Sunday, December 10, 2006

Missional Art: The Creative Proclamation of the Gospel

Missional Art
The Creative Proclamation of the Gospel

1. Everyone has God-given creativity so “missional art” can be a part of every ministry.
2. Teamwork is essential to creativity.
3. People are looking for participatory environments where they can make a creative contribution.
4. One obstacle to creativity is rigidly clinging to the status quo. Change is hard but our choice is to embrace growth or experience slow death.
5. A controlling, top-down structure is another obstacle to creativity, creativity thrives where there is freedom to explore and innovate.

There are some encouraging signs of a spiritual awakening in Japan. One “sign” are “hot spots” -- vibrant churches that are effectively reaching Japanese with the gospel. Why some churches are thriving while many are not, is an important question that calls for careful research. However, I believe that one important characteristic of thriving churches in Japan is their emphasis on “missional art.”

Two churches in Tokyo where “missional art” is part of the DNA of the church:

1. Nakano Baptist Church

When Pastor Kazumi Saito started pastoring this fifty-year-old congregation in 1999, it was an older congregation that had made few changes in forty years. Today Nakano Baptist is full of life with children, youth, and young moms from the community taking part in a variety of creative ministries. The church space is warm and friendly with a small café in a back corner of the sanctuary. This summer the church ran a highly creative kid’s camp that drew many children from the community. Artistic flyers, newsletters, and posters are part of what draws people to the church.

One indication of change in this congregation is that the church is equipped with quality music and video equipment. Saito’s messages incorporate portions of mainstream movies as well as original video clips that he produces. Because Saito is keenly aware of what is happening in mainstream Japanese culture, he is able to communicate on a level that “connects” with those who have had little or no contact with the gospel.

Nakano Baptist has a vision to build a 250 seat multi-purpose “community space” that will be used for worship services, concerts, and other events. It will include a café and state-of-the-art sound, lighting, and video equipment.

2. Jesus LifeHouse Church

On Easter Sunday, 2006 attendance at Jesus LifeHouse (JL) was 450. A group from Australia lead by Pastor Rod Plummer established JL in August of 2002 with Japanese youth as the target group. This church has baptized an average of 90 people per year, most of whom were young people in their late teens and twenties. The arts are important to the leaders of JL. Associate Pastor Ryuta Kimura stated, “Art is good. God is an artist…normal people should be able to accept it and relate to it… young people don’t really care about the history of art and all that stuff, just that it looks good.”

The Internet plays an important role at JL with the attractive web site drawing well over fifty visitors/day. Thirty percent of first time visitors to the church come through the web site. A new Media site featuring message videos is getting a strong response with well over two hundred people/week viewing videos. Mixi, a sophisticated Japanese social networking site similar to My Space, is one important means of connecting with youth. According to Kimura, seventy percent of Japanese youth use mixi making it a natural “space” for people to “meet” and communicate with each other. “Our people make connections with new people (via mixi) through their friends and people who they know. For example, if someone writes comments on their blog, then there is a connection, the person can be invited to church.”

In the summer of 2005, JL collaborated with five other churches to host Hillsongs, “United” band in Tokyo. Over 2,500 attended two concerts with 50 decisions to follow Christ. Kimura said it built vision, “we realized we can do more of this.” In May of 2006, JL hosted world-class DJ Andy Hunter for a worship dance gig that drew over two hundred youth. Willingness to try unorthodox, creative means of connecting with people through art is a remarkable aspect of JL.

Article on Jesus LifeHouse by David Tensen

Creation (general revelation) and the Bible (special revelation) are masterpieces born out of the heart of a creative God who wants to be known. Both are “missional art” because they are God’s creative way of revealing Himself and His plan of salvation. Our ability to create “missional art” is related to our being made in the image of God.

In a nation where art has been highly valued for many generations, “missional art” is one of the keys to the hearts of Japanese.

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