Thursday, December 22, 2005

Book Review: imagine

Authored by Steve Turner, Intervarsity Press, 2001, 132 pages, $10.99
Recently published in Japanese, by Word of Life Press, under the title: 『イマジン』芸術と信仰を考える

Reviewed by Paul Nethercott

Imagine numerous Japanese churches where creativity is embraced and enjoyed as part of what it means to be made in the image of God. People are energized as they explore their gifts and abilities, sharing them with each other.

Imagine expressive, creative worship services that include a wide variety of art forms, believers are deeply impacted and many not-yet-Christians attend to see and hear what is happening. An authentic Japanese “voice” (style) of worship is produced.

Imagine several accomplished Japanese movie directors, who are Christians, making major films for mainstream audiences. Their churches bless and affirm them. While the movies are primarily good entertainment, millions of Asians who see them notice a different viewpoint. Many begin to ponder the meaning of life and wonder if there really is a creator God after all.

Imagine visual artists, designers, writers, musicians, dancers, TV producers, radio announcers, actors and actresses, who are Christians, producing some of the best work in the artistic world in Japan. They are “salt and light” in their circles of influence.

Can these things happen? Yes, they can and to some extent are already happening (the late author Ayako Miura and painter Makoto Fujimura are two excellent role models). Turner’s book imagine (recently published in Japanese) provides a solid Biblical rationale for Christians to embrace their creativity and actively engage in mainstream culture. In his view, far too many Christians isolate themselves from society due to a destructive, “dualistic” (sacred/secular) view of the world that is not Biblical. This results in a “Christian ghetto” syndrome where the church becomes distant and isolated from society, unable to relate to others as human beings.

Imagine provides not only a sound rationale for connecting with mainstream culture, but examples of Christians who have successfully done so. Tuner’s book is an exciting “roadmap” showing how we can effectively engage with mainstream culture without losing our integrity.

In easy to understand language, Turner successfully presents a vision for embracing our creativity as humans while living under the Lordship of Christ in a fallen world. While he strongly endorses the validity and value of art, he does not ignore the issues that have driven some followers of Christ to fear and reject it. He believes that Christians should be involved in every level of the art world and in every media, for the glory of God.

The one regrettable part of this book is the sub-title “a vision for Christians in the arts.” It is misleading, as this book is a “must read” for all Christians, not just for those few who are professional artists. Imagine deals with the core issue of how humans, created in God’s image, can live God-honoring lives in a fallen world. For those of us involved in ministry in Japan, Imagine is an important and timely book that deals with critically important issues to each one of us.


Quotes from the book imagine:

“Evangelical Christians traditionally had taken redemption as their starting point to anything. Had the artist been reborn and was the artist singing, writing or painting about being reborn? For (Francis) Schaeffer, creation was the starting point. Everyone was made in God’s image and those blessed with artistic gifts couldn’t help but display that original image in some way.”

“The problem that has affected the church down through the ages with regard to art can be put very simply: How much of life is Christ to be Lord over? Is he only interested in that part of life we think of as religious or spiritual? Or is he interested in every facet of our lives – body, soul, mind and spirit? The sort of art we make as Christians will illustrate our answer.”

“It would be impossible to think of loving humans and yet hating human culture, of loving individuals and yet hating their music, songs, stories, paintings, games, rituals, decorations, clothes, languages and hairstyles. God made us cultural beings.”

“Love not the world” means neither “Don’t care for the planet” nor “Drop out of society,” but “Don’t embrace anti-God thinking.”

“We do not need to overtly refer to God in everything we create. Not even every book in the Bible refers to God. Jesus surely didn’t mark all his carpentry with a relevant saying, and Paul didn’t embroider memory verses on his tents.”

God Finds Japanese Artist

Fumie Ando, an acomplished painter, came to know Christ after experiencing catastrophic loss (Photo of Fumie)


“God is light, color is born by light.” Fumie Ando

For What and Why Do I Paint?
At home in Sapporo for the first time in years, I was intently pondering the sound of my sister playing the piano. It was an etude by Bach; it soothed and stilled my soul.

