Presenting a Gospel Witness to the Japanese
Your Personal Nippon Outreach Initiative of the Good News
|Copyright © 2007 - All rights retained by author|
|Written by: C. W. Booth|
Note: This article has two parts, 1) an introductory explanation regarding the differences between a Western gospel presentation and an Asian presentation based in communication style differences, and, 2) an actual gospel presentation (in English) designed to be better understood by someone who has been raised in Japan.
Part One--Introduction: Differences between a Western Gospel Presentation and an Asian Presentation
Over the centuries a difference in communication style has arisen between the West and Japan. There are certainly additional differences than what will be discussed here, however, this brief introduction will be limited to the essentials needed to understand a little better how to attempt to reach across the cultural divide.
Following this introduction, there is a gospel presentation written in English (though I would be grateful if a linguistic expert could translate it into Japanese without cost so that I may post it alongside the English version on the web site). That gospel presentation is intended to be written in such a way as to adjust itself to a Japanese communication pattern so as to be better understood. There are no tricks involved nor is the gospel message harmed, rather, it is meant to be written in such a way as to provide a meaningful narrative flow according to Japanese expectations. While it is intended to be better understood, it in no way implies that someone from Japan will instantly believe in Jesus as the Christ, as that is entirely the labor of the Holy Spirit working in any man as He chooses. As the reader will see, the English version gospel presentation is a lengthy presentation and may be shortened (or expanded) as needed for the need of the moment.
Religion in Japan
It has been said that only half of one percent (0.5%) of Japanís residents have become Christians. Another one percent of Japanese have converted to religions that superficially look like Christianity, for example Mormonism and Jehovah's Witnesses, though such religions lack the gospel focus on Christ as the one God and Creator of the universe.
The predominant religions in Japan are: Shintoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism.
In Western societies it is commonplace for a person to state his conclusion, explain why he came to that conclusion (if needed) using proofs, and then restate his conclusion; this is often followed by back-and-forth challenges of the proofs in the form of debate. This form of persuasive speech is not commonly used in Japan.
Rather, in Japan, a persuasive presentation will be in story form. The first element of the story will ground the basis for the coming proposition (which is often not overtly stated) by drawing a grand scheme of things into which the proposition will eventually fit--the broader the context at the beginning, the better.
Then the story evolves showing the need for the proposition or solution (again, without necessarily stating what that proposition or solution is). As the story progresses, the "conflict" that needs resolution is more fully developed, the context narrows down to the present circumstance of the listeners. If possible, a surprising change of situation is inserted into the story line, or a sudden plot change is used to show that the present circumstance is complex and needs a creative solution.
Finally, the proposition is given through implication, or, overt statement. If the concluding proposition is overtly stated, it must not be done in a heavy handed way, as the intelligence of the listener must be appreciated.
Blatant challenges to the proposition are not likely, unless an emotional nerve has been touched. Most responses to such a persuasive presentation will take the form of "How would we do this?" and not be so concerned with "Is this true?" or "Why should we?" A question of "How would we do this" may be taken as an offer to continue the discussion. If the proposition is disbelieved, it can be expected that a polite thank you (domo arigato) will be uttered without follow-up comments or questions. This should be graciously accepted as the end of that conversation. Arguments with strangers are not considered normative and may be thought to be impolite.
Constructing a Gospel Presentation
Begin with an honest explanation of what will be discussed. Honesty is a prized value in Japan. Use of deceptive surveys or rude ambush-evangelism techniques (including door-to-door cold calls) are probably not to be recommended. Simply tell your Japanese friend what you would like to discuss. If he agrees, then proceed. If he declines, apologize for bringing up an uncomfortable subject. Like people everywhere in the world, the Japanese are curious about other religions and cultures. Be prepared to satisfy that curiosity.
A first step in the presentation ought to be to paint a universal picture as the context for God and religion. It is my recommendation to start the way the Bible starts: "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth." This will establish that God is the creator of all things, including all spirits and all life. All things, all spirits, all people are accountable to Him for their actions, since He created them.
Explain that His creation rebelled and sinned. As a result they were cursed. All people live under the curse and must expect the reward of being cursed: hell--the death of the personís spirit.
