A Jesus Movement Today

When is the first time you Saw God move–the first time you remember realizing there is a God, and this God is at work in your world?

When was the last time you saw God move?

When are you expecting God to move next?

God moved to create the world.

To create us in His image.

To unfold a plan of redemption in the face of our sin.

God has continued to move in history. In modern times, God has at times moved in ways we call great awakenings. He moved powerfully in England through some college kids like George Whitefield and the Wesley brothers. He moved in the American colonies through young preachers like Jonathan Edwards, who observed God sometimes moves in surprising ways.

More recently, God moved in the lives of a million young people a generation ago. Hippies, druggies, and outcasts became evangelists, missionaries, and worship leaders. I came to faith in this movement. It made the cover of major magazines like Time and Life. It was called the Jesus Movement.

We read in Acts of the first Jesus Movement. The gospel spread to the Roman Empire starting with a holy huddle in Jerusalem gathering in prayer. The first Jesus Movement started when Jesus Himself uttered His last words as recorded in Acts 1:8– “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”

We need a Jesus Movement today. Not just like the last one in the 1970s, but a fresh work of the Spirit where we recapture the idea that Jesus matters above all else. What do I mean by a Jesus Movement?

First, a Jesus Movement is a Holy Spirit Movement. The dominant person in Acts is the Holy Spirit. When He FILLED believers, they spoke the gospel. When He SPOKE: He said “Go.”

I recently read one of the few books since the 70s written on that Jesus Movement. The author said what others testify:  “the most obvious aspect of the JM is that it was a work of the SPIRIT.”

— What if the Holy Spirit touched you afresh? We love the dramatic, the sensational, the Hollywood-level event today. We judge our ministries by events and numbers but these can be devoid of the Spirit. The early church walked in the Spirit, so they witnessed in the Spirit, and they changed an empire.

Second, a Jesus Movement is a movement  about Jesus. “Duh,” you say.

We are about a lot more things today than Jesus. We speak like experts but sound like fools about politics. We sing loudly in our services but become tight lipped around the lost. We overprotect our children yet we say Missions matters. According  to the largest study of youth and religion in history, most youth are NOT getting Jesus. They are getting moralistic therapeutic deism.

Read the Acts: It was about JESUS. Sometimes people were healed. ALWAYS Jesus was preached.

In the  Jesus Movement of the 70s, it was a movement of simplicity. We have over -complicated pretty much everything. But in the JM there were two core ideas: Jesus is the One Way to God, and He is coming back.  Too many of us seem tired of Jesus.

I read of some hippies in DC about 1972 who had met Jesus.  They were sharing Christ on the street when some preachers walked by in their nice suits.

“What are you hippies doing?” One preacher asked.

“Sir,” the young hippie replied, “We are doing what you just talk about.”

It’s time for the church: pastors, leaders, laity, young and old, do what we talk about. We need a Holy Spirit infused God-intervention in our day. May our children see a Jesus Movement in our time.

Evangelism as Discipleship: An Update on the Sharing Jesus Book

Growth.

What does it take to cause growth? Whether a tree, a kitten, or a believer in terms of growth in godliness, certain things have to happen.

Change. It’s pretty axiomatic: growth brings change, and change can’t happen without growth. I’m planting about an acre of grass seed. In order for that seed to become a lawn it must break out of the husk, forge through the soil, and reach toward the sun. A believer cannot grow to be more like Jesus without breaking free from habits and sins that hinder us while also pressing toward Christ.

Effort. Growth requires effort. A certain amount of growth happens with little to no effort, but for a living form to thrive it must exert effort. Tree roots push past stony ground to find fertile soil, while a young lion cub must at some point learn to hunt if she will survive. Believers too must “exercise ourselves for godliness” (I Timothy 4:7). We don’t drift into Christlikeness; we choose to pursue Christ.

Forces Outside Us Must Be at Work. A plant cannot create water. If water does not come, it will eventually die. Animals starve in the wild because of forces in nature that bring famine or other factors beyond them. When the rains come, however, the bounty is enjoyed by every living creature in its path. As Christ followers we have resources beyond us to help our growth: the Word, the Spirit, and the church, for instance.

The healthiest trees are not necessarily the ones in the safest place, but those who have through both plenty and lack pushed toward growth. In the same way, you and I grow more rigorously as Christians when we are pushed out of our comfort zones and stretched to flourish. This is why I’m convinced one of the most effective ways to grow as a disciple of Jesus comes from consistently sharing Jesus with others. Sharing Jesus will change you, pushing you out of the Christian bubble into the real world of everyday life. Sharing Jesus will cause you to confront your weaknesses theologically and interpersonally. It will push you past the stones of dead religion toward the fertile soil of living out your faith daily.