“For him, a sound is not something that disappeared into an empty sky but rises up as a dedication to God in an inexpressible praise.”

Around the end of summer l990, I came across the above written by Schweitzer in reference to Bach. This idea was something very new and interesting to me. Until then, painting had only been to me a means to affirm my existence, something that I did for my own sake. What could it mean to “not create for oneself!?” I found the idea of painting for something other than myself attractive. However, I could not imagine whom else I could paint for. After much contemplation, I dedicated my graduation work to my family, who had raised me with much love and caring.

On November I7, I990 I went to my studio as usual, but not a fragment of the studio I knew so well remained. The day my studio burned to the ground became permanently etched in my mind. I stood there, not comprehending what had happened. All the favorite tools I had used since my high school days, the pictures I had painted, the drawings, everything, had disintegrated into ashes – including my almost complete pieces for college graduation.

I wanted to go to graduate school so those pieces were very important to me. With the deadline just ahead, I lost everything. The shock despair, sorrow, and anger that I felt in my heart were something that is still beyond description today. I had no idea what I would do. The lights had gone out and I could not see a glimmer of hope. For the first time in my life, I understood the bitter reality that even things created with great effort can disappear in an instant. Everything seemed useless.

In the midst of an inexpressible feeling of emptiness and agony over which I had no control, I prayed for the first time in my life, ''God, if you are really out there, please help me.''

Eventually, with help, I managed to complete the artwork I needed to graduate and was accepted into graduate school. Yet, I felt there was something missing. One day, a Christian friend told me of a book ''The Wind Is Howling'' by Ayako Miura. I didn’t feel like reading it, but as my friend was persistent, I halfheartedly started it and quickly became engrossed. It seemed that there existed somewhere a love that was faithful and true, the very thing that l longed for. I looked all around me, yet all l saw was others who had a self-centered, superficial love. In other words, people like me.

As I finished the book, I made up my mind not to demand others' faithfulness but to become a faithful person myself. The next day, however, I made a friend of mine cry. He had been griping about his situation and wanted sympathy, which I did not give him. It was when he said, ''can't you understand?” that I realized how I had been trying to change him with my words when all he wanted was understanding. How arrogant I was. I was standing where God should be seated, and was looking down on my friend. It was then that I realized the existence of sin in my heart. I made a decision to be a faithful person one day, and judged someone the next. That was the person I really was. When I saw this reality, I felt as though I had fallen off a cliff into a bottomless hell.

A Decision
The following evening, it was brought upon me to make a decision, by someone whom I could not see. A voice spoke to me in my heart, ''if you recognize your sin, and if you wish to be forgiven of your sin, stand up now, and confess your sin, and receive forgiveness through Jesus Christ.'' I had no idea what to say. The only thing that I could see was that l had tremendous sin that I couldn't bear anymore. Tears flowed. That day I accepted Jesus Christ into my heart as my savior, and gave my life up to him. From that day on, my life changed dramatically.


"Vestiges" by Fumie Ando:


"My Cross" by Fumie Ando: Tempera paint on drift wood, with soil from the artist's garden. "This art piece symbolizes my cross from God. My life is like a piece of drift wood, it is useless. But, when the blood of Jesus covers me, I receive new life and become useful. Jesus saves and calls us to carry our cross as Jesus did."

