The Power of a Story
Andy Game believes the church should tell stories through the creative use of media to reach our generation.
2020 is a key year for Japan, with the Summer Olympics coming to Tokyo in July. As the world’s eyes turn to this nation, there is a real opportunity to see the Gospel spread and multiply within Japan.
Andy Game has been a pioneering missionary to Japan for more than 25 years, and is the creator of the website 7Media.org. This ministry uses media to reach the Japanese people with the truth of the Gospel.
Your ministry is specially involved in media, especially in videos that tell stories. Why do you focus so much time and energy on storytelling?
I believe it’s the power of storytelling that really connects with people.
A lot of media today is really information, and information overload. This is especially true in Asia and even more so in Japan – if you look at any Japanese website it’s loaded up with a lot of information. But this really just connects with the head, allowing people to analyze and process facts.
But when media is done well, it connects with the heart. It tells a story and there’s always emotion involved. That’s when people can really start to connect.
What goes into making these videos? What would you say if someone told you that it isn’t worth the time and resources that goes into making media – that the Church should just focus on preaching the Gospel in an old-fashioned way?
Of course, it’s a lot of work to make films well. I remember when we were getting started with 7media, I asked the Lord, “Why do we need to make films?”
I heard him simply reply, “Matthew 13.” I wondered what that meant so I turned to Matthew 13 in the Message Bible. As I read Matthew 13:10-15, I discovered this passage:
“The disciples came up and asked, “Why do you tell stories?”…Jesus replied, “…I tell stories to create readiness, to nudge the people toward receptive insight…”
Jesus said that he talked in stories to open hearts and nudge people towards the truth! And I realized that there’s power in stories, and these stories we tell through videos will open hearts in Japan and nudge people toward the truth. I needed to take this verse and obey God’s calling, so that our videos could open people’s heart to who God is and His love towards them.
What was your background? And what was it that led you to discover the power of media?
My parents are from England originally, but I was a missionary kid, born and raised in Asia, specifically in Bangladesh. Japan has been my home for more than 25 years.
I’ve been involved in pioneering in evangelism in Japan many years. In 1998 I went to London for a meeting to find out about the Alpha Course, and an hour later walked out as the National Director of Alpha for Japan! So I spent 10 years focused on developing Alpha as a new approach for evangelism in Japan, and really loved that. It created a wonderful open door to churches in Japan.
One interesting thing about Alpha was we produced our videos through the national television company, NHK Educational, so their logo was on our DVDs. When unchurched people saw that, they said this must be a good production since it’s from NHK. So this opened many people’s hearts to the Gospel, and I really saw the impact of media. We also put out a digest of testimonies of what God was doing in Japan, and we saw the power of these testimonies really connecting.
So out of that I really had a desire to do more with media. God brought people in my life from Jesus.net who were involved with media and online evangelism, and I told them I think we’re supposed to do something in Japan. I think we can put a Japanese face on Jesus.
“I believe we should really champion people’s stories and people’s testimonies – these are the seeds of breakthrough for somebody else. Your story can be the catalyst to help someone else break through and experience freedom.”
That’s a really big deal in Japan, because we have 8 million Japanese gods here. If you just add Jesus, you have 8 million and 1 – we needed to show the Japanese people who Jesus is and how He changes lives.
So starting 7Media was inspired by bringing the fullness of the Gospel to the whole of Japanese society. We’re looking at all seven spheres of society and how we can impact them with the Gospel.
Let’s say a pastor in a traditional church setting asked you how you think his church and church members can use stories to more effectively spread the Gospel. What would you say to him?
I think we should be excellent story tellers. The amazing thing is that everybody has a story to tell. Who is Jesus to you? How has He changed your life?
As Christians, we’ve encountered God and we can’t be the same again, because we realize the abundance of God’s love and the goodness of God to us.
So I believe we should really champion people’s stories and people’s testimonies – these are the seeds of breakthrough for somebody else. Your story can be the catalyst to help someone else break through and experience freedom.
Thus, I think it would be great in all of our churches if we really implement more story-telling, especially in our sermons and messages. We can share these effectively and communicate to the heart.
I think the church should think about having a media strategy that can really tell Gospel messages. We can tell testimonies and see the power of God at work right there.
Do you have a favorite story of how God has used 7Media since its inception?
We had a Celebration of Hope with the Billy Graham Association in March of 2012, This was one year exactly after the Triple Disaster – the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear disaster that struck in 2011. Franklin Graham and his team were there, as was the musician Kirk Franklin, and many others. We held it in a huge sports arena in Sendai, and had thousands and thousands of people attending.
The problem was this – during the worst days of the disaster this arena had been used as a huge morgue. There had been so many dead bodies they didn’t know what to do with them, so they temporarily kept them here. Everyone knew this, and you could just feel a heaviness in the arena. There was such an atmosphere of death and disaster, even one year later.
We had bused in people to the meetings – they came from every walk of life. There was such a depression on all these people as we started the meetings.
But we started showing testimony videos of common people during these meetings. So many testimonies of changed lives were displayed – videos featuring fishermen and factory workers and many others.
One of the impacting videos shown during the Celebration of Hope, featuring Mr. Hideo Araki, a fisherman.
These were stories of everyday people, who would never stand up and speak eloquently in a church. But as these everyday people shared their stories on the video screen, it was amazing. Their jokes and comments created such a reaction in the arena.
I remember hearing the waves of laughter and emotion in the arena. This gave me confidence to say God is really using this, and we really need to keep telling these stories.
Celebration of Hope video featuring Mrs. Junko Aizawa, a shopkeeper.
At the end of the evening, the senior Japanese pastor organizing the event said, “This was a great evening. Thank God, the heaviness has lifted!” And he said the best part of the evening were those stories, because everyone could relate and connect to them. They really brought the Gospel home to people.
I realized that if we could really tell these stories well, we could bring the Gospel home to people who have no background or understanding of it at all. This was in the first year of doing 7Media, and it really encouraged me to step up and continue the work.
Come back next week for part 2 of our interview with Andy Game. We will hear about the extraordinary ways God used to confirm his calling to Japan, as well as the ministry’s plans to reach the younger generation and minister during the 2020 Olympics.
You can find more of 7Media’s videos here.