Project Canterbury

Handbooks on the Missions of the Episcopal Church.


New York: The National Council of the Protestant Episcopal Church, 1934.

Part III. The Church and Evangelism.

THE chief objective in missionary work is always evangelistic, the work of winning souls from idolatry, superstition, ignorance, and sin into the life in Christ. The schools and hospitals are important agencies in the work of evangelization; through them opposition is broken down, the boundaries of knowledge are enlarged, the Gospel is preached, its message of love for the individual is evidenced in action, and many are brought into the Church through the medical and educational work of missions. They can be fruitful means by which the Good Shepherd finds His lost sheep.

Greater numbers of people, however, are reached through the direct preaching of the Word in city and in country. Others are won through the personal work and witness of those who have become Christians and through social service agencies of the Church other than the schools and hospitals. Sometimes it is difficult to distinguish between evangelistic and social work as in the missions in the slums of Tokyo; at the Church of the Redeemer, Kyoto; and in Christ's Hall, Tokyo.

The work of evangelism was facilitated by the signing of new treaties between Japan and the United States in 1894. Under their provisions and after an interval of five years during which the people might be prepared for the new situation, missionaries were allowed to travel throughout the country without passports and to reside, with the full consent of local authorities, in any part of the Empire. This gave wide opportunity for the spread of the Gospel throughout the land.

The first step for the missionary in going to a new place to reside was to seek the good will of the people and to attract inquirers to the Christian faith. This process was generally very slow and required infinite [93/94] patience. When Bishop Reifsnider first came to Fukui on the west coast of Japan he had to wait four years before a single person came to him, and then like Nicodemus, one came in the night to avoid being seen. Two of our priests who afterward gave themselves with earnest self-sacrifice to work among the very poor and the outcast, Peter Goto and Yakabu Yamaguchi, like many another who accepted the new faith, were cut off by their families. Opposition and suspicion made evangelization very difficult. Here the social service work of the Church often dissolved the suspicion and won the friendship of the community. A like instrument of good will has been the kindergarten.

Methods of work have varied according to local conditions. In the front rank we may place the Sunday schools. These effectively reach non-Christian children who would not otherwise hear the Gospel. Through this means also friendly contacts were made with parents who often responded to invitations to come to the church for special services and meetings. The parents are greatly interested in their children and in everything which concerns and helps them. In Sendai a child from a non-Christian home who attended the Sunday school became seriously ill. When dying he asked for the Christian pastor and his Sunday school teacher to come and pray with him. Through this means both parents were led into the Church and became very faithful Christians, the father becoming a vestryman. The schools also win friends from a wider circle. There is no religious teaching allowed by law in the public schools. The teachers in these schools are often interested in religious education because they feel the need of it and are ready to forward the work of the Sunday schools. In 1934, there were 122 Sunday schools in the three dioceses administered by the Episcopal Church in the United States, and 7,829 pupils.

English night schools have attracted young men, and through these schools they have come under Christian influence. By means of Bible classes and discussion groups on Christian morals and by conversation with [94/95] their teachers they have become inquirers and have been led to baptism. Student hostels in educational centers have provided places of decent residence for students and have been a means of bringing them into direct contact with Christian teaching. Through the work of the Y. M. C. A. and the contacts of our missionaries with Government universities other students are reached.

In some places special meetings are held to which the public is invited, such as the evangelistic meeting held in a tent near the Osaka International Exposition at which the Rev. Yakabu Yamaguchi was converted. In the city of Tsu in the Diocese of Kyoto the Japanese priest in charge stirred up his people, especially his young men, to evangelistic service with a definite aim of reaching five thousand people who had never heard the Gospel. They started street and roadside preaching. Eight hundred came to a meeting at the public hall in Shinmachi, a town near Tsu. At a large primary school hall some thirteen hundred people listened to Dr. Inazo Nitobe, an outstanding Japanese Christian, at one time secretary tö the League of Nations. In the summer, meetings were held out of doors and the speaker was assisted by the megaphone.

In the city of Tokyo special missions on a large scale were held throughout the year in every section of the city under the Diocesan Commission on Evangelism. These meetings were advertised in the daily press and as the hour for the meeting approached groups of young people went out into the streets singing hymns, beating drums, announcing the meeting and inviting all who heard to come. Bishop Matsui reported that through this method numbers of inquirers, both men and women, were enrolled. After ten to twenty weeks of instruction in Christian truth they were accepted as catechumens by a special rite peculiar to the Japanese Church. Following this they received additional instruction until they were advanced sufficiently in faith and knowledge to be baptized.

The Church in Japan is enthusiastic about its laymen and their work to bring the Gospel to the people. [95/97] In 1932 Dr. Junosuke Inouye, former President of the Tohoku Imperial University, spent a month in a tour of the Diocese of Tohoku, making fifty addresses on Christianity in our churches and public schools. This evangelistic tour by such a prominent layman aroused great interest among teachers and students and resulted in many inquirers asking to be prepared for baptism. In a town where we have no church a layman and his wife have rented a building at their own expense and seek to win the people to an interest in the Christian religion by means of a kindergarten and a Sunday school.

