Saturday, June 19, 2010

Being Effective at Reaching Japan for Christ #2 -- Follow Your Passions

Do what you love to do, follow your God-given passions.

I learned this the hard way. About ten years ago I went through a period of depression that was absolutely no fun but it helped me make some changes in my life. The main change I made, something that made a huge difference, was resigning from the "preacher/church planter/pastor" role I had at the time. This allowed me to start focusing on what I love to do which is working with artists.

Now I am making films. Filmmaking is not easy, it is one of the most challenging things I have ever done but it is also a lot of fun and, most importantly, an effective means of communicating the gospel in Japan.

If I hadn't taken the scary step of resigning from a position that didn't "fit" me, I would have missed out on so much. Things like: being a producer on the award winning film Jitensha, being part of an amazing team that produced a music video of the first documented performance of Wadaiko & Black Gospel (I will embed that video below).

I want to make a difference, we all do. If I hadn't hit a rough spot and started following my passions I would have been locked in a negative cycle of trying hard, not getting anywhere, frustration....

Are you just "hanging on" because you don't know what else to do? Are you settling for "peace and pay" (an easy job and a secure paycheck)? If so, it isn't worth it. It might be time to quit and do something completely different.

If you could do anything, what would you do?

Friday, May 28, 2010

Being Effective at Reaching Japan for Christ #1 -- Death by Meetings

There are aspects of the culture of Japan that "pushes" people to hold a lot of meetings.
A few years ago I decided that life was too short and our mission far too important for me to waste time in meaningless meetings so I avoid them as much as I possibly can.

How big a deal is this issue?

A high level committee in Japan made up of missionaries and pastors discussed a badly needed new translation of the Bible for 15 years. During that time this group didn't make a decision to move ahead and actually do it.

A church in Tokyo established a committee that met for over 100 hours to plan the church's anniversary celebration.

If every church and mission in Japan cut the amount of time spent in meetings by 50% and also had a clear purpose for every meeting that does take place we would be far more effective at reaching Japan for Christ.

I have worked in Japan for over 20 years as a missionary and my observation is that we waste large amounts of time in meetings -- I wonder what would happen if we just quit doing that?

What do you think?

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Reflections on IAM Encounter 10: Making Our Art an Expression of Love

Guest post by Julie Robertson (photo at right):
We received a massive blessing from God last week— he allowed my husband Eric and I to attend the IAM Conference in New York City! Due to short notice, we were not certain if we would be able to attend… but then funds started coming in from unusual places. We knew then that God was telling us to go! Paul Nethercott met us there, and it was a blessing to be able to connect with him over the weekend.

IAM (International Arts Movement) is an organization that encourages artists worldwide to change their world through faith and their chosen art field. The conference was held March 4-6 at Cooper Hall in the exciting Greenwich Village area of New York City. We attended seminars by prominent musicians, fine artists, sculptors, designers, writers, and illustrators. Studio Re:'s collaboration, the film Jitensha, was selected from a number of other entries to screen at the Conference. It was encouraging to see the positive reaction and thoughtful questions that people were asking Paul after the showing.

We were encouraged to go out and explore New York City. For those of you who have been/lived there, you know that just being in this city is an
inspiration… it is so busy, exciting, artistic, diverse… and (just like Alicia Keys sings) you truly feel that “there’s nothing you can’t do.” We attended several art shows of a caliber beyond anything that we could possibly see in our current home of Oklahoma.

Eric (photo at right is Eric at Grand Central Station) learned valuable information about music from Jacob Marshall, lead singer of the successful band “MAE.” Among the other fantastic friends we made were Makoto Fujimura (in photo beside his painting), a world-renowned Japanese artist and founder of IAM; Dave and Corey Fuller, who are involved with IAM in Oklahoma City; Kiwa, a Japanese exchange student studying fine art near Boston, and so many others!

The thing that sticks out most in my mind is what Mr. Fujimura said about making our art an expression of Love. We all know the famous description of love in I Corinthians 13, but how many of us artists think of applying these characteristics to our work? How many of us make art that is not envious, boastful, proud, rude, self-seeking, or delighting in evil, but rejoicing with the truth? So much of modern art is purposefully intended to shock, aggravate, horrify, or otherwise celebrate evil. How wonderful it would be if we artists would all use our energy to create art that points people to life in Christ instead of hopelessness and death.

