Japanese Embrace Black Gospel Music

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TOKYO -- Historically, it's been difficult to share the gospel in Japan. Traditional Japanese faiths like Buddhism and Shintoism have many gods and people avoid religions that make specific claims like Christianity. 

But now through a music workshop, Japanese non-believers are learning to sing to the one true God.

The movie "Sister Act" brought an interest in black gospel music to Japan.  Now the music is being used as an effective evangelistic tool.

Eleven years ago, missionary Ken Taylor saw an opportunity to use the gospel music fad to teach the Japanese people about Jesus Christ. The former nightclub entertainer began holding black gospel workshops in community centers.

"It became a big hit. More people joined the workshops," Taylor said.

Taylor partnered with several Christian churches in order to get non-believers involved with gospel music.
 
"The end goal is we see lives transformed. Within the two-hour session, they're not just learning how to sing black gospel music, they're learning to pronounce properly like a little English class," he said.

"But more than that they're really experiencing church because there's fellowship, there's worship. There's the sharing of the Word," Taylor said. 

Now, there are gospel choirs in 50 churches across Japan.  They call themselves the Hallelujah Gospel Family.

Pastor Masahiro Okita is involved with the movement.  Okita said it has broken barriers between Christians and non-Christians.

"It opened the church to the community.  And it's a very unique ministry because the target of the outreach are the choir members themselves," Okita said. 

And that outreach is making a difference.  Choir members say the gospel workshops are making them better people. Some have even chosen to convert to Christianity.

Choir member Mayuko Shizuka used to practice Shintoism, but through gospel music has now found the Lord.

"I used to have low self-esteem. I studied philosophy and did my rituals at Shinto shrine but nothing worked. But within one year in the choir, I learned about Jesus when I studied the lyrics of the songs. So now I am a Christian. I am more patient with our children and I am more confidents about myself," Shizuka said. 

Others, like Sachico Ishihata haven't decided to follow Christ, but the gospel music they sing is still having an impact.

"I'm not a Christian but as I study the words in the songs, I'm finding new meaning in my life," Ishihata said.

Twice a year the Hallelujah Gospel Family comes together for a concert to share the message of Christ with their families and friends through the music they sing.

Taylor says the movement is making a difference.

"A hundred percent of the people who step into these choirs are being touched by the spirit of God. God is working mightily in Japan," he said.

 *Originally aired on August 5, 2011.

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Lucille Talusan

Lucille Talusan

CBN News Asia Correspondent

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