Fumie Ando has held exhibitions at numerous galleries across Japan and continues to paint, teach, and quietly witness to her not-yet-Christian artist friends in Sapporo, Japan. She is involved with a dynamic group of artistic Christians called IAM (International Arts Movement). The IAM web site URL:

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

Narnia Outreach Network

Japan’s Narnia Outreach Network Prepares for Release of The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe

By Paul Nethercott

"Any amount of theology can now be smuggled into people's minds under the cover of romance without their knowing it." (C.S. Lewis)

In 2003, Ken Taylor (vice-president of JEMA) and I met in Tokyo with Mark Joseph, Japan M.K. (“missionary kid”) and a professional in the entertainment industry. At this meeting Mark told us that Walden Media would be making “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe” (the first book in “The Chronicles of Narnia” series by C.S. Lewis) into a feature-length film. Mark was instrumental in the film’s early development and in setting up Walden’s partnership with Disney, the film’s distributor. This initial meeting with Mark resulted in formation of the Narnia Outreach Network (NON), an ad hoc group committed to using media to communicate the gospel effectively to the millions of Japanese who are not being reached by other means. By promoting creativity, cooperation, communication, and collaboration, NON is mobilizing the Christian community to respond effectively to the opportunities presented by the Narnia movie.

NON is discussing many exciting possibilities for outreach in Japan related to the Narnia movie (see below). Disney, distributor of the movie worldwide, has expressed willingness to work with the Christian community in Japan; we don’t know any specifics yet, but there is an open channel of communication at high levels and assurances of cooperation.

Several issues, however, could reduce an effective response to this opportunity. The issue of most concern is that Christians in Japan and around the world will fail to catch a vision for how God can use this story by C.S. Lewis to soften the hearts of the Japanese. Full of redemptive themes, with clear analogies to the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, this movie could have a profound spiritual impact on many Japanese.

Another issue that could potentially reduce a positive Christian response is an old boycott of Disney that had been organized by the American Family Association. Actually, that is now a non-issue. The boycott is officially over (see Q & A section for details).

The theology of C.S Lewis has been another concern. Ray Leaf, President of JEMA (Japan Evangelical Missionary Association) addressed this issue in this way: “I have read many of C.S. Lewis’ works and have always appreciated his unique way of approaching people with the Christian message. By using stories and myths to open their thinking to the possibility of realities beyond materialism, C.S. Lewis is a brilliant apologist. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is one such story that powerfully speaks to unseen realities. I would classify him as an eclectic Anglican/Arminian. I don't think that he is consistent in his mixing of theology, mythology, and philosophy. He allows himself that kind of intellectual freedom by disclaiming any authority as a theologian. I believe that we need to take Professor Lewis as he presented himself without trying to fit him into a mold that satisfies our theological concerns. In the essentials of the faith he was orthodox, and for that we should rejoice.”

Think of it, a few months from now millions of Japanese will be going to see a movie that has the potential of leading them into a relationship with Jesus Christ. Let’s be praying, let’s dream big, let’s use our creativity to respond in ways that will be effective.

Q & A<><><><><><><><><>

Q. Disney is distributing the Narnia movie. What about the boycott of Disney, the one organized by a group of Christians?
A. “After initiating a boycott against the Walt Disney Company in 1996, the AFA has decided to end the campaign, citing new challenges in the culture wars and some positive signs at Disney” (AFA Web Site).

Q. Is the movie going to be faithful to the original story by C.S. Lewis?
A. The stepson of C.S. Lewis, Douglas Gresham, is co-producer of the movie. It is a labor of love for him and he is deeply committed to making sure the movie is done “right.”

Q. Is this movie primarily for young children?
A. No, young children will be frightened by it. Much like “Lord of the Rings” (realistic looking monsters and battle scenes), this movie is for older children and adults.

Q. I have ideas for other Narnia related outreaches in Japan. How can I let people know about them?
A. Please post them on this blog.

Q. When will the movie be released?
A. December 9, 2005 in the US, March 2006 in Japan.

Q. Will a large number of Japanese see this film?
A. This may be one of the biggest blockbusters of all time. Millions of Japanese, young and old will probably see this movie, if not initially at a movie theatre, later on DVD and/or TV.

Q. Is this a big-budget movie?
A. The budget will exceed 150 million dollars.

Q. Is this a “Christian” movie?
A. It is a mainstream movie based on a story created by the author C.S. Lewis, who was a Christian. It contains Christian images and themes but it is not explicitly a “Christian” movie.

