Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
August 22, 1957
NUMBER 16, PAGE 1,10b-13a

Japan And God

C. M. Holt, United States Navy

"Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit."

Matt. 28:19

The fact that Japan is a strong struggling nation, cannot be denied by any one. But as a power in the Far East — its position is one of doubt, both political and spiritual. World war two would indicate to any candid thinker, the ability of Japan to operate and function as a "team," within its own structure. Pearl Harbor, should prove that Japan was not a Christian nation in any sense of the word, nor is it likely to be so classified, within the next century.

Many factors must he considered when one thinks about coming to Japan to convert and Christianize the Japanese peoples. Since obeying the Gospel in 1951, and having traveled in many States and visited with, and preached to many congregations. I have heard and read from many sources, "what is needed, what has already been accomplished, and what is lacking," in Japan.

Here then is the picture of Christianity in this heathen land as it has been unfolded to me — both as a Christian and as one outside the fold. I had spent about five years in the far east before rendering obedience to the gospel and one year in Japan since that time. My service in the far east has been spent in the P. I., China, and Japan, and T have had much contact with the Asian peoples, therefore I am not totally unaware of the mind of the Asian people. At this writing I attend services of the Church of Christ in Yokohama Japan. And I have been at this location for one year. The impressions recorded herein have been received working and worshipping with the Church in this area and being among the Japanese people.

The Open Door

Admiral Perry opened the door to Japan in 1853, and since that time Western influence has seeped into the Feudalistic way of life in the Japanese nation.

And of all the Nations in the far east, Japan is the most advanced in Science and Western technique. Certainly she has made great advancements in adjusting to Western ideas, and these advancements can be seen andfelt, because Japan as a Nation is willing to accept and use ideas that will advance the aims of the Nation and build up her standard of living.

Thus from a Scientific standpoint, Japan has outgrown her status of a Medieval Nation to one of a strong balanced power, materially speaking. But what about the inward man? How does one gauge the status of the "SOUL OF A NATION"?


Just as the Old Testament sets forth the "Age of Patriarchs," so the society of Japan was founded and thus remains today. The family as a unit exists, works, suffers and plays. There is neither room, nor desire, for individual freedom. Freedom is sought for by the family as a group, each member, pooling their resources into the common larder.

Thus we may define freedom in Japan as freedom from national famine, or national oblivion.

The eldest Male is the head of the family. He is the family law and each member of the household must fulfill his obligation to the head of the family.

The Patriarchs, (heads of all the families of a town or village), give their support to the village Patriarch and thus it is passed up and still up till the support rests with the Emperor. Old traditions count far more than "Speculative theories," which have been injected from time to time in an attempt to enlighten the individual.

Morality as we know it has no counterpart in Japan the highest moral, is the idea of maintaining discipline and order. Moral achievement therefore is loyalty to the head of the house and thus to the Emperor. To the Christian, the Bible teaches that "Sin is a transgression of God's law.

HENCE: Japanese do not recognize sin for, the Emperor is their God.

Group Religion

Religion in Japan, to my way of thinking — properly so called, is the worship of departed ancestors, manifested in the "BUDDIST ALTER," and the "SHINTO SHELF," where the powers of the universe are worshipped. And the group "Shrine," which becomes the object of attraction on National holidays, festivals, births, and ETC: During these religious ceremonials no instruction in morality is given.

Thus we may recognize one of the great obstacles of "Christianizing" Japan, for Christ taught that individualism and freedom of thought was a necessary factor to the development of a Christian heart. If a Japanese obeys the gospel, he no longer worships the Emperor as God and thus finds himself outside the family circle and safety.

His chances of existing in a society of "Heathenism" are indeed remote. The standard of living is so low that it is next to impossible for a lone individual, who has turned his back upon his heritage, to find the common comforts of life.

Hence: The efforts to Christianize Japan over the past century have resulted at best as a compromise between Christianity and Paganism. When a nation attempts to westernize itself, certainly Christian ideas will rub off to some extent. But the Christian teaching has its foothold among the upper class of people because of economic freedom.

Christianity Versus National Aims

History reveals the inner man of Japan. Having been ruled for many centuries after the pattern of war. The aims of the Japanese Gov't., could not and would not accept the Christian spirit.

What does God have in common with Mammon? I answer nothing! What does conquest and war have in common with Christian principles? Nothing. Thus the very aims of the Japanese Gov't. over the past Centuries have been at odds with the light of the gospel.

In all charity and lest I be found wanting, it is well to note, the post war Gov't. of Japan is loud in its effort to appease its neighbors. Whether this is the awakening Spirit, "The birth of a nation," remains to be seen. The outward sign points to repentance, but the inner man, "The soul of the nation has not yet spoken."

The Sower And The Seed

"What so ever ye sow, that also shall you reap." May I ask then, "What has been sown in this heathen country ?"

