Internet Evangelism Takes Hold in Japan
YOKOHAMA, Japan—Nearly 400 years ago, ruling shoguns martyred thousands of Christians and banned the faith from the island nation of Japan. As a result, today Japan is vaguely religious, yet outwardly secular and materialistic, with a Christian population of less than 1 percent and most churches composed of only a few dozen members.
But following last year's cataclysmic earthquake, tsunami and nuclear disaster, many Japanese who faced life's tough questions that religious syncretism—a general amalgamation or merging of several religions—simply cannot answer are open to the Christian Gospel. And they're finding answers, of all places, online.
Jesus Net Japan, a Japan-based Internet evangelism ministry with an arm in the U.S., has crafted a series of websites specially designed to help meet the massive needs of spiritual seekers who want to know about God. Through this ministry, Japanese Christians connect these seekers to strong local churches.
The powerful example of the Web's ability to share the Gospel is the focus of Internet Evangelism Day, April 29, which will be the culmination of Digital Outreach Month.
"People with a heart for Japan, for evangelism and for the application of technology to the furtherance of the Gospel really identify with this tremendous cause," said Christian Zebley, U.S. spokesman for Jesus Net Japan. "The Japanese are a very private people; it's very unlikely that they would ask a stranger—even someone they know is a Christian—such personal questions as who God is or how they can be saved," he said. "The Internet lets them learn about God and His plan for salvation in a way that is comfortable for them and respectful of their culture. We believe this is the long-awaited moment for harvest in Japan."
Internet Evangelism Day is observed on the fourth Sunday of April each year and is designed to draw attention to the tremendous role the Internet plays in society. More than 2 billion people use the Web, while more than 4 billion use mobile phones that increasingly are Web-equipped. According to ABC News, 2 million people around the world "look for God each day" online.
Among seeker-friendly websites sponsored by Jesus Net Japan are Hope for Living, Knowing God and Why Jesus?
Hope for Living introduces visitors to disaster survivors' stories that illustrate how they have been strengthened by faith in God, or how they got to know Jesus amid their turmoil. The site also contains prayers and words of hope to encourage those who are afraid, tired, lonely or going through difficult times.
The next website "stepping stone," Knowing God, introduces inquiring users to the Gospel, helping them understand the concept of monotheism and the fact that for Christians, the God of the Bible is the one, true God.
Why Jesus? the final website, is an interactive course led by "e-coaches" to assist seekers during the five-week experience, at the end of which they invite them to a Gospel meeting and help connect them to a local church.
"One of the primary goals of evangelism is to meet people where they are and introduce them to Jesus," said Andy Game, Jesus Net Japan director. "The Japanese are huge consumers of digital technology. If we want them to know that they matter to Jesus, we need to meet them where they live. Much of that is online."
Jesus Net Japan is part of Jesus.net, a worldwide movement of more than 40 national and international ministries. The vision of Jesus.net is to use interactive websites to share the Good News of Jesus Christ with Internet users of the 35 most popular languages on the Internet. In the coming decade, the goal of this ministry is to expose 250 million people to the Gospel and help 25 million people come to Christ.