A few months ago, I joined other missionaries on an OMF course on evangelism.
You may wonder why a bunch of missionaries were doing a course on evangelism! Haven’t most missionaries had training in this? Haven’t we sent them to Japan to do evangelism? Aren’t they already persuasive evangelists with tracts in their pockets, Bible verses and testimonies ready to share? Don’t they have the needed love and passion for God and people in their hearts?
The answer is yes and no. We have had training, but this course was specifically about evangelism in Japan. Also, not all our missionaries are full-time evangelists. Some teach English as a means for evangelism, others work in universities reaching out to students. We have missionaries whose main job is managing finances or looking after new workers, but who witness when they play sports or go to government offices. And not all missionaries have evangelism as their main gift. Probably all of us have tracts in our bags and some Bible verses to share in Japanese, but not all find it easy.
This course had sections about two kinds of gospel barriers—‘Our obstacles’ and ‘Their barriers’. Here, I will just consider the reasons that are on the Christian’s side of a gospel conversation.
As course participants, we came up with a long list of why people don’t do more evangelism, it was quite shocking. As we considered them, almost all the reasons boiled down to three reasons: inability, immaturity, and fear. Again, it was shocking. Then, we considered how to overcome those obstacles.
To overcome inability (a common reason also given by Japanese Christians) we thought about encouraging ourselves and others to just ‘give it a try.’ We considered what concrete methods and tools we could use. We also remembered that we don’t have to be (and even can’t be) perfect witnesses.
Immaturity could be reduced by deeper discipleship and remembering how many times we heard the good news before we actually came to faith. Also helpful is the realization that we need to leave the results of our evangelism with God as the only one who can open hearts.
For the hurdle of fear (another big one for Japanese Christians), we thought that going in pairs would help. Also, really knowing our true security is in Christ rather than social acceptance.
There are many barriers to the gospel in Japan. The slow growth of the church is evidence of that. But some barriers are on the Christian’s side.
Please pray for all Christians in Japan, pray that the barriers that are on our side will be overcome. So that, at least from our side, the gospel will be spread widely in Japan.
By Peter, an OMF missionary