Japanese cultural ideals are full of Godly principles: honor, humility, service, self sacrifice, respect for elders and leaders, loyalty, unity, etc. We should honor these Biblical truths within Japanese culture because they show that God was already working within the hearts of the Japanese people. (Romans 2:14-15).
In Japanese culture, as in all cultures, there are many things that may not be of God and there are many things that could be of God. The things that are from God should be treasured. They are a legacy of God’s love for the Japanese people, tokens of his affection for them. It is not a cultural issue, it is a love issue! The culture is just an outward expression of the beautiful and unique way God created the Japanese people.
Just one of these keepsakes of God’s intimate involvement in Japan is featured in this video, the Tea Ceremony or Chado, the Way of Tea.
We are not suggesting that the current Japanese church must change its forms of organization and worship. People should worship and organize in whatever forms they feel comfortable. By the same token, we would want to urge the church to encourage traditional cultural forms among those believers for whom Japanese forms would be the most comfortable.
We find that God is reaching out in this way in many cultures around the world. People who have formerly resisted the Gospel are now responding when they are allowed to “be who they are” as a Christian. One Native American chief related why he did not attend church by saying, “I am an honest man, this (being Native American) is who I am.” He refused to attend church because he could not be who he was there; he had to “act” like a Westerner. He was too honest to be a “fake” person before his Creator. Even Westernized, urban youth have responded to a Gospel presented and practiced in cultural forms. It is very effective for Christ to be transmitted in the language and culture of a people because it is their “heart language.” It is then, no longer a foreign Christianity transplanted from the missionaries’ culture, but “Our” Christianity. Many missiologists who study Japan conclude that there is not yet a “Japanese form of Christianity.”
The Japanese maintain their culture and love their history. Popular samurai and historical dramas are still shown nightly on Japanese television and many are involved in traditional Japanese arts such as the tea ceremony (chado), flower arranging (ikebana), poem writing (haiku), and the martial arts (kendo, karate, judo, jujitsu, etc.).
It is true that the Japanese are very resourceful and most Japanese have adopted many Western and modern ways. However, don’t let this fool you, they are still uniquely Japanese. Japanese businesses may look very Western but if a person goes to Japan and tries to do business American style, he will fail miserably. The business protocols, organizational, decision-making and hierarchical structure are all uniquely Japanese. We, the church in general, have made many of the same mistakes the Western businessmen have.
As all strong and vital cultures do, the Japanese have taken foreign influences and made them uniquely their own. For instance, tempura is known worldwide as a Japanese dish. However, most people don’t know that the Japanese never fried foods until the Portuguese arrived. The Japanese took the Portuguese technique of frying donuts and turned it into the uniquely Japanese tempura! Popular Japanese comic books, movies and cartoons portray samurai heroes with modern hairdos and in a Japanese “techno” style. Japanese “anime” style has even become popular worldwide.
If they desire, can the Japanese sit on the floor as they do in other religious situations, wear kimonos at special events, take part in the tea ceremony, adapt the okoto, bamboo flute, taiko drum and Japanese style dancing to modern worship music and still be good Christians? Does God only love Western style worship, dance, organizational structure, architecture, etc.? Does the Jerusalem Council’s decision in Acts 15:28-29 prohibit Japanese style? If it doesn’t prohibit these things, can Japanese church be Japanese in style? Again, it is not a cultural issue, it is a love issue. It shows that God loves and accepts the Japanese people as they are.
Part Three of the DVD – The Need for Western Christians to Release the Japanese
Although most Japanese Christians are too polite to tell their Western friends, many of them have been dishonored and hurt by Christians unknowingly rejecting who they are as Japanese. It is natural for all people to unconsciously gravitate to what they know, trust and feel comfortable with. It is also natural to feel unsure, want to change or avoid what is strange, unfamiliar or uncomfortable; especially when it comes to “sacred” things. Unconsciously, the church in general has rejected the culture that flows from the Japanese people. Most have done this innocently, not realizing that they had gravitated toward doing church in Western style and not understanding the impact this has had on the Japanese.
It is difficult for the Japanese, who as a cultural norm honor and follow their leaders, to change and use their culture without the blessing and encouragement of their Western denominations. Therefore, we humbly ask Western denominational church leaders and missionaries to please encourage their Japanese brothers and sisters in Christ to appreciate and celebrate the wonderful culture God has given to them.
For more information go to the Culture Specific Evangelism and Culture Based Evangelism section: >click here