I have been a tentmaker missionary in Japan for about 14 years. In this time, I have come to understand that Japan is a conundrum of contrasts.
On the one hand, it is a very technologically advanced nation, yet it is also unswerving in its traditions that stretch back thousands of years. People take part in religious ceremonies and rituals of Buddhism and Shintoism, yet they do not believe in many of these rituals. They are taught to be self-sufficient and not to rely on others, yet they believe that society, teams, and groups are more important than the individual. They are very righteous, humble, and are often willing to help those in need, yet they do not know the true righteousness of God.
In Romans 10:3, Paul is talking about the Jews of his time. I think this verse if very fitting for Japan.
“Since they did not know the righteousness of God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness” (NIV).
The Japanese, for the most part, are very moral, kind, humble, and generous, and unswervingly follow the rules. The Japanese do not see themselves as sinners. For this very reason, it is difficult to see revival in Japan. Sinners are those who kill and steal—sin is not a concept that is readily understood. So methods of evangelism that work in other places often do not work here. How then do you present the gospel to people who think they have no sin?
On a recent trip to Nepal, I was able to fellowship with some believers. The church in Nepal is fast-growing, even though it is illegal, and laws prohibit the conversion of Hindus and Buddhists. However, the church is able to meet the needs of the people there. Being basically a third world country, the needs of the people are visible. Most are poor, hungry, and in need of physical and spiritual healing. Many convert through these types of outreach.
How then can we reach out to the Japanese people who seem to have everything?
I believe that we need to present God as a Father. We need to become like fathers to the people. Japan is a fatherless society, with single mothers on the rise. For the most part, families do often have fathers, but they are usually not present in their homes. Men are married to their jobs and companies, spending most of their time at work. Most children are raised by the mothers alone and learn morality through the educational system of schools. Even in the Japanese church, this is the case. Most churches will have a congregation of mostly females ranging from housewives, single women, and children. There are hardly any men.
I believe people are unaware of it, but they are looking for the Father’s love. Therefore, Christians need to show the Japanese people that they have a Father. We need to reflect the love of our Heavenly Father and become fathers to the fatherless.