Evangelism; June 12, 2019


Hebrews 9:14 How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!

To be honest, I think this sentence would make no sense to someone without a background in the Bible, in either English or Japanese. Hebrews was indeed written to Hebrews, that is, Jews, who were familiar with the Torah at least. It is a marvelous commentary on the Old Testament, but for someone not familiar with the Old Testament, at times it makes no sense. That’s why “Churchese” is so dangerous: it changes the best news in the universe to gobbledygook. If someone has the background of the system of animal sacrifices, this sentence can bring a flash of pure joy. For the average modern person it makes no sense, even with the preceding verses about sprinkling blood. Why would sprinkled blood make someone clean? That sounds nasty! This is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to cross-cultural evangelism. There, the barriers can be as abundant as they are hidden, often enough. Even though I was born and raised in Japan and speak Japanese, in most cases “like a native,” I only just recently had it pointed out that in Japanese society, “friendship” is considered possible only for people of the same social status. Accordingly, Jesus could have no “friends” because, as Divine, he had no equals. It was a magnanimous gesture on His part to call His disciples friends, (John 15:15) but we could never call Him a friend. I was raised by my parents to treat everyone as equals, and I have done so to a degree that sometimes astonishes, and occasionally offends, Japanese. Social class is a non-issue for me personally, and that may have contributed to my poor success rate in evangelism. On the other hand, I know a number of people of high social standing who seem to find me refreshing, and even consider me a friend. All of that is to say that we need the wisdom and anointing of the Holy Spirit to present the Gospel in ways that can be understood and received by the person in front of us, rather than trying any kind of “canned presentation.”

It didn’t take long to realize that virtually nothing of what I learned about personal evangelism in American seminary was going to be of use here in Japan. The professor, Roy Fish, was a marvelous disciple of Jesus Christ and very effective in evangelism in the American context, but his methods simply didn’t translate to the Japanese context. The principles of being open and friendly and genuine were good, but that was as far as it went. I think Jehovah’s Witnesses are more effective than genuine Christians in Japan because the Japanese have a tradition of vengeful deities that have to be appeased. When I come along with the Gospel of repentance and forgiveness, “that does not compute,” as the saying goes. I was talking with someone just the other day about how, when I am feeling discouraged about my lack of fruit, I remind myself that I birthed her, and she has gone on to a life of genuine dedication and service. I’ve got to remember that I can indeed do nothing on my own, (John 15:5) but that God can use even me if I will be yielded to Him, and rest, relax, and rejoice in Him as He has told me to do.

Father, thank You for this reminder, and for Your grace. Thank You for keeping me from giving up. Thank You for the genuine disciples I have had a part in raising up, even if their number is few. I pray that they would in turn go on to raise up more genuine disciples, so that the Body of Christ may be as You intend, for Your glory. Thank You. Hallelujah!

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About jgarrott

Born and raised in Japan of missionary parents. Have been here as an adult missionary since 1981.
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