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 Tokyo. Around me resonates the many-voiced pop-Alleluia of hundreds of Japanese and foreigners” (written by Itsuo Fujishima on on his blog – definitely a must-read article). Self-described as a “a young, fun, passionate church,” Jesus Lifehouse is growing by leaps and bounds and reaching the younger generation in major cities all over Japan. There are now JLH churches in Tokyo, Osaka, Yokohama, Sapporo, Nagoya, and a new church plant in Sendai.

Video about Jesus Lifehouse Tokyo:

Why have they been so successful at reaching the younger generation? One major reason is that it seems that JLH has created an attractive and vibrant community – it’s fun, friendly, and international. Another practical reason is that their bilingual worship services are always located in a central location. There is much that the church of Japan can learn from the Jesus Lifehouse movement, especially with regards to their ability to foster Christian community and build bridges with newcomers.

How did they do it? Writes a church planter at JLH Osaka, “We tried everything when it came to outreach. We did house parties. We took our band on the streets. We went to most universities meeting people for lunch. We jammed at music stores. Went to band clubs. We went to every festival to meet people. We owned Starbucks. You couldn’t go to a Starbucks in town without seeing our people.” Very impressive.

Young people of Jesus Lifehouse Osaka

Testimony of a Japanese woman from JLH:

Here’s a little background about the movement from Wikipedia. “The church’s senior pastors, Rod and Viv Plummer, began the church in 2002 in Tokyo. Jesus Lifehouse Tokyo has seen consistent growth every year growing from the initial team of 16 people to over 1200 people in 2011. Jesus Lifehouse Church has a close relationship with Hillsong Church in Australia and uses mainly Hillsong worship music in its services.”

Indeed, there seem to be many positive aspects to the JLH movement. Unfortunately,  because JLH has such a “close relationship” to Hillsong Church, it sees that they have been influenced by the prosperity gospel (Jesus came to bring us health and wealth/ financial blessing is God’s will for His children). The theology of Hillsong is highly controversial, to say the least.  The Jesus Lifehouse movement will most likely continue to spread throughout Japan, and Christians should at least know what they are all about. If you would like to read more about Hillsong Australia, here is an excellent, although rather long article: “The Surprising Face of Hillsong.”

While there is much to learn from Jesus Lifehouse, our personal conviction is that it would not be wise to embrace the movement with open arms, particularly because of their close ties to Hillsong (and therefore the prosperity gospel). My husband and I have come to these conclusions with a very heavy heart; perhaps as the movement grows there will be a remnant who will reject the prosperity gospel and eventually plant other churches. May God grant an outpouring of his Spirit upon the church of Japan to reach the millions of young people who have not yet heard the sweet name of Jesus Christ. May the church also learn from the many positive things that JLH is doing.