Mission Leader: Why So Few Christians in Japan?

The quality of missionaries or the methodologies used is not the problem when it comes evangelizing. But it is the Japanese mentality itself that is hindering more people from coming to Christ, said a mission leader last week at a global conference in Tokyo.

Japanese people value human relationships more than truth and principle, said Dr. Minoru Okuyama, director of the Missionary Training Center in Japan, during his presentation at the Tokyo 2010 Global Missions Consultations.

"Because they are afraid of disturbing human relationships of their families or neighborhood even though they know that Christianity is the best," said Okuyama, who previously was Buddhist and a Shintoist. "Thus, Japanese make much of human relationships more than the truth. Consequently we can say that as for Japanese, one of the most important things is harmony; in Japanese 'Wa.'"

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He added, "[T]hose who harm the harmony are bad, whether they are right or not has been beside the question."

Less than one percent of Japan's population is Christian even though the religion was brought to the country over 150 years ago.

Okuyama noted that Christianity is thriving in neighboring China and Korea because the mentality of the people is to "make more of truth or principle than human relationships."

In China, the Christian population outnumbers more than even the Communist Party. The Communist Party has about 50 million people, whereas the number of Christians is estimated to be more than double that figure.

Regarding South Korea, the Japanese mission leader called the country a "Christian" nation. South Korea is home to the world's largest church – Yoido Full Gospel Church, which has more than 800,000 members.

"When the Chinese have been challenged to choose the truth or the human relationship, they choose the truth, sacrificing the human relationship. But Japanese would choose the human relationship, sacrificing the truth," Okuyama said. "Utterly same as the Chinese, Koreans also choose the truth."

He noted anthropologists have described Japan as a "human relationship oriented society," but China and South Korea as "principle-oriented" societies.

Despite the difficulties in reaching the Japanese people, Okuyama said missionaries must not give up but continue to plant the seed. He noted the history of several people groups where, for hundreds of years, it seemed like evangelism efforts were in vain. But suddenly countless people came to Christ.

"The seed of the Gospel never falls to the ground in vain," stated Okuyama. "Let us do our jobs!"

More than 2,000 mission leaders representing 140 countries convened for the Tokyo 2010 Global Missions Consultations, May 11-14. The Tokyo conference purposely coincided with the 100th anniversary of the Edinburgh meeting – the first-ever global missions conference.

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