Sharing Jesus requires effort. You don’t drift into witnessing. The more you share, the more you want to share. When people say no to Jesus, your heart becomes more tender toward the lost. When someone you share with comes to faith, the joy you feel is the closest thing to getting saved all over again! Okay, you can’t do that, but it brings great joy. Sharing Jesus regularly reminds us we have resources greater than us. I recently had the honor of leading someone to Christ. It was a clear, no-mistaking divine appointment. I may have been a Christian for 46 years now, but I marveled at the Holy Spirit’s work that day. It’s both humbling and life-giving.

This is a big reason I wrote Sharing Jesus Without Freaking Out. It’s a guide to help you grow. It’s much more than a “how to share Christ” book, though it’s not less than that. It’s designed to help you and other believers gain confidence in sharing Christ, to see the value of change, to give effective effort in the cause of the Great Commission, and to see the resources we have from our Father.

When the book releases April 1, there will be a landing website where you can order copies (and pastors and leaders, you will be able to buy in bulk at a discount!). You will also have access to a series of eight lessons where I teach through each chapter of the book. This way you can have small groups or classes go through the book where each participant reads a chapter a week, comes together to watch the 20 minute video, discuss it, and make specific application that week. You can also do this one-on-one with someone you are mentoring.

There’s a 60 day journey included as well. Today in the fitness world there are a number of plans to help you jump start your health in 21, 60, or 90 days. Fitness experts understand physical growth doesn’t happen in a day. It’s the same with growing in our witness. Change takes time. But it’s worth it. You can preorder the book here and start growing soon.

I hope you will see growth as an opportunity to change. To be pushed. I hope you will see sharing Jesus as less a burden to do and more a means to becoming more like Jesus. Witness leads to spiritual fitness!

 

Great Resources for New/Young Believers: A List

One of our young pros who is heading to the nations before too long asked me what good resources were there for young or new believers. I get this question at times from our leaders and students as well. I thought I would let friends on social media help me with this. With all the outrage, whining, and clickbait going on, one can forget a benefit of social media is collaboration.

I should say of course the best place to start is the Word. I’ve walked new believers through Ephesians and Philippians. II Corinthians 5:9-21 is a fantastic passage to dive into as well. We should always give priority to the Scriptures, as we spend too much time studying about the Word and not enough time in the Word. That said, there are some excellent, Bible-laced works to help.

I’ve complied the list in a series of categories set up by my personal whims (hey, it’s my blog!). I’ve included links where possible so you can check them out further or purchase them.

First, here are resources I’m familiar with and/or have read/used, so I would recommend these first personally:

–Milton Vincent’s Gospel Primer is recommended by many. I find it to be a helpful introduction to the gospel (hence it’s name) and a guide to preaching the gospel to yourself daily. See it here.

–Tim Keller’s Freedom of Self-Forgetfulness is a very small book we give to our young pros when they graduate from school. It’s a helpful, basic and quick read. See it here.

–My friend and former student Matt Rogers wrote Aspire I and II, which I would VERY HIGHLY RECOMMEND to you. Get it here.

–The Purple Book is a fine one by a man who has recently become a dear friend, Rice Broocks. See it here.

–J.D. Greear’s Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart (or what I call it, Stop Asking Jesus into Your Heart Again and Again). See it here.

–Tim Keller’s Prodigal God, although I would make every believer who grew up in the Southern US read this if I could!

–John Piper’s Don’t Waste Your Life. 

Here are some I’ve not read personally but are recomended by friends:

Jerry Bridges wrote The Bookends of the Christian Life. I’ve read lots of Bridges and love his work, but I must read this one! See it here.  Also, Who Am I by Bridges.

My friend Mark Snowden wrote his own. This one is unique in that it is aimed more at oral learners. See it here.

Growing in Christ by the Navigators, who are famous for producing materials for growth (I used them in college). See this resource here.

Identity, produced by friends at the Baptist General Convention of Oklahoma: see it here.

Someone recommended David Lomas’s book The Truest Thing About You. I’ve not read it personally, but you can see it here. Francis Chan wrote the Foreword.

Lifeway has a resource on our identity in Christ you can see here. They also produced The Disciple’s Path. 

Elyse Fitzpatrick, Because He Loves Me. See it here.

Timothy Lane and Paul Tripp. How People Change. See it here.

First Baptist Church Baytown produced Lifecoach. See it here.

One recommended these three: Search for Significance by McGee, See Yourself as God Sees You by Josh McDowell, and Identity in Christ by Neil Anderson.

Scott Rubin wrote The Essential Guide to My New Life With Jesus. 

Lynch, McNicol, and Thrall wrote The Cure.

My Heart, Christ’s Home by Munger.

First Steps for New Christians by YM360 especially for young people.

Matt Brinkley wrote Mistaken Identity.

The No Place Left movement has produced a resource on identity you can see here.

Lifetime Guarantee by Gilliam.

