Saturday, December 26, 2009

Countenance Three by Makoto Fujimura - Free Download

It is Christmas day in Chicago where I am so thankful to be spending time with family celebrating the birth of Jesus.

I want to wish the readers of Worship and the Arts a Blessed Christmas! I also want to let you know that Makoto Fujimura's painting "Countenance Three" is now available as a free-of-charge downloaded. I highly recommend Makoto and this lovely painting.

The note about this painting says that "Countenance captures the reflection of the Creator's gaze on His creation."

Download High Resolution Image of the painting HERE

Creative Commons License For photo of the painting "Countenance Three" by Makoto Fujimura

Makoto is a Japanese national who lives in NYC. He recently wrote a book with Tim Keller (pastor of Redeemer Church in NYC) called Refractions: A Journey of Faith, Art, and Culture

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Outreach: Small is often Better Than Big

When over two hundred people showed up for the Christmas outreach we were understandably excited. The combined membership of our two new churches in Kyushu was about ten (including the missionaries) so this was a big event for us. We rented a nice room in a local mall, had decorations, music, a gospel message, and everyone received bags of homemade goodies prepared by the church ladies. It seemed to have been a great success.

However, there were problems: the church ladies complained that it had been too much work; there was disappointment that no one had gotten saved; the event cost more than we could afford; it wore us out. I tried to follow up on the new contacts we made but when I called a few of them they clearly did not like the intrusion.

Several years later we were on staff with a new church in Yokosuka. At this church we established a “Gospel Live House.” The concept is from mainstream “Live Houses” popular in Japan which are venues with live music, food and drinks.

We held our “Gospel Live House” four times a year. It was easy to create a relaxed atmosphere in our church by moving out most of the chairs, adding some tables, and providing simple homemade snacks and drinks. We had a live performance and charged 500 yen per person.

The quality and type of music varied a lot. One time we had smooth jazz by skilled musicians. Another time an awful rock band from a local college performed. We never had preaching on the program. Usually, one of the performers would share a short testimony and most, but not all, of the music had gospel themes.

We had a lot of fun with our Gospel Live Houses and they were one of the reasons that we had a thriving church. This was effective outreach. Why did it work out so well?

Doable: The quarterly rhythm did not wear us out and gave us adequate time to prepare for the next one. We held it in the church and it did not require a big staff; the 500 yen per person cover charge paid most, if not all, expenses.

Consistent: People looked forward to the next Gospel Live House. They knew what to expect so they were able to relax and enjoy themselves.

Contextual: What we did and how we did it was appropriate for our church and for our community, it was a good “fit” for our situation. Almost any wholesome activity that a few people in your community are interested in can be a means of gathering people.

Relational: Rather than gathering a large crowd so we could preach at them (very few people like to be preached at and those that do are almost ALL in the church already) we tried to build relationships. The warm atmosphere made it possible to get to know individuals, to become friends and to let them know that we cared about them.

Enjoyable: Did I say it was a lot of fun? This was an important reason people kept coming back and why they brought their friends. We all enjoyed it.

Are big events bad? No, they have their place and can work well.

The good news is, small groups can effectively do outreach because intimate gatherings are often better for building relationships. The single most important factor is genuine love for people. If we don’t have that, we have nothing. And, how we do outreach is not nearly as important as caring, really caring about people which always involves sacrifice.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Reflections on "The Millennium Matrix" - a book by Rex Miller

It has been four years since my wife brought “The Millennium Matrix" home from one of her classes at the Robert Webber Institute For Worship Studies in Florida. This book is extremely valuable to me because it has helped me understand what is going on in the world, both now and in the past, from a nee perspective. Reading it has changed the way I think, no exaggeration.

Following is an updated review of “The Millennium Matrix that I wrote several years ago.

“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 helped me understand why many churches in the US look like Wal-Marts with video screens. This book also contributed to my understanding the church and culture of Japan. The heart of The Millennium Matrix is a chart called The Complete Millennium Matrix” which is a framework that enables us to understand the past, the present, and the future from a new perspective.

