In case of doubt, go for the doubt – Light and fog at the Jesus Lifehouse

Stomping beats, blaring guitars, dancing youths in front of a glittering stage, I stand a little offside in the dark, reach out my arm and sing along to the unknown song. No, this not a rock concert, but a church in the middle of Tôkyô. Around me resonates the many-voiced pop-Alleluia of hundreds of Japanese and foreigners. The church is called Jesus Lifehouse, and in it my body feels as if it was time-traveling – back to the youth events in Germany that helped shape my teenage faith. Was I back to my roots? Initiated by the Australian Rod Plummer, the JLH has just in a few years not only managed to attract over a thousand visitors to its concert services, but also to establish itself in Ôsaka, Yokohama and Hong Kong, where young Asians dance in droves to the theology and music of the Hillsong movement.

That was last year in July. I was new in Tôkyô and after years without a stable church starving to reconnect to the Christian community. During my university times I had distanced myself much from the evangelical movement. Now I wanted to risk it again, wanted to belong to somewhere, to contribute time, energy, skills for God’s ministry. Kick-start a new life. Jesus Lifehouse, with its international flair, seemed to offer all this and more. It was like entering the fieriest talent smithy of the city. After being welcomed effusively they immediately wished to make use of my potentials. I sensed something flaring up: euphoria, the urge of being there when something cataclysmic happens, to make it, to deliver it. My biweekly visits were electrifying, something which one could hardly await. A church with a vision. For the first time in Japan, I was sure to be at the right place …

A month later, my enthusiasm had turned into bitter disappointment. I was about to become an unwelcome person. I left Jesus Lifehouse as suddenly as I had come, determined to not longer tolerate the radical evangelical cause as one variation in the spectrum of Christian dogma, but to oppose it.

What had happened?

JLH-A

First, I tried to engage as best I could. I joined a cell group, the ‘Life Group’, helped cleaning the stage, got to know new people. The fact that most members, instead of hauling books around, had saved their Bible on their iPhones and seemed to indulge quite openly in an urban consumer culture, was something I looked over. Life Group prayers were held preferably at McDonald’s. Among people called Tyler, Grant and Summer I felt like in an American sitcom. So this was the self-conception of young Christians in Tôkyô. We specialize in youth evangelism, I was told, and leave the rest to the other churches. Plausible, because it worked: Hundreds of converts, absorbing the “messages” from the pastors, hundreds of enthusiastic teens and twentysomethings, who had just escaped the sufferings from the psychosocial miseries of Japan. JLH delivered exactly what the young were missing in this society: Unambiguity. Community. Identity. Chances to unfold their potentials. Someone who told them how to live.
The two pastors Rod Plummer and Kimura Ryûta talked straight in their passionate sermons. They inoculated the catalogue of evangelical tenets into the congregation: the absolute truth claim of the Bible, formulas against the attacks of the devil, no sex before marriage etcetera. No BS, Christian life without tepid cowardice and boredom!

I was more interested in people than incited sermons. Over a Big Mac I was initiated into the cell group mechanics. It was simple.You read the Bible and write your associations into a journal. You speak about it in the Life Group.  The Life Group leader provides comments and advice, that`s it. There is no prescribed form.
I went with it. For a while things proceeded well. I put up with the impression that Rod’s sermons often seemed more like religious motivation training, and that the practical life advice from Ryûta ( who muttered Bible verses out so rapidly as if to achieve an entry in the Guinness Book ) didn’t really require some holy scripture to conceive. Even though I didn’t agree with about 50% of the teaching at least they caused some healthy turmoil in my inner apparatus.

Gradually, it became obvious that I didn’t really deem the absolute truth claim of the Bible, formulas against the attacks of the devil, no sex before marriage etcetera as decisive to my faith, or that much of this wan’t as unequivocal as it was to my Life Group leader, who was really caring to get me integrated. My affinity to the more contemplative and mystical forms of Christianity seemed strange enough, but doubting the divine authority of the Bible even a bit was out of question. For me it was a wonderful and central book, but which also contained concepts that a 20th-century Christian should dismiss respectfully as flaws of its times: patriarchic perception of women, homophobia, latent anti-Semitism, let alone its historical credibility. For my leader, however, this went beyond the pale. Quote: “At all Life Groups we believe that the Bible is the absolute word of God, 100% truth, and has to have total authority in our lives.”
We got into theologic disputes, in which any rationality was stifled by using the Bible as knockout argument. Many of my questions were simply ignored. “This book is the manual for life.” – And why do I have to believe in the Bible? – “Because it is God’s word!” – And who’s to say that? – “The Bible!” I, in return, was blamed in my own argumentation for circular reasoning, and that I was bending God’s commandments at will – to make myself a god. My doctrine was “poison”. I could only stay in the Life Group, if I abandoned my “self-delusions”….

Was JLH something like a club that systematically excludes all dissenters? I could not believe that, after all the initial warmth.

On the assumption of being able to change the group, I approached some more people – only to find that the other leaders were all on the same line. I was dumbstruck. The Life Groups were the integration sluice into the JLH world. Without one you were only a “tolerated” guest. I was afraid that the longer I hung around without a group, eventually rumors would make rounds about this lust-driven heretic German and that my views wouldn’t count at all. To get involved I would have to negate the spirituality which God had unclosed to me through stony paths during the last five years.
Was this His will? Didn’t the number of visitors alone prove who was right? Was not everyone there an exemplar of success? Good family, good job, and an X-Box at home. I, with my pragmatic worldview that is not afraid of reflecting on the shortcomings of life with a pinch of irony, looked like a cynical grouch in comparison. If my skeptical belief was true, why did I not have four hundred Facebook friends, half of whom had found Jesus through my flaming lifestyle? And next to their shocking self-confidence (shocking for local conditions) my Japanese ambivalence must have come across as a testimony of deep uncertainty.

