NEW CHALLENGES FACING HOLINESS CHURCHES TODAY
It has been over seventy years since the Holiness Church was founded by the early converts. Today, especially among the Japanese-speaking divisions, the church is struggling to survive this transitional period in which it is losing the traditional Issei spirit as the older members pass on.

The Chinese philosophy of Confucianism, which teaches how to respect one’s elders, is an important and accepted element of Japanese tradition. The Issei were highly respected by the younger generations because of their hard work, their patience, and the sacrifices they made in the face of segregation and discrimination in this country. They came here virtually penniless, yet they devoted their lives to do God’s work. Their perseverance and fortitude has been truly an encouragement to the younger members of the church. However, their numbers are dwindling in the church today, so that the remaining members now face an unpredictable future.

The Japanese-speaking Christians were seriously concerned about the future ministry of the church. Neither new Issei nor businessmen seemed to be arriving from Japan, leaving only the older Issei and the Kibei Nisei. Fortunately, the Holiness churches are located on the West Coast and in Hawaii, where many new Japanese visitors are reached by their ministries. However, the future ministry of Japanese churches to Japanese-speaking people in Chicago and elsewhere in the East is truly a big problem, due to the lack of potential members. Even in the big cities along the West Coast, churches are struggling for survival.

A number of businessmen have moved to the United States from Japan in recent years. According to John Mizuki, in 1980 the Japanese-American population was 700,747; by 1984 it was 806,128. It was expected to reach approximately 900,000 by 1991. In 1990 alone, 213,000 businessmen from Japan entered the United States. These businessmen were a mobile lot, staying in one place for an average of three to five years. However, in many instances, wives of these businessmen were having their first exposure to the Christian faith in a number of churches.

According to John Mizuki, a pastor in the Free Methodist Church, Protestant Christians comprised 3.88 percent of Japanese-Americans in 1990 (Mizuki 1990:3). This figure represents approximately a one percent increase over that of 1977, when Japanese-American Christians celebrated the Centennial of Japanese Christian missions in the United States. In Japan, the percentage of Christians is around one percent, including Catholics and groups like the Jehovah Witnesses and the Mormons. Since the number of Catholics and Protestants is roughly equal, the percentage of Protestant Christians can be considered to be around 0.5 percent in Japan. The difference between 0.5 percent and 3.88 percent means a lot to the Japanese-American churches. They recognize that they bear an important responsibility from the Lord, because of the great opportunities of winning to Christ businessmen and students, who temporarily come to the United States, and eventually return to Japan.

There is talk of the end of the world due to the war in the Persian Gulf, the fall of the Berlin Wall and the abrupt changes in many Communist block countries. Regardless of the validity of this eschatological speculation, it is clear that we are entering a new period in history. The Holiness church, along with all churches, faces new challenges in this period.



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