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 (from the ancient past through 1,500 AD)

2) Print (1,500 AD – 1950)

3) Broadcast (1950 – 2010)

4) Digital (2010---

Miller includes lists detailing the impact on culture of each of the dominant media. 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 an important means of remembering information. Rituals (liturgy) also help people remember so that is why the early 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 “print culture” believers got rid of almost all art. Besides the 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 less mystical so both general and special revelation became an object of rationalistic study. Individuals rose in importance, laying the foundation for democracy and many 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 like TV studios with a stage, sound and lighting. The worship service became 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 is far less interested in broadcast style churches. So, we find ourselves in the middle of yet another major transition.

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 yet adapted to broadcast culture and now we have a new paradigm to deal with. The challenges are immense and we don’t know what the new “emerging Church” in Japan is going to be like but it is going to be different.

There are signs, though, that digital era 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 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 his 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 new characteristics of young Japanese are ones that Miller says are common to the new digital generation around the world.

If Miller is more or less right, if Mr. 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.

Many Japanese growing up in the new digital era will have great difficulty fitting into traditional church structures. 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, and they will die.

This is one reason we need new churches and new missions in Japan. One large mission in Japan has, in effect, created a new mission structure by splitting from 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 exciting new 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. Interactive media such as the CD “tracts” produced by Campus Crusade 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.

The new digital culture will change Japan but Japan will also change it, giving it characteristics that will make it unique. Those of us that work with Japanese need to be aware and be ready to respond with effective strategies and methods.

There are some weaknesses in Miller’s views. For one thing, he is probably off on his timing; it seems to me that the digital age will be established sooner than 2010. I also think that he is a too optimistic about the new digital era. Different it will be, no question about it. But, people will still have the same core problems as before.

Around the world there will be much conflict related to the digital revolution. Many will view the new digital culture, and the church that is emerging with it, with alarm and simply condemn it. If we understand the profound impact of media, we gain a new perspective and we can be constructive rather than reactionary.

Related Links:

Friday, November 20, 2009

Free for 24 hours – “The Last TV Evangelist: A Guide to the Media Revolution” by Phil Cook

Phil Cook author of "Branding Faith" has released a book called "The Last TV Evangelist." Phil consistently has valuable insights so I am recommending his new book -- even though I have not been able to read it yet.

There is a review of "The Last TV Evangelist" HERE

For the next few hours you can download the entire book, free of charge. A hot link won't work so copy and paste the following web address:

Friday, July 17, 2009

Article Featuring Ken Taylor

Last month, Studio Re: and Hallelujah Gospel Family worked together to do a film shoot of a large concert featuring approximately 300 singers in a Japanese black gospel choir.

The feature of the night was a fusion piece between gospel music and Japanese wa-daiko. You can read more about that in a post on this blog written by guest-writer Jefferey Timmer entitled Black Gospel Music in Japan... and the questions that come with it.

Recently, CAN founding member and leader of the Hallelujah Gospel Family network, Ken Taylor, was featured in a news story by ANS News. The article is called "How 'Sister Act' has inspired the formation of 30 Japanese Gospel Choirs run by a Filipino former night club entertainer who found Christ."

It's a long title, but a good article. Check it out here:

Thursday, July 09, 2009

The National Anthem of Japan

The Japanese national anthem was officially adopted in 1999, but it hasn't had quite the appeal of other national anthems throughout the world. A friend of mine sent me a link to a fascinating article that may be of interest to you. It's called Something to Sing About - Japan needs an anthem that unites the nation. I highly recommend reading it. Post your comments if you want to have a discussion about it.

Below is some information not contained in the article. First is the lyrics of the song, second is the melody.


May your reign
Continue for a thousand, eight thousand generations,
Until the pebbles
Grow into boulders
Lush with moss

Poetic English
May Japan's Reign
Last for ten thousand years
May her stones turn to rocks
May those rocks turn to boulders
May Japan Reign and Flourish

Saturday, June 06, 2009

Innovation In The Arts: "Missional Art"

Innovation in the Arts is a guest post I wrote for Innovation in Mission, a blog by Jon Hirst connected with the book he published with the title Innovation in Mission.

I have not had a face-to-face meeting with Jon -- we recently connected on the social networking site called facebook. But, Jon's parents, Lester and Priscilla Hirst are good friends and former colleagues in the same mission. I have a lot of respect for Les and Priscilla.  They have been a great encouragement to me, and to many others that I know.

