Organ and Missions in Japan

Above: Roger Lowther trying out the C.B. Fisk organ at Yokohama Minato Mirai Hall

Above Left: Christmas Concert in 2009 with Roger and the Ray Trio (Roger, Abi, Yoshimi).

Above: Performer, pastor, and helpers after “The Heart of Bach” organ concert in Yokkaichi

Above Right: Sharing stories about music and missions in the Global Missions Conference in Chattanooga November 2010

Below: Playing the Japanese built Mana Orgelbau organ at Inage Kaigan Church in Chiba April 2010

Below Right: Picture with Mrs. Kawanami who arranged my concert at Nishi Chiba Church

Articles on art and church planting in Japan

“The organ and disaster relief: An American organist in Japan” was published in October 2011 by The Diapason, an international publication devoted to issues related to the pipe organ. The article tells the story of how Roger began using the pipe organ in the disaster relief since March 11, 2011 and paints a picture of how survivors have responded to the organ.

Read “Beauty through Japanese Eyes - The Tale of Genji as a Window to Japan” by Roger Lowther published in the Winter 2010 issue of Japan Harvest, a publication for pastors and missionaries in Japan. The article describes the artistic and historical significance of The Tale of Genji, as well as insights it gives us into Japanese culture. Genji can even show us what attracts Japanese to the God of the Bible and lead us in worship of Him. You can also read the rest of the article “Beauty through Japanese Eyes - Part 2,” published the following year in the Winter 2011 issue of Japan Harvest.

“The Spiritual Power of Bach’s Organ Music in Japan” was published in the March 2010 issue of The American Organist, the most widely read organ publication in the world. Musicians, and even organists specifically, are being called into missions to help plant churches. See how the music of J.S. Bach is having such an emotional, intellectual, and spiritual impact on lives of people in Japan!

Also, in the Summer 2010 issue of Japan Harvest, Roger wrote an article entitled “Short Films and Church Planting.” The article describes one way the arts can be used and is being used in church planting, in this case, through the medium of film. Jitensha (”The Bicycle”) is a new film by Yu Shibuya, a screenwriter/director/producer friend of ours here in Japan. He has seen tremendous success as an artist through using his “spectacles of grace” to see redemption and healing in the Japanese culture. You can order Jitensha and see other films of his by going to www.studio-re.com.

“The Arts in Mission: From Peru to Japan” is an article published in the Fall 2008 issue of Japan Harvest. A revival is occurring in the artist community around the world, and many of these artists are finding there way into church planting teams, learning as they go how to use their craft as artists to help build community and bring the gospel to the hearts of the people. Some of their stories are told through this article.

Watch Roger Play!

Originally written for 3 cellos, piano, and drums by Eicca Toppinen of the group Apocalyptica, Ruska was transcribed for organ by Roger Lowther and recorded on Tuesday, September 1, 2009 at First Evangelical Church in Memphis, Tennessee. See more videos of Roger playing the organ on youtube!

Chapel Talk & Worship

“Missionaries irrelevant or perhaps even dangerous?” This is the chapel talk given by Roger and Abi Lowther at Belhaven University in Jackson, MS on February 3, 2009. An extremely negative perception of missionaries prevails in general culture, and as missionaries, we tried to address some of these concerns. We were introduced by Dr. Roger Parrott, president of Belhaven College.

You can also see Roger speak live about Japan in a worship service at the megachurch First Baptist Church in Jacksonville, Florida by going to our blog.

Radio Broadcast

Asami Odate, director of five gospel choirs and leader of a recent trip to Memphis and Mississippi by ten Japanese people, was interviewed live on the radio along with Abi Lowther. How did Asami become a Christian through gospel music? Why is gospel music so popular in Japan? What does a Japanese gospel choir sound like? Go to our blog to hear the whole Thanksgiving broadcast from November 27, 2008.

Spotlight Artists

Scott & Lindsay Nimmon and their daughter, Madeline, are helping to revitalize a church in downtown Dublin, Ireland through Mission to the world using their skills in photography. Click here to see some of Scott’s photos. They have found that all kinds of artistic events for the neighboring community, including coffee houses and festivals, easily bring people into the community of the church during a time in post-Christian Europe when few things can. You can read more about their work on their website www.scottnlindsay.com.

Vision for Mission & Art

The arts are the changing face of missions. Artists around the world are using their creative God-given abilities for the sake of the gospel in the mission field. The number of artists becoming missionaries is growing fast as church planting teams around the world see the effects of building community through the arts and are calling them to the field. The usage of arts in missions is perhaps greater now than it ever has been in history.