For several years there were groups of young men in many parishes and missions who met to share their Christian experiences and to lead others to a knowledge of Jesus Christ. From these unrelated groups Diocesan Young Men's Leagues were formed to unify the movement and strengthen its purpose. In April, 1932, more than two hundred representatives of the ten dioceses of the Church in Japan, meeting in the city of Osaka, where the Nippon Sei Ko Kwai was first organized in 1887, formed a National Young Men's Club. The purpose of this organization is to wield into one strong body all the diocesan groups of young men. A strong spirit of evangelism marked the club, stressing especially the need for rural evangelism and a definite endeavor to win young men to Christian discipleship.

Another effective method has been the holding of neighborhood missions in the homes of Christians. This method has won thousands to acknowledge a belief in Christ. Again, house to house visitation brought the Gospel message into the lives of people who had not been reached by notices of public meetings or who felt too busy to attend them. A constant evangelistic agency also has been the witness of the home life and the unselfish service of the missionaries both foreign and Japanese.

A method of Christian work which has no diocesan boundaries and is peculiar to Japan is newspaper evangelism. This method consists of placing Christian [97/98] articles in the local papers. Sometimes these must be paid for and other times they are inserted free. Each article invites the readers who are interested to enter into communication with the office of the newspaper evangelist. This work is followed by correspondence, the interested readers are supplied with Christian literature and, if possible, placed in touch with some group nearby studying Christianity. If this is not possible they are taught the Christian faith by a correspondence course and are thus brought into the Christian Church. The Japanese Christian News Agency supplies articles, short and long, every week which are syndicated to a large number of papers. In 1934, one of our clergy, the Rev. M. S. Murao, was the Executive Secretary of this agency. In the Nippon Sei Ko Kwai, tens of thousands of applications have been received, seeking for further information in the Christian faith.

Japan is one of the most literate nations in the world today. It is said that one-half the population in Japan take newspapers and the other half also read them. This use of the public press for religious articles has been a remarkable opportunity for spreading the Christian faith and the missionaries have been quick to take advantage of this opportunity.

Through all these means of evangelization inquirers are gathered wherever possible into congregations already formed. If there is no established church or mission, the group of believers are formed into a new congregation. As the congregations grow many have developed into self-supporting parishes. In 1934 there were 264 congregations of the Sei Ko Kwai in Japan, in most of which normal parish life is carried on and which are centers for the spread of the Gospel.

Some of these congregations are housed in the simplest buildings, sometimes little more than a shed; others have a combination parish house and church, while others have substantial and handsome churches built in gothic architecture or in Japanese temple architecture adapted for Christian purposes. A notable example of the latter is the beautiful church at Nara, which fits in harmoniously with the temples and [98/99] pagodas in the adjoining Nara Park, and another is the smaller building in Hikone; both in the diocese of Kyoto. There is a difference of opinion as to which type of architecture is best for Japanese churches. The advocates of the foreign style of building point out that it is better fitted to withstand fire and earthquake and is more economical to erect and maintain than the Japanese type of building. In addition the architecture conforms to the new type of business and school buildings now being erected in Japan, even in the smaller towns. They are more comfortable and the Japanese find in them a complete break from the temples and their idolatrous associations. Those who prefer the Japanese style believe that the Japanese feel more at home worshiping in buildings of native architecture which is associated in their minds with worship and reverence, and that the Christian Church should Christianize the sacred and beautiful architecture of the temples of Japan. In time the Japanese Christians themselves will decide which form may best express the religious aspirations and feelings of the Japanese Church.

No Christianity is worthy the name unless it shows its faith by its work. Christian love spells kindness, but this is not enough. It must be actuated by the spirit of our Lord's Incarnation, the giving of self for the benefit of all who need material as well as spiritual help. The Church in Japan is not among the least of those who exhibit their spiritual activity in ministering to the poor, the suffering, and the helpless. Under Japanese direction and support there are five orphanages, one home for the aged, three sanatoria for tubercular patients, two homes for the lepers, one for the education of the feeble-minded, one for the blind, one for the protection of the Ainu race (the aborigines of Japan), one for the rescue of women, one for the care of laborers, one seamen's home, two day nurseries for the care of children while their parents are out at work, and seven hostels for students. These are in addition to the various hospitals, schools, kindergartens and other institutions founded, erected and supported [99/100] by the Churches in America and England. All these are worthy of the blessing: "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me."

These are by-products of the Christiån mission, but what wonderful by-products! Especially are they so when we consider the many institutions and wide service of other Christian missions beside our own.

Dr. Toyohiko Kagawa maintains that Christianity has produced seven great changes in Japan:

1. Home life has changed: concubinage is dying out, prostitution is gradually being abolished, divorce is decreasing, children and women are being respected.

2. Respect for labor.

3. Increase in democracy.

4. Parliamentarianism.

5. Respect for life: suicides are decreasing.

6. Respect for formerly despised occupations: butchers, fertilizer dealers, etc.

7. Philanthropy: "Even Buddhists are imitating us."

We are told by Japanese Christian leaders that for every Christian who is a member of the Church there are ten who are disciples of the ethical standards of Christ. "You cannot deny the Christian victory in Japan and I know Christianity will win. Though the Christian victory in economic circles may be slow, I know it will win."

The Christian movement in. Japan is the most hopeful of all the voices clamoring for a hearing in this discordant medley of modern life in Japan. "Anyone living," says the Rev. Charles W. Iglehart, "alongside the churches year by year cannot but feel a ripening experience, a growing self-confidence without selfconsciousness, a poise, and a maturing of strength in them. Each year gives them a stronger sense of their own entity and place in society as a genuine Japanese movement, and of their mission as a unit in world Christianity."

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