Reinforce the point that all people are rebellious to God (avoid the word sin at first, choose instead to say that all people break Godís rules and Godís established ways--this is a concept more familiar to a follower of Shintoism). Show how every man breaks Godís rules (such as getting drunk, coveting, worshipping any spirit other than God, being angry with a brother). This may be more difficult than expected as the Japanese tend to be quite moral; they value honesty, detest thievery, and tend to honor their elders. Demonstrating to a specific individual that they personally have violated Godís ways (by naming things people commonly do that are offensive to God) and have broken harmony with Him (without accusing the person outright) is shown in the English example gospel presentation found at the end of this article.
Then explain how God solved the problem of the curse by sending Jesus to die as a sacrifice. Jesus changes men and takes away their curse. Jesus gives men the way of living with God forever in paradise.
Conclude with an explanation of how this is done (confessing in prayer to God that one is a rule breaker, admitting oneís sorrow and guilt, and asking God to change them forever into a believer and follower of Jesus Christ). Ask if there are any questions, but consider being no more insistent on a response than that. If the Holy Spirit is reaching that person, he will ask how to pray to God and you can possibly pray with him right there. If the Holy Spirit has not called him just yet, asking him to pray is too pushy and you may get a polite agreement, but inside his own heart you may also have offended him deeply for assuming he is not intelligent enough to have come to that decision for himself.
There are no guaranteed formulas. Those whom God calls will be saved, those whom He does not call will be lost, even in spite of the techniques or communication style we use. Yet, God also calls us to be persuasive (Proverbs 16:23), so we must do our best to be as winsome as possible in the culture in which we find ourselves to be a witness for Christ.
Finally, presenting the gospel of Christ to anyone in a culture that has little knowledge of Judaism or Christianity is not generally accomplished by reading a five minute script and asking for a decision. Education and grounding is required. Who is God? (Note: in Japan there are many gods and spirits.) Take the time to explain who God is. What is a blood sacrifice? Who is Jesus? What was Roman crucifixion? In other words, presenting the gospel in Japan is a conversation, perhaps a lengthy one depending on the knowledge and interest of your Japanese friend. More than likely it is an entire series of conversations conducted over a long period of time. Recall that Paul spent days explaining Christ in the various forums of the cities he visited. Be willing not to rush to a premature decision which has no firm root of faith and can lead to the loss of the soul (Luke 8:6-13).
Part Two--A Gospel Presentation for the Japanese
Note: this presentation of the gospel of Jesus Christ is written in English. It would be a wonderful act of ministry if someone would translate it into Japanese at no cost, so that this website could post both the English and Japanese versions side-by-side. This presentation is lengthy as it assumes the recipient is unfamiliar with Judaism or Christianity. It may be best to read or talk through the following Gospel story in several different sittings over several days and not to try to get through the entire account all at once.
Before the Universe Existed there was God
Many thousands of years ago a holy book was written by holy men called prophets. That book is called the Christian Bible. The Bible tells us that before any universe existed, before any stars were in the sky, before there was a planet called Earth, there was only a spirit. That spirit was God. The spirit called God had no beginning and He has no ending--He is eternal. God is a good, perfect, and all powerful spirit. Godís very essence is saturated with love. There were no other gods or spirits except God.
God Created the Universe
God chose to create the universe, the stars, the planets, plant life, the animals, and the first people who lived on Earth. God did this so that there would be people (His own creations, also called creatures) who would benefit from His love and from His glory.
God Created Men and Women
When God created the first humans, He talked directly to them, Spirit to human. The first man and woman, Adam and Eve, were invited to live forever on Earth and to fellowship with God. There was no death of any animal or person on Earth. God warned Adam and Eve to obey Him, to obey whatever rule He gave them, or else they would be punished by a curse which would cause their bodies to age and to die, and, their spirits would also die. God gave these people every good thing the Earth had on it, and He gave them every plant to eat for food. The people were happy to live on Earth and to talk with God every day.
Mankind Dishonors God
Even though God created all things and all people, and gave them all good things on Earth, they did not honor God as the Creator. The first human man and woman rebelled against the Creator and they broke the only rule God had given to them; the rule was "do not eat fruit from one special tree which God had planted." Adam and Eve so much desired to eat the fruit from that one tree, that they dishonored God, broke His only rule, and ate the fruit.
