This is an article from the May-June 2011 issue: Jesus Movements

Jesus Movements

Discovering Biblical Faith in the Most Unexpected Places

Jesus Movements

There is a growing phenomenon taking place concurrently within at least every sizeable region of the world today. People within numerous different tribal cultures and also people within the cultures of each of the major world religions are increasingly accepting Jesus without converting to Christianity and without joining churches. They are encountering Jesus in ways that change their lives forever, without them leaving one group for another.  They are learning to discover for themselves what it means to be faithful to Jesus within their own cultures and within their own birth communities. Conversion for them is believed to be a matter of the heart and not one of joining a different, competing cultural community.

It is usually the case that after a number of these individuals within the same community are following Jesus, they begin meeting regularly as a small group. Over time this expands into multiple small groups among the same people group or within the same country. Eventually, it becomes established as a full-fledged movement of believers in Jesus that is outside of Christendom. It becomes a Jesus movement within another tradition. Does this mean they are living their lives outside the boundaries of biblical faith? Or, are they merely living beyond the boundaries of Christendom as a competing community?
How did Jesus live as a son of Israel? Did he create a separate and competing community from the one that was already there? Did he tell people to leave their synagogues? Did he start his own synagogues? Didn’t he seek to bring transformation and new life to the community that was already there?

The first followers of Jesus did not leave their synagogues. They began meeting regularly in small groups for fellowship, study, and prayer centered around Jesus while remaining part of the synagogues they were already in. These small group meetings were not under the auspices of the wider community; yet, the people within them remained relationally and culturally loyal to their wider community. Some new customs and expressions of prayer and music developed among the followers of Jesus, but these were practiced in addition to, not in place of, established Jewish traditions. There were a number of circumstances that led to the above dynamics changing, but this was the original model.

Jewish believers in the first century faced the Roman occupation, the acceleration of Jewish exile, the increasing threat of assimilation of Jews among the Gentiles, and growing numbers of non-Jews embracing new covenant faith. These circumstances led to Jewish followers of Jesus being both pushed out and pulled out of the traditional Jewish community. Two thousand years later, Jews in Israel today finally have the conditions necessary to be able once again to confidently and wholeheartedly accept Jesus as Israel’s Messiah while remaining firmly within the traditional synagogue community.

This is not a reference to what is called the Messianic Jewish movement. This is referring to a growing phenomenon of Jews following Jesus within Judaism. Increasing numbers of Jews are learning to follow Jesus faithfully within their traditional synagogue communities. Upon accepting Jesus, they begin meeting regularly in small groups for fellowship centered on Jesus while remaining loyal members of their synagogue communities.

The meetings of these small groups usually take place mid-week, as each family already prays in their respective synagogue on the Sabbath. When they come together as devotees of Jesus, they seek to avoid duplicating or replacing activities or traditions which they are already upholding in the synagogue. With each of them engaged congregationally in synagogues, most of the dimensions of congregational life are already fulfilled there. Some of the mid-week small group meetings are separate for men and women, as this has been found to be more intimate and more helpful in their lives. These meetings often operate similar to a talking circle which is more like a support group than a formal congregation. There is an intimate time of discussion and prayer explicitly centered around Jesus, and everyone in the circle participates.

Involvement in these small groups connects each of these believers to the worldwide community of new covenant faith, which Christians call the Church or the Body of Christ. Yet, members of these groups have neither converted to Christianity nor joined a church, nor even joined the Messianic Jewish movement which has its own structures and organizational agendas. Also, being spiritually connected to the much larger worldwide community of believers in Jesus does not replace their membership or service in their local synagogue community. They simultaneously have larger and smaller group relationships that obligate them to overlapping responsibilities and also to other responsibilities which are unique and different to each group.

Relational faithfulness within this dynamic is not a zero-sum game of all or nothing on one side or the other. These believers are faithful to Jesus and are also faithful in their relationships within their birth community of faith. They are not undermining the pre-existing community and especially not creating a new separate and competing community. They seek to bring transformation and new life to what is already there, serving from within.


A Jewish Emissary of Jesus

I am a Jewish Israeli who follows Jesus. When I was growing up, my family accepted Jesus. As a teenage boy, I became convinced that there was a calling on my life to go to many nations with the message of Jesus. For most of my life since then, I have lived out two parallel journeys. One journey has been discovering and learning by experience how to follow Jesus as a Jewish Israeli. The other journey has been discovering and learning by experience how to take the message of Jesus from Jerusalem out to the nations of the world.