Andrew Early wrote the New Believer’s Guide.

Other general resources (I don’t know where to get them personally):

David Platt’s 25 training objectives for new believers that he used at Brooke Hills.

Cru has a basics in Christian Doctrine series. My colleague Mark LIederbach is writing a book to go along with their materials.

Whew! That’s a lot. Hope I didn’t miss any, and hope you find some helpful.

On Being a Neighbor for the Gospel: Guest Post by David Sanford

My friend David Sanford has written a very helpful book on neighboring for the gospel that releases this month. It’s called Loving Your Neighbor: Surprise! It’s Not What You Think, and you can order it here. Here is an excerpt from the book:

“When Can I Tell You My Story?”

Meals and Mutual Personal Storytelling Are Beginning to Transform America’s Toughest High School

by David Sanford

Most of us have been trained to tell our testimony—our story of how Jesus Christ has changed our lives. That is so important.

These days, however, we may need some additional training. We may need to learn how to listen first to other people’s stories.

Here is what Hung Thach told me recently. He serves as a team leader with Cru High School (http://www.cruhighschool.com/city/cru-los-angeles) trying to reach the students in America’s toughest high school. Listen to what he says…

When our Cru High School team first started serving in Long Beach, California, the Holy Spirit led us to posture ourselves as learners and to prayer walk around the city.

Our first day, we end up prayer walking around Long Beach Polytechnic High School. This is the school from which Snoop Dog, Cameron Diaz, and many other entertainers have graduated over the years. Poly also has produced more than 60 NFL draft picks and dozens of other successful athletes in twelve sports.

As we are prayer walking, the Lord leads us to a skate park by Poly. We meet with sixteen young men. As we talk, we discover that each one does not have a dad in their life. All of their fathers have abandoned them, been incarcerated, or died.

One of the students we meet with that day is Jose. We ask him if he would like to grab a meal with us. He said he felt uncomfortable going alone. If he could bring his brother Scotty and his friend Jacob, however, he would go with us. That’s great, so I ask them where they would like to go, and they all choose Taco Bell. As we sit down and say a meal together, I begin to say my testimony.

As I say my story, Jose begins to rock back and forth. He looks like he is nervous, so I ask him if he is bored or wants to go home. Jose replied, “No, I’m not bored. I was wondering: When can I tell you my story?”

So I stop and ask Jose, “What’s your story?”

Jose begins by asking, “Do you know what Special Ed is?” When I reply yes, he says, “I hate that label—that’s what they call me.”

He goes on to ask, “Do you know what bullying is?” Again, I say I know what it is. Jose then says that in elementary, middle, and high school he has been spit on, called names, beat up, and tormented by bullies. He says, “I hate those people that bully me!”

Jose’s face gets even more downcast. He says, “Do you know what suicide is?” He goes on to say, “Earlier this year I wanted to try to kill myself at home but I didn’t want my mom to see it so I took a rope and put it into my backpack. I went to my high school and went into the bathroom. I jumped on the sink and began to tie the rope around something above me. Right before I was about to jump, with the rope already around my neck, a janitor walked in and he saved my life! I spent four days in the Cerritos Hospital recovering from mental and emotional anguish.”

When Jose is done telling his story, I ask his brother, “Scotty, what’s your story?”

He says, “My father was a drug dealer.” With no emotion, like he’s quoting some statistic, he goes on to say, “But he’s dead.”

When Scotty is done, I turn and ask Jacob, “What’s your story?”

He says, “When I was nine my mother was diagnosed with cancer. I prayed to God for four years that He would heal her, but she died when I was thirteen.” Jacob begins to weep. Then he says, “This sent me into a life of drugs, alcohol, violence, and gangs. I did all that to cope with the pain of losing my mom.”

After sharing part of my story, and listening to each of their stories, I had the privilege of sharing with them the greatest story, about Jesus.

After all, it’s when our story intersects with His story that redemption and restoration can happen.

That day Jose and his brother Scotty began a personal relationship with God. After our meal I asked if they would be willing to meet with me for the next five weeks to study the Bible over a meal. They all agreed. So the next week they bring their friend Junior. We share Jesus Christ with him over a meal and personal storytelling, and Junior puts his faith in Jesus.

I believe one of the best pictures of Jesus Christ to teenagers here in Long Beach is a family. Weekly you will find our team sitting with students over a family meal where we listen to their stories, where their pain is no longer anonymous. After hearing their stories, many times we will transition to sharing our story and the Gospel story.

God gets all the glory. We didn’t figure this out on our own. We didn’t figure it out because we’re smart. In the first 32 months, we’ve seen more than 400 students give their life to Jesus around a meal and mutual storytelling.

David Sanford is the author of the brand-new book, Loving Your Neighbor: Surprise! It’s Not What You Think, available everywhere February 27, 2017.