Other posts on this blog related to "Missional Art." 
  • A Film Showing that God is at Work in Japan
  • "Bicycle" - A Film by Biola University & Studio Re:
  • Missional Art - Lamp Post Graphic Novels
  • Manga Messiah: Expanding Around the Globe II

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Black Gospel Music in Japan ...and the questions that come with it

Greetings from a guest blogger. 

I (Jeff Timmer) am here for six weeks this summer working as an intern with Paul Nethercott and fulfilling requirements for my grad degree in ethnomusicology. I’m also here to do some research on gospel choirs in Japan. I became interested in this topic two summers ago while on a short-term trip working with a church in Osaka. After two years of grad classes as framework and preparation, I’m back to spend some more time looking in to the topic. Paul has asked me to share a few thoughts via blog posts while I’m here.

I’ve been here only a week, so I’m still a little cautious when it comes to writing any new and interesting discoveries, happenings or insights. Instead I think it’s best to begin by sharing some of the questions I’m addressing as a researcher, visitor and ethnomusicology student. (For those who don’t know, I should probably mention that “ethnomusicology” is essentially the study of music in/as culture; the anthropology of music; the study of the music of the world; etc.)

To the questions:

  •  Now that black gospel music has been popular in Japan for around 15 years, has the genre established itself as a fully Japanese activity and not something that has been imported? How is this defined or characterized? What is uniquely and distinctively Japanese about the way black gospel music plays itself out here?
  • What is drawing the Japanese to participate in these choirs?
  • What are the goals, methods and vision of gospel choir leaders and directors?
  • How are choirs established and how are they supported?
  • As Jonathan Herring notes in another post on this blog, most of the participants are not Christians. For the number of choir members who have become Christians through participation in the choirs, what are the elements, methods or people God is using in this conversion?
  • What lessons can be drawn from these gospel choirs that can help the local Japanese churches and their ministry to the community?
  • Some work is being done to experiment with fusing black gospel music with wadaiko as well as hip-hop dance. What effects will this have on the genre, if any? How will the relationships between leadership and participants develop and spread?
  • What’s next for black gospel music in Japan?

The purpose in sharing these is partly to preface any later posts on the subject, but also to help challenge your own thinking and take a moment to put on the hat of an ethnomusicologist/artist by taking a step back and asking similar questions. Sometimes when you take things that have become normal or routine and look at them with some outside eyes, new insights or epiphanies can emerge that will ultimately help refine your work or goals.

I’m looking forward to digging a little deeper with these questions and others over the next few weeks. More thoughts later!


Note from Paul Nethecott: 

It is really good to have a quality person like Jeff here for a few weeks working with me on an important project. His research is tied in with a film project we are producing under Studio Re:

The first part of this production is a mini-documentary that will explore the popularity of both Black Gospel and a genre indigenous to Japan called Wadaiko (Japanese style percussion troupe). 

The second part is a Wadaiko/Black Gospel Music Video (WBG Music Video) that we will shoot on June 20, 2009 at a large hall in Tokyo.  This will feature a large Japanese Black Gospel choir under the direction of Ken Taylor and 12 Wadaiko percussionists from a group called Matsuriza. As far as we know, this will be the first performance of Black Gospel and Wadaiko fusion.  It could be the start of a new style of music.  And, it could attract a lot of attention. 

Why is Studio Re: producing a Music Video?  This will be a visual demonstration of the fact that the Gospel is for Japan.  It will show that the gospel does indeed "connect" with Japanese and with their culture.  In a nation where virtually everyone views Christianity as a foreign religion, this is a radical idea.  But, we aren't going to just talk about the fact that the gospel relates to Japanese culture, we are going to create a visual demonstration.  Will it work? 

The first time our Japanese bookkeeper saw the WBG teaser inserted below, she cried.  

She couldn't even say exactly why she cried but it touched her on the emotional level.  I took it as a very good sign.   She did say something like "I had never thought about how Japanese culture could be part of my faith." 

Related Posts: 

Japanese Black Gospel Choir & Taiko Troupe in a Music Video?