I did not understand why faith had to be a zero-sum game. The fact that our debates indeed ran in a circle was certainly also due to my inability to formulate my views in a more orderly manner. I had hoped to find a place at which the dynamics of an exchange of many positions were alive, as elsewhere. But instead of cultivating independent thinking the Life Group was meant to steer thought into the direction specified by the church leadership. Discussions were not desired.
Slowly, I noticed other things. From the sermons one could discern the symptomatic complacency of those who think to be in possession of the final truth: ‘We against the corrupt world. We against the demonic religions of Japan. We are entirely different. Only we can attain true happiness and live decently.’ And the junior preachers of the church were eager to imitate the overzealous speech style of the pastors.

My faith was in crisis mode. I did not want to leave. Nevertheless, I had to tear away. Even at the risk of being again driven as a faith nomad. I decided, ultimately, with pleasurable self-destruction, to be an outsider. I also won courage for my refusal from the latest Tocotronic song

In case of doubt, go for the doubt and the inconceivability
For the interior contrition when you bare your teeth
In case of doubt, go for the collapse in front of the full hall
My life becomes disruption, my existence a scandal

And I have not regretted it. God had other plans for me, as I found out later.

I am not sure how to evaluate Jesus Lifehouse. There is no such thing as a perfect church. I do not want to condemn it, as this would do the many bright personalities there wrong. My impressions were certainly incomplete. The success, however, comes surely not only from an extra pot of blessing, but also from strategies that make the people in this country flock to cuckoo groups like Happy Science. What I criticize is the exclusivity towards dissenters and the one-sidedness of the teachings much detached from Judeo-Christian traditions. This anti-democratic, self-righteous element is dangerous. Will the the members be able to retain full freedom of decision, or will their lives sooner or later be heteronomous? Will they be induced to disconnect from opposing families and friends? Will they be allowed to drill down on hard questions when doubt starts germinating from blows of fate, or will they steadily be fobbed off with “Because the Bible says so”? And are there any supervisory bodies that control and regulate the actions of the “leaders”?

The congregation has moved to Roppongi by now, into a trendier neighborhood, and has brought another youth church in Nagoya under its umbrella. Easy to imagine that a megachurch is in the making here. For a wide Christianization, however, additional strategies are needed, since the concept of a youth church is hardly sufficient in Japan’s aging gerontocracy.
Should there ever be a mass revival in Japan, JLH will be at its spearhead. Another possibility is that it radicalizes under its hardliners into a cult-like sect, that rejects the diversity of other Christian ways of life and critical thinking. Whatever the case, Jesus Lifehouse is on the way to influence this city, this country. I see this development – yet again – with ambivalence.

(translated from German)


70 thoughts on “In case of doubt, go for the doubt – Light and fog at the Jesus Lifehouse

  1. they used to say “we are your real family”, but only if you’re happy. Since I left (because of the bad relationship I had with a few of a leaders) nobody has contacted me.
    They say that the “challenges” they give you are to help you grow, but the challenges seem to be more of a way of controlling the church members. One of my friends from my life group was dating a girl who wasn’t a christian. His challenge, given to him by our life group leader, was to break up with his girlfriend. If he didn’t, then he would be kicked out of his life group. So he broke up with her because he didn’t want to get kicked out of his group.
    They are so wrong.
    I’m happy that I realized how wrong they are and left the church before I get mind controlled.

  2. Dear Kate,

    Thank you very much for your comment, which is a whole story or testimony, really. I’m sorry I hadn’t had time to reply earlier, but I was again shocked by the methods the JLH leadership is systematically trying to control their members. Same goes for the latest comment by The Missing Sheep. It takes courage to tell what has happened, and it is important to spread this news. These people have no idea how much damage they actually cause. I always say they pack their ultra-conservative theology in a shiny pop package so that young people will swallow it…

    Even though my time at JLH was short compared to yours, the conflict that I had with the lifegroup leader emerged from a similar reason as yours – relationship with a non-Christian partner. I was told many things, that I was an adulterer and self-delusional and that I was not taking the relationship serious, etc. etc. I had never been treated so in such a judgmental way, and nobody had ever said anything bad about our relationship before – and that guy had not even met my partner, he had no idea what he was talking about. He told me I couldn’t stay in the lifegroup unless I repent or put an end to such a relationship. Needless to say that I didn’t comply. But it was just the complete opposite of when I had visited the place for the first time.

    Hey, I would like to post a new blog post in Japanese with a translation of some of the feedback on this page. But it is a lot for me to do right now. If you or anybody who reads this happens to know a volunteer who would be willing to translate the comments, so more Japanese readers can be reached… please leave a comment here… I would like to contact you!

    (I’m still together with my partner, by the way, and our relationship is going into the seventh year soon…)

  3. Dear Fuji,

    I am so glad you didn’t comply!!! “The Missing Sheep” is my wonderful new boyfriend who didn’t comply too. This Summer we’ll have been together for two very happy years. Are you still living in Japan? We moved away from Osaka last year and we live in Kochi now. (I’m originally from Scotland)

    Kate.