Of all the so-called Christian religions, Catholicism has the strongest entrenchment in Japan. When one has studied the tenants of the Catholic religion and understands a little of the mind of the Japanese people, it is easy to see how this system has taken the place of Buddhism and Shintoism.

Superstition plays an important part in the daily lives of the Japanese. Catholicism also carries this superstious idea with it. Then too, her relics and idols of departed saints are a counterpart of the idols of Buddhism and it is a simple matter to transfer ones affections from one idol to another. The Japanese way of expressing religious emotion is the outward manifestation in seeing, feeling, and pageantry. Catholicism manifests all of these signs and attributes.

The Catholic church in Japan has her boy's town, convents, nurseries and parochial schools. This makes an impressive show of splendor.

Then too, the Youth for Christ movement is made known in this land by the Protestant elements. This too has gained to some extent because the program offers social activities which are looked upon as something to be desired.

The Japanese are quick to ape the American and partake of their offerings when they feel it will help them to some extent. Now then with this in mind, let me ask again, what then has been sown in this heathen land?

The only thing that can come to the mind of the candid thinker is the fact that all has been sown is "MASS CONFUSION."

When the Bible is held up and taught as the only rule and guide to heaven, the Japanese are quick to tell you to go back to the United States and come to an understanding among yourselves and then come back and teach us. They just can't understand how so many different brands of religion can come from one book.

The Church Of Christ In Japan

There are at this writing few congregations in Japan. In the Tokyo and Yokohama area they are in the main supported by the funds donated by Servicemen stationed in the area. I do not imply that other funds are not forth coming, but the serviceman supports many programs in this area. At present they are the strength of number in this land that accounts for the numbering of congregations in this place.

These men of the services stationed in Japan make up little congregation where ever there is a ship or shore establishment. And most of these groups have no preacher or real program due to size and location. The servicemen conduct their own worship service, have the Lord's supper, singing and etc: BUT THESE SERVICES ARE CONDUCTED BY THE SERVICEMEN FOR THE SERVICEMEN, and it is rare indeed that the Japanese element ever attend these services. Many factors account for this:

The average serviceman who is a member of the Church is not properly equipped or trained to reach the hearts of the Japanese. Then too, the language barrier is a tremendous hindrance in this effort. When you think about the help the Servicemen can give in this part of the world it boils down to Moral and Financial support. You must realize the average tour of duty in this area is about twelve months. Therefore the men of the service may be able to attend the worship about 65% of the time due to his duties aboard ship and on the shore establishments.

The only Japanese language learned by the average Serviceman simmers down to a few phrases such as, "good morning, good bye, thank you," and etc: Hence it is obvious that you cannot convert the Japanese heart by saying, "God bless you and goodbye."

When I speak of the few congregations in this area, it must be understood that the men of the service have no real way of knowing how many Japanese congregations are scattered throughout Japan. But we do have a good idea of the work in Tokyo, Yokohama area. And if there is at this writing a concentrated effort to convert the Japanese as I had been led to believe before arriving here then it has failed to manifest itself to me.

Preconceived Information

Previous to my coming to Japan this trip, I had read from many sources the position of the Church in Japan. I had formed many ideas of the work here on the strength of these articles. Of all the articles I have read on the Japanese work I quote from only one paper. And this because it is the only article I have access to at this time.

From the "Gospel Broadcast" 1953 special issue - - devoted to Missionary Activities around the world. Vol. 13, number 41 page 337 under title -- Japan:

"The war disrupted the church and all the missionaries were forced to return home. Since peace has been restored, a new generation of messengers has entered Japan, to find a little of the former work still existent, and also a deep Spirit of penitent searching for a better way among the defeated citizens of Japan. Thousands are finding Christ and his salvation".

3rd. Paragraph — "Among those advancing the Gospel among the Japanese today are Sarah Andrews, Hettie Lee Ewing, The Logan and Harry Roberts Fox families, the Richards Baggetts, O. D. Bixlers, Edward Browns, Colis Cambells, R. C. and Joe Cannons, Bill Carrells, Charles Doyals, George Gurganus, Harold Hollands, Virgil Lawyers, Max Mowers, C. A. Rhoads, Bill Harris, Fred Schermanz and the Pendergrass. In addition to this group there are many native evangelists and teachers and hundreds of young people training to assist in the task ahead."

However when I arrived here I found that the Church situation was not as simple as just reading about it in the christian papers. My first endeavor to locate the congregation ended in failure, and I had taken the train into Yokohama on my first Sat. here to locate it. The following week I consulted the Chaplain at the Atsugi Air Station where I am located and received instructions of how to proceed to the proper location.

The Yokohama congregation meets in the main chapel center of that city, (Catholic Chapel), using a small wing of that building. Services commence at 1315 (so it is said), but the same lateness among the brethren prevails here as it does in State side congregations.

