Two weeks after the concluding meeting of the Tokyo Christian Crusade I was on the north coast of Ireland. Almost immediately I was asked if I would give some account of the crusade because, as the inquirer put it, “so many Christians in Ulster were praying for it and for those who participated in it.” The raising up of a massive witness for Christ in the world’s largest city had obviously evoked, at least within Christian circles, a kind of planetary interest.
1. The Tokyo Crusade was peripherally different, yet fundamentally the same as mass evangelism generally. An effort of this size in a non-Christian culture was probably without parallel. Certainly no series of meetings in the days of Sunday, Chapman, Torrey, or “Gypsy” Smith could match, for verve or variety, the musical program that was offered nightly for four weeks in the vast municipal “Gymnasium” where the crowds were gathered. Distinctive, too, was the sight of two men, not one, standing at the pulpit to “preach the Word.” Each night the message of Dr. Bob Pierce, World Vision’s president and the crusade’s evangelist, was transmitted to the listeners through the voice of a highly gifted translator, the Rev. Ross Kida.
These differences aside, however, the crusade was basically like many another effort in which the attempt is honestly made to give the Gospel of God’s grace in Christ the maximum of simultaneous impact on large numbers of people.
2.The Tokyo Crusade was progressively, if somewhat slowly, impressive in attendance, yet remarkably effective from the start. Newsweek’s reporter, firing off a dispatch near the middle of the first week, spoke of “dwindling crowds.” He should have been present on all of the week-ends and during the whole of the concluding week. He should have seen the 9,000-capacity auditorium jammed “to the rafters,” with hundreds more unable to gain admission. What was notable, however, was the spontaneous, unpressured response that people made to the Gospel appeal from the very first night. More than a hundred stepped out the first night, 157 the third night, 179 the fourth night, and on it went night by night until more than 9,000 had remained for the counseling after-meetings. Somewhat less than half of these were prepared to make an open profession of faith. The follow-up ministry now going forward will, of course, include the other half, described in the crusade records as those “who want to know more about Christ.” Approximately half of those who went to the counseling room as inquirers were without affiliation with any Christian church.
3.The Tokyo Crusade was criticized, yet mostly for the wrong reasons. The Communists were hostile, as was to be expected, and for reasons whose fallaciousness was equally to be expected. Some of the missionary groups were critical (in varying degrees), principally because their own “separatist” views seemed to be contradicted by, for example, the commingling of leaders of the “Evangelical Confederation” with leaders of the “United Church of Christ.” Some younger Japanese pastors were critical because they were convinced that any effort of this kind, heavily weighed with funds and personnel from the West, was misguided and would, in the end, be more harmful than otherwise to the future of the Church in their country. More searching in import would be an inquiry into how the bi-national, bi-lingual features of an enterprise such as this might be significantly reduced, thus heightening the impression that this is in fact the voice of the indigenous Church calling people to Christ. Dr. Pierce was not unaware of this need and World Vision accepts it as a growing concern.
4. The Tokyo Crusade was visibly intensive, yet unobtrusively comprehensive. Holding the spotlight of attention was the “Gymnasium” where every night for a month the thousands assembled and the well-publicized meetings were conducted. Not so colorful by any means, indeed not even known by many people in the city, were the day-time ministries that gave the crusade its wider, if quieter, range, its thrust in depth. Three areas of activity were cultivated: (1) the student community (Tokyo has more than a quarter of a million university students), (2) the business and professional community, and (3) the pastors and church leaders. Scores of meetings, large and small, were held among the students. Luncheons and private interviews were used by Christian laymen from the United States as a means both of fellowship and of witness with Japanese men in the trades and professions. Pastors of Tokyo met in “seminars” for four hours each week during three of the four weeks; during a fourth week, for four hours a day on four successive days, they were joined by pastors from all over the nation. Average attendance by the Tokyo group was 450, while registration for the “All Japan Week” exceeded 1600.
Enough of statistics! Say what we will, they are bare bones. The flesh and breath of the crusade elude all mathematics. Their calculus is of God. Was a meaningful unity of Christian enterprise, enthusiasm, and evangelism achieved by the churches? Was the mass testimony symbolized by the packed auditorium a heartening, even galvanizing, thing to the Christians who are so overwhelmingly outnumbered by the non-Christians? Was the training of thousands of lay workers—both men and women—for witness and counseling a solid accomplishment with long-range possibilities for God? Have the incoming of new members and the responsibility for follow-up left significant encouragement and challenge with the churches? Has the conviction that laymen, dedicated, Spirit-filled, and disciplined, are the cutting edge of the Church’s evangelism begun to grip the soul of the Church?
If, even moderately, a yes-answer can be given to these queries, as we believe it can, then we have indeed a suitable underlying for the summing up given at the crusade’s finish by the chairman of the Executive Committee: “an event without precedent in the one hundred years of Japanese Protestantism.”
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