  4. Thanks, Kate. I’m happy to hear you and your boyfriend are on the path to recovery. Yes, I’m still in Japan, living and working in an NGO in Tochigi prefecture. I’m Japanese-German, but I’ll be here for a while, I guess, with or without church. Let me know when you guys are in the area!

  5. Wow, I don’t know what to think. The point of the Gospel is forgiveness, not condemnation. It is out of the soil of forgiveness that holiness grows, not out of the venom of condemnation. The leaders should not have condemned either of you! Also for foreigners to come to a different country they must EARN the right to be heard, a foreigner cannot just barge in and say what they want. WE MUST BE HUMBLE. I’m sorry for your bad experiences guys, to be honest, I am studying Japanese, I am Indo-Fijian and half white (I look, islander or Filipino), I live in America (California, central cali that is) I downloaded some of the Jesus Lifehouse sermons from itunes…and even hearing the guys sermons…something seems off about him…not sure, we must be loving and humble, also too many loud speakers and lights distract from the true meaning of worship, there is nothing wrong with that every once in a while I suppose, but…something doesn’t feel right…I can’t quite put my finger on it. Being a pastor is the world’s most important job though! You are handling people’s souls, and you must do so with extreme care and you must be in God’s will at all times. I hope they are not mistreating anyone! That would be tragic 🙁

    Please reply soon, I would like to hear back from you, hang in there! I would also like you to hear about a man named Ravi Zacharias, he is a very wise man, who has done a lot of evangelical work in Asia, he is born and lived in India for all of his childhood. This is his site. Thank you 🙂

    http://www.rzim.org/

  6. Hi Brandon,

    of course we must forgive, it’s a fundamental part of being a Christian but that doesn’t mean that we cannot or should not speak out about the atrocities happening within the church. Many of us who have written about our experiences on this forum were not allowed to speak out. Jesus came to set us free but if we can’t be free within our own church then there has to be something fundamentally wrong with the doctrine of the church.

    I feel that I speak on behalf of everyone here that when we share our experiences of Jesus Lifehouse it is not with malice or hate but a chance to reach out to those who have been similarly affected in the hope of emotional and spiritual healing.

    Of course you can’t just barge into a church and start arguing with the way they do things. My dad is a minister in the Church of Scotland so in my lifetime I have visited more churches than I can count and I’ve been in the company of ministers all my life. It’s normal for me that everyone has their own ways of doing things. And you must remember that the pastors of Jesus Lifehouse Osaka and Tokyo are both foreigners (Australian) with a congregation that is made up of about at least 40-50% English speaking foreigners so the differences in doctrine are not due to cultural differences. The problem that many of us have experienced is that when people disagree with the leaders, ask questions or “break the rules” they are scolded, punished by means of being asked to leave their Life Group or the church itself. They believe that their way is the only way and the correct way to follow Jesus and be a Christian.

    The disagreements we have with the church are not major disagreements. For me I was told that I had to change my character before being allowed to come back to the church. I had only attended the church twice before going back home to Scotland so naturally they did not get the change to know me. I replied by saying that I didn’t feel that I needed to change. Without coming to me and asking me why I was told not to come back and find another church. I refused to change because I believe that God loves me just the way I am. I went through 14 years of sickness in my teens and 20s with M.E (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome). I was housebound and unable to walk more than 50feet for the duration of the 14 years. I survived and got back to full health purely through my relationship with God who strengthened me, gave me courage and moulded by character. I am fiercely proud of the person I am today and I attribute everything I am to God who helped me through an extremely tough time in my life. But I was never asked why I refused to change by the leaders of Jesus Lifehouse Osaka. They had placed their requirements upon me and that was unwavering and without question. When I disagreed I was seen as a trouble maker and dangerous to the other members. So you see, it’s not that the people here have been aggressively demanding change or asking tough theological questions. It’s not even that we have deliberately set out to caused trouble and upset within the church. It can be as simple and as innocent as disagreeing with them by saying that God loves me just as I am.

    You’re right, they are handing people souls and if their ways are damaging to people and turning then away from God then we must speak out.

  7. Hi Fuji,

    I’ve recently been going to Jesus Lifehouse too and I felt the same exact way that you did about it. I’m newly interested in Christianity and I wanted to learn more about it, but the one-sided and exclusive manner in which they teach at Jesus Lifehouse completely turned me off of it. I’m looking for alternative churches if possible, and just someone who knows Tokyo to give me some perspective. Is it possible to get in touch with you via email? Please let me know.

  8. Hi! I am a Christian from Hong Kong.
    I went to JLH HK for sometimes and I found I am echo with your and other replier’s experiences. I totally agree with you when the church does harm to people, we must come out to speak up! It is possible that I can help to translate your testimony so people in my place can read it too?

  9. Dear Qiu,
    Thank you for your comment. I am surprised to hear from Hong Kong, though I knew JLH had already spread to there.
    I would be happy if there was a Chinese version of this text. Some of the comments on this page are also very interesting and more urgent than my own writing. Please go ahead if you or your friends are willing to volunteer, and let me know the result!

    Fuji

  10. Dear Fuji,

    I also surprised about the similar comments coming from JLH’s origin.
    Thank you so much for your permission!
    It would be valuable to help others to better evaluate JLH and discern from better teaching.

    Qiu

  11. Dear Fuji,

    After long reading I am deeply concerned about your previous comment stating “I also had an email and know from some other church members that pastors in Tokyo are concerned about what is going on in JLH.”

    I have a very strong connection with the local Christian community here in HK, if what you said is happening in Japan, I think the situation is becoming more serious. Is it possible that I can learn more from you?