Brother Pendergrass does the preaching for us in addition to his regular duties among the Japanese which is his mission here. He is supported by private funds from the States, and I say to all who may read this -- those who support brother Pendergrass in this work their faith justified. I for one have never encountered a more devoted and dedicated preacher of the gospel than he.

To appreciate this statement you must see this country and evaluate living conditions here and see the existence of those in this land. To be an effective preacher among the Japanese the preacher must be willing to live on the same level as those he is attempting to teach. Brother Pendergrass has his wife and four children with him and a more humble and loving family will be hard to find in this world.

This congregation when I first arrived a year ago had about 50 members. Since that time a small group of the service men and their families started another congregation in Yokosuka, which decreased our number to about 25, but which opened up a new field in that place. It has proved to be a wise step (as far as the service men are concerned) and much good has come from it. In addition to this, the transportation problem being as it is it allows those stationed aboard ship in that area to attend worship service in a location which is easy to find and almost effortless to get to.

Upon my arrival to this congregation two projects were in progress. First, we were contributing $40.00 a month to the Yoyogi Hachiman Church of Christ in Tokyo for use in a Japanese gospel radio program. Secondly we were buying the land and house where brother Pendergrass and his family reside. This building (?) acts as a home, and a meeting place for the Japanese Christians and interested students. In addition to this we are paying the salary of the Japanese preacher that works with brother Pendergrass.

The house and land was completely paid off these past few weeks and the radio program was dropped shortly after my arrival in favor of better investment. The radio program in question was a 7minute broadcast in Japanese and the $40.00 we donated was a small part of the actual cost. The results were questionable and I for one felt the method of maintaining the program was against bible principles and resolved themselves into the same issue as the missionary Society and the Herald of truth controversy.

During the month of Nov. 1955, the Yoyogi Hachiman church of Christ in the Tokyo area called a meeting of all the congregations in the nearby vicinity. The gist of the meeting was, that they wanted to hold a fellowship of all the Service personnel in Japan and the far east. I didn't attend this meeting but our brother who did attend left the impression with us in Yokohama that the meeting was called to decide who to send for in the States as the principle speaker for the occasion. And to find out how much money each congregation would contribute towards this end.

The Yokohama congregation did not contribute one cent to this venture. It appeared to me and to many others in our group, the $2000.00 spent to bring a Stateside preacher to the far east for this occasion could be better spent in the field of Christianity in Japan for the Japanese effort. Besides this, there was no need to import a preacher to Japan capable of conducting a fellowship.

Many preachers from Korea, Okinawa, and all sections of Japan were present for the fellowship. Bro. James D. Bales of Harding College was the selected speaker.

I attended one night of this fellowship with other brethren from Yokohama and it appeared to be a comparison of notes on the work in various locations throughout the far east. That the fellowship was good cannot be denied by any one, but the thought occurred to me that the purpose of this work in the far east was for the benefit of the Japanese and not the Americans. Personally, I looked upon the whole procedure with apprehension.

I cite these activities for this reason: from articles I had read before arriving in Japan this time I was prepared for a better performance of the "work of the church in Japan". To a Japanese looking in from the outside it would appear to me that he could see no difference in these proceedings than the get-to-gethers conducted by the denominational groups.

To all that were behind this fellowship I ask this question. What good was accomplished from it and has the end results justified the means?

Centralized Christianity

Let me ask now -- In addition to the American ministers in Japan, where are the "Many native evangelist and teachers and the hundreds of young people training to assist in the task ahead"?

They certainly were not at the fellowship. The truth of the matter is that if there are hundreds of people (Christians) assisting in the task ahead they are well hidden.

I have attempted to point out that the service men are helping to some extent in the progress being made here by various means such as helping to, or actually supporting Japanese preachers in the field. And by helping the local evangelist in the procuring of land or a building. I am sure that the Yokohama group is not alone in such work as this.

Our Brother H. F. Pendergrass Jr. has one Japanese preacher that works with him, and this is for the entire Yokohama area. And to set the record straight this Japanese preacher came to us it was after an attempt was made to wean him from Bro. Pendergrass to another work Now I ask again where are the many native preachers who are assisting in this task ahead? Yes, where are they? When any one finds the answer to this question I would like to know. There are several million people in the Yokohama Area and if any one thinks location doesn't merit some of this help I for one would like to know the reasoning behind their logic.

The fact that progress is being made will not be denied by this writer, but in Japan one doesn't measure progress by the things he can see. My idea of progress among the Japanese people is the fact that one has patience in his work. One or two converts a year is a real fine progress and if only one Japanese National a year were baptized the whole existence of the American evangelist in Japan would be justified.