Q. Who is the director of the movie?
A. Andrew Adamson (co-director of “Shrek”).

Q. Is there concern about Christians misusing this opportunity?
A. Yes, there is a danger that explicitly Christian responses to this movie will alienate rather than draw Japanese to Jesus. We need to figure out how we can present the gospel in a winsome, non-threatening manner that is “in tune” with the original story by C.S. Lewis. This will not be easy.

Quotes by C.S. Lewis<><><><><><><><>

“…art can teach without at all ceasing to be art” (A Letter to I.O. Evans).

“Christ died for men precisely because men are not worth dying for; to make them worth it” (The World’s Last Night).

“’You would not have called to me unless I had been calling to you,’” said the Lion” (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe).

“Poetry too is a little incarnation, giving body to what had been before invisible and inaudible” (Reflections on the Psalms).

“’Yes,’ said Queen Lucy ‘in our world too, a Stable once had something inside it that was bigger than our whole world’” (The Last Battle).

“Safe?’ said Mr. Beaver…’Who said anything about safe?‘ ‘ Course he isn’t safe. But he’s good. He’s the King, I tell you’” (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe).

“’Then instantly the pale brightness of the mist and the fiery brightness of the Lion rolled themselves together into a swirling glory and gathered themselves up and disappeared’” (The Horse and His Boy).

“’When a willing victim who had committed no treachery was killed in a traitor’s stead, the table would crack and Death itself would start working backwards’” (The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe).

Print materials<><><><><><><><><><>

Check for Narnia related Japanese language resources through your favorite Christian bookstore. Some that are being planned or currently available include:
• Several articles featuring The Chronicles of Narnia and C.S. Lewis in the November 2005 issue of Hyakumannin no Fukuin (Gospel for the Millions) magazine.
• A translation of Christine Ditchfield’s A FAMILY GUIDE TO NARNIA (Crossway) by CS Seicho Center.
• Tracts based on a Narnia theme. These will be available from a number of organizations, including Every Home Crusade, Word of Life Press, and New Life League, Japan.
• A guide to C.S. Lewis and Narnia by a Japanese author, specifically oriented toward non-Christians (Word of Life Press, Forest Books division)


• Japan Campus Crusade for Christ (JCCC) has an interactive Japanese Narnia website that includes material on what the story means, study guides in Eng & Japanese, and a message board for readers to post comments.
• Buena Vista Pictures Distribution/Walden Media LLC is freely licensing a wide variety of high quality downloadable movie posters, postcards, bulletin inserts, flyers, web banners, IM icons, desktop wallpaper and screen savers for non-profit, non-commercial use. This is mainly to help schools, churches, and other organizations promote the U.S. movie release, as all of the materials are in English. However, these materials could be used creatively with English classes, in international churches, etc., in preparation for the Japan release.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

Worship: Is Your focus on God?

“The primary factor in worship concerns not the structure, nor the style, but the content. For worship to be biblical and Christian, the story of God’s redemption and salvation must be its content. Otherwise it ceases to be Christian worship.” Robert Webber

The most disturbing worship service I’ve attended took place at an evangelical church in the USA. It was America’s Independence Day (July 4th) and this church was ready. The opening video clip showed the Statue of Liberty, fireworks along with images of the Bible and the cross. The worship team appeared on-stage in, you guessed it, red, white and blue outfits. The “worship music” praised the USA, which prompted our six-year-old daughter to ask, “Mommy, why are they singing about America instead of Jesus?” The worship leader took the role of a cheerleader, as he worked the crowd into excitement over Independence Day. It was amazing. He even said, “We are here today to celebrate the USA and…Jesus too.” I was shocked. You may be asking “what’s wrong with Patriotism?” Nothing really, it is a normal and moral thing to have patriotic feelings for one’s country. In fact, morals of all kinds are extremely important to the proper functioning of society, but Moralism is different from morals.