Missions & Filmmaking Converge in Tokyo

A Film Showing that God is at Work in Japan

"Bicycle" - A Film by Biola University & Studio Re:

View Mujo No Kaze Online Here

Friday, May 29, 2009

(Potential) Spiritual Bridges in Anime - Eden of the East

Wow, long-time-no-post. Sorry for those of you who have given me so much encouragement over the Spiritual Bridges series. I don't actually plan when to write about an anime, manga, or video game; I just write about something when I discover it. And it's been a long time since I've discovered an anime with spiritual bridges--last Fall's season wasn't very good in that regard. This Spring, however, is different.

For those that read this series, I want to draw your attention to an anime that's currently airing on Fuji Television called Higashi no Eden (東のエデン), or Eden of the East. It is 11 episodes long (episode 8 just aired this week), to be followed by a theatrical movie later this year. I don't know, as of now, whether the movie will be a concise re-telling or the conclusion to the series. Time will tell.

The first thing to draw attention to is the staff behind this anime. It was animated by Production I.G., famous for their work on the Ghost in the Shell: Stand-Alone Complex series and the Moribito: Guardian of the Spirit series, and many key staff members from those previous projects are involved in this one too. Anyone who has seen either of the previous series will tell you that that's a good thing.

The second thing to draw attention to is the premise of the story. At first, it seems like an animated version of the Bourne trilogy of movies, but it quickly throws in some other elements that differentiate it. For example, unlike Jason Bourne, Takizawa Akira (the lead male, also with amnesia) wasn't an assasin; he was a messiah (small "m"). He discovers that he is one of 12 messiahs in the country of Japan. Each person has been hand-picked and given a simple mission: change/save Japan by any means necessary. In order to do this, they've been given a phone charged with 10,000,000,000 Yen and access to a mysterious woman known as "Juiz" (Portuguese for "judge"), who, for the right price, can even influence the Japanese prime minister.

I'll leave the rest of the story for you to discover should you decide to check this series out, but I wanted to bring it to your attention. Why? Because it's one of the most respected animation companies, comprised of staff members that have their own following, that is brainstorming ideas of possible ways to save the Japanese culture. I doubt they'll come up with any viable solutions, but it illustrates many things that people are thinking about right now. Already, we've seen one messiah who uses his money to create a haven for abandoned elderly people in need of medical treatment and another who thinks that if he can support enough people in becoming NEETs (Not in Education, Employment, or Training), he can force business tycoons to start changing their practices. It's interesting, and it's food for thought. So, if you like this kind of story, check it out. I'm sure it'll be a good way to start conversations, if nothing else.

Follow-up: As the series goes on, we are introduced to many NEETs and even a Hikikomori. Both groups are portrayed in an extremely positive light that highlights not what they are, but what they could become if they were just allowed to use their gifts. After watching the finale, I will unhesitatingly pronounce it the best anime of this season, and recommend it to anyone. We'll see about a Spiritual Bridges post, but as the end of the season is not the end of the story, I'm not sure I can write that post yet.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Bach Leads Japanese to Faith in Jesus Christ

The Asia Pacific Times has a wonderful report on the popularity of Bach in Japan.

Ms. Shikata, a Japanese woman we know well travels to Germany frequently, sings with a semi-professional choir that only sings Bach pieces, and, well, is just nuts about the guy.

Click on the following title to read the article: Where Bach was jailed, Asians Pay Homage

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Wadaiko/Black Gospel Fusion in Tokyo

Hey Everyone, I (Jonathan Herring) have been working with Paul and 'Studio Re:' for a little over two months. I have had a great time! I am excited to tell you about a project we have been working on that involves God, drums, and a Japanese choir.

Studio Re: has been advancing a project that will be filmed on June 20 in Tokyo. We will shoot an entire concert of Black Gospel Choir music but our main purpose is to create a music video of one specific song during the concert. That song will be a fusion of two distinct Japanese styles of music. One is Wadaiko (also known as Taiko), which is an intense, elaborate, Japanese drumming performance. It has deep roots in ancient Japanese culture, going further back than even Buddhism's arrival in Japan. Wadaiko is full of energy and incredibly engaging to watch. The bride to this groom may surprise you; Black Gospel Choir. But this couple isn't too diametric as Gospel Choir music has some of the same rhythmic and energetic qualities as Wadaiko. Gospel Choir is also quite popular in Japan. Since the movie 'Sister Act' The Japanese people have grown a love and fascination for Gospel music and it has become a mainstream art.