It was also great to see so many successful, prestigious artists who are Christians... something that sometimes I don't think exists. We don't have to stay caged in our small little ambitions that only reach a few people in our immediate area. We can truly make a huge impact on the whole world, like many of these people are already doing. That was what I will always remember from this conference.

That, and the 99c pizza by the slice.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Reaching Japanese for Christ: Love, Listen & Learn

Guest Post by David Sedlacek, TEAM Japan Vice Chairman

1John 3:18 Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

Today, I'd like to share a "fable" from the book Cross-Cultural Servanthood by Duane Elmer.

A typhoon had temporarily stranded a monkey on an island. In a secure, protected place on the shore, while waiting for the raging waters to recede, he spotted a fish swimming against the current. It seemed obvious to the monkey that the fish was struggling and in need of assistance. Being of kind heart, the monkey resolved to help the fish.

A tree precariously dangled over the very spot where the fish seemed to be struggling. At considerable risk to himself, the monkey moved far out on a limb, reached down and snatched the fish from the threatening waters. Immediately scurrying back to the safety of his shelter, he carefully laid the fish on dry ground. For a few moments the fish showed excitement, but soon settled into a peaceful rest. Joy and satisfaction swelled inside the monkey. He had successfully helped another creature.

I encountered this story a few years ago, but recently it came to mind again when I was thinking about leadership and love. I believe we are called to this nation to lead and to love others. We "lead" others to Christ, and we lead worship services, and we lead Bible studies, and we lead our lives as a testimony to the grace of Jesus Christ. God has given us a love for the Japanese people, and it is out of love that we perform our various ministries.

But did the monkey love the fish? He had great intentions, but at the end of the story the fish is dead (re-read the story one more time if you didn't get it). Duane Elmer explains the moral of the fable like this: "The story does not tell us the degree of humility or arrogance the monkey possessed. But, then, that was not the real issue as far as the fish was concerned. The fish likely saw the arrogance of the monkey’s assumption that what was good for monkeys would also be good for fish. This arrogance, hidden from the monkey’s consciousness, far overshadowed his kindness in trying to help the fish."

The reason I was reflecting on this story the other day, and why it came to mind again today, is that I want to be a servant to the people of this nation, to the people of my church, to my teammates, and to my TEAM-mates. I came here to love and to lead and to serve. But if I am going to love or lead or serve, I need to listen. Listening is the one thing that the monkey neglected to do.

You cannot serve someone whom you do not understand, and you do not have compassion for someone whom you do not know. So we must get to work get to know one another. We've got to spend time listening to the people in our church and in our community, to understand them and to love them that they might know Jesus.

Elmer, Duane H. (2006). Cross-cultural servanthood: Serving the world in christlike humility. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books.

Note: Elmer's book is an excellent guide to helping think this through in a cross-cultural setting. He outlines the pilgrimage we must take if we are to truly serve others. The journey starts with Openness ("the ability to welcome people into your presence and make them feel safe"), to Acceptance("communicating respect for others"), Trusting, Learning ("seeking information that changes you") Understanding, and then finally Serving ("you can't serve someone you don't understand"). Elmer presents each step of the journey as an essential building block to the next.

Note from Paul Nethercott:

Dr. Duane Elmer is currently a professor at Trinity Seminary in Deerfield, IL. In the 1980s my wife and I had the good fortune of having him as our adviser at Missionary Internship in MI. He was an exceptional mentor and teacher for both my wife and I because he believed in us, invested in us, and went out of his way to help us. He facilitated highly innovative (and effective) training that has made a big difference in our lives. In recent years I finally "got it" and have started teaching a lot like he taught us -- simulations, small groups, no tests, lots of activity, discussion, reflection, etc. One valuable statement he made to us is "without reflection there is no learning." Thanks Duane -- your help meant a lot to us.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Manga Messiah & Manga Metamorphosis Artist Interview

The Bible Illustration Blog has an excellent interview of Japanese Manga artist Kozumi Shinozawa posted here: THE INTERVIEW
Kozumi is the illustrator of Manga Messiah & Manga Metamorphosis -- the first two books in the Bible Manga Series (there will be a total of five). Well over 500,000 copies of Manga Messiah have been distributed in Uganda alone; it is being published around the world in many languages.

Three of the Bible Manga series are currently available in English at Amazon, you can purchase them HERE