Newsletter (Equipper)
We praise the name of the Lord.

Following the article last month, we would like to continue of the series of “Preparing for Japanese Churches” in order to help out returnees.

“Preparing for Japanese Churches” - part 2
Knowing the History and Background of the Japanese Church
Shigeru Suzuki
Sendai Bible Baptist Church, Pastor

The History and Timeline of the Japanese Church
     Let’s take a quick look at the big picture of the history of the Church in Japan. In 1549, Francisco Xavier came to Japan as a missionary. Xavier was told by the Jesuit headquarters to recruit some good workers to take to Japan, so many missionaries were sent. This led to an increase in the number of Christians.
     At first, Hideyoshi Toyotomi took a moderate stance toward Christianity, but in 1596 his attitude changed, and persecution against the Franciscan missionaries of the time began. There is a history of many martyrs spilling their blood for their faith in Japan. I believe it is important for us to know that Japan has a history of people losing their lives for their faith.
     The influence of Protestantism began in 1859. One of the best-known figures is the Presbyterian missionary James Curtis Hepburn. Through the missionaries who came to Japan at that time, missions organizations were developed, and the gospel began to spread throughout society.
     After World War II, God sent many missionaries from North America and Europe, who began ministry all over Japan, and many new churches were born. In the background of the modern Japanese church is a long history of God’s work, and those brothers and sisters who served God through hard work and prayer. The church exists as it is today because of the history of those who labored for the faith and even gave their lives.

Why are there so many denominations?
     It is said that currently in Japan, there are over 160 denominations. If we all believe in the same Christ as our Savior, why are there so many different denominations?
     It is necessary for us to acknowledge that there is only one true Church, which is the Body of Christ.  Christ the Savior is one (1 Corinthians 12). Paul in particular declares that all creation and all people will be one in the completion of salvation (Ephesians 1:10; Colossians 2:20). The most important thing is the prayer that Christ, our great High Priest, prayed before He was nailed to the cross (John 17). The focus of that prayer is that, just as the Father and Christ the Son are one, we would also be one (John 17:21).
     We are all part of the body of Christ through the baptism of the Holy Spirit; in other words, we are the Church.
     However, there are, of course, various denominations in the world. If we look at it from a historical perspective, these branches were born from different interpretations of Scripture and emphases. Additionally, as long as we exist on the earth, because we are all imperfect, we will make mistakes and pridefully oppose each other. Even such great workers as Paul and Barnabas had a difference of opinion that led to them choosing to work separately. However, God’s work was continued through those men, and in the end they were able to reconcile in the Lord. I believe that, even in our human weakness, it is necessary for God’s work to continue through different denominations. In God’s great hands, we worship the same Lord as our Savior, we trust in Him, and He gives us all, in our various denominations, work to do. This, I believe, is one of the ways that God guides us.
     Even as we discuss this topic, we are maturing spiritually and as people, and it is important for us to strive to understand one another. We should not look on other denominations with prejudice; rather, it is important to learn from them. Also, it is important to discuss our differences to deepen our understanding of the Bible’s teachings.
     For example, we do not practice infant baptism, but I have listened to people who do practice this ceremony explaining its significance. I was able to learn a lot from them, and had to acknowledge and admit that what they shared with me was eye-opening to some extent.  
     The important thing is having an accurate understanding of truth in order to have salvation in Christ. For example, we must understand the existence of God as three in One; that Christ is God made man who died on the cross for our sins; that He was resurrected on the third day; and that it through faith in Christ alone, and not by our deeds, that we are saved. Regarding fundamental doctrine and knowledge, it is necessary to agree. Even if denominations have differences, these fundamental truths give us a common foundation. This is of critical importance.

Shigeru Suzuki
Born in Tokushima. Shigeru played baseball (softball) during high school days. He started studying in Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon. Within a matter of several months after being associated with Christian students, Shigeru accepted Jesus. And after that Shigeru transferred to Idaho State University. There Shigeru decided to continue his education in seminary after finding a church he felt home and encountering Campus Crusade ministry. Shigeru joined Western Conservative Baptist Seminary in Portland, Oregon. There Shigeru met Atsuko, who had been studying there a year earlier, and they got married. They came back to Sendai in 1992, and Shigeru started working as a professor at Baptist Seminary. In 1994 Shigeru became a senior pastor at Sendai Bible Baptist Church and has continued to serve there till today. Shigeru likes to stay active and loves taking pictures of natural flowers and birds. Shigeru and Atsuko have a son and two daughters.
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Re-entry Seminar Video (Intro + 4 sessions) is now available on-line (Japanese only). Please use it for re-entry preparation. Clicking the image above, you can watch the introduction. All videos are available at JCFN website.