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Christian Laity in Japan-By Ev. Kenny and Lila Joseph

What does the word "laity" mean?  Webster says: "the people as distinguished from the clergy; those not of a certain profession,  as distinguished from those belonging to it." We include ladies with gentlemen.

When did it start? Acts1:8 and 8:1. Thatfs easy to remember. We all memorized
Acts 1:8 And ye shall receive power after that the Holy Spirit is come upon you....After Jesus disciples asked, "Master, are you going to restore the kingdom of God to Israel now, is this the time?" Jesus told them, "you don`t get to know the time. Timing is the Father`s business, but what you will get when the Holy Spirit comes on you, you will receive power to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, all Judea and Samaria, even to the ends of the world." These were His last words. Acts 1:7-9.

The lay movement started in Acts 8:1 and 4, after a terrific persecution of the church in Jerusalem. The believers were all scattered throughout Judea and Samaria. All these except the apostles (preachers)--good and brave men. Wherever they were, they preached the message about Jesus. (The Message Bible) Those laymen came all the way to Assyria, India, China, Korea and Japan by 199 A.D. (Some say by 91)

Covering Only the post-war MacArthur Era

In l949 General Douglas MacArthur wrote to the Japan Bible Society; Thank you for the 4 million copies of the Scriptures since the l945 beginning of the occupation. People of 51 denominations in 48 states have contributed to this project. Just over one million dollars...you are well on the way to reaching the goal of l0 million copies which I requested.

He sent the same letter to the Pocket Testament League (PTL). We can print a million Gospels of John, they said. MacArthur answered, "Make it l0 million."

A third telegram went to the Gideon s in Chicago: Copies of Holy Scripture, especially bi-lingual New Testaments are essential for success of the Christian movement as the basis for study and acceptance of the faith.

Jail Mac!

Can you see the headlines if this was today? ACLU Accuses MacArthur of Promoting a Specific Religion. Sue him. Put him in jail.

The layman, Dick Holzwarth, who couldn`t speak Japanese, organized the first Gideon camp in Tokyo in l950. Soon after, they printed the first of 25 million New Testaments and Gideon laymen distributed them to Japanfs hotels, hospitals, schools and prisons.

The Gideon s have 263 menfs camps, 154 ladiesf camps,  l687 men and 913 women. Laywomen who major in going to hospitals must be the wife of a Gideon to join.

(Editor: If you want, put the concise Gideon report here.)

Thank God for these laymen: General MacArthur, Glen Wagner, Dick Holzworth,  Tomezo Suzuki of the Gideon s, and Kinichiro Endo who started the CBMC. (Christian Business Men`s Committee started in Chicago in l930) I was there when it happened and I ought to know... in the Marunouchi Hotel in Tokyo in l954. It restarted in Osaka in l974. They`ve had l8 bi-yearly conventions.

When some missionaries were overwhelmed by visiting firemen and summer Gospel teams, the Gideon s held action outreaches. JEM-TEAM evangelist Dick McGuire and I were asked to interpret for the visiting 20 Gideon s. Just looking at their 2-week schedule made my knees buckle. These were not guys looking to go sight-seeing or shopping. Up at 6:30 at a cheap hotel in Ikebukuro, they were on their knees in the lobby before breakfast. Once in walked a Finnish girl enlisted by the yakuza to be a waitresses.This Bible school graduate found out the yakuza took her passport and made her into a prostitute, enforced by cigarette burns all over her body. She wanted to get away and was shocked to see these men praying. We helped her pack and get to a safe house.

Dick and I were run ragged trying to keep up with the Gideon action teams, going with them at 8 A.M. to schools, to hotels, to hospitals and churches. We had to be with each group and interpret the message before the Scripture portions were passed out, and they got out 200,000 bi-lingual New Testaments in 10 days.

At a big Baptist church after preaching, the Gideon s  stood in the back with offering plates as they do once a year in churches, after giving their testimonies. They got over 200,000 yen in that church.  That is how they support themselves, after a modest subsidy from America during the post war boom was over.

At this time the Gideon laymen went into hotels and schools, quoting MacArthur`s edict.
They got the entire school in an assembly and passed out mountains of bi-lingual New Testaments, bowing to each student as he picked his up,  after a brief laymanfs Gospel message on the Bible being the foundation for new Japan`s democracy.

