150 Years of Evangelism in Japan: "Planting the Word of God for 150 Years"

With the coming of 2009, Protestant Christianity has been preached in
Japan for 150 years. The commemorative events planned for this milestone
were outlined in the article Commemorative Events for the 150th Year of
Evangelism in Japan on page 4 of KNL’s December 2008 issue (#350).

When Protestant evangelism began 150 years ago (1859), Christianity was
still prohibited in Japan by the Edo Shogunate. However, with a strong
love for the souls of the Japanese, the missionaries felt no fear of
persecution and came to plant the word of God in Japan. Through the
prayers and dedication of these missionaries and those yet to come, the
gospel was spread throughout the country as churches, Christian schools,
Christian hospitals, and Christian welfare agencies were founded. The
results were clear: education brought greater status and roles for
women, and higher ideals were brought to society at large. We give
heartfelt thanks for the work of these missionaries across the years.

Of course, we must not forget that part of the background for those
accomplishments was the work of the Roman Catholic Church in Japan
following Francisco Xavier’s visit in 1549, as well as the work of the
Anglican Church in Okinawa.

Certainly there were extreme difficulties at many points in this
history, as well as the sacrifice of many. Today’s reality is that
material prosperity and spiritual disinterest have encumbered evangelism
since the late 20th century. Even within the Christian community, we see
less interaction among Christian organizations and a weakened unity
among denominations. The fact that we are not advancing our evangelistic
efforts is cause for individual Christians and the church at large to
repent.

At this time of commemorating “150 Years of Evangelism in Japan,” we
give God thanks for his grace through Christ and pray that we may come
together in prayer, understanding one another and deepening our
fellowship together for the continued evangelism of Japan. May we give
of ourselves, our talents, and our resources as we strive to be tools
for this task. This is the commitment to which we are being called.

In 1909, when the first 50 years of Protestant evangelism were
celebrated, the Church of Christ in Japan took leadership in planning a
revival at the Tokyo YMCA in Kanda on March 13~14 for the celebration.
Following this, revivals and retreats were held at local churches
throughout Tokyo. The Methodist Church observed a “Revival Month,” the
Congregational Church observed a half year of “Extension Revivals,” and
other special forms of evangelism took place. Then, a joint
commemorative symposium was held at the Tokyo YMCA, Oct. 5~10. During
this time there was a special service of thanksgiving, as well as
symposium topics on Christian education, Christian literature, and
Christian influence as well as other opportunities for study.

With the approach of the 100th Anniversary of Protestant Evangelism in
Japan, plans for commemorative evangelistic events were approved at the
8th General Assembly of Kyodan in 1954. The goals were to double the
overall membership of the Kyodan and to move more deeply into the life
of the general public. The slogan accompanying these goals was “Go
forward with Christ.” These events continued through 1958.

As we enter this 150th Year of Protestant Evangelism in Japan, we feel
that active participation in the following events is a positive response
to our Lord’s invitation.

MAIN SCHEDULED EVENTS (All in 2009)
June 24 (Wednesday)
Commemorative Worship Service for the Founding of the Kyodan
Location: Fujimicho Church, Tokyo

July 8 (Wednesday), July 9 (Thursday)
Commemorative Convention for 150 Years of Protestant Evangelism in Japan
Location: Pacifico Yokohama

November 22 (Sunday)
Kyodan Laity Convention
Location: Tokyo Yamate Church

November 23 (Monday, a national holiday)
Kyodan Celebration: 150 Years of Protestant Evangelism in Japan
Location: Aoyama Gakuin, Tokyo

In preparation for these commemorative events, the Kyodan has set a
fund-raising goal of 5 million yen (about US$50,000). Churches, groups,
and individuals are being asked to support this effort to commemorate
150 Years of Evangelism in Japan. (Tr. JS)

–Katsuyama Ken’ichiro, executive secretary

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