Postwar evangelism in Japan is a new and stimulating experience. It is safe to say that we are witnessing one of the greatest opportunities for proclaiming the gospel in the history of missions. In every section of the country—farming communities, small towns, medium cities, and metropolitan areas—there has been a ready response. As far as the attitude of the people is concerned, it would be possible, if we had the workers and a comparatively modest budget, to hold several thousand successful evangelistic efforts simultaneously throughout Japan. This is a considered statement, made without exaggeration. And when we consider that these thousands of simultaneous meetings could all be held in communities where there is now not one Seventh-day Adventist, we feel humbled and almost helpless in the face of the task.
With this challenge before us, our postwar evangelistic efforts have been in the nature of laboratory work. With most meager facilities and limited working force, we have been trying to discover the most effective methods. Though the present receptive attitude of the Japanese people is in direct contrast to prewar psychology, it is still true that their customs and background require a somewhat different approach to the problem of public meetings than is used in America. Whereas we realize that the Lord of the harvest still has many ways that are as yet untried to finish His work in this land, we have been led by our experience thus far to the tentative conclusions contained in the following paragraphs.
I. Short Series Most Practical
Here are several reasons why the short evangelistic series has proved to be of outstanding value in Japan :
I. In many of the cities suitable meeting places are very difficult to find because of the terrible damage done by the wartime bombing. Available halls are in such demand that it is next to impossible to secure one for any long period of time, even if the meetings are to be held only once a week. Hall owners do not want to be accused of showing favoritism to any one group. It is often possible to rent a hall for several nights in succession, even for one short period.
2. With no background of Christianity the Japanese people are not, as a rule, able to absorb the doctrinal truths of our message just by hearing them preached. Therefore, regardless of the length of the series, it is necessary to indoctrinate them through the Bible correspondence studies, personal instruction, prolonged church attendance, and baptismal classes. Very few are ready for baptism in less than six months of studies, and many require as much time as two years. Therefore, the short series is almost as effective as the long effort in arousing the original interest.
3. The taking of an offering in an evangelistic meeting has been almost unknown in Japan until recent months. It will be a long time yet before a self-supporting effort is possible. Then, the short series is much more possible with our present very limited budgets, than is a full-scale evangelistic program.
4. Our experienced evangelists can get around to work with the local pastors in a great many more short efforts than they could if their time were consumed in long campaigns.
5. There are perhaps only two or three centers in Japan where we have sufficient qualified lay members to help in the follow-up work of a large effort. This is a very important factor. There are only three full-time Bible instructors in all Japan, therefore most follow-up work must be done by local pastors and lay workers. The short series will produce all the interest they can handle.
II. A Consecrated Laity Will Finish the Work
Although the need for effective lay workers is always acute in any land, it is especially so here where our working staff is so small. For example, in the North Japan Mission (which includes the Tokyo and Yokohama metropolitan areas) we have a population of more than thirty million. With the attitude of the people as it is at present toward our message, an earnest worker could get a hearing and raise up a company of believers in almost any city and village of this entire area, which is equivalent approximately to the combined Columbia Union and Atlantic Union conferences. Yet, to face this unparalleled opportunity we have one missionary, four ordained ministers, five licensed ministers, and one Bible instructor. Our membership is just under seven hundred.
We have set for ourselves the goal of doubling our membership in 1949, but this can be reached only if our lay members accept their responsibility and become lay workers. On our part, we must provide them with suitable training and direction.
III. Begin With Story of Jesus
We have found that most Japanese do not know even the simple outlines of the Christ story, the circumstances of His birth, the story of His miracles and teachings, the kind of life that He lived. They have heard the name Jesus, and have a vague idea that He died on a cross. But they do.not know why He died, or that He rose again and ascended to heaven.
Rather, therefore, than to begin a series of meetings with a study on Daniel 2, or heaven, or almost any one of the topics so generally used in America, we have found a good response in beginning with the simple story of Jesus. Occasionally the first topic may be something like "Christianity and Today's Japan," followed by the Christ story.
The following is a typical one-week series : ( I) Who is Jesus Christ? (2) Why the Cross ? (3) God's Living Word. (4) Fulfilled Prophecy. (Daniel 2.) (5) The Coming Christ. (6) His Coming Is Near. (7) What Must I Do to Be Saved?
IV. Bible Course Effective in Follow-up
The Voice of Prophecy Correspondence Course has proved to be one of our most vital factors in preparing believers for baptism. Even though the topic has been covered in a meeting or a baptismal class, the task of writing the answers to the questions gives excellent ground for the truth. Thousands of enrollments, have been received in connection with our evangelistic meetings.
V. An Occasional Full-Scale Effort
We have just concluded a large effort in Tokyo. These meetings, continuing for twenty nights (four nights a week), were probably the most ambitious series ever attempted by any denomination in Japan. Although the average attendance was many more than six hundred, the climax came on the seventeenth night when we secured one of Tokyo's finest auditoriums for one evening only. More than three thousand came to hear Benjamin P. Hoffman speak on "Christianity and Today's Japan." During this series of meetings nearly two thousand enrolled in the Voice of Prophecy.
This series cost about twenty-five hundred dollars. Although the visible results were therefore far more expensive than in the smaller efforts, the inspiration to the church members throughout the field was of inestimable value. Furthermore, the effect of the widespread advertising on thousands who did not come cannot be measured. We feel that each year we ought to have at least one such full-scale campaign.
In addition to the foregoing conclusions, we are also profoundly convinced that in this great day of opportunity for the gospel in Japan we must let God give us a broader vision and an enlightened faith. We must be willing to try new methods and keep our hearts open to the Holy Spirit's leading in new directions. When the night comes to this day of opportunity in Japan, it will probably be the last night. We trust it will not come until the work is finished.