I had an opportunity to dive deeper into the story behind Next and the Manga Bible Story series. P. Scott Cummins, Chief Marketing Officer at Next, took some time out of his busy schedule to give us some insight. (And, no, he didn’t just win Season 12 of Hell’s Kitchen; that’s Scott Cummings.) If you haven’t heard about Next Manga yet, see
Next Manga – Bible Stories Told with the Movement and Might of Manga
1. How did NEXT Manga get started? What was the driving force behind delivering Bible stories in manga form?
Our founder Roald Lidal has been active in Bible ministry for many years based out of Tokyo. As a publisher, he could see the growth in graphic novel sales, and through prayer saw clearly that this was a place where the word of God was needed.
2. How did you get involved? What drew you into this?
Next is a non profit social enterprise organization with a “one4one” model, meaning that we partner with many other organizations to reach people around the world who would not ever be able to buy, for example, a Bible story for themselves. Social enterprise, particularly by those encouraging one another with the Good News of Jesus Christ, is a passion for our family. Several of those involved with the non profit management side of the Next ministry are effectively a small group at our church in Seattle. It was pretty natural for our family to get involved.
3. What are a couple of your favorite stories and why?
Oh that’s a tough question, like picking a favorite child! I often break out the manga when on airplane flights. Once I was reading Manga Messiah, and during the recounting of the passion, I noticed a woman across from me was also reading along and had tears in her eyes. I gave her the book! I notice that the trailer for the upcoming movie about Moses directed by Ridley Scott could be a “book trailer” for the close of Manga Mutiny and beginning of Manga Melech. But it is hard to top Manga Metamorphosis for power-packed excitement and instruction in the Christian life – Barnabas, Silas, the tent-makers Priscilla and Aquila, on and on. Its the book in the series that Pastors tell me they turn to when working on preaching points, which is quite an honor!
4. What impact of the series has you seen? Any stories that exemplify the power of sharing the gospel in this format.
5. Any stories of those driven to a deeper reading of the Bible through these stories?
These questions really go together, and its been amazing. With translations in over twenty five languages (and growing, rapidly) and over five million in print, we constantly receive stories that are so encouraging. Young children not only learning to read from the books, but then receiving Christ into their lives and then immediately telling the Good News to others, and full of questions – wanting to read the Bible with their pastors and go deeper in relationship with God. From youth pastors around the world we have heard that they were introduced to the series by the kids themselves, who then want their help to get into the global youth culture anime scene and participate in cosplay in order to act out the stories of the Bible. Pastors telling us how amazing this is, how they are literally running to keep up with this excitement.
6. How would you respond to those who suggest that manga (or any graphic novel format) is inappropriate for Bible stories?
It never really happened much, and now hardly at all. We love all of the ministries involved in this scene – the new graphic novel project from Ravi Zacharias for example, and others like the Action Bible, which is very cool and done Marvel Comics style. More and more folks are learning that the graphic novel format is the most popular form of publishing in the world. Western style comic characters dominate popular culture in movies, but manga is actually more popular worldwide. Many people are visual learners – they really appreciate how reading our series subsequently helps them with comprehension of stories and concepts from the Bible, and helps them deepen their faith. In North America, Christians are increasingly aware that anime conventions (and cosplay) are hugely popular – and are delighted to learn that the Next Manga series is in that scene – as well as ministries like Jesus Otaku.
7. What goals do you have for Next?
As a non profit ministry with a one4one business model, we are passionate about working with translation ministries around the world to bring the series to more and more people around the world. We need to partner in order to do that, and we love that. Its logistically challenging and a huge financial mountain to climb – but its what we are called to do and we love it. No other ministry has ever been this deep into global youth culture, social media and outreach in more languages with stories from the Bible in the world’s most popular publishing format – all the while working hard to give one away for every one they sell. In order to do that we have to go more and more to scale – which means becoming ever more customer-focused and market-driven. And if churches want to get together, or foundations, or ministries – to help us move container loads to the unreached, give me a call!
8. Any upcoming projects you would like to share?
In a couple of months we will release Manga Messiah in eBook format (Kindle and Nook) which will allow readers to access the series on virtually any device. You heard that here first!
9. I saw that y’all have had concerted drives to deliver content in Japan including encouraging those in Fukushima impacted by the disaster there. How has the work there been received?
The Next Manga series tells God’s story of love for His people, and presents His grace, forgiveness and comfort in our times of trial. To present that through authentic manga from people in their own country has been huge for people in Japan. We were honored to participate in care teams in disaster affected areas.
10. What does delivery of Bible stories in manga position you to do what you may have difficulty doing if delivered in a more traditional manner?
We have been very privileged to see how presenting the Good News to people through the graphic novel format and as authentic Japanese style manga -from the young to very old and everyone in between, has meant they want to interact: Kids start reading it aloud to younger kids, and even more kids then start acting it out street theater style as it is being read. Manga is very conducive to sharing. And we all know that to be ‘shown’ something is easier than just simply being ‘told’ – so we are humbled and thankful to see what so many are doing in response to hearing the Good News of the Bible in this way.
Scott, thanks for taking time to give a bit deeper look into Next and the Manga Bible series.
For those of you who may wish to become more involved, you have lots of ways to contact Next: