I am a professional historian at a highly respected college in Tokyo. My specialty is the New Testament and Early Christian writings and the early Church. I attended Jesus Lifehouse for over a year. I was very involved. After having several meetings with many of the leaders and learning more about the goals of Jesus Lifehouse and learning more about the method of practicing Christianity, I have no doubt in my mind that Jesus Lifehouse is a cult. I left the church under no hard feelings. I was never asked to leave. It was my decision. The people at Jesus Lifehouse are wonderful. And I have no doubt that most are Christians. However, the teachings and the direction of Jesus Lifehouse are far from Biblical – and I mean far from any orthodox, Protestant interpretation. The more I became involved at JLH, the more questions I asked, and the more I discovered about just how much it resembles a cult:
The leader of JLH wants to start his own movement where other churches are organized along of JLH. He has written a couple fo books which are his personal beliefs about the Bible and Christ’s teachings – some of which are not Biblical – and these are the teachings that become the foundation for Jesus Lifehouse. There are a massive amount of rules that have been established at Jesus Lifehouse to isolate members from interacting with other churches and Christian organizations. I have never attended a church that lacked such community with other churches.
And, like you, I soon realized that this church is not attempting to reach the lost or help non-Christians understand who Jesus really was. No. The church is set up in such a way to get young, impressionable people in there regularly. Jesus Lifehouse specifically targets the youngest age group that is independent from their parents. And the results are very sad. There is a striking lack of wisdom at the church. And I don’t want anyone to think I am bitter – I actually like the leaders of the church, including the pastors. But there are so few people that attend that are college educated or over 30, that it is apparent people at Jesus Lifehouse simply are not getting any kind of depth into their lives. I have spoken with a number of Life Group leaders – most in their twenties, and many of them really have no idea about the life and teachings of Jesus. The Bible is a beautiful and penetrating book, but it is also quite challenging – even for historians. And for many at Jesus Lifehouse, and I am talking about the leaders now, they simply did not understand the Bible. When people at the church discovered that I am a historian and when I told them what my specialty was, many asked me to teach “Adult Bible Classes”. I even had several non-Christians, who would not normally go to church, that said they would join if there were classes on the Bible. Most of the leaders at the church thought it was a great idea, so I offered to do it. But the pastor flatly refused saying that he did not want people at Jesus Lifehouse to learn more about who Jesus was, except through his sermons and his teachings only. That was enough to shock me out of my stupor and see what Jesus Lifehouse was really all about: a 21st Christian cult.
In retrospect, I should have known. I saw with my own eyes lives destroyed at the church. People were told because they were Christians who believed differently, they were not welcome and the police would be called if they ever returned. I saw people say that you should not question the leaders – just follow their orders. And when I see that the pastor has just bought a nice house near Odaiba and he is putting his two sons through private American schools, and his wife does not earn an income, and he refuses to make public the finances of the church, well, then it becomes obvious that things are quite what they seem at Jesus Lifehouse. The Pastor has proclaims on several occasions what his vision is: to get the young people of Japan saved and in his church. Not to share the gospel indiscriminately. Not to follow the teachings of Jesus. Not to love God and follow God. No – get the young people. It is funny to me that he repeatedly talks about how Jesus Lifehouse needs to reach young Japanese – always young Japanese. But, now, the cult has expanded and he has had to modify his vision to include young Chinese and young Indonesians. But I don’t know if he will ever modify his vision to include working people and families. And forget the elderly!
I used to be on the security team at the church (because Japan is such a dangerous place there needs to be a security team). And I think it is very telling what the pastor wanted the security team to do. If there was ever an adult – say over 30, especially an adult male. The security team had to keep an eye on that person. And if the person wanted to talk to the pastor after the service, then security team members needed to be in close proximity to the newcomer. I will end with this: the pastor wanted at least five security members in the church at all times – always focusing on him and looking out for him and his family (forget the other people). He always had at least one security member sit directly behind him in the church services for every service. At the same time – in a separate building – that was completely unlocked with doors open to the streets and usually no guys in that building (and certainly no security members) was the kids church. The children of the church and a few young women to watch over them. Anyone could easily enter that building, and attack the children and in the main building the security team would be none the wiser.
My advice – watch out for “churches” like these. Learn what a cult is. Learn how harmful cults can be. And just test the church to see. Jesus Lifehouse passes the cult test with flying colors.
(Title added by the Editor)
(Special thanks for Mr.Fuji’s permission for forwarding and translating of the document)