The Gideon s organized on September 1, l950, when the average Japanese worker made $15,000 a year. There are l,687 Gideon s and 913 auxiliary wives. They have over 167 camps and their yearly goals are over one million a year. Over 34 million Scriptures were placed, making it 500 per Gideon. Their goals are to get into the 24,730 elementary schools, 11,300 junior high schools, 5,501 senior high schools, 591 junior colleges and 523 universities, totaling over 35 million students. Though hotels are still OK, public schools now make many Gideon s stand outside the school gates on public sidewalks.

Call the Gideon headquarters for the nearest Gideon camp near you and make friends with these laymen and see how you can help them and how they can help you:
03-3928-4394. No pastors or missionaries can join. Once a year one comes to our little church and gets a modest Y20,000 offering.  This multiplied by a potential of 8,000 protestant churches keeps them going. Suzuki gives a special Gideon Bible with MacArthurfs message to each new prime minister...and he has the gpicturesh on his office wall to prove it.

During this time MacArthur said No thanksh to the emperor`s offering to give an order on the radio telling everyone to become Christians. He said that Revelation 3:20 says, "Behold I stand at the door and knock: if any man opens the door, I will come in...." He stressed that it was a personal choice. Many of us have a different view of this. Norway`s king was led to the Lord by a foreign king over a thousand years ago and then he declared Norway a Christian country. Even today Norway gives more money per capita to missions than any other country and they also send out the most missionaries per capita.

The Nippon Kirisuto Kyodan (the Japanese secret police divided all into 2 groups:  Catholic and Protestant and you had to join one) was forcibly labeled and evangelicals were pushed into the liberal Kyodan. Post war, the conservatives all left.

Giving credit where credit is due, in 1954 the Kyodan started a laymenfs volunteer movement. Each church member was given a series of a one page daily time schedule, broken down into half hours. Take away 16 hours of sleep and work and 3 hours for meals, how much time can you allot to the Lordfs work? The Bible Society called them col-portor ladies and gentlemen.To pass out just portions of the Gospels.  If they can get a donation, fine. If not, make it a present.

During my 40 days and 40 nights in the Southern India province of Kerala, working with l0 Indian laymen and one British truck driver who had a PHD in Chemistry. The treasurer of the OM group told them, "You will eat a big meal tonight depending on how many Bible portions you sell." Some would lay out their Scripture portions on a cloth and sit and wait for people to come. Others filled their shoulder bags and worked at selling them. I can tell you we ate well. We had a choice of 8 curries to go with goat for lunch and goat for supper.

Japan`s Morning Prayer Breakfasts

Morning prayer breakfasts (Chotokais) started in l957 at the Osaka Christian Center. From 7:30 to 8:30, they still keep on a meticulous time schedule in 150 locations. If they honor you as a speaker, you get all of l0 minutes. Other testimonies, only 3 minutes. The leader gets a 4-year term.  These are 160 ecumenical Kyodan and evangelical meetings.

Evening Meetings

There were 3 other groups besides the Chotokais--Nihon Kiristian Shintokai, Nihon Kirisuto Rengo and the Nihon Kirisuto Kyodan. Three small groups trying to get to the people before work. Thanks to a Christian businessman, Mimori...he spent several years trying to get those 3 groups together into one and he succeeded in l967. At that time each surrendered their feifdom to the umbrella group, the Nihon Shinto Zenshin Senkyokai, or Japanfs Laymen`s Advance mission.  They started a 3-day yearly conference featuring up to 40 laymen giving a 10 minute testimony. They invite just one famous Japanese evangelist or minister to preach 4 messages. But the unique feature is the laymanfs testimony held in Yugawara Pensionfs Hotel for 23 years.

Then every 4th Thursday of the month they meet  at Ochanomizu Christian Center on the 9th floor from 6:30 to 8:30 and here Japanese-speaking missionaries are welcome. I try to attend whenever possible, thanks to the new Ochanomizu subway elevator!

The CBMC, patterned after American luncheons for men, was started in l952 in the Marunouchi Hotel in front of Tokyo eki by Christian publisher Apollosha Kinichiro Endo.He printed our first Language Handbook.  The CBMC has had it`s ups and downs and is now stronger in the Kansai area than in Tokyo.

