“How can you ask a person to marry someone they’ve never met?”
That was the question posed by Michio Isokawa as he began to explain the vision behind an evangelistic outreach taking place in Tokyo on Monday.
That event, the Celebration of Love, will follow this weekend’s Fukushima Celebration of Hope with Will Graham.
Mr. Isokawa’s point was this: One cannot ask or expect a Japanese to accept Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior, because the average Japanese has no idea who Jesus is.
“Many Japanese believe in many gods. There’s a god of Buddhism; Shinto religion, and Shinto has a lot of gods,” said Rev. Makoto Hosoi, general superintendent of Japan Assemblies of God. “So the way the Japanese people think about gods is a little bit different than the way that Americans think about God. For Americans, it’s God singular, but here when you say god, it’s gods, plural.”
Mr. Isokawa, of Tokyo’s Word of Life Ministries, added, “Japanese Christians want to share about who Jesus is, but they seldom have a chance to share about who Christ is because there are no topics on Christianity. So we can hardly say, ‘Can you believe in Jesus?’ because they don’t know who Jesus is.
“So we want to give an opportunity to introduce who Jesus is and what Christianity is all about.”
Both gentlemen were quick to point out that the lack of understanding about Jesus does not necessarily indicate that the Japanese are against the Christian faith.
“I think many Japanese have a good attitude about Christianity, but they don’t know what Christianity is all about,” said Rev. Hosoi.
Mr. Isokawa pointed to a recent live performance of the Broadway rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar, saying that the musical was produced by a secular group and many people were paying $100 per ticket to see the show.
“That shows how many people are interested in Christianity, who Jesus is,” said Isokawa.
Ultimately, Rev. Hosoi, Mr. Isokawa, and other Christian leaders in Tokyo were left to ponder the equation: the Japanese don’t know who Jesus is, but they aren’t against Christianity and they are interested to learn more.
In response, they crafted a unique program intended to bring the audience from no understanding of the Gospel all the way to the opportunity to accept Jesus Christ as Savior, all in one exciting show.
Their intention is to have all of the music and testimonies through the first half of the Celebration of Love flow together in such a way that it describes who Jesus is and how much He loves every person in the auditorium. By the time Will Graham takes the stage with his Gospel message, the organizers hope the audience knows enough about Jesus to understand the salvation that He freely offers.
“It’s a bit different than other events where a musician sings one song and then another artist sings one song. It’s different from that,” explained Rev. Hosoi. “Of course, artists will sing songs, but we want to make these songs connect to each other to make the story of Jesus Christ all the way through from beginning to end.
“There’ll be songs and Bible reading, and there will be video presentations, and then we’ll continue the story to the cross and the resurrection,” continued Rev. Hosoi. “That way we can introduce the Japanese to who Jesus really is, because many Japanese don’t know who Jesus really is.”
They hope that the end result is a program that is not only inspirational for Christians, but is also an easy invitation to be offered to non-Christian friends.
Thus far it seems to be working. Organizers secured an 1,800-seat auditorium, which seemed large in a country whose population is less than 1 percent Christian, and where the average church size is very small by most standards. The free tickets were snapped up immediately, “selling out” the event in July.
Now, as July has turned to September and it’s time for the Celebration of Love, Mr. Isokawa is asking for prayer.
“Pray that many non-Christians would come and attend this meeting. Number two, that those Christians can get to know who Jesus Christ is in a very natural way or method. Pray that the people can meet with the living Jesus.”