Protestant missionaries came to Japan from the United States and Britain during the later nineteenth century, with a clear understanding of the gospel and a zeal for evangelising the Japanese. They learnt the language and translated the Bible into Japanese, along with other Christian literature. Many people were converted to Christ.
The first Protestant church was founded in 1872, and Christianity was no longer a proscribed religion from 1873. But during the early 20th century, intensely nationalistic Japanese governments became increasingly hostile to Christianity.
This culminated in the passing of the Religious Organisations Law of 1939, which deprived foreign missionaries of the leadership of Japanese churches and forced Japanese Christians to worship the Emperor at Shinto shrines.
Christian churches were forced to join the United Church of Christ in Japan (UCCJ) and came under close government supervision. Those who would not agree were imprisoned.
The churches suffered much persecution up to the end of World War 2, but 1945 onwards saw new missionaries arriving in Japan and fresh activity. The Evangelical Free Church of Japan became one of the fastest growing Evangelical groups, with church planting taking place, for example, in Tohoku, Kyushu, Okinawa and Hokkaido.
During the 1950s and 1960s overseas missions were established, with Japanese missionaries often working in Asian countries ravaged by the Japan during the last war.
Growth continued in the Japanese Evangelical churches until the 1980s. But in the last two decades an increasing secularism in Japanese society has militated against further gospel advance.
But Evangelicals continue to draw encouragement from the Scriptures and the gospel of Jesus Christ. They believe in the sole authority of the Bible, justification by faith alone, the true church as a living fellowship of believers, and the urgent need for mission. We covet your prayers for Japan.