Let me prove this by a simple bit of logic. In the States there are several millions of foreigners. Hundreds of thousands of these are Japanese. And especially around the West Coast in Calif. Now then out of all these Japanese who have been raised under the influence of Christianity in the United States, how many have you ever seen that were members of the Church?

This should give you a rough idea how difficult it is to convert one in a heathen land whose heritage is paganism.

Believe me brethren, Japan is no place for a preacher who has not attained patience.


One of the places that every one has heard about is Ibaraki College. The college is located in Ibaraki providence about three hours from Tokyo. I have heard much about the merits of Christian College and the same arguments are used in connection with Ibaraki as with any other Christian College in the States. The only difference I can determine is the fact that those who are fortunate enough to attend this school are Japanese who want an education instead of American youth in the same process.

One thing is different here though that is not prevalent in the States. The Japanese way of life is wrapped up in the idea that one is a student until he has learned enough to amount to something. The Japanese boys and girls make the rounds to all the colleges and take the entrance exams and they all try to get into the College that has the best record. In this way if they are accepted they are assured of a good future if they pass the course offered. Any College in Japan whether it be Christian or otherwise has many more students trying to get in then the School can accommodate. People in Japan don't send their young folk to college to get a Christian education, but rather to learn something of future use to them.

The fact that Ibaraki has 500 students a year and has to turn many more hundreds away doesn't prove a thing as far as the students coming there to learn the way of Christ. It is accounted for by the fact that all the Colleges are loaded to the hilt and all the Colleges could double their size and still not be able to accommodate all that wanted higher learning.

However many that attend Ibaraki leave there Christians. This is the claim of all Christian Colleges everywhere. And it is true here as well as in the States. How deep this christianity is or how long it lasts after one leaves the school I have no way of knowing. I do know that many College students have come to Bro. Pendergrass' classes and studied the Bible with him for a whole year. And when they leave they still have no real understanding of Christ or his ways. Any way you look at it -- the main mission of any student is to learn all he can as it might just be valuable later on.

My personal thoughts about the problem in Japan and knowing a little about the Asian way of life. It appears that schooling is the fastest way of educating the masses out of heathenism. Whether the Christian College is the answer, I leave to more mature minds. I personally can not reconcile the idea of building something other than the church to do the work of the church.

What Is Needed In Japan

Many things are needed in this land to promote the work. The bible way is best no matter what we may think about the thing. The Apostles went into all the world and preached the gospel. They did it by living with and like the people they were trying to convert. The church needs this same spirit today in Japan. A preacher is not very effective in Japan if he lives in a bigger house, has a better car and eats better than those he is attempting to convert. This point was driven home to me by Bro. Pendergrass' Native preacher. The house that Bro. Pendergrass lives in was intended for the Japanese preacher. He refused to live in it explaining that if he moved in such a place he would never be effective among his people as it would elevate him too high.

This Spirit of humility is a must for all who would dedicate themselves to the Japanese work.

The "Shinto shelf" must be replaced by belief in God the creator. And don't fool yourself into the idea that the Emperor is not still looked upon by many as divine. He is still set apart as the "Sun God" and it will be only after many decades this belief will die out. As long as the present Emperor and his immediate family lives this idea will be manifested.

David the Psalmist wrote many centuries ago "That it is better to trust in God than in Princes." However to the Japanese the Emperor represents a way of life, a way of life that has been interwoven into the very pulse of the nation, and it will take decades of old tradition Japanese dying off to erase this heritage.

Still another factor must be overcome in Japan and that is the basic principle of "One Faith." Whether we want to think about it or not and acknowledge it as true, there are varied opinions concerning Bible principles which are being taught in Japan.

I contribute this fact to transient personnel in Japan. In the States many congregations going under the name of "Church of Christ" are One cuppers, anti Sunday school, pre-millennialist and etc. These ideas are taught in Japan in various forms by men who have brought the idea with them from the mother congregation or sponsors. These ideas are not manifested so much among the evangelists in Japan as among transient service personnel who are attempting to help teach but in reality are sowing seeds of division that will later manifest itself among Japanese congregations. Truly the problems are many and the workers are few.

Japan, just awakening from ages of heathenism deserves better treatment in her teaching.

Then too much money has been spent in Japan on charity. Christianity has been bought in this country in many instances. The Japanese Christian must be taught that in order to grow he must carry his part of the load and not expect the American dollar to build buildings for him and etc. This type of teaching is a must as well as the basic gospel plan of salvation.

When you add all these things together it looks like a big job ahead. Well it is but it will be done. Not in our lifetime but it will be done. God will water the seed that is planted and in his own time root out every plant that he has not planted. Brother, if you are thinking about coming to Japan to teach, come prepared to teach Jesus and him crucified, and leave your petty bickering at home. Leave all principles but Bible principles and come sacrifice yourself on the altar of service. The field is wide open.