    Looking forward to hearing from you.

    Qiu

  12. You people should put God first, not a non-Christian boyfriend or girlfriend. Are you really serious about following God? There is no fellowship between light and dark. Cut the relationship if you are serious about giving your life to Christ. Take up your cross or continue to be a compromising Christian.

  13. Well congratulations Phil for completely missing the whole point of Christianity. There is no light and dark, we are ALL sinners! so if you think that being a Christian makes you immune from sin then think again. Jesus spent his life with those “in the dark” and told us to do the same. He was friends with prostitutes, adulterers, criminals, the diseased, the poor, the hated and especially NON-CHRISTIANS! How do you exspect to bring people to Christ if you don’t mix with those who need him the most? If you’re serious about your Christianity then you need to get out that safe Christian bubble you’re living in and start living like Jesus.

    ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’ For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ (Matthew 25:40, 42, 43 NIV)

  14. Phil, thank you for speaking out on this platform even though I cannot agree at all with what you say. Do you think your words reflect a loving attitude towards your sister in Christ? Do you care a bit about your neighbor’s or enemy’s suffering? Do you think an all-compassionate God dismisses non-Christian boy/girlfriends as “dark” troublemakers instead of inviting them to his table? We are all on our personal paths towards Christ and Christ-likeness, on different stages and roads. There is no reason to write in such an arrogant tone towards what you call “compromising Christians.” (-> Luke 6:41)

    One more thing:
    Blindly swallowing the doctrine of a church without critical evaluation of its all too human errors, justifying the collective’s cold actions against dissenters with authoritarian haughtiness, cutting the relationships to those who don’t agree with the group’s or the leader’s opinion, these things do not make one “follow God”, no matter how often this phrase is repeated as self-reassuring mantra. It makes one a conformist who is too lazy or afraid to think for himself, for fear of being kicked out from his comfortable nest.

  15. Thanks Kate and Fuji, I very much impressed by the discussion we are having here (hope Fuji san doesn’t mind :))Like Libby I have been very active in Christian circle and I personally connected with many Christians coming from a wide-range of different churches of different denomination locally. I admit it is a very controversial issue for churches in handling relationship (esp. between believer and non-believer). We do need more knowledge, strategies and wisdom from God to let others know God is a loving God, not a judging God but at the same time He does want us to live life to the full with his instructions to life. I do hope church leaders humble themselves first and do what Jesus would do in these situations(the WWJD principle).

    On the other hand, after settled my thought more and re-read some of the reply here I was glad to find some insiders of JLH (probably high-ranked leader and even pastor who is able to tell what happened at the beginning of JLH ) bold enough to make arguments from the JLH perspective. As a Christian who have been receiving teaching from the main stream church for more than 10 years, I have no idea how they could still find themselves doing the right thing. All their logic is a specious argument, which can only deceive those who are young, innocent and have no idea what actually a church is. There has been a discussion here on whether JLH is a “cult”, definitely JLH is not qualified as a “cult”, but its “cult-like” behavior is very obvious in this 21st century where information technology make it very easy to let people exchange their information. At this stage I have no doubt JLH is an “abusive church” which abusing its spiritual authority on its members psychologically and spiritually. For those who are interested just go google and type in “abusive church” and you will find all the descriptions, discussions, books etc. exactly talking about the same thing you will find in Jesus Lifehouse. I think I will never know what is an “abusive church” if I never went to JLH. I do hope more people to share their experiences here so this “abusive church” will cease to exist and thus protect those who are young and innocent.

  16. Oh man.. I have got a long story for you. Now I want you to keep in mind that I am a strong Christian who is married to a Christian wife and before I moved to Tokyo I was going to a great church back in New Zealand who I still keep in contact with regularly. When I moved I was also 24 years of age and I’m male. I’m just going to warn you that this is going to be a long post.

    Once upon a time, In August 2009 I moved to Tokyo to peruse my professional music career (mainly a drummer) further in Japan. My sister who was already living in Tokyo for 4 years and signed to a major record label introduced me to her church, Jesus Lifehouse Tokyo. At the time I didn’t know very much Japanese at all so my sister introduced me to L. She was like “oh he’s kiwi so you should be in his life group”. At the time it seemed like a good idea on paper but little did I know he was only 19 and the rest of his life group had people who were of similar age or younger and they were all “baby Christians”. The stuff they would talk about in life group didn’t relate to me at all and I started to feel quite alienated. To cut that part of the story short I ended up leaving the life group because of the age and relational gap between myself, L. and the other life group members. I stopped coming to JLH for about a month because of my doubt for the church. I just felt that my experience with the life group was a red flag. But I came back and decided to give it another chance but joined another person’s life group. I then joined someone’s group by the name of Josh who actually becomes a good friend of mine and still is to this day. He was a great life group leader and a genuine friend. By the end of 2009 I join the worship team there. I guess as a professional musician out of all honesty, I really wasn’t impressed with the ability of most musicians there especially coming from a church that had amazing musicians who I learnt so much from. However I tried to put that thought behind me and think to myself “maybe I could teach these guys a thing or two.”. Things started going a little better for me in JLH. I started to form a relationship with Rod Plummer, The senior pastor, my Facebook friends started to fill up with people from the church.

    2 and a half years later..

