Robert & Roberta Adair

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Should missionaries encourage Japanese Christians to be more culturally independent than their non-Christian counterparts.  Is it appropriate to promote a shift away from collectivism within the Japanese Church for the sake of the individual believer in Japan.  I do not have answers for these questions yet but I would like to share a little about how I got to the point of asking them. 

Group Conversion in Japan

One of the projects I was part of this spring was a small study on the effectiveness of group evangelism and conversion strategies in Japan.  This project consisted of interviews with Japanese Christians and reviewing relevant literature on the subject.  This was to determine both if group strategies are more appropriate in a collective society like Japan as well as to determine how to practically do group evangelism. Entering the project we had high hopes to find that the key to seeing revival in Japan was changing our paradigm for evangelism from a focus on the individual to a focus on the group. 

Many of our initial assumptions were confirmed throughout our interviews.  Participants stated that most methods of evangelism they had experienced felt very western to them.  They affirmed the role of the family in making decisions such as marriage, job, and religious conversion.  There was a consistent longing for a contextualized Japanese expression of the gospel.  All in all our project seemed to be going in the direction we initially expected.   The Japanese Christians believed that a collective approach to sharing the gospel was needed in their country.

They Must Be More Independent

Our third interview was with a fellow graduate student at Wheaton.  He is a young Japanese man in his late 20's who has ministered both in the US and Japan.  He had an unexpected but revealing insight during our conversation.  When discussing the need for practitioners in Japan to use methods such as group evangelism to be more culturally effective he expressed the sentiment that to become a mature Christian in Japan you must be an independent person.  His rationale was that Japanese people are conditioned to do what everyone else around them is doing.  This has both advantages and disadvantages depending on the situation.  But in a country where less that 1% of the population is Christian he felt a person without a strong independent streak wouldl give in to the external pressure of society and not mature in their faith. 

If this statement is true how does it effect the way we share the gospel in Japan?  Do we only approach people who are already independent in some way?  Do we encourage personal independence within the church to help the members grow?  I am stuck in the tension between a desire to proclaim the gospel without my western cultural baggage and an apparent need to teach something equivalent to western independence.  So I am still stuck with the question: "Should we encourage Japanese Christians to be culturally independent?"

What do you think?  I have started a thread to discuss this and am very interested in hearing your thoughts and opinions as we wrestle through this issue.

Robert

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