As far as we know, a fusion of Wadaiko and Gospel Choir has never been done in Japan (or any where else for that matter). But having seen a good bit of both, I think the fruit they produce will be extraordinary. By filming this concert, and by making a short documentary to go along with it, we hope to achieve a number of important things:

1. The developing of relationships with the members of the Wadaiko group, none of whom are believers. We want to show them God's love and through this film promote and bless their group. The same goes for those in the gospel choir; there will be about 600 choir members involved in the entire concert, perhaps 100 of them are Christians. Yes that's right, 500 people will be singing praise to God, 500 people who don't yet know God, but nevertheless find themselves glorifying Him.
2. As Christians we can make a huge impact on the culture by being at the forefront of art and music. Since a collaboration of Wadaiko and Gospel Choir has not been done before, we believe with its success, many windows will be opened to permeate the Japanese culture with art that overflows with the heart of Christ.
3. The leaders and directors of the concert and film are believers. Though the participants might not know it, they will be glorifying God and through film we will be able to show that to the world.

We see a lot of potential in this project, and I am thankful for the opportunity to be a part of making it happen. Here is teaser of what a Wadaiko and Gospel Choir fusion might look like, so please take a look and tell us what you think.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

Mobile Phones: An Innovative Approach to Outreach in Japan

Anyone who has lived in Japan for any amount of time has noticed the pervasive use of mobile phones (Keitai denwa - 携帯電話, hereafter "keitai" for short) everywhere, from restaurants to trains to stores. Keitai are becoming the primary method of communication for Japanese young people, even eclipsing the use of computers.

The Numbers
69 million Japanese people access the internet on their mobile phones. This is more than the number of Japanese PC internet users.

The average Japanese high school student uses her keitai for two hours a day (notice I say her, since on average girls use their keitai slightly more than boys). Yet the average students talks for less than 10 minutes a day, with the vast majority of that two hours being email and internet usage. This trend of using one's keitai primarily for email and internet, and not actual talking, is actually true of nearly all keitai users, not just students and young people.

Computer illiteracy is a growing problem among Japanese youth, as many of them are completely bypassing computer usage and using only their keitai for all electronic communication. This trend is only expected to increase in the coming years.

How it works (techno jargon)

Email on keitai

All Japanese keitai come with their own email address, usually ending in,, or, for the cases of NTT Docomo, Softbank, and AU, for example. You can send email from your keitai to someone else’s keitai or PC email address, or you can send email from your computer to a keitai the exact same way as sending email to another PC, with no extra steps required. Sending email is the primary method of using keitai in Japan, by far eclipsing actual talking.

Internet on keitai
All modern keitai are able to view the internet. Keitai internet websites are specially formatted to be viewed on small screens and slower data connections. Many of Japan's most popular websites actually receive more visitors on their keitai site than their PC site, reflecting the trend of moving away form PCs and towards mobile.

A blog is an online journal that others can view. Japanese are the most prolific bloggers in the world, with some 37% of all blogs in the world being in Japanese, where as English comes in second at 36%. Both individuals as well as businesses in Japan use blogging as a way to connect with people. Since this is such an established medium for communication and most people are familiar with it, it is probably a great opportunity for the Christian community to connect with Japanese. Blogs in Japan can easily be both viewed as well as written from either a computer or a keitai.

QR Codes
A "QR Code" is a square-shaped barcode-like image you have probably seen on signs and handouts. A QR code represents an encoded block of text, usually containing a keitai website address and contact information. All Japanese keitai come with the ability to take a picture of these QR codes ("barcode scan" mode). Once the QR code is snapped by a keitai, the decoded website and/or contact info is displayed on one's keitai phone for easy access.
QR Code Flow

1) The QR code you would like to scan

2) Put your phone in barcode reader mode and snap the QR code

3) After successfully snapping the QR code, it shows up on your screen. You can now click
on the decoded website to visit it

4) The actual keitai website on the phone's browser

An Opportunity for Sharing
One of the phenomenon happening with internet usage in Japan is that since it is relatively anonymous, Japanese people are more open about sharing there than in real life. For example, on Facebook, America’s most popular social networking site, more than 90% of users use their real name and real picture on their profile. By contrast, on mixi, Japan’s most popular social networking site, less than 5% of users use their real name and real picture.