The first ALCA (Asian Laymen'sf Christian Association)  later merged with 3 groups.    I objected when they wanted to have one Catholic layman. I was the international co-ordinator as the youngest then at 35 years old. We started Nichi-Tai -Kan, meaning Japan, Republic of China on Taiwan and the Republic of Korea. We had 101 on a special laymen`s tour to Korea in l959.  It was a combination of repentance and testimonies and evening evangelistic Gospel meetings for the unsaved.  The Korean layman who invited us was Mr. Byung Sup Kim.  This was a very bold and brave move by him. Why? Because Korea had just been liberated from 35 years of brutal Japanese occupation where the standard soldier`s greeting was baka yaro! They would clump on the polished, warmed-from-underneath floors where people also slept and with their dirty boots and raided the houses for rice. Anyone who resisted was slapped and cursed.

And so the Japanese leader, Tomezo Suzuki--a former Naval officer--- (who is now 96 years old and hospitalized) bowed down and repented for the Japanese occupation. But Kim was called "sakura," the equivalent of "nigger," cooperating with the hated Japanese. But he persevered and yearly they had a 3-4 day conference-evangelistic campaign in Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, the Philippines and Viet Nam. I would only handle the English where the Japanese writing correspondence wasnft understood.

I had to interpret from Japanese into English in Singapore. The host took us on a bus tour and led us to a beach where they said the Japanese marched 30,000 Singaporeans into the ocean and shot them like ducks and the waves became red. Once again an open air repentance ceremony was conducted.

ALCA held the last crusade in Saigon, Viet Nam. Evangelist Koji Honda would speak in Japanese and I would put it into English and the Vietnamese finished, so l0 minutes became 30 minutes. At the invitation 600 Vietnamese raised their hands, but there was no room to come up front. So they waved their hankies and got decision slips. The C&MA churches called "Tin Lan" followed them up.

This was a lawless place.  I was interpreting for Brother Suzuki when he was trying to buy souvenirs at an outside stall.  Like in Japan, he casually put his briefcase down to handle some souvenirs and in a split second a young crippled boy stole $3,000 that Suzuki had planned to give to the Viet Nam Christian Laymen`s group. I called a Vietnamese policeman and an American military police (MP) who calmly said, "We know who he is and where he lives." He`ll buy and use the drugs he needs and be out on the street in 3 days." I wanted us to go and get him right then. The VietNam police wrote down the facts and said it would take 3 days.  He should keep $l,000, the police would get $1,000 and Suzuki would get back $l,000. To this the MP sadly nodded. Suzuki said "We leave on a plane today." The MP couldn`t help.

Into our hotel room came the Christian lay leader, a pilot, and his pastor. The pilot said that Kissinger is making us lose this war. He has tied one arm and one leg, giving us only l/3 of the ammunition and gas we need. You can go to Tokyo today. Where do we go? I have a wife and 3 kids and a chicken farm. Honda Sensei gave him some Bible verses to hang on to. Then I told him, "I am from Chicago and if I don`t have a lawn mower, I borrow my neighbor`s, cut my grass and give it back." You are a Viet Nam Air Force pilot. Borrow a C-130 and get all your pastors, wives and children and belongings in there and head for the nearest American base in Guam. He said he knew his way to Singapore, but not to Guam.

Singapore gave him 6 hours to leave, gas and an air map to Guam. When they arrived on American soil, they got out 2 black books: their Bibles and hymnbooks, kissed the ground and started the first Vietnamese church in exile. I later met some of them in Wooster, Ohio, where they had gone later and started another church.

Another layman in Japan, Tsutomu Fujino, the head of Fuji Real Estate and Construction Company has a monthly Bible and research meeting in his second floor office where 30 to 50 Christians and unsaved come to  hear a well-known speaker. They have had 202 meetings. They asked me to present Japan`s Jesus & Jizo power point.

Let`s not forget the women in the laity. They are not bound as men are in having to keep like every last Tuesday of the month. They go by events usually. For instance one of the oldest groups was started by Rev. Mrs. Sumako Furubayashi. Her husband, Miki, and her both went to Dallas Seminary to enroll. There they let the husband enroll, but they refused women at that time, so she was sent to a little Bible school while her husband got a PHD. They came back and he became an itinerant evangelist while she started a church and pastored it. Last year they sold their old church which held about 100 people and built a new one that can hold 200.