In my travels I have mostly focused on going to indigenous tribal peoples. My experiences of serving indigenous peoples within their own cultures have inspired me to embrace more of my own traditional Jewish heritage. Also, the more I have embraced my own heritage and lived more naturally within the traditional community of my people, the more I have learned how to bring Jesus to indigenous peoples.

When I am with indigenous people, I am inspired to be more faithful to the heritage of my own people. When I am at home within the religious Jewish community, I am inspired as to how I might more effectively serve among other peoples, by affirming who they already are. These parallel walks in my life are synergistic, each one informing the other and propelling the other forward.

I have discovered we must first embrace who we and our own people are, and live within that, before we are then able to truly release others to do the same. If we lack respect for our own heritage, we will not be able to fully respect the heritage of another people.

Learning to be faithful to Jesus within our own cultural heritage is not only for the sake of effectively serving our own people, but also for the sake of preparation toward effectively bringing the message of Jesus to other nations. This faithfulness within our own cultures enables us to assist other peoples and nations to discover for themselves what it means to be faithful to Jesus each within their own heritages. This faithfulness results in the incarnation of the life and message of Jesus in the midst of their people.

Movements to Jesus are springing up among Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists and many other cultures of the world. When these peoples accept the fullness of who Jesus really is and then learn to faithfully follow him while remaining socially and culturally within their own communities, they do a similar thing to what Jewish followers of Jesus are beginning to do in Israel once again. It is not exactly the same, but it is similar. Most of the dynamics at play and the issues that they encounter in creating Jesus movements among their peoples are the same dynamics and issues that are encountered by Jews following Jesus within the traditional Jewish community.

I recently visited one of these movements to Jesus in the Muslim world. This particular movement was initiated by a Muslim follower of Jesus who is a tribal chief. This movement has since spread throughout his country. Also, Muslim visitors from other countries have embraced Jesus through the work of this movement and have gone home to start similar movements in their own countries.

During my visit, I met a number of Muslim religious leaders who are fervently devoted to Jesus. I also witnessed some of them teaching publicly about the forgiveness of Jesus to large groups. It was very powerful.

One Muslim training center I visited had thousands of men. One of the senior teachers there follows Jesus. He teaches openly about Jesus every day. He is so traditional that it is understood he is not seeking to convert anyone to Christianity. He is challenging them to reclaim Jesus as the Word of God, the renewer of their faith, and the one without whom their people have no hope.

The vast majority of Muslims in that training center do not follow Jesus; yet, a good number of them do. Many of those men who follow Jesus also serve in village mosques throughout the region. During my visit, a number of men returning from their service in different villages shared reports with each other of teaching in the villages about the forgiveness of Jesus. In some of these villages, those who have accepted Jesus now meet together in small groups focused on Jesus while remaining within the Muslim community.

It was clear that these men know Jesus in all his fullness. The testimony of their lives is not one of compromise. It is not their objective to avoid persecution. The way they live out their faith is not an easier, less authentic way, as some people might accuse. Rather, their path of following Jesus is a harder one and a higher one. By remaining within Islam, they are not seeking acceptance for themselves. They seek to express to their people that Jesus accepts them right where they are, and that they can faithfully follow him within their community and their family of birth.

When a movement to Jesus like this is born within another culture, the believers there will go through their own process of confronting their culture with the message of Jesus. There will be some cultural expressions and traditions in which they can rightly continue only by redirecting the focus and giving them new meaning. In this process of renewing their culture, they may discover that there are some cultural expressions in which they can no longer engage as followers of Jesus.

I believe that the message of Jesus was never intended to be spread by means of cultural conquest. I am convinced that Jesus’ message will increasingly spread among peoples of other faith traditions only as God’s kingdom grows like yeast from within. By the grace of God and the discernment of his Spirit, growing numbers of Jesus followers within various Christian traditions are increasingly coming to recognize the work of God through Jesus within other cultures.


I am so happy to see this article from you.  When I began in Native American Ministry I did not realize that the larger part of my work would be in educating the White Church to new aspects of Christianity through understanding indigenous approaches to Jesus.  But I soon learned, as my own faith was broadened and deepened in this manner.  Your article will be helpful to me as I continue my journey.