Therefore it is not hard to find Japanese people engaging in discussions on their blogs or internet forums that they would not do in real life, perhaps even more so than their Western counterparts. This means using the internet may be a key way to get Japanese to open up at the heart level, in different ways than might be possible in person.

Furthermore, since, unlike a computer, one's keitai is on one's person all the time, Japanese are able to engage in online sharing much more frequently than on the PC. As a result, one recent study found that Japanese people engage in the deepest online relationships using their mobile phones, and shallower online relationships using PCs. This would suggest that the keitai, as opposed to the PC, may be a good medium to get Japanese people to open up more deeply about spiritual and other issues.


The following are some concrete steps that you, or the tech person at your church or ministry, can use to get your mobile presence up and running quickly

• Create a mobile portal for your church. You don't need to create a brand new website from the ground up, rather you can sign up at one of the existing popular web portals (see below) and create your own profile and blog within minutes.
• Create a QR code for your mobile portal, and put in on your church flyer, business cards and posters. This way Japanese can easily access your church's contact info and mobile portal.
• Create a keitai mailing list, to send daily or weekly Bible verses, announcements, or other info, to your church members keitai.

Easily create your own QR code for free

Mixi - The most popular social networking site in Japan, with more than 16 million users. Create a community for your church, and join the existing Christian communities

FC2 is a popular blogging website in Japan, and unlike most other sites, has an English interface

楽天 (Rakuten), a popular blogging service with both PC and mobile interfaces
Ameba, another very popular blogging service, also with good PC and mobile support

About the Author

I (John Gibbs) am a missionary to Japan with WorldVenture, specializing in equipping the Japanese Christian community with mobile phone evangelism, discipleship and (online) community.

I typically employ nearly all of the strategies noted above in my advice and services to Japanese churches, in addition to constantly looking for better and more effective ways to encourage Japanese Christians and non-Christians to communicate online. For example, churches are usually equipped with a QR code for their Sunday handouts, event posters, and business cards. I also urge churches to start a blog on one of the above services. Additionally, I create a mobile website for each church or organization, and show them how to update it. A message board is always attached to the church's website, and while brainstorming with the pastor, we find ways to get people talking on the message board (i.e. daily Bible study reflections, prayer board, etc).

As for my personal background, I came to Japan in mid-2008, before which I was a software engineer in silicon valley for 7 years. I was motivated for missions by taking the Perspectives on the World Christian Movement course in the fall of 2007. I plan to stay in Japan for the long-term, bridging the gap between the gospel and nonbelievers using technology or any other means available.

I can be contacted at: john at worldventure dot net

Friday, February 13, 2009

Manga Mutiny - One Step Closer

As some of you may know, I (Scot) work as a proofreader/editor for NEXT Manga, publisher of the Manga Messiah series. I just wanted to put in a quick note for all who have been waiting for Manga Mutiny. The Japanese version has been out for quite some time now, and the English version is nearing completion. We finished the main bulk of the editing last night, and are now just waiting for Tyndale's (the US Publisher's) input. When that's done, we'll do some last-minute touch-ups, and then it will be ready for print!

For those who are new, back in 2006, New Life League Japan started it's branch called "NEXT Manga," publishing a book called "Manga Messiah." This was a 280-page full-color retelling of the four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) in the style of Japanese Manga (similar to American Comics). Last year, we released Manga Metamorphosis, giving the book of Acts the same treatment. This year, we are releasing Manga Mutiny, which tells the story all the way from the creation of the world to the parting of the Red Sea during the Exodus, spending a majority of its time on Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, and Moses. This will be followed up with another volume next year which will tell the rest of the Exodus. Despite being a bit biased, let me say that these books just continue to get better with every release. In my opinion, Mutiny is the best yet, and is leagues above any other books of its kind.

Also, NEXT has just released a smaller, 64-page version of Manga Messiah simply known as "The Messiah." This was done as a low-cost way to meet the needs of pastors and missionaries who like to distribute these in bulk. Head over to the NEXT Website for more information. And be sure to check the "Testimonials" page for some inspiring stories.

Thursday, February 05, 2009

A Film Showing that God is at Work in Japan

Studio Re: has produced our first "My Story" -- a series of videos featuring Japanese sharing how God is at work in their lives. Genuine and winsome, this series speaks to the heart and appeals to a wide audience. Some amazing circumstances allowed us to produce this video including funding to buy a $6,000 mac computer for editing.

