Upping the ante: using tech to increase our impact
How might we “get digitalized” to give hope, reach, and disciple online seekers, and further spiritual formation?
It has been said that technology is as dangerous as it is useful. I agree. And if it was said long ago that “technology has surpassed our humanity,” then where might we be now?
If the verdict on whether technology has actually benefited humanity is still pending and since we don’t have much of an option in avoiding it, how might we increase its chances? How might we maximize technology to bring glory to God and to expand his kingdom?
When I founded NewDayToDay seven years ago, I had no idea where it would go or what we would be doing and certainly no clue what tech challenges lay ahead! Piece by piece, it seemed like we were upping the ante. Seven years later, we are beyond our most outlandish dreams of what we thought possible. Let me share some of our tech projects that you may find useful in your own work.
Miracle Every Day
Miracle Every Day (Miraebu ミラエブ) is an upbeat, multi-platform daily devotion: Jesus.net or ja.Jesus.net. We publish on WordPress (blog), Mailchimp (email subscription), Facebook, and Instagram, and are planning to use LINE too. The devotion is designed to uplift, inspire faith, and further spiritual formation of the reader. We have also expanded Miraebu into YouVersion reading plans. Currently, across all these platforms, there are over a thousand readers daily, some days thousands, and it keeps growing. It takes an enormous amount of work, but we have page after page of incredible life changes posted by readers. Not only are many downcast believers being uplifted and growing closer to Christ, but many nonbelievers are also dedicated readers. Central to our focus is challenging readers to get involved in systematic discipleship.
Recently we gave a challenge for readers to begin testifying by making their personal testimony booklet via our “My Miracle” project マイミラクル (mymiracle.jp). Interestingly a woman in Chiba who would not identify herself as a believer made her booklet and began testifying that God exists, that he is good, and that he is touching her life. That’s right, a seeker already mobilized for the kingdom. We also have a church in Kobe where 200 people have written their My Miracles; of those, 47 people have published them (at 200 copies each, that is close to 10,000 testimonies!) They are also uploading these to the internet to get their testimonies out to untold more. It is fantastic to see how a simple daily digital devotion can help expand God’s glory and kingdom. Encourage your Japanese friends to subscribe—they and many others may be grateful you did!
T3C (Tokyo Community Care Center)
T3C (formerly Tokorozawa Community Care Center) was started with the vision to help prevent and reverse depression, a prevalent and growing global epidemic. For years, I had witnessed the depression problem in churches all over Japan, and it seemed that in almost all cases the only intervention was prescription drugs. We wanted an alternative. The goal of T3C was not just to offer counseling but also to equip community caregivers to provide care.
A dozen years later with countless people restored and hundreds of caregivers trained, I realize that we have barely scratched the surface of the need. So now technology is helping us improve our care by hybridizing. Of course, years ago, we started counseling with Skype and more recently with Zoom or WhatsApp. But how could we increase our reach and touch lives without taking so much time for traditional counseling? Thanks to the cooperation of Nick Petkoff of TEAM, our new T3C website (tokyoccc.com) is adding tools to help prevent depression as well as tools to train caregivers. We are also currently planning a video series to help the hurting through YouTube. We are trusting God that all of this will help us expand beyond our limited manpower and resources and hopefully help far more than we previously have.
Risk Ride at JesusLoves.jp
Know anyone who is discouraged or hurt? Probably more people than we think. Unfortunately in Japan, too many never verbalize their struggles, and you may never know until it’s too late. That was almost the case with two brothers in Fukushima. But when one middle-aged believer shared our Risk Ride manga with his younger brother, he found out his brother had wanted to commit suicide three times. Amazing things happened that week in Fukushima after I oriented his church on using the Risk Ride manga (riskride.net). Church members had countless discussions like those two brothers, and in just seven days, seven people came to Christ.
Many years later, we began to consider how we might use such a manga to touch hurting lives online and even find the spiritually ripe. Following the model of jesus.net (where over 16 million online seekers have come to Christ in a decade), Mark Roberts (formerly with the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association) and I teamed up to morph the manga into an online interactive experience for kokoro care (心ケア heart care) and the gospel. The aim is to minister to hurting hearts, reach those who are ready, and eventually connect them with e-coaches and e-disciplers. Take a look: https://jesusloves.jp/riskride/ Share this website and help open hearts to hope and eternity.
Treasure hunt mobile app
Would you like to radically change the future? Then there is one demographic you cannot miss! Kids are by far the most ready to receive God and the most ready to share God. One pastor said to me, “Kids’ evangelism is the most intelligent evangelism.”
I began to witness this reality in Japan a decade ago and felt led to make a pocket manga to help even young kids lead their friends to Christ on the playground or anywhere. What might happen when kids are recruited and their potential unleashed for the gospel in Japan?
I started the process by getting the help of kids in the field. Kids previewed and helped test the rough sketch manga, and we integrated their feedback. Thus was born the Treasure Hunt pocket manga. It proved irresistible—globally so. Although the pocket manga was designed for Japan, interest was coming in from around the world. Volunteers worldwide began lending a hand to translate. Before we knew it, we had Cambodian, Polish, Spanish, and Chinese, and it keeps going. At the time of writing the count is up to 20 languages. Plus, we have a full kids’ discipleship and mobilization series (Treasure Hunt Venture Discipleship Series) and an NPO in the Islamic world of Albania. Treasure Hunt｜トレジャーハント｜ニューデイツゥデイ (treasurehuntproject.com). I love seeing a made-in-Japan tool going worldwide, even to a place like Kosovo, which is 96% Muslim. But why not? After all, Pokémon is arguably now the biggest media franchise in history—yep, just kids comic stuff from Japan.
Now that was all analog; so where is the tech part? How might we mobilize kids to reach friends with tech? How might we digitize things? Enter the Treasure Hunt Mobile App—a gamified, cinematized manga experience that makes reaching friends easy, fun, and effective. All a youth has to do is select an avatar and invite their friends to the app, and the experience is automated and personalized. This takes things to a whole other level.
Honestly, I think these projects are all totally awesome. I can say that because I can’t take credit. Everything is way beyond me—I am not even tech savvy. In most ways, when it comes to tech, I feel like Frodo getting stuck with the ring of power. Frodo said he “wished none of it had happened”—amen!
But Gandalf replied, “So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us. There are other forces at work in this world, Frodo, besides that of evil. Bilbo was meant to find the Ring, in which case you were also meant to have it. And that is an encouraging thought.”1
Each of these tech initiatives seems to be God’s idea, with God making it all possible and God moving it along. And though at times I wish it never was and I really have no idea where all this is going, there is, without a doubt—the God factor—and that is an encouraging thought indeed.
1. Jackson, Peter, The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring. United States: New Line Cinema, 2003.