God had to punish them with this punishment: pain and suffering would be unleashed on Earth, and, God limited the number of years which a man may live on Earth before they die, and their spirits would also then die. Finally, God cursed the people and the Earth so that all the sons and daughters of Adam and Eve would be like them; their children would live short lives and also die, their spirits would die, and each child would commit offenses against God before they died.
God Has Mercy
Even though man had broken Godís rules (this is called "sinning") God had mercy on Adam and Eve. Because God is love, He gave Adam, Eve, and all their children a way for their spirits to continue to live. God decided that when men break His rules (when men sin), they must both confess their sin to God and make an animal sacrifice--actually kill it and cause it to bleed--and then God would forgive them and restore their spirit to life.
Adam and Even told God they had broken His rule and had eaten fruit from the special tree. Then God Himself killed some animals and wrapped the people in the skins of the sacrificed animals. In this way, God saved from death the spirits of Adam and Eve because of His mercy, and even though their bodies one day died, their spirits went to live with God forever.
God Creates the Law
God knew how easy it was for people to do evil things. God loved mankind and wanted them not to hurt each other and not to act in any evil way. So God gave men more rules so that they would treat each other kindly and would do good for God. God gave rules such as, "honor your mother and your father," "do not murder," "do not tell lies," "do not steal," "do not get drunk," and, "do not worship or pray to any other spirits or gods except God." God called these rules, "The Law." Sometimes it is called "The Law of Moses."
Because of the curse on Adam and Eve, every person born since has sinned. All humans broke Godís Law of rules. So, in addition to the good things which the Law says to do (such as "honor your father and your mother"), God gave to men instructions on how to confess their sins, how to apologize to God for breaking His rules, and how to sacrifice animals as a sign of how sorry they were for breaking Godís Law. When God hears the confession, the apology, and sees the animal sacrifice, He forgives the men of their sins and permits the spirits of the men to live, even after the body of the man has died.
Yet, even though God had given men a way to confess their sins, which is a w ay to apologize for breaking the Law, and He showed them how to offer sacrifices of animal blood so that their spirits would be saved, men ignored Godís Law. They continued to sin and to not apologize. Menís spirits continued to die, and the men did not seem to care.
God Provides the Last Sacrifice
Since God is love, He did something else very kind for mankind. Something very unusual, something very compassionate, something very loving. God wanted to give men every chance to confess their sin and to receive forgiveness. So, the one spirit who is called God sent a part of Himself to Earth to live as a man. He was to teach men to not sin and to ask to be forgiven of their sin. This part of God was born as a human man named Jesus (who was at the same time God). Jesus became the last blood sacrifice that God would ever require to be made.
The History of Jesus
Most of the second part of the Christian Bible, called the New Testament, describes how God decided to live among the people He had created, and how He lived in the form of a human man until the time of His death. He was called Jesus. Jesus was His human name, Christ was His title. Christ means "anointed by God" or "Messiah". Messiah means, "God is living among us."
Jesus was born about 2000 years ago in the nation of Israel, the land where the Jews have lived. Before Jesus was born, Israel had been conquered by a larger nation called Rome, and Roman soldiers controlled the Jewish people with an occupation force. As Jesus grew up He began teaching the Jews all about the meaning of sin and He taught them that sin leads to spiritual death.
He taught them that after a personís human body dies, their spirit will continue to exist. The spirit of a man lives forever in Heaven, or, if they are unapologetic sinners, the spirit of a man is forever in Hell. When a spirit is in Hell it is called "the second death, the lake of fire" (The Bible, Revelation 20:14b).
Jesus, being God and living among the people He had created, had great love for His people, even though they were still sinners. So, out of His great love, Jesus gave them a way of escaping the curse of their sins, He paid the spiritual penalty of everybodyís sins for them. He paid for everyoneís sins, all at once. He did this as a blood sacrifice for everyoneís sins.
Jesus, being God and being a man, never sinned while He lived on Earth. Jesus never broke any of Godís Laws. Since He never sinned, He was the only one holy enough to pay the penalty for anyone elseís sins. The sacrifice to pay for sins had to be perfectly holy, without any sin. That is why sinners cannot ever pay for their own sins. That is also why the sinnerís spirit is always "guilty" when the sinner goes on trial before God after a man dies, unless he has asked Jesus to pay for his sin.
For three years, from age thirty to thirty-three years old, Jesus went around Israel teaching men to confess their sins, to apologize to God for breaking His laws, and to live holy lives. This made the Jewish leaders so jealous that they made a plan to have Jesus killed.
