I had a similarly bad experience when I attended JLH Osaka back in 2011…
A bit of background knowledge about me first. I’ve been a Christian all my life. My dad, who I’m very close to, is a church of Scotland minister. In our church people are always free to express themselves, ask questions and everyone is always accepted as they are. I’ve always been able to go to my parents and talk to them about everything with no fear of judgment or getting into trouble. So when my Japanese boyfriend beat me while I was staying at his apartment in Osaka, they were the first ones I went to for help.
I stayed with him, covered the bruises that were all over my body, and took him to Jesus Lifehouse Osaka the next Sunday. We were met by the full welcoming committee and I was asked to have coffee with one of the members. I was desperate to talk to someone about what had happened to me so I agreed. During the coffee/interrogation I told the girl about what had happened with my boyfriend but instead of focusing on that I was given a lesson on morality and Christian doctrine because I was living in sin with my boyfriend because I was staying with him.
Two weeks later my boyfriend beat me again. Without going into too much detail, it was very very bad this time. My ribs were broken, along with my computer which he smashed so that I couldn’t go online to get a flight home. I called up the girl who I had coffee with because I didn’t know anyone else in Osaka. She was actually lovely to me and took me in. It was then that I started to question the teachings of the church.
I stayed there for 2 days while I waited for my flight back home. I was in a lot of pain from my broken ribs. It hurt to walk or breathe but I was asked to leave the house twice by her roommates (also members of JLH Osaka) while they showed a potential new roommate around the apartment, and the other time I was asked to leave while they went to church. Maybe it’s just my liberal Christian values speaking but you don’t asked a women who’s just been beaten to wait outside on the street while you go to church. Before I left to go home the pastor’s wife gave coffee girl a verse for me. The gist of it was that I was to “repent! repent!!” and that my sin has caused me to get beaten. I really appreciated coffee girl taking me into her home so I cried, but said nothing. Again, as a Christian, even as human being, you DO NOT tell a women that it was her own fault she got beaten.
I did make a few friends at JLH Osaka. Ironically the friends I made were either not Christians or left the church. I became friends with one very special guy from JLH. He was actually a fiend of a friend and we never met while in the month I was in Japan. We because friends on Facebook months after I returned home. He told his life group leader about me which took courage because of the strict dating rules. Talking online to girls was a no-no. To cut a long story short here’s what finished both our experiences of the “cult” that is JLH Osaka.
He was warned about me. Coffee girl had shared my story of being beaten with her group leader even though I explicitly asked her not to. The life group leader told all the leaders. Lies started being spread around about me that I was “an angry girl who ran away from home to Japan to be with a boy as an act of revenge on her parents”. He was told that I was promiscuous and my liberal views Christianity were wrong and dangerous. Luke, the pastor, warned him to stay away from me. Luke’s wife told him that “the church had tried to help her but she chose to reject that help and go back to her boyfriend” (I went back to Scotland, NOT the ex who I never saw again!!) I got a Facebook message from the pastor’s wife saying that if I wanted to come back to the church I had to change. I wrote back saying that I didn’t feel I had to change because this person that the leaders were describing wasn’t me. I said that it was very upsetting to hear that Luke had warned my friend about me. The response was “we take accusations against the pastor very seriously and we think it would be better if you found somewhere else to worship”. I was banned from coming back to the church.
Luckily my friend believed me and in doing so started to see the church in a different light. The controlling aspect of it for one. Six months later he came to visit me in Scotland and we went on a backpacking adventure around Europe where we fell in love. =] Unfortunately his association with me had terrible consequences for him in the church. A couple of months after our Euro trip I rented a wee apartment by myself in Osaka and we continued our travelling adventures by travelling around Japan. Because we were hanging out alone together, and by alone I mean having dinner, watching movies, playing UFO catchers (we’re not the partying type), his “friends” in the church started to distance themselves from him. His roommates stopped talking to him and when they did he felt incredibly judged. He stopped getting invited to events that were on in the church.
Luke and his wife asked to meet up with us. We had no idea why but we went along. As Luke arrogantly sat there, arm across the back of the chair, he asked us why we had wanted to meet. It was him who invited us. I think they thought we were going to beg for me to be allowed back. We didn’t. We said were going to find another church together. We were given their blessing but told that we would never find anywhere as good as JLH but we were always welcome to come back.
We took up their offer and went one Sunday morning, honestly I kinda just wanted to see what would happen. People asked me if I had been before, I said yes but we were told by Luke that we were not allowed to talk to other people about what had happened, so I said nothing. Nothing happened when we went back. No drama. It seemed like a happy ending.
That night my boyfriend got a text from Luke telling us that we had to find another church before visiting again because “the boys were getting confused”. We had both been kicked out. All the friends my boyfriend made in his two years there cut him out of their lives. He has no contact with any of them which he still finds very hurtful. JLH was his first and only church so the damage on his faith has been much more severe than it has to mine.
So this is my take on JLH Osaka. It is run by a pastor who is too young, does not have enough life let alone theological experience (he has never formally studied theology). It’s easy to excuse their mistake because of their youth but they are dealing with people’s lives. My impression was that they are a bunch of kids playing church. You are not allowed to question their doctrine. If you do you will be ostracised. They use the emotional support of the friends you make as emotional leverage to keep you in line. The sermon’s are superficial and lack any kind of spiritual depth. You will be encouraged not to socialise with anybody outside of the church. You will have to conform to their way of Christianity and if you disagree with that you will be asked to leave.
And the one thing that kept repeating in my head as all this was going on was that Jesus never asked someone to leave his church, so what makes them think that it’s ok to do that.
Additional message from Kate’s boyfriend, commented in the name of “Missing Sheep”
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 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.
(Title added by the Editor)
(Special thanks for Mr.Fuji’s permission for forwarding and translating of the document)