It that wasn`t enough to keep her busy, Mrs. Furrubayashi heard about the American Christian women`s groups from Mrs. Stan Barthold and she said, We can do that and so they held the first meeting in l962. They went to the ritzy Royal Hotel where women love to dress up and come for a luncheon that only cost Yl,500. It was the pure Gospel in singing and preaching. They have since held over 80 meetings with an average of 500 to 600 ladies each time. Once they needed 2 days because they had l,800 and the hotel could hold only 900 people.

For baptisms, Mrs. Furubayashi calls on her husband or Ev. Free Evangelist Mitso Matsumi. His amazing story is that a Holiness pastor came by his window once a week and threw  a Gospel tract in to his room and he would throw it back out! The pastor kept coming 24 times and with 24 different tracts.  He finally gave in and eventually became a preacher. Thatfs a good reminder for all of us not to forget to use tracts liberally.

The Tokyo Christian Womenfs luncheons met usually in the spring and fall at well-known hotels and different missionary wives including Lorraine Reece, JoAnn Wright and my wife, Lila, served along with Japanese women on the steering committee. Mrs. Masuda, who with her husband often interpreted at Keswick, was the main leader. There were 300-400 out each time to hear testimonies, good singing and a Bible message. They didn`t give invitations for the women to come forward,but they gave out decision slips to be filled out  and followed up by the nearest preacher.

What`s the drawing card for these classy luncheons? All 3 that I talked to said: It`s at a ritzy place where unsaved women can feel at ease, be dressed up and enjoy happy music, testimonies and a pure Gospel message.

The Masuda shepherded the foreign preachers from Kyushu to Hokkaido.  Mrs. Masuda went to be with the Lord several years ago while Rev. Masuda is the president of Ochanomizu Bible Institute.

Not to be outdone, the Coffee Hour has been held also usually twice a year at the Christian Academy in Japan where they can rent the dining hall and auditorium only when students are on a break. This was started by a GI who was saved in Japan, went back to America to train and then came back as a missionary and pastor at KBF. He encouraged Mrs. Yoshiko Takagi who started the Coffee Hour in l980. They have had 61 meetings and the auditorium is usually full.

In l99l the Tokyo American Group (TAC) started an English wives luncheon which lasted for 6 years.

The FGBMFI (Full Gospel Business Men`s Fellowship International) calls itself "Market-place Ministry," patterned after American luncheons for men, was started in l952 in Tokyo.   It has had itfs ups and downs and is stronger in the Kansai area than in Tokyo. In 2008, with 9 meeting places,  they held their l9th national meeting and 3rd menfs camp. The president is Ken Tsukamoto.

There are 4063 chapels, restaurants, hotels and lobbies where Christian weddings are held and most missionaries who are asked to preach to captive audiences of 80 to 120 unsaved can`t help because they have their own services as these weddings are held on Saturdays and Sundays. So we had to recruit lay foreigners which attracted all manner of good and bad applicants.  To clean out the stable we started JAPAM  (Japan Association of Pastors And Ministers), Preachers meaning, if possible, church elders and deacons. After 3 checks they finally come to REAP Chapel and preach their 19-minute wedding ceremony and sermon.  If they get over 70% on the l0-point check list and give their philosophy they want to preach at weddings, they earn a limited certificate only for weddings, and a gold cross.

The most exciting McDonald era Men`s evening meetings is the VIP Club which started in September, l993, in the living room of United Airlines manager Bob Holmes.  Attending  was a Navigator named Ichimura, Numata, so are co-founders.  The concept of the international VIP comes from the VIP lounges in major airports for first class passengers  and from Isa. 43:4 You are very precious in my eyes.  You are a very important person in Godfs eyes and we are all important to each other.

The VIP has grown to 150 monthly meetings in that many places, averaging 30 men who can come after work from 7 to 9:30.  Some have suppers and others eat before or after on their own.

The other laymenfs groups are made up mostly of older, retired men, while the secret of the VIPs is that the leaders are in their 20s and 30s.  Ichimura is still a Navigator, but was asked to organize VIP outside of the Mission. These young leaders are a great addition to McDonald Christians and missionaries who are welcome to attend if you understand Japanese.  Call 090-8308-0111 for the VIP nationwide map to your closest club.

Now you know the world of Japanfs laity which hasnft been on your radar, Big Mac! Any questions? E-mail [email protected]

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