadily but there are differences in the rate of growth among various denominations. The Roman Catholic church and the Taiwan Presbyterian church are growing the fastest. Between 1955 - 1965, the Taiwan Presbyterian church, which has been in existence for 100 years and represents about half the entire Protestant strength doubled its churches as well as its membership. Another growing denomination is the Southern Baptist which in 18 years established 30 churches with 9,928 communicants. God’s real gift to Taiwan was the mass movement to Christ which swept the mountain tribes during the war and post-war years. God has claimed 1/3 of the tribal population of 70,000. While there has been a post—war growth, still the Church has seen response from only 2% of the total population and faces a challenging task of evangelism. There are open doors everywhere. The student population of 26% presents the greatest opportunity. And the Lord continues to keep the door of evangelism open to the soldiers of Taiwan. Another challenge are the 4000 out of 5000 villages that still have no church. Moreover, also almost one million Hakkas need the Gospel. In the realm of mass communication, TV, radio and literature present wide open opportunities.
Although there is still ancestor worship, animistic idolatry, resurgent Buddhism and Taoism, rising materialism, and, lack of unity in the Church, especially among conservative missions, and continued use of outmoded mission strategy, there is still great hope for Taiwan.
Leaders are praying about an Evangelism-in-Depth program to be launched either in 1968 or 1969. Practically all churches and mission groups will be participating in. goal to thorough1y mobilize, train, and organize the entire Christian constituency for a systematic, coordinated and clear witness to the entire population.
Said, a Taiwanese Christian: “This is no small task. We wouldn’t dare to even think of it, if it were not for the fact that we realize this is God’s work and we can only obey. Please pray for us.”
The British Crown Colony of Hong Kong can accommodate about 800,000 persons but actually harbors over four million, because of the tremendous exodus of people from the China mainland.
At present, the number of Christians there is reported to be about l20,000; or 3% of the total population. The Gospel has been preached in Hong Kong for over a century, but most of the active, evangelistic churches were established after the last war.
By far the best opportunity now lies in evangelizing the masses who have migrated and now live in government resettlement houses and house boats.
Because of its economic, geographic and political situation, Hong Kong is the headquarters for many Christian enterprises active in Southeast Asia. This fact challenges the churches of Hong Kong themselves to become a base for sending out their own missionaries and other resources to various parts of Asia.
We thank God for those who had the vision and have put it, into practice.
When we look at Korea we are reminded of the divisions and struggles of our changing world. Yet even here we see God’s gracious hand performing miracles. As one missionary commented, ‘Korea could become the first Christian nation in Asia in our generation. In this decade, every Korean will have a church within walking distance.” (4)
Korea’s history has been one of persecution, oppression, division and strife. But since the revival of 1907, the Korean church has kept its spiritual level high and keen. The size of congregations far exceeds that of the average church in the Far East. One native Christian characterizes the Church of Korea as follows “orthodoxy in doctrine, active personal evangelism, deep spiritual life, strong catechetical instruction, healthy stewardship, and powerful prayer life,” (5)
With its 27,000,000 inhabitants South Korea is about 7% Christian
(including Protestants and Roman Catholics). The approximate total strength
of Christians in Korea is 1,740,938 Protestants in 8,163 Protestant churches,
having 8,915 Protestant Korean Church workers.
The Roman Catholic community is estimated at over 500,000.
The two words to properly describe the Korean church are growth and division. The years since the Korean War of 1950 have been years of schism. Presbyterians alone have splintered into 11 different groups, the Holiness Church into two, and the Baptists into two. But despite these tragedies the Korean Church continues to grow with amazing vigor, and has made its influence felt at all levels of Korean life. The largest congregation in Seoul, the capital, is Yung Nak Presbyterian church which has grown from a membership of 27 in 1946 to over 9,000 members in 1966. It supports forty evangelists and two foreign missionaries. The city of Seoul has more than 450 Protestant churches. (6)
A nation-wide interdenominational evangelistic crusade in 1965 saw more than 10,000 decisions for Christ. The two fastest growing churches seem to be the Presbyterian Church in Korea, and the NAE Presbyterian church in Korea which split from the original body in 1959.
In Korea, too, the Lord is giving Christians complete freedom to preach the Gospel. The major open doors seem to be in five areas: industrial evangelism, student and university evangelism, evangelism in the armed forces (where the ratio of Christians is double that of the general population), evangelism among under-privileged children, in Bible Clubs, and rural evangelism in the villages.
The church’s evangelistic strategy has been to pinpoint these five areas of immediate opportunity, and to initiate a twenty year program of evangelism to penetrate them with the Gospel. Included in the strategy is radio and television evangelism. A wide network of Christian schools, including two Christian universities and five Christian colleges is expected to produce the trained leadership required in addition to the Christian workers that come from the country’s Bible Institute programs.
For all the fine work being done in Korea, 93 Koreans out of 100 are still unsaved. As vigorous secularism increasingly invades the nation, the blessed Korean Church still needs ongoing revival to carry forward the great task of evangelism. One missionary said, “Our greatest need is a spiritual revival cleansing the church, coupled with a broader evangelistic strategy to meet the need of the varying classes of Korean society.” (7)
In each of the countries we have mentioned the Church senses the need for total mobilization and increased evangelism to fulfill its task.
We must remember that: “He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully” (II Cor. 9:6).
1. Christian Year Book(1966), Kiristo Shinbun Sha, Ltd. p. 29—78.
2. “Explanation of the 10 year plan of evangelism of the united church of Christ in Japan” (1966).
3. The Rev. David Mao, Overseas Crusades, Inc., P.O. Box 555, Taipei, Taiwan.
4. Statement by Clarence G. Kurkam.
5. A Report on Evane1ica1s in Korea, presented to the Oriental Evangelical Fellowship by Rev. David Dong Jin Cho, Executive Secretary, Korea Committee for Asian Evangelicals United Action, November, 1965.
6. Wildfire: Church Growth in Korea, by Roy E. Shearer.
7. Statement by Dr. Samuel Hugh Moffett, a Presbyterian missionary in Korea.