    It was around the beginning of 2012. I was the official drummer for the “Gospel Band”, by this time I was also married. I was also regularly playing drums in the worship and making online drum tutorials for songs we did in the church. They take time but I felt that it was a good way to serve since I seemed to be the only one in church who could do it so I didn’t mind investing the time and effort and D., the music director there seemed happy with them too and I had a good relationship with him and his wife who played keyboard. Anyway things were going pretty well, had a lot of friends, I was even on good terms with L. My wife had a lot of friends and was a kids church leader. Soon I got asked by D. if I would become “Drum Leader” and I said yes. I always thought it was odd how each instrument had a leader. This was also a season for me where I was starting to get quite busy with musical work outside church.

    Anyway, when things were looking up this is the start of things slowly crumbling for both myself and my wife in this church. It seems like lot of people have their time in Jesus Lifehouse and this was ours.

    About March 2012 My wife was talking to me about how someone by the name of DJ was being made Kids Church director. Now let me tell you about him. I think it was around mid to late 2010 that he started coming to Jesus Lifehouse. He’s a guy that apparently had the typical “oh I used to do drugs, have sex all the time, go to parties and all that” kind of story. He gets re-saved as soon as he starts coming (yeah I think he was a Christian before that but backslid). Now the interesting thing is that he starts doing translating in church for sermons within only a couple of months which I thought was kind of weird but what makes it worse is that when he translates he Trieste be the preacher instead. He draws attention to himself and tries to be the star which isn’t fair and I felt like my wife and I were the only ones who could see this nonsense because “everybody loves DJ because of his personality” and it didn’t matter if he didn’t have any idea what he’s doing. He also became very self righteous even though he hadn’t been coming to JLH for long which made me cringe on the inside He married this girl named A. who my wife was friends with and he would be posting love messages to her on her Facebook wall for EVERYONE to see on their newsfeeds rather than simply texting her or even PMing her. A lot of people including myself were very confused and just plain annoyed about it because it just seemed like he was showing off..?? Gee I don’t know but it was really tacky and just made me want to barf. I eventually just hid him from my news feed because I just got really fed up with him spamming his love messages for her on the news feed. Anyway back to the story, he became Kids Church director.. My goodness now this was a very weird decision because had DJ ever been involved with Kids Church? NO! So why does he become Kids Church Director? That we will never know and never have to care about anyway but I’m just saying so many more people actually involved with kids church in the first place were A) More experienced. B) Wanted it more than him and C) deserved it more than him so why him? Why someone who had never been involved with kids church to begin with? A lot of this was making my wife quite anxious and this is when those doubts and red flags started to come back to me. We started praying about my wife and I’s future at JLH.

    A month or 2 passed. We heard that our good friends N. and T. were moving to New Delhi to form a Jesus Lifehouse Church there. We were going to really miss those guys!
    Anyway something happened. I got news that my friend and life group leader J. chose to leave JLH. It was quite abrupt but I had a feeling something went down. Anyway more on that later. There was a guy named S. who replaced him making him my life group leader. The way he became I life group leader was the interesting part. He was pressured into it by other leaders around him. I thought to myself “okay..”. I guess I didn’t make anything too much of it at the time but soon I was to find out that I should have.

    Now June 2012 rolled around and what happened next was Ryuta who was a great associate pastor left Jesus Lifehouse very abruptly with the rest of his family. There was no big announcement, leaving party, reasons, no nothing.. A lot of people were talking and a lot of rumors were going around. A lot of gossip. Now if there’s one thing I hate especially in church it’s gossip! Apart from this being devastating that they left because of us having a good relationship with them and their kids I heard a terrible story about people rejecting them and unfriending them because of them leaving the church which is just awful if you ask me or ANYBODY as a matter of fact. And it’s all true it actually happened. From what I heard Ryuta and Rod had some kind of disagreement regarding the church DNA. Ryuta also wanted to start his own church but not under JLH

    2 months passed. By this time I was starting to really not like my new life group leader S. because all he did was follow the church material for studying, he never shared out of his own wisdom or experiences, every session was so repetitive. “Share one minute of Journalling and one minute on a highlight of the week” EVERY SINGLE time. It was very godawful. Just a plain boring, not very good life group leader. Just doing everything out of obligation and not really trying to have fun with it. Anyway I had a leaders meeting for church worship team. Now one of the topics that were brought up during this meeting was Ryuta, the ex associate pastor. D. said something like “Ryuta has been posting a lot of stuff on Facebook recently including a new church planting”. Now what he said next really alarmed me. ” We don’t want people in this church liking his postings so please don’t do it”. I don’t know why I didn’t say it straight up to him but what I should have said right then is “Why? That’s just stupid. Why should the church leaders be telling us what to like and what not to on a social networking site?”. But I didn’t probably because it seemed like everyone at that meeting was agreeing with him. D. also said that he was planting a new church which both Yoko and I knew that wasn’t true at least at that time so it seemed like they were just assuming and hadn’t done their research (or at least D. hadn’t) before saying something so preposterous. So with all the crap happening things didn’t stop there.

    So August 2012 rolled around. Our good friends N. and T. were leaving to go to Delhi everyone said their goodbyes and even had a leaving party for them. After they left 2 weeks passed by and A.W. who’s one of the proud givers at the church made an announcement that went something like this “Unfortunately I have some bad news regarding Jesus Lifehouse New Delhi. N. and T. have decided to return to Tokyo due to N. not being able to cope with life in New Delhi.”. That was all he said. Yoko and I were wondering what had happened. We tried contacting them but couldn’t get through. One thing I really found weird about all this is no one and I mean NO ONE talked about them or mentioned anything about them after A.W. made that announcement. It was a bit weird and disappointing. Even really good friends of their’s said nothing. It’s like N. and T. had been exiled and cut off from everyone. What the heck??

