【June 2017 No.393】Let Us Testify to the Good News through our Lives

by Otomo Satoshi, pastor, Nakamuracho Church, Tokyo

                                                                                     Professor, Tokyo Union Theological Seminary

My hometown is Kuroishi in Aomori Prefecture. Some 140 years ago, in 1878, three students from Toogijuku School, which had just been established in Hirosaki, came to Kuroishi and boldly began Christian evangelism. That was the beginning of Kyodan Kuroishi Church. One anecdote from that time is found in a book written in 1880 by an English traveler named Isabella Lucy Bird entitled, Unbeaten Tracks in Japan (published by Kodansha). She said that while she was staying in Kuroishi, these three young men from the former samurai class arrived and enthusiastically told her in broken English that they were there to communicate the Gospel to the people of Kuroishi. Thus, during this time of great upheaval in Japanese society soon after the Meiji Restoration,, a U.S. missionary had gone to the far north snow country of Aomori and made known the Gospel of Christ. These young men, who had gladly received the message, then were baptized and soon went out on their own to evangelize the surrounding areas, and Kuroishi Church was born.

It was in that small church that my faith was nurtured. I became a pastor and am now taking on the responsibility of raising the next generation of evangelists. The question I also ask myself is whether I have been able to inherit the evangelistic passion of those young men of long ago.

Isabella Bird was the daughter of an Anglican Church vicar, and when she traveled to Japan in the early Meiji Era, she wrote this concerning the few Japanese Christians that existed then: “These converts to the Christian faith were not simply converts, they were evangelists of high moral character, and in that there is great hope for the future of Japan.” However, she also warned that while the Japanese were adopting Western civilization at a prodigious rate, they were also resistant to Christianity, and their society and politics were in danger of moral decline due to materialism. She stressed the importance of communicating the gospel to the Japanese, expressing her hope that all Japanese who received baptism would themselves become evangelistic in their proclamation of the gospel. She concluded that hope for the future of Japan really lies in that. This message really speaks to us today as well.

It has been over 150 years since Protestant evangelism began in Japan, and yet the Christian population of Japan has not reached even one percent. While the numerous mission schools in Japan have had a positive effect, the total number of baptized Christians who attend worship services is still less than one million. Moreover, it has even been gradually declining in recent years. This decline is most apparent in rural churches. While evangelists are certainly necessary to revive the church, more important is the work of the laity. There are some types of evangelism that only lay people can do—namely, living a life that “releases the fragrance of Christ.”

One laywoman who is a pediatric doctor in a rural town has a box of Gideon Bibles in the waiting room of her clinic, with a sign on it saying, “Take as many copies as you want.” Worried mothers who bring their sick children to the doctor and are encouraged by her kindness often take a Bible back home with them. Some of them are moved by the words they read and think they would like to visit the church this doctor attends, so they bring their children with them. Some of those have then been baptized and become active members of that church.

Another laywoman married a Japanese man who was very much against her becoming active in church, even forbidding her to attend services. So on Sunday mornings, she would sit in the corner of the living room reading her Bible and, with tears in her eyes, softly singing hymns. Their three children grew up, watching their mother do this each Sunday. They saw their beloved mother treasuring this so much that they went to church themselves, and this eventually led to all three being baptized, which in turn led to their father changing. He also eventually was led to Christ and became a baptized Christian.

Last year, I experienced a totally unexpected stroke. Being faced with the possibility that my life would soon be over, I was forced to think seriously about what I should do with the rest of my life. I told of my experience in an article in a certain magazine, where I mused, “If I only have a short time left in life, I would want to use that time for the Lord and not myself. I would want to use it for evangelism, and I wonder if others think the same way.” As a result of that article, one pastor’s wife was encouraged to enroll in Tokyo Union Theological Seminary.

If each layperson would get involved in the kinds of evangelism they can do, we would see a revival of the Japanese church. I want to communicate the Gospel message and to do that as a joint project with all of you as we think together about what each of us can do.