This is indeed a movement by the Holy Spirit that’s been increasing in the last 15 years, and it releases people to stand before God as who they are, to worship HIM in Spirit and in Truth. The indigenous can stand before HIM without having to put on anyone else’s ‘cloak’ but their own. The forerunners used by God in this move have to pay high cost in being humbled to ground level often, in being served rejection and false accusations of syncretism etc. It is far from being glamourous, but the fruit is sweet pure freedom and truth of the Lord. My father dreamt of this move around 40 years ago. This move of God also gloriously equalizes people groups and brings down the WALLS of hostility as Jesus purposed from the beginning: the valleys will be raised and mountains leveled. Kol Hakavod Gavriel. Thank you for the beautiful article .

“People within numerous different tribal cultures and also people within the cultures of each of the major world religions are increasingly accepting Jesus without converting to Christianity and without joining churches.”  I’m puzzled by what this means. If they have accepted Jesus as their Savior, how is that not “converting to Christianity”?  Or do you just mean they don’t think of themselves as being Christians? Do they think of themselves as brothers and sisters of those of us Christ-followers in other nations? And, in my opinion, if they are united together and worshipping Jesus, aren’t they a church themselves?

Dear Gavriel,
Thankyou so very much for joining our congregation this morning here in Surrey and sharing with us the news of your 3to4 year global tour with Hanna starting on Wednesday. We all felt so inspired by what you are doing in Jesus Movements.
Our prayers are with you as you discover and encourage biblical faith in Jesus so lighting a flame in every country in the world.
May the Lord bless you both as your guide and speak through you to the thousands He will send to you.
In His name,

I like the general thrust of this article - that those who place their trust in Jesus Christ do not need to abandon their cultural heritage wholesale, adopting Western folk traditions and lifeways in order to become Christians.

However, I am concerned by the way you equate “Christianity” and “Christendom.” One does not need to become a westerner to become a Christian, but all of us - whether citizens of the post-Christendom West, residents of culturally Muslim Saudi Arabia, or denizens of the historically Buddhist lands of Asia - are called to faithfulness within the context of our surrounding culture.

The fact is, I simply cannot fully engage in the “American Way” as a disciple of Jesus Christ. Similarly, I suspect that those living in societies with non-Christian cultural heritages will be forced to withdraw from, or even stand against, much of what is taken for granted by most members of their cultures.

Life in Christ calls all of us to become “resident aliens,” recognizing that every human culture (including Western Christendom) is in rebellion against God. Friendship with the world is emnity with God (James 4:4).

It’s good to see and hear the of the return of “The Way” to where it belongs as a natural progression from its record in the Bible.  Where we minister in a Thai-buddhist context, the “types” from Scripture that are present in the temple on Doi Suthep, Chiangmai bear very striking similarities to that of the Exodus account and the dimensions are the same as that of the tabernacle.  Quite staggering really when we see what has been borrowed into the local religious worship.  The closer the counterfeit, the more more subtle the difference.

There are at least 4 groups we have to deal with in our context.  The old christians which bear vestiges of modernism, liberalism and “peaceful” co-existence with local religious groups…sic “religious harmony.”  The newly imported evangelical brand of Christianity in which we are a multi-national group already trying to adapt to each other while trying to fulfill the Lord Jesus Christ’s Great Commission in a culturally sensitive manner.  Then we have the new expression of the Jesus movement in which local Thai are trying to retain their local culture which is intertwined with folk-buddhism which the old christians find it hard to accept culturally.  Meanwhile we have new believers who have received Christ as personal Saviour and Lord and are in the process of shedding local religious practices which are viewed by the locals as part of their cultural identity.  This provides much fodder for friction. 

An example would be a YWAM produced video which highlighted a sample cell group meeting which involved a “string-tying”  or “blessing” ceremony.  In the end, they decided to produce two versions, one with the “string-tying” thing and one without because it was so controversial.  The version without the “string-tying” had greater acceptance according to the producers.  This example doesn’t even factor in those who are trying to follow Jesus while remaining culturally “buddhist” [thai = buddhist, buddhist = thai].  Then we have the neo “christo-buddho” types who are trying to straddle both worlds.  This would be classic syncretism.

Come Quickly, Lord Jesus…. Even as we try to baptize and teach all things that YOU have commanded [Mat 28:19-20] with the goal being “unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of [YOU] the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of [YOU] Christ: Eph 4:13]



Thank you for writing this article.  It is important for us to keep these new believers in prayer.  :-D

Greetings of the season in the Glorious Name of our, lord King Messiah Jesus! It is for him, by him, and through him that we are partakers of the manifold grace of God and the fellowship of the saints in