Moralism is the explicit or implicit teaching that one must Be Like…, Be Good, Be Disciplined (Bryan Chapell, Christ–Centered Preaching, pp. 281-284). Chapell also says, “The primary problem with Moralism is not what is said but what is not said…the difference between presenting principles and a person.” Since Moralism is the default setting of humans, every Christian struggles with the problem of reducing Christianity to a set of moral principles. This is what the Pharisees, archetypical Moralists of Biblical proportions, did. They were proud people who were sure that they were “right” and better than others. In contrast, those who really “get” the gospel are deeply aware of their broken state. “Lord, have mercy on me, a sinner,” is their heart’s cry. The Apostle Paul looked down on no one because he viewed himself as the “chief of sinners.” He would say the same today, even in relation to the members of the most despised group on the planet, the group some think it is OK to dehumanize, hate and torture -- Al Qaeda.

Moralism in worship is not a “far off” problem peculiar to Americans. I have attended worship services at evangelical churches in Japan where I left thinking, “a Confucianist could have preached that message.” In most cases, the people responsible would be horrified if they realized what they had communicated. In other words, even if we firmly believe the Gospel, even if we think we have Christ-centered worship services, it is very easy to miss the mark. I asked myself, “Of the hundreds of messages I have given over the years, how many were moralistic “be” lectures that failed to focus on the great meta-narrative, the story of God's redemption?” Lord, have mercy…

The American Pastor John MacArthur identifies the issues: “The mandate for the Christian (is) the ministry of reconciliation to God through Christ, which brings about righteousness, transformation, and a new creation. There is, however, today in Christianity, in its evangelical element, an emphasis on another kind of effort. It is an effort to produce morality...”

Clarity about the purpose of corporate worship helps us to stay focused. Corporate worship is a time for God’s people (the church) to receive God’s revelation and respond appropriately to Him. It is an opportunity for the people of God to retell and relive the great stories of faith (past, present and future ones). The elements of corporate worship we find in the Bible (offering, silence, Scripture reading, message, testimonies, communion, baptism, fellowship, music, visuals, dance and drama) are all means of encountering and/or responding appropriately to God. Clearly, the means themselves are not worship. They are “ways” for us to hear from God, “connect” with Him, and express the adoration (worship) we have in our hearts.

How can we stay focused on our purpose in corporate worship?

1. Find at least one brave person who will give you honest feedback on your services. You may have to train someone; this would be a great opportunity for mentoring others.

2. Ask: “Could a Mormon (or Jehovah Witness or Muslim) agree with my message? For example, Mormons also have good, strong “family values.” Therefore, if your message is on family/marriage issues and the music is patriotic, it is possible that a Mormon would agree with 100% of your service!

3. Ask: “Does the music focus on faith, salvation, the cross, Jesus and other redemptive themes? Choosing good hymns is not difficult as there are many outstanding “classics.” Due to the volume of new material, choosing good “Gospel-driven” worship songs is a lot more challenging. Quality is “spotty” producing some outstanding worship songs, and others that should never be projected on a screen. Good ones that are available in Japanese, include: “Lord I Lift Your Name on High,” “All Hail King Jesus,” “Shout to the Lord,” “The Power of Your Love,” “How Majestic is Your is Your Name,” and “Majesty.” There are also some excellent songs by Japanese composers including: “威光、尊厳、栄誉;主の前に;十字架のほかに and 子羊イエスを。

4. Ask: “Does the flow of my service reflect the Biblical model of revelation and response?” (See Isaiah 6:1-9 where Isaiah responds to revelation). Musically, two hymns followed by a worship song would be revelation and response.

5. Ask: “Does every worship service at my church celebrate the great historical acts of salvation?” The preeminent acts of salvation are the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Every Old Testament story is part of redemptive history though and relates to the Gospel “meta-narrative.” If we don’t “get to” Jesus, we have probably been Moralistic.

6. Visual art can be effective in reinforcing the message of the gospel. Christian symbols, images of Biblical stories, and video clips are all available on the Internet.

