Sunday, September 04, 2011



Years ago the many para-church organizations-Young Life, Youth for Christ, Campus Crusade for Christ, YWAM, Intervarsity, Navigators-struggled with what to do with their new believers. If you funneled them into a local Church, the students tended to be turned off with the irrelevance of the services and messages of the Church. The very reason for a para-church ministry was to serve the local Church in areas where they were unable to function well. The local Church tailored its services and activities in the same manner they fashioned their adult services. In most cases this approach was never able to generate the sizzle to attract young people into the Church setting. The para-church groups focused their attention on high school and college students. They were able to be extremely successful, because of the freedom they had to spend all of their time on just working with students.

This gap existed between the local Church and the para-church groups for years. Since the para-church couldn't figure out a way to get its students to be enthused about going to the local Church and the local Church was threatened by the success of the para-church groups, the para-church organizations began to work on developing a teaching curriculum for their new believer students.

This very same phenomenon is occurring again, but this time the players are different. On the one side, there is the local Church that has, for the most part, narrowed the gap between their work with students and the many para-church groups who work with students. In fact, the two are working together more closely than ever. Today there is a Jesus movement that is popping up all over. This Jesus movement is just that-a movement that is all about Jesus who is not packaged within any institutional, religious structure-not even Christianity.

The Jesus movement is attracted to simply Jesus without being wrapped in Christianese or religious traditions or trappings. Participants in the Jesus movement have been confused and even turned off by these wrappings. It's a movement that is moving to a different beat than most religious groups; it's a Jesus beat!

Today, we are introducing many to Jesus, yet these new "followers of Jesus" quickly become distracted away from the simplicity and purity of walking with Jesus and walking with others. They can easily become distracted by the religious terminology that just doesn't matter in comparison to knowing and following Jesus. Instead of embracing Jesus and growing in Him, they tend to grow into better Bapterians, Presbytists and Episcolics. Simply Jesus or Jesus plus nothing is what these new followers of Jesus need and are looking for.

A lady said to me last week that when she attends one of our studies about Jesus plus nothing, she feels like she has just come back home. Jesus resonates with her; religiosity does not. It distracts her and confuses her and leaves her with her feet firmly planted in mid-air spiritually. The answer for the new followers of Jesus is the same answer as we faced many years ago with students who became new believers. We are in desperate need of a curriculum that only teaches about Jesus.

After my most recent trip to Kenya, many things have become clearer to us (those with whom I am walking) as to what our best role is in the Jesus movement. The clarity has come as we see the needs in the movement personally in discussion with many of you and through the eyes of national and international leaders. These leaders are religious, political and corporate; they are all communicating the same things to us. There seem to be four specific needs repeatedly expressed:

FIRST-There is a major need for training our own people in the family of friends who want to follow Jesus, so that they are more than parrots. We all know so many little study groups that would be thrilled to study simply Jesus. There is a great need for each follower of Jesus to embrace the ABC's of the teachings and principles of Jesus personally-that each one owns it for himself well enough to live it.

SECOND-There is a major need for a Jesus curriculum. I hear this everywhere I go. People are introduced to the concept of Jesus plus nothing, and then are sent back into studies and teachings about how to be a better Church member, not a follower of Jesus. Once a person decides to follow Jesus and embrace His life and teachings as a lifestyle, that person needs to be able to feed on these teachings. If the end-game is to become like Jesus, then we need as many studies as possible to be about Jesus plus nothing without being couched in the religious terminology of religiosity. Studies must be all about Jesus and nothing else, simply Jesus. Even the "secular" dimensions of the culture must see how practical it is for Jesus to be the reference point of life.

THIRD-There is a major need for "Christian" leaders to know Jesus and His Kingdom-to be able to embrace these truths Biblically and to experience them personally. Never have I seen a greater openness than now! I am meeting with clergy and other religious leaders about this every week. There is a great hunger within the Church of Jesus to know Jesus better. Several pastors around the country are eager to participate in creating a Jesus core curriculum.

FOURTH-There is a major need for non-Christian leaders to know Jesus and His Kingdom-to be able to embrace Jesus and His Kingdom through their cultural lenses. Yet our normal approach is to introduce a person to Jesus without giving serious consideration to Jesus' command to make disciples of all nations. Once a person learns about Jesus he has a desire to know more about Jesus, not some theological set of beliefs from his culture and background.

This brings me back to one of my favorite statements from Paul: "I am afraid lest as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, that your minds might be led astray from the purity and simplicity of devotion to Jesus." Whatever you are reading, studying and discussing, be sure to make it all about Jesus.