    About a month later. N. and T. came back to Tokyo. My wife and I had lunch with them. We asked them what happened. N. mentioned something about not being able to find a decent job to live normally in New Delhi and his parents being sick and in a lot of financial trouble. It all seemed reasonable but they were definitely hiding a lot more. It almost seemed like if they told us the real story they could get in trouble somehow. Anyway we just left it at that. They were now looking for another church in Tokyo.

    Anyway the annual church conference was coming up and I felt like I had some great ideas in mind for a musical opening in the church. I shared them with D. and he seemed like warm at best which was a disappointment. Anyway, November 2012 rolls around. It’s conference time. To my disappointment I find out that the only intro we are doing is something recycled from a previous event we did and it was just pure laziness without challenging outgrowing any of the other musicians. It made me mad how my ideas that were definitely better weren’t even put into consideration over the lazy pile of crap we were doing instead. Aren’t the rest of the team ever inspired by what other churches around the world do or other musicians for that matter?

    Now, the next year rolls around. Now this is where the last big piles of crap happen for me before my wife and I decide to leave this church. Now my musical life gets quite busy around this time. My wife becomes pregnant and we decide to move to a bigger house. Now at the time Sundays were the only day my wife and I had off together regularly so we decide to use a Sunday to move house. I mention to D. that on that day I can’t play in the worship team due to moving and it taking all day. We move and then we go to church the next Sunday and D. says to me “I’ve got to talk to you about something”. He then lectures me about not being at church last Sunday even though I told him is be moving and he said to me you have to at least try and make one service each Sunday. Even though I reasoned with him telling him we were busy moving that day he completely disregarded it adjust said “be more careful next time”. Deep down I was furious!

    February 2013 rolls around. I get a job playing drums behind Japanese pop singer, Koda Kumi on various music tv programs. Koda Kumi is kind of like the Japanese version of Britney Spears when it comes to “sexiness”. I told many people at church including D. I’ll be playing for her on a few TV stations so tune in if you can. They all watched one if not all my broadcasting a with her. The next Sunday at church was to be my wife and I’s last day there. Now life group started and Yes.. S. was still my life group leader. I never knew how I lasted that long with him but before we started and other members arrived S. told me that D. have him a call and told him that I’d been playing for some secular Japanese singer on TV who was known to wear nothing more than a bikini sometimes. My happy face went from a very “what the hell!!?” Kind of face very quickly. It turned out that behind my back, a lot of the church leaders (not only D. and S.) including Pastor Rod were “concerned with my actions”. So instead of being happy for my success and being happy that I’m getting more musical work they were actually very concerned that I played for this particular pop singer, Koda Kumi. They thought it’s somehow giving out the wrong image and that baby Christians would get the wrong idea. Let me tell you something. That is absolute Bullcrap. The worst part is that instead of talking to me about it directly they decide to talk to anyone but me about it! It was very very infuriating. It shouldn’t even be an issue in the first place. Did you guys know that Teddy Campbell is a Christian drummer and he played for Britney Spears? Did you guys know that Aaron Spears is a Christian and he plays for Usher. Well maybe you did, maybe you didn’t. The point is that they do it because ITS THEIR JOB as a musician. And it was MY JOB as a PROFESSIONAL musician to play for Koda Kumi? I mean if you were a carpenter or any sort of contractor and got the opportunity to do a job for a non Christian or even an atheist would you turn that down? HELL NO!! That’s the thing. People in the church were not understanding that it’s a job. I barely even met Koda Kumi. S. was telling me not to take on any similar jobs anymore which is just dumb. He was like “What would your wife think?”. Him saying that was the icing on top of a poop pile. I was so furious at him. I will tell you guys what she thought “Yay!! My husband is on TV playing drums behind Koda Kumi!!”. She supported it! I mean why wouldn’t she? It was high paying too for very little work! So EAT THAT, S. and know what you are talking about first before you say something like that! That night after church I decided to post a status update on Facebook. I can’t remember exactly how it went:

    “To all Christian musicians out there. I got a job offer with a female singer in Tokyo who is kind of like Britney Spears in terms of “not wearing enough” sometimes. What would you guys think? My life group leader thinks it may not be a good idea but what do you Christian musicians think?”

    This is where all he’ll broke loose and I don’t understand how but apparently by posting this I made all leaders in JLH even more mad. But you know what’s weird. None and I mean NONE of them explained what I had done wrong and how. My post got a lot of comments but no one from JLH “liked” the posting although N. liked it. Most of the comments were comments like “yeah it’s your job right?” Or “Jesus hung out with Tax Payers right?”. It was all a no brainer. Even guys from my church back in NZ seemed to support me including the pastor. Anyway S. sent me this email.

    “Dear Simon,

    I hope you are fine.

    Another leader of the Church contacted me about the post you put on Facebook yesterday. We need to talk about it (this mail is not about your performance of last time but only about your post on facebook).

    In the way you framed your question in your post you cast our church and our leadership in a negative way. If you wanted to have a feedback on how you should judge your work/performance opportunities as a Christian musician, you could have simply asked something like: “What are the boundaries that a Christian musician should set?”

    Mark 3:25 says: “If a house is divided against itself, that house cannot stand.”

    You cannot be for our Church sometimes and against it on Facebook. What about any weak Christians or non-Christians that read this? It could make them stumble. So if you care, please delete your post or modify it.

    Let’s talk about it later by phone this week or on Sunday.