7. Read Scripture! One researcher, who visited dozens of churches in her study, found that many churches spent three or four times more time on announcements than on the reading of Scripture.

8. Include an emphasis on public prayer. Prayer can also receive very little time in our services, unless we are intentional about it.

9. It may seem mechanical, but time what you do in your services. How much Scripture is actually read? How much time do you spend in prayer? The time we take for something is a strong indicator of importance we place on it.

10. Make the Lord’s Supper an integral part of your service. Most of us under-use this God-given means of responding to the revelation of God. A few ideas on how to make communion more meaningful:

  • Think of communion as drama. Communion is a re-enactment of Jesus’ sacrifice, designed for those of us who need more than just words in our worship experience.
  • Think of the role of hospitality in communion. It is a time to invite people to enter into the presence of Christ, to sit with Him at his table and have fellowship with Him.
  • Weave the meaning and theme of communion into the whole service – instead of just tacking it on to the end of the service.
  • Thoughtfully change how you conduct the distribution of the bread and wine. If your congregation always sits to receive communion, have them come forward instead.
  • Using a loaf of fresh baked bread can be very meaningful, especially if it is broken in front of everyone. The smell can also remind us that, “Jesus is the bread of life.”

For those of us concerned about immorality, injustice, poverty, and other issues, the most important thing we can do is lead people into worship of Jesus Christ. Why? Because, like Isaiah, when we meet the Lord Almighty we are changed. We will be renewed, deeply aware of our brokenness as well as the Holy God who has declared us clean and forgiven.

The Gospel, not Moralism, is what will change us, and the world. Lord, have mercy.

Related Resources on the Web

Friday, February 11, 2005

Reflections on "The Millennium Matrix"

“We are at that very point in time when a 400-year-old age is dying and another is struggling to be born – a shifting of culture, science, society, and institutions enormously greater than the world has ever experienced.” (Dee Hock)

Have you wondered why some churches are ornate temple-like structures full of symbolic art while others look like a Wal-Mart with chairs? What about the different approaches to corporate worship - from ritualistic liturgical forms to highly produced performances with stage, lights, and state-of-the-art PA systems?

Rex Miller’s book The Millennium Matrix not only explains why some American churches look like Wal-Marts, it is useful in understanding the church and culture of Japan. The heart of The Millennium Matrix is a chart called “The Complete Millennium Matrix.” Miller’s chart is “a compelling framework that enables us to view ourselves, our times, and the church in a way that makes sense of the past, the present, and the future.” MIller's main premise is, “when the primary means of storing and distributing information changes, our worldviews change.” In other words, the way we communicate has a profound impact on our worldview and lifestyle including how we conceptualize and express our Christianity.

Miller’s chart identifies four major methods of communication, each of which also denotes an epoch in world history:

1) Oral

2) Print

3) Broadcast

4) Digital.

As part of his chart, Miller includes lists detailing the impact on culture of each of the methods of communication. These lists are divided into a number of categories including “how we believe, how we see beauty, how we know, and how we work and trade."

Now, here is the exciting part. Using Miller’s chart we can see that for oral cultures visual art is one means of remembering information. Rituals (liturgy) also help people remember, they maintain traditions. Hence, the early oral church was liturgical and its buildings were full of visual art. For the illiterate masses, stained glass windows were their “Bibles.”

When printed literature became common, a major clash took place between the new “print culture” and the old oral one. Therefore, the Reformation was not only a break with the past theologically; it was also a giant conflict between the old oral culture and the new print one. For several reasons the newly literate, Protestant print culture-based believers got rid of almost all art. Besides the familiar issue of Protestants rejecting art because it was “Catholic,” the new print culture no longer needed or appreciated it. Reflecting the print-based emphasis on linear/logical/rationalistic thinking, church architecture became plain, with few embellishments. Rituals were less important and church music became more complex because people could read it in printed books. For the new print culture, revelation was far less mystical. Both general and special revelation became an object of rationalistic study. Individuals rose in importance, laying the foundation for democracy and many other new social institutions.

