Former Worship team leader @ JLH Tokyo
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 J 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. Any way 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 has 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. Lots of gossip. Now if there’s one thing I hate especially in church its 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 Journaling 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 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.
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
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 wanna be 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!
(Title added by the Editor)
(Special thanks for Mr.Fuji and Brother Z ’s permission for forwarding and translating of the document)
(To protect the witness, “Brother Z” is a pseudonym)