    God bless you

    S.”

    Now the thing about this email is that the way he’s saying that “I’m casting the church and leaders in a negative way” and that I would make weaker Christians stumble confuses me. How would I be doing any of that with the thing I posted on Facebook? Also his suggestion for changing my post to “What are the boundaries that a Christian musician should set?” Is dumb. That doesn’t get my point across. So S. proves once again that he is just someone who has no idea what he’s talking about and doesn’t actually care about someone else’s feelings. Some life group leader he is! So after a lot more crap to do with this post my wife and I had lunch again with N. and T. We told them our situation. Now this is where things get interesting. Remember how I told you N. and T. were hiding stuff? This is where it all comes out. N. told us that the reasons they left Delhi were actually do more with JLH itself rather than just their conditions in Delhi. When N. made the decision for them to leave Delhi apparently T. wasn’t happy with that and she wanted to contact Vivian (Rod’s Wife) for advice and apparently T. got an email back simply saying “We don’t want to help you”. So T. came to a realization. N. also told us about the JLH Hong Kong pastor being engaged to someone in the church there and when they broke it off because T. was such good friends with the person that the pastor was engaged to Rod Plummer have her the dirty job to tell her to leave the church… OMG.. Now isn’t that a cult thing? T. didn’t want to but she had to do it apparently.. Their friendship went very sour after that but apparently it’s gotten better now. K. who was also very good friends with N. called him and I unfriended him apparently because he liked my post on Facebook. What had happened was that Rod told K. that if he wanted to be a leader he had to do that and so K. making the wrong choice and not standing up for himself he decides to do what Rod tells him to do. How Evil is that…? I’m very disappointed in K. He thought he would’ve been a little smarter than that. After a lot of what N. and T. told us about the corruption of JLH (and trust me. There are sources and proof that it is all true) it brought us in tears. We never set foot in that church ever again. There’s a great friend I have by the name of SH. We hang out. Go to music gigs and even play in a band together. Lately though he’s been telling me that we probably should avoid being tagged in the same pictures because leaders in JLH were getting all like “Oh we noticed you had been hanging out with anonymous”. Now that just makes me feel sick to my stomach even thinking about it.

    Bottom line is:

    The church needs more experienced and wise leaders. Not just some young people who are wannabe leaders who preach about things that don’t relate to people in their late twenties or older.

    The church leadership are control freaks. They really need to stop it.

    Rod Plummer is a very insecure pastor. He deletes everyone off of his Facebook after they leave JLH and even after he “gives them his blessings”.

    The worship team needs to get better musicians and actually respect any that join the team and take on some of their ideas.

    Actually talk to someone directly if they have a problem. Don’t talk to every leader in the church about them first… 🙁

    You can’t produce leaders by microwaving them! They actually need experience and time!

  17. Dear Anonymous,

    Thank you for sharing your story with us. I apologise for replying very late. Your story adds another layer to the picture of what is happening behind the curtains at Jesus LifeHouse. To be honest, I was shocked again at how the leaders are playing these power games and how unwanted people with unwanted thoughts are systematically removed from the scenes. For me, it has already been almost four years since I left JLH, so I am not informed about the latest developments. But I noticed Ryûta’s leaving based on the search engine terms that people find my website with.「竜太、なぜやめた」was one of them.
    I believe that you wrote a lot of frustration and disappointment off your soul, and I really appreciate your contribution. But you will also understand that I had to abbreviate peoples’ names, as you give out a lot of private information.

    I don’t know how to react to this comment as I have no personal involvement with JLH anymore. But I would like to ask you and other readers if they would like to help translating comments such as yours into Japanese so that I may able to add them. Qiu has done an amazing amount of voluntary work for his blog about JLH Hong Kong, writing Chinese.

    I pray that you will find peace over your experiences. Let us not make enemies but forgive and pray for the many good-willing people at JLH, that they may find the right path.
    God bless you,
    Fuji

  18. I was shocked at reading this but thanks God. God gave me a lot of training/lessons about false prophets/doubt especially these couple of years! Also thanks brother and sister’s above sharing. I visited JLH Hong Kong some while ago. I would describe that church seemed to be almost a perfect church but I was told/led by Holy Spirit that I should stop going. I followed what the Holy Spirit led me and then I tried to google to see if anyone had similar experience /feeling as me. I did not find it at that period until now, after 1.5 year later! I had been trusting in God’s perfect time-table for His answer and thanks so much for that! I would love to share more my experience but I want to pray and ask God first for proper words. P.S. Qiu, may I know which church(s) are you attending/belonging to in Hong Kong?

  19. Re: A sheep who loves Jesus

    Nice to meet you! And thanks again for Mr. Fuji for setting up this platform for sharing. JLH did has some good elements remaining from the Hillsong tradition. Sure I would love to hear more from you. I am serving in one of the protestant churches locally. You can reach me through askjlh@gmail.com. God Bless!