In the Fifties, the entrance of broadcast culture created another major clash, one that is still going on today. Churches started looking a lot like TV studios with stages and lighting. The worship service became less of a teaching time and more of a celebration featuring bands, videos, and drama. This approach works great for large groups, so the era of the mega-church was born. Generally, the older print culture generation thought it was awful; the younger generation, the current baby boomers, mostly loved it. Now, only fifty years after the beginning of the broadcast era we have an “emerging” digital generation that doesn’t appreciate broadcast style churches so we are in the middle of another drastic shift in culture.

Digital technology is driving dramatic changes worldwide. Via digital technology, we have merged text, sound, images, and data into one common “language.” “Mass media” is no longer the monolithic power it once was; “personalized media” gives individuals primary control over what they read, see, and hear. The iPod, Apple's iconic device for storing digital data, is a multi-million-dollar marketing success that is at the cutting edge of personalized media.

In Japan digital technology is changing the way people work, think, behave, and believe. This is putting tremendous stress on society and on the church in Japan. Large portions of the church have not adapted to broadcast culture and now we have yet another new paradigm to deal with. We do not yet know what the new “Emerging Church” is going to be like. There are many signs, though, that evangelical churches will have candles, incense, art of all kinds and liturgy as part of their worship – in the US many already do. A return to mysticism, awe, and beauty along with an emphasis on “authenticity” is taking place. Worship services will be more interactive, less performance-oriented, and generally smaller. There will almost certainly be a growing trend towards house churches in Japan. Robert Webber, Leonard Sweet, and many other thinkers are noting the similarities of the Emerging Church to churches of the past. Ironically, the Emerging Church is "looping back" actively reviving ancient practices unused for several centuries by Protestants.

According to Japan Campus Crusade for Christ staff member Yoshitaka Satoh, “the current college kids are completely different from my generation; they want interaction, discussion, and don’t want long logical messages by the ’Sensei'.” He also reports that they do not like top-down command-and-control leadership. Significantly, these characteristics are ones that Miller says are common to the new digital generation around the world.

If Miller is more or less right, if Satoh’s evaluation of college students is more or less accurate, we need to make huge adjustments to be effective at making disciples of younger Japanese. We will have to get rid of old stereotypes, accept new realities, and make changes in almost every area. It appears that Japanese growing up in the new era we are now entering will have great difficulty fitting into traditional church structures in Japan. Imagine the college students Satoh described attending a church where there is no interaction during the worship service, long analytical messages, and decisions are made from the top down. Many churches will probably not be able to adjust. That is one reason we need new churches and new missions. One large mission in Japan has, in effect, created a new mission structure by “spliting” with its’ Japanese denomination. This mission shifted to an exclusive focus on starting house churches (the Japanese denomination involved rejected this strategy).

Along with challenge, we have tremendous opportunities to use digital technology to build the church. Through connecting via the Internet, groups and individuals are collaborating as never before. The Internet is breaking down walls between denominations and no one can stop it. Interactive media such as the CD “tract” produced by Campus Crusade for the Christmas in Peace outreach are reaching the digital generation. Potentialities with using digital technology to spread the gospel are innumerable and we have only begun to imagine what they are.

There are some weaknesses in Miller’s views. For one thing, he is a little too optimistic about the new digital era. Different it will be, but people will still have all the same core problems as before. It will solve some problems and create some new ones. For another, he is probably off on his timing, it seems to me that the digital age will be established considerably sooner than 2010…. perhaps it already is.

The new digital culture will change Japan but Japan will also change it, giving it some Japanesque characteristics that will make it unique. We need to be aware and be as ready as we can be to respond with effective strategies and methods. There will be much conflict over the changes we are facing. Many will view the new digital culture and the church that is emerging with it as a great evil. Some are already proclaiming the North American Emerging Church movement as apostate. Miller’s perspective is that it is generally a healthy response to a radically new situation, that we need to adapt or our mission will fail.


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