I want to recognize and thank Megumi, Scot, Shane, Josh, Graham, and Tim for all you did to make this happen! Featuring original music composed for this series by Tim, we are really pleased to make this short film available on the Internet.

Please make use of this!
  • Send the youtube link for this video to your friends, here it is:
  • Copy the "embed" code that appears next to the video on youtube and paste it into your blog or web site.
  • Show it to your Sunday school class or small group
  • Use it as part of a message or Bible study
Please leave comments with ideas on how to use this video and/or input on how we can improve it.

A previous post from this blog regarding Studio Re:


"Studio Re:" is an innovative initiative that I have the great privilege of being a part of. We have an amazing team forming around our vision of "Impacting Japanese culture through redemptive films."

“Studio Re:” is a group of Christian artists who are producing films that lead Japanese to discover that there is more to life...much more.

We produce films in a variety of genres that present redemptive content and pose crucial questions. These films seek to affect and change the shape of contemporary Japanese culture and its inhabitants by assuming a biblical paradigm; offering redemption instead of separation, hope instead of resignation, design instead of chaos. It is a sowing ministry that will prepare the minds and hearts of the Japanese in order to shorten the spiritual distance between them and Jesus Christ.

Our strategy:
  • To establish a team of empowered, dedicated staff with common values who live out their faith.
  • To gain, interact and follow up with our audience via the Internet.
  • To cultivate a library of award-winning films that are redemptive and have value to Japanese society.
  • To collaborate closely with key churches, schools, and other groups
  • To build a solid business plan that results in financial stability
A film we produced in collaboration with Biola University won first place at the 2008 Inigo Film Festival. You can view the trailer for Mujo No Kaze at the following web site:

If you want to help with this vision, or know someone else who you think might want to be involved, leave a comment on this blog or write to me at pnethercott (at)

In particular, we are looking for skilled, dedicated people to come and work with us for at least two years.

We are also looking for $30,000 dollars to buy equipment and pay other expenses related to producing films. But, small contributions will help and are deeply appreciated.

Studio Re: is part of CAN (Christians in the Arts Network), which is a Tokyo based project under TEAM (The Evangelical Alliance Mission.) Contributions are tax deductible and can be sent to:

TEAM P.O. Box 969 Wheaten, Illinois 60187

Online contributions are also an option at the TEAM Home Page. Select "Japan" under the "ministry area" tab and then under the "project" tab select "Christians in the Arts Network."

For more information:
Email: (at)
Studio Re: Web Site:

Sunday, January 11, 2009

"Bicycle" - A Film by Biola University & Studio Re:

If you want to know what Scot Eaton and I have been doing the past week, take a look at the Biola Film Japan 2009 Blog.

A few facts about our film:

1. The script, by a young Japanese writer, was conceived in Japanese, written in English and then "back translated" into Japanese (almost all the dialogue is in Japanese).

2. We usually have about 22 people (cast and crew) on the set and we all spent a number of hours crammed into a one bedroom apartment (in Niiza) shooting scenes for this film.

3. Yugo Saso, the main character has appeared in several films including "To End All Wars." Jack Hafer, who is now the chair of Biola's film department, was a producer for "To End All Wars." Masayuki Yui, who appeared in four films directed by Akira Kurosawa plays the role of an "old man" in "Bicycle."

4. We are using two bicycles to make this film. One is intact and the other one has been broken down into small pieces. Casey, the prop guy, has told me that we may or may not be able to get it back together again.

5. The production budget is $3,000. But, that doesn't include many donated items, including a steadycam rig, lenses, and the use of a good camera and other equipment that belongs to the Biola film department. It also does not include the cost of International travel and housing for the group of 15 from Biola and other expenses on the Japan side. I think the "actual" budget is close to $50,000.

The cast and crew have been fantastic! Biola sent a wonderful group of people over here to work with us. Making this film has been a huge challenge, full of crazy moments (explaining that will require another post) and I am VERY tired out right now but that is OK. It is a profound privilege and honor to be a part of this project, one of the best experiences of my life.


Studio Re: Home Page

"Bicycle" Blog