 —Shinto no Tomo (Believers’ Friend), Feb. 2017 issue

             Summarized by KNL Editor Kawakami Yoshiko

(Tr. TB)

生き方を通して福音を証ししよう

小友 聡 お とも さとし/ 東京・中村町教会牧師、東京神学大学教授

私の出身は青森県の黒石です。今から140年前の1878(明 治11)年、弘前に設立されたばかりの東奥義塾の学生3 人が黒石にやって来て、果敢にキリスト教の伝道を開始しました。このとき生まれたのが、現在の日本基督教団黒石教会です。設立時の逸 話をイザベラ・バードIsabella Lucy Birdと いうイギリス人女性旅行家が『日本紀行』(Unbeaten Tracks in Japan1880年) の中に書いています。黒石滞在中の彼女をサムライ出身の若者たちが訪ねてきて、片言の英語で「黒石の人たちに福音を伝えたいのだ」と 熱っぽく語った、と。本州最北の雪深い地で、国家も社会も大きく変動した維新直後の混乱期に、米国宣教師から知らされたキリストの福 音を真っ先に信じ、洗礼を受けるやすぐさま伝道を開始した若者たちが、夢中になって伝道し教会を創りました。

私はこの小さな教会で信仰を育まれ、牧師となって、現在は伝道者を養成する務めをも任されています。自らに問うの は、あの若者たちの伝道へのエートス(情熱)が果たして今の私の中に継承されているだろうか、ということです。

バードはイギリス国教会の牧師の娘でした。彼女は明治初期の日本 を旅し、当時まだわずかの日本人キリスト者たちについて、こう書いています。「真の改宗者はそのひとりひとりが単なる改宗者ではな く、伝道師であり、また高い道徳観の中心であり、そこに日本の将来に対する大きな希望があるのです」(『イザベラ・バードの日本紀 行』講談社学術文庫Kodansha Gakujutsu Bunko)。 日本がものすごい勢いで西洋文明を取り入れているが、キリスト教を拒み、社会も政治も物質主義で道徳的にゆがんで先が危ういと警告し ています。日本人に福音を伝える必要を訴え、洗礼を受ける日本人が皆伝道師となって、キリストの福音を伝えてほしい。そこに日本の将 来の大きな希望がある、と。現在の私たちにも伝わるメッセージだとしみじみ思います。

日本のプロテスタント伝道が始まって150年たちましたが、キリスト教人口はいまだ1%に届いていません。キリスト教主義学校の数ではある程度の伝道の成果はあったとはいえ、教会で洗礼を受け、礼拝に 集うキリスト者は100万人に届きません。それどころか徐々に減少してい ます。減少は地方の教会において顕著です。教会を復興する伝道者が必要ですが、むしろ信徒の皆さんの働きが必要になります。信徒にしかできない伝道があ ります。それは生き方において、キリストの香りを放つという伝道です。

ある地方教会で、小児科医院の女医さんが待合室に国際ギデオン協 会の新約聖書をたくさん置き、「ご自由にどうぞ」と張り紙をしました。子どもを連れ、不安を抱えて診察を待つ母親たちが、医師の優し さと親切な態度に触れ、ほっとして聖書をもらって帰ります。その中から聖書を読んで心を動かされ、やがて「あのお医者さんが通ってい る教会に行ってみよう」と子どもを連れて教会にやって来る人がいるのです。また、ある女性は結婚後、教会に行くことを夫から厳しく禁 じられ、日曜日の朝、居間の片隅で涙をこぼしながら1人で聖書を開き、かぼそい声で讃美歌を歌いました。3人の子どもたちは母親の日曜日の姿を見て育ちました。そして優しい 母親が命がけで大切にしているものに気づかされ、3人とも教会に通って受洗、夫もやがて教会に導かれて洗礼を受けまし た。

昨年私はまったく予期せず脳梗塞の発作に襲われました。人生の終 わりを突然突き付けられ、残った時間を何に捧げるべきかを朦朧とした中で真剣に考えました。そして「もし残された時間がわずかしかないならば、その時間を自分のためではなく、主 のために、伝道のために使わせていただきたい。このように考え、献身する人はいないでしょうか。」とある機関誌に記した呼びかけ に応えて、東京神学大学に編入学した牧師夫人がおります。

信徒の皆さんが、それぞれできる仕方で 伝道を担ってくだされば、日本の教会は復興できるのではないでしょうか。福音を伝えたい!この、やむにやまれぬ思いを皆さんと共有し、何ができる かを一緒に考えてみたいと思います。(信徒の友2017年2月号より川上善子KNL編 集委員長要約)

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