Jesus allowed the leaders of the Jews, who did not even believe that they were themselves sinners, to arrest Him. He allowed them to bring false charges against Him in front of the Roman military occupation leaders. Now the Roman governor did not believe Jesus was guilty of any crimes against Rome, but he wanted the leaders of the Jews to stay calm and not to riot. So he sentenced this innocent man, Jesus, to be executed simply to please the mobs in Jerusalem.
Romans executed their condemned prisoners in a very brutal fashion. First the condemned person was viciously whipped, inflicting striped wounds all over their bodies. If the condemned person lived through that whipping, the Romans used spike-sized metal nails driven through the condemned manís wrists and ankles to pin the prisoner to two logs that formed the shape of a "T", this was called a cross or a crucifix.
Hanging from this cross by their outstretched arms (which were nailed into the logs), the condemned men slowly suffocated while also bleeding profusely from the whipping wounds. If the prisoners did not die after several hours, the Roman soldiers would break the prisonerís legs so that they could no longer push against the nail in their ankles; pushing against their ankles relieved the pressure on their chests while they gasped for air. Without the use of their legs, the prisoner suffocated faster.
Jesus was whipped, mocked, forced to carry His cross up a hill, was nailed to His cross, and died as any criminal of the day might have died. After dying, the dead body of Jesus was stabbed in one of the kidneys with a spear to ensure He had actually died. The Romans had His body taken down and sealed into a tomb. To prevent mob violence or religious zealots from rallying at the tomb and stealing the dead body, a Roman military squad stood guard at the tomb.
After three days of lying in the tomb, Jesusí body was raised to life by God. As He left the tomb He scared the Roman guards into panic, and later showed Himself alive to hundreds of eyewitnesses, and to the men He had specially trained during His three years of teaching, those men were called "apostles." Jesus then returned to Heaven to rule as God and Creator of the Earth.
This perfect sacrifice by Jesus satisfied the penalty for everyoneís sins, but only if the sinner comes to believe in Jesus and to accept His sacrifice by confessing it to God. Those sinners who believe in Jesus, God will also accept the sacrifice of Jesus and will forgive all the sins a person has committed. That personís spirit will live. Jesus has become the "atonement" (payment) for all sins, and no longer considers us to be unrepentant sinners, meaning our spirits can enter His Heaven and His presence when we die.
This does not mean that the person who believes in Jesus no longer sins at all, for yes, sadly, we do continue to sin sometimes. But because of the sacrifice of Jesus, God considers us to be repentant and apologetic sinners. While unrepentant sinners may not enter Heaven, repentant sinners who have received forgiveness from Jesus are permitted to enter Heaven.
In fact, Jesus (who is the spirit called God, the Creator) will hold a court and will judge everyone when they die. If the dead person has believed in Jesus, his spirit will be forgiven and go to Heaven. If the dead person has not believed in Jesus, Jesus will send that personís spirit to Hell.
You know of Jesus of Nazareth, how God anointed Him with the Holy Spirit and with power, and how He went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. We are witnesses of all the things He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem. They also put Him to death by hanging Him on a cross. God raised Him up on the third day and granted that He become visible, not to all the people, but to witnesses who were chosen beforehand by God, that is, to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead.
And He ordered us to preach to the people, and solemnly to testify that this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead. Of Him all the prophets bear witness that through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins. (The Bible, Acts 10:38-43, these words were spoken by Peter, an eyewitness who saw Jesus die and also saw Jesus after he was raised from the dead)
How To Receive Forgiveness from Jesus
Just knowing the news of how Jesus died and how He raised to life again from the dead, is not sufficient for salvation. Jesus said, "Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter. Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord,í Ö and then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from me, you who practice lawlessness.'." (The Bible, Matthew 7:21-23).
You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder. (The Bible, James 2:19)
To be saved from your sin and from Hell (this offer of the gift of salvation from God), it is necessary to take a step of trust and faith that the demons (evil spirits) cannot or will not do. To know God, to enter into a spiritual relationship with Him, it is necessary to be born a second time spiritually.
