The “Key that unlocks Japan” myth busted!
Japanese churches are generally small and grow slowly, if at all. Evangelistic meetings, even when well-attended, don’t produce many converts. Those few who do show interest often don’t progress to become believers. And Japanese believers often seem slow to grow in the faith. All this adds up to the conclusion that Japan is a country that is closed to the gospel.
What if there is a key?
But what if there is a key that will open Japan? Some new method or message that nobody has tried yet? Shouldn’t we be trying to find such a key?
We have been OMF missionaries in Japan for 35 years, doing church ministry and evangelism in NE Japan (three places) and one place in Tokyo. Every five years or so, there is a new fashion in missions that excites people’s interest and offers hope for those of us who long to see Japan open up to the gospel.
How should we deal with this situation? Is there a key and should we keep trying something new in case it might just work?
What did the apostles do?
When the apostles were distracted by sorting out financial issues between believers they declared that, “we will devote ourselves to prayer and to the ministry of the word” (Acts 6:4 ESV). They gave themselves to prayer. They knew that they didn’t hold the key to the hearts of their hearers, whether in Jerusalem or in the cities and countries they later travelled to. But they knew who has the key to every heart! “The words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens” (Rev. 3:7). And so they prayed!
They also gave themselves to the ministry of the Word. They knew that teaching the Bible was God’s way of enlightening unbelievers and feeding believers.
“Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart. But we have renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways. We refuse to practice cunning or to tamper with God’s word, but by the open statement of the truth we would commend ourselves to everyone’s conscience in the sight of God.” (2 Cor. 4:1-2).
And so they taught the gospel faithfully, clearly, repeatedly, and boldly. They had confidence in the gospel that it was the power of God to salvation for all who believe (Rom. 1:16). And so they were cheerful even when they and their message were rejected. And it didn’t go to their heads when whole cities repented and believed.
There is a key
You see there is a key to unlock Japan. But we don’t hold it. Jesus does. All the nations have been given to him by his Father. And in his time he will build his church here. So as we serve him in Japan we are filled with hope for the future and confidence in the gospel. Why don’t you come and join us as we teach Jesus and his salvation to this huge and mostly unreached nation? Could your life to devoted to a greater purpose than this?
By Rod, OMF missionary