“Art addresses us in the fullness of our being…There are some truths about life that can be expressed only as stories or songs or images. Art awakens, enlarges, refines, and restores our humanity.” (Dana Gioia, poet and former chairman, National Endowment for the Arts) Art engages the culture, creates the world that ought to be, and brings new understanding of God and His beauty, goodness, and truth. In a world that is so obviously not as it ought to be, it is the artist’s calling to make us believe that the world can be different, that it can be made new, to recreate the world into what God will one day make it. Art is also a window into a culture, revealing a people’s deepest hopes and longings. Through their stories, music, paintings, and other art forms, we can begin to understand how the gospel will heal a people without looking foreign.

The arts are also a doorway into people’s lives and foreign cultures. The Bible says “A man’s gift maketh room for him, and bringeth him before great men.” (Proverbs 18:16) and also “Do you see a man skilled in his work? He will serve before kings; he will not serve before obscure men.” (Proverbs 22:29) We have seen firsthand how artists have opportunities to meet with great men and high political officials, influencing the culture formers of a country.

Art can also deeply edify the body of believers by inspiring their imaginations and hope in the knowledge of God. Along those lines, devotionals will be periodically made available in the side panel through audio format (clearArt audio) and written format (Gospel Contemplations). Our blog also provides all kinds of news and happenings related to artists working in church planting around the world.

Art podcasts available!

Our podcast clearArt audio looks into and talks about Western and Japanese art from a Christian perspective. They can be heard in Japanese from the Japanese translation of our website. 日本語 Both versions are also available on iTunes.

Many people in our area commute over an hour each way to work in Tokyo or Yokohama, time usually spent reading books, text messaging, sleeping, or listening to music or podcasts. Podcasts are a great way to make the gospel available to hundreds of commuting Japanese riding the trains to and from work, hearing about the gospel and being pointed to the God of the Bible through an entertaining and thought provoking program on the art they know and love so much.

Gospel Contemplations

New written devotionals on the gospel through the arts will be available periodically in the sidebar and on the resources pages of the website. Through the arts, they help our imaginations meditate on and draw closer to the God of the Bible.

Art & Missions Around the Globe

Monica Ghali, a young missionary in Lima, Peru, wanted to tell the street children around her that God loved them, so she started collecting used bus tickets. Littering the streets of Lima are an eye sore of stepped on, run-over, and water stained bus tickets. She also asked neighbors and friends to help collect them for her. When asked why, she replied “I want to take that which has no value in the eyes of the world and give it value. I want to take that which is ugly and make it beautiful.” Using her artistic training, she arranged the tickets into a collage of great beauty and worth in the eyes of all who saw it. Continuing to work with and build relationships with each other, Monica and the children “fleshed out” the tremendous beauty and value they have before God.

Art is essential to the way Joel Klepac, missionary with Word Made Flesh, builds the church in Galati, Romania. Using sand, clay, paint, and a myriad of other materials, Joel develops community among street children and children at risk and gives them hope in life. Together with the children, Joel made a movie about two apple seeds that were thrown away but eventually grew into a full and vibrant tree that produced fruit of its own. It had tremendous impact on the kids as they realized God saw them as those apple seeds, something redeemed from a broken world and given the ability to flourish. This project brought the kids into Christian community and into nearby churches.

Sarah Lance works through the arts to build the church in Calcutta, India. Women caught in the sex trade are given wages, retirement, and medical care in order to make art. They are also given the word of God through services and Bible studies. As an artist, Sarah saw the tremendous value of old pieces of sari considered worthless as clothes. She taught the women how to cut and sew the pieces into beautiful wall-hangings, bags, and other goods to be sold abroad. The art of making these goods along with her friendship “speaks” the gospel to these women. Just as they were cut off in their sin, they have been redeemed into a beautiful creation in the hands of the great Artist, who came to cleanse them from their sins. These women gradually came to see their beauty in the eyes of God through every knot stitched.

Japan is a graceless and hard society, yet art through the gospel can enable freedom filled community to be formed. Through the ministry of a black gospel choir from Jackson, Mississippi in evangelistic concerts around the Tokyo area, scores of people joined gospel choirs, English classes, and Bible studies and are now hearing scripture preached every week. After Mrs. M joined a choir, she regularly brought her son to church, who was soon followed by her husband. It was exciting to hear his thoughts on attending a Christian worship service and opening the Bible for the first time ever! I invited the husband to join my English class, where we talked about the Bible every week. Through angst and beauty in the arts, Japanese come to know the gospel message of forgiveness and grace and people are brought into the church.

In Peru, Romania, India, and Japan, the arts help to flesh out and express “The Word.” The gospel is being heard, seen, and felt through stories like these repeated in many places of the world! Have you invited artists to be part of your church planting team? Do you also have great stories of the arts role in missions? I would love to hear about them! Please write me an email: rogerlowther@gmail.com.

Roger Lowther, missionary through the arts with Mission to the World, has been serving in Japan with his wife Abi and three small boys since 2005.