Jesus answered and said to him, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God." (The Bible, John 3:3)
Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time. (The Bible, 1 Peter 1:3-5)
This second birth is accomplished for us by God when we pray to God and admit that we are sinners, admit we are guilty of having broken Godís laws, and admit we deserve to be sent to Hell for our sins. When we call out to God in our prayer, admit our sinful guilt, and confess that Jesus is Lord and that God raised Him from the dead so that He might rule over us, and if we ask to be forgiven of our sins merely on the basis that Jesus died for us, God will never turn us away. God will clean our minds and our hearts for us. This is the second birth from above, it also called being born again.
If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says, "whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed." (The Bible, Romans 10:9-11)
God wants us to confess Jesus as Lord. He wants us to believe in our innermost being, our hearts, that Jesus is Lord. He wants us to confess the sins we did. He wants us to repent from all sin, which means to turn and walk away from doing sin. If we do this, He will save us. There is nothing more we can do but to accept what Jesus did for us. He died so that we would not have to be found guilty and be sentenced to Hell. He did this because He loves us. He wants us to love Him.
If you want to be saved from Hell and from the eternal penalty of the sins you have committed, you must pray. Prayer is just talking to God. There is no magic prayer or special formula to pray to get saved or to be born again. God just wants you to admit you have sinned, admit that Jesus is your Lord, and to turn away from doing sins.
Praying something like the prayer below, if you believe in God and trust that Jesus is Lord and Savior, is all that is necessary to receive salvation from God as a free gift. He is the one who will cause you to be born again.
Sample Prayer to God
Dear Heavenly Father, I am a sinner and I deserve to go to Hell. But I know that Jesus died to pay the penalty for the sins I committed. I believe in You and I believe in Jesus. I want to turn away from doing sins. Please forgive me for being a sinner and give me a clean mind and a clean heart. Fill me with your spirit. Thank you for forgiving me and for saving me. Thank you for making me a new person. In the name of Jesus I pray. Amen.
Jesus said: "For this is the will of My Father, that everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life, and I Myself will raise him up on the last day." (The Bible, John 6:40)
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. (The Bible, Romans 8:1,2)
If you have accepted Godís gift, admitted your guilt and confessed that Jesus is Lord and Savior, then you have been given a new life. A new life now, abundant in love, peace, and power, and a new life in Heaven with God when you die.
If you have not accepted Godís gift, this all seems like foolishness to you. "But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised" (The Bible, 1 Corinthians 2:14). Please continue to think on these things. So long as you draw breath, it is not too late to place your faith and trust in the Lord Jesus and to confess Him as Savior.
What You Should Do If You Accept that Christ Is Your Savior
There is a world filled with fellow believers out there who would love to rejoice with you about your decision to follow Christ. In fact, becoming saved is just the first step of an entire lifetime of what Jesus called living an abundant spiritual life. "I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly. I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep." (The Bible, John 10:10b,11).
To get you started, here are some highly recommended "next steps" to take in your new abundant life:
Read the Bible in Japanese online at http://www.biblejapanese.com/jbibles.html
Download free English-language Bibles (and free powerful Bible reading software) to your own personal computer:http://www.e-sword.net/ (Note: I use this Bible software myself, it is of the highest quality and is very easy to use.)
Start your Bible reading with the Gospel of John, Chapter 1--it is in the New Testament portion of your Bible (the last half). All Bibles have a table of contents near the front, it will list all the book names (like the Gospel of John) along with the page number on which it is found. When you finish all 21 chapters of the Gospel of John, try reading the letters that John wrote to the churches, 1st John, 2nd John, and 3rd John. If your Bible is very old, or uses a language style you are not comfortable speaking, consider purchasing a Bible (new or used at the book store) called the New International Version (NIV) or a New American Standard Bible (NASB). Pay close attention to the names printed on the Bible, for there are many translations (versions) of the Bible with similar sounding names to the NIV or the NASB that are not nearly as carefully translated as are these two (for instance, the NAB is not the same as the NASB)..
The following web site has a church search function for finding churches in Japan http://www.jcfn.org/english.htm
May God bless you as you walk in faith.
And without faith it is impossible to please God, for he who comes to God must believe that He is and that He is a rewarder of those who seek Him. (The Bible, Hebrews 11:6)
nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified. (The Bible, Galatians 2:16)
"Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?"
And He said to him, " 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.' This is the great and foremost commandment. The second is like it, 'you shall love your neighbor as yourself.' On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets." (The Bible, Matthew 22:36-40)