Ideas from the Jesus People

“And let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”  Hebrews 10:24-25

Recently I have been thinking about the 60’s and 70’s; specifically regarding what is now known as the Jesus People movement.  I then started reading a book titled, “The Jesus People – Old-Time Religion in the Age of Aquarius” written by Ronald Enroth, Edward E. Ericson and C. Breckinridge Peters.  As I have been reading, I also have been thinking about the many churches I have attended and visited throughout the last 20 years and I have come to the conclusion that many of the modern day churches are not fulfilling their purpose when it comes to discipleship and teaching the scriptures regarding what this Christian life is all about.

Now, I wish to preface this by saying that there were many groups withing the Jesus People movement that had issues and took advantage of those who followed them.  One such group, The Children of God, required their followers to follow very specific instructions and orders that essentially taught they were the only Christian organization to understand and follow the truth and that leaving would be like walking away from God.  I will not be discussing individual groups but what we can learn from the movement in general; what they did and how we can apply the good stuff in order to be far more relevant in our culture today.

First of all, they reached out to those the church in general ignored.  These were the hippies and drug addicts that spent the majority of their time in the streets while high on drugs.  They would go into the streets and talk with anyone that would listen to them, declaring the gospel and  showing them the way out of this life through the blood of Jesus Christ.  There was no one who was ignored, for they believed all should hear the word no matter how far they are from the truth.  This is something I believe the modern Church is missing.  Most have the traditional schedule of services and some times of fellowship.  I am not saying those things are bad, just that they do not go far enough.

Also, they would speak to them in words that they could understand.  Many of them could not relate to the approach the traditional church took.  As Jesus and His disciples spoke to those in His time using the vernacular they could understand, we should do the same.  Get to know them a bit, then speak to them in a way they will understand.  One thing Francis Schaeffer would do when reaching out to the lost would be to spend concerted effort to get to know whom He was speaking with, and then using what he had learned to speak into their life.  In fact, he would spend three quarters of his time becoming acquainted with them, and the last quarter giving witnessing to them.

Next, they showed the people they ministered to that they were serious about the message, and we must act in the same way.   We must be ready in season and out of season, in other words, we should never be unready to speak to anyone who needs to hear what we have to say.  We must spend alone time in prayer, read and study His Word, and ask Him to guide us to where He wants us; so that we can be ready to meet the needs of anyone we come into contact with.

Also, when they were needed, they made themselves available.  When they heard or realized that someone needed them, they never told them to make an appointment, they took the time, when needed, to meet the need.  I remember once when I lived in Homestead FL I attended the Rock Church of Homestead.  The Pastor at that time was Ed Bez, and I will say he was an amazing man and followed the things I mentioned above.  I learned a lot from this man and his example is much of what I follow in my ministry.  I had gone out witnessing in South Miami, by myself.  (I was a young Christian.)  Anyway, I was invited up to this man’s apartment and we sat and talked.  I soon realized this man was a satanist, and that he probably had evil spirits within him.  Well, after a time I realized I could not answer all his questions, so I drove him down to pastor Bez’s house.  We arrived there at 4:00 AM.  I knocked on the door and he asked who I was.  When I told him, he got up, put on a robe and let us in.  He spoke with the man and was getting nowhere because the guy was not fully answering any questions and began filibustering his own views.  After a couple hours, he gave me some money to buy us breakfast and said I should take him home, which I did.  I tell this story because he never questioned what I did, but helped me with reaching out to this man.  And he never brought the subject up again.  He made time for me and this man I met in South Miami.

And finally, as I mentioned earlier, they were gathering together most evenings along with Church services, for teaching, training, prayer, worship and praise, and just fellowship.  Not everyone came each time, however, this gathering together was recognized as an important facet in reaching those they came into contact with.  It was the norm.  They saw all those functions as important  and necessary to help all they ministered to grow and become the men and women of God they were called to be.  This is true discipleship, as Christ engaged in.  He spent all the time He had with His disciples to prepare them for the work God had for them.

So, where do I find most modern churches wanting?

  1. The leadership in many are on a set schedule and do not make themselves available when needed.
  2. Many hold to a sparse schedule of meeting times, ie) Sunday morning and evening, and possibly one evening during the week. No other regular times for gathering are scheduled.
  3. When some go out to spread the word, they pick and choose who they will talk with.
  4. Many speak to people in a vernacular comfortable to them, but unknown to the people they reach out to.
  5. Some simply give a tract, say a few words, and then move on.

There are many more that I could mention, but these are some of the more obvious ways in which many churches fall short.  We need to look and see where we are missing the mark at times and make suitable changes.  This is our primary calling and the other parts of our life are to provide what we need to fulfill this calling.  I have spoken with various people who also feel the Church is placing more emphasis on running the Church rather than being the Church.  Let’s place our focus where it needs to be, sacrifice what we must, and place the emphasis on God and our calling.  In looking back at the Jesus People movement, they may not have been perfect, but their approach was one where reaching out to the lost and discipleship of the saved were of paramount importance.  Let’s take this approach, using an method that is relevant for today, and be the Church God wants us to be.  What an impact we could make on our culture today if we do.

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