Breaking Through Barriers at First-Ever RZIM Open Forum in Japan

On September 22, Ravi Zacharias and the RZIM team made a considerable impact on Tokyo, Japan, holding the first-ever RZIM open forum in Japan, in addition to hosting multiple training events.

More than 600 people came to the open forum, overflowing from the sanctuary to the lobby of the host church. This is particularly remarkable taking into account that very few Japanese people have heard of the term “apologetics.” The Church in Japan is facing a number of challenges today and one of the most serious ones is that the Christian faith has not been handed to the next generation. Christians in Japan are only about 1 percent of the population and the number is even decreasing. I believe that one of the reasons for this is that churches were not equipped to answer the important questions young people raised.

At this inaugural open forum, I had a memorable conversation with a Christian girl who had just graduated from high school. She asked me the question, “What about those who have never heard of the gospel?” She was raised in a Christian family and had been struggling with this question for a long time because she was concerned about the destiny of her non-Christian grandfather. After I gave her my answer to the question, she shared that she was not sure if she was even allowed to ask these kinds of questions in church because of the fear of offending the pastor. I could see she was on the verge of tears when I encouraged her to keep asking questions because the Christian faith is not blind faith. The tears in her eyes reminded me of myself asking the same question and struggling with the same issues before getting to know RZIM. In Japanese culture, the number one rule is to avoid bothering others. Asking questions could mean that you are questioning authority, which makes it quite difficult for the Japanese people to express their honest concerns, especially in the church context. That is why these RZIM events were so meaningful and of great encouragement, especially for the younger Christians.

It was thrilling to see our RZIM team reaching the heart of not just Christians but also skeptics. Many hands raised when Ravi invited participants to either enter into or re-start a relationship with Jesus. Addressing the deepest questions of skeptics is often overlooked at many evangelistic events in Japan and the visit of the RZIM team was a great starting point to reach the next generation.

The series of events held in Tokyo were significant opportunities given by God for our team to build the foundation and relationships necessary to begin ministry in Japan, but I believe that there was something even more to it. One might be surprised to hear that there are numerous denominations in Japan despite the small Christian population. In this day and age where some churches are closing, Christians cannot afford to be separated and indifferent to each other, but rather I believe it is time for the Church to be united. I believe that RZIM can serve as a stimulus of unification in the body of Christ as we continue to share the gospel alongside the Japanese Church in the long term.

Yutaro Kato

Yutaro Kato is the first-ever OCCA Fellow from Japan and works with the Asia-Pacific team based in Singapore. Yutaro comes from a long family line of Christians and is passionate about the unity of the global Church.

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