  20. Interesting reveiws, and I thought I was the only one. I whent here for 2yrs when it had a following of about 100 and then growing that we had to move about another two times. It looked all like humble beginnings. I taught the kids church, went to the small groups, had lots of friends, laughed, dance, sang, attended Rods personal small group, played golf with Rod and a couple of guest speakers, he was my idol, my help and my spiritual father, what a bloke and so charismatic with that reasuring laugh and a beautiful wife and his two boys which one day will inherit his fathers vision, which by then will be a well established church business which has free workers, volunteers, their own music sales and enough following to support the church well beyond measure. Yes, simple messages but never in depth. Very entertaining sermons for those who want entertainment instead of solid doctrin. But all for a cost out of the pocket. Always had to have the best it could afford, Never heard enough at offering time about the widow who gave all she had, it almost sent me broke.My wife was almost in tears about how much we gave, but it was what I thought GOD wanted, was to give my all in everything. I Met some genuine people but soon realized that everyone there was just another number to create Rod and his wifes possibility mega church. I saw him trying to get the gifts of his holy spirit happening in a subtle way by getting guest speakers in or holding retreat camps to get the gifts introduced, which was sometimes a failure and embarrassing. The Prosperity gospel message and GOD wants us to have it all now approach was a big theme. Rod is now in Odaiba? Wow, nice place and overly expensive place to live and I wonder if he has his fairlady Z yet that hes always wanted. But what do you expect from a branch from Sydney hillsong church. Interesting how Rod was going to be a realestate agent before getting the job offer to run JLH, and as he has said numerous times he would have been the best at selling, well he is doing a great job selling his vision to the young ones. But there are also the platinum 30s members that have good jobs there that Prosper his vision nicely as well. Rods vision, so shut up , listen, agree and dont ask questions or you wont move up the ladder but more towards the door and dont expect any calls or sympathy because there is no time to waste as the leaders are too busy following demands of their leader, their ruler , no questions asked or same applies to them. He is sincere in what he does and hes got a routine that works and is working in most his leaders, why re-invent the wheels of sales! Im glad I trusted the word more than the Captain of JLH and his fellow sailers other wise I wouldnt ask the questions I did : why does the bible teach that anyone who teaches that great gain is of GOD is a false teacher and to stay away from such men, why does the bible say that we only should trust GOD but Rods leaders say trust Rod and his vision? Why is it when I dont have money for a train ticket im questioned about my finances when Really I just got conned into giving my all into the offering, and shouldnt we be a chearful giver as Rod always pointed out? Or does that only go for giving offering to Rods church funds? Friendly people, because there is no room for bad days because GOD needs us to have a fun filled day every day. Im actually glad to have been able to get the opportunity to spend 2yrs in JLH, because it made me realise how important it is to trust in GODs vision rather than a sales mans vision. Its not all Rods fault, as he is just another hillsong puppet, a paid puppet and whether or not he knows it, everything is accountable to GOD and ignorance wont be enough to save. I dare every follower to read the bible in depth and to ask serious questions to their “leaders”, questions . And if they tell you just trust in what they are doing or they say they dont have all the answers, than you have a great opportunity to find the answer through prayer and more reading of the word.
    My wife wasnt a believer but attended every meeting with me and she liked the entertaining talks but she never fell for them as she knew what was the main objetive. She later told me how she used to be amazed at the peoples trust in Rod. The difference with her is she isnt a person who goes with the crowds. We now attend another church and she feels more assured what GODs plans are than ever before. Though she isnt a Christian yet she has alot more questions than ever before and happily attends meetings and getting to trust GOD more and more. I pray GOD will get more people from JLH to reason what they are taught and to stop relying on Rod for answers. A true church chooses its leader and not the leader choosing the church. A true church of Christ can dismiss a leader with votes because he isnt fit to lead in truth, so another should replace him. It is not his church but GODs, if he wont step down he has gone against GOD and made himself a god and leads many astray. Its a law in the church to reveal all matters to the congregation which includes pastor wages and incoming/out going expenses. Also its a vote and a matter to discuss all disfellowships with the whole church so no bias accusations can take place. The book of acts has some good examples.
    A cult is not so much about doctrin but more how one leader gam control over his people. A wrong doctrine is about missing the mark of the truth which is different to a cult, Though cults do tend to have strange doctrine. I Dont know if Rod is aware of what he is doing or what he thinks is true. I do believe its just another message of Prosperity gospel with a leader who wants his vision fulfilled but maybe not realizing that its not GODs vision. Rods vision, Rods church and he will not let anyone stop him. There are also people who are above Rod that he has to submit to, just not at his church.
    The reason other churches rejected his vision is because they didnt want to be part of HIS vision and could see his doctrine was not valid for the doctrine of true salvation in the long run, so they chose to keep away from those who think Godliness is of great gain as it leads to people being intised and lead away from true doctrine.

  21. Wow. I read your whole story and I could not agree with you more. Both myself and my wife can relate to you. Right now we go to a church called C3. It’s a global movement and there’s one in Tokyo. It’ a great church with great genuine pastors.

  22. On my very first visit to Jesus Lifehouse Osaka, just before the offering plate was handed out, the pastor said to the congregation and I quote “not giving to the church is like stealing from God”. I deliberately gave less than I had intended to after hearing that. Emotional blackmail is not why I go to church.

  23. Ah right. Yeah If the pastor is the guy I’m thinking of who I won’t mention his name on here but who is a young Australian with Ginger hair then yeah he’s got a slightly young, not thought out naive way of preaching.

  24. I only went for a few weeks, but I don’t think I ever heard anyone preach the gospel. That was the big red flag for me. Never once heard how Christ died for our sins and we must repent and ask Christ for forgiveness and give our lives to Him. People were putting their hands up at the end of the service, but based on the sermons being preached there is no way they knew what becoming a Christian means. That was scary to me. If they think they are saved simply by putting up their hands and having someone pray for them, they could go through the rest of their lives thinking they were good to go.
    Maybe the leaders actually do explain this to people properly one a personal basis, so I can’t say too much, but to me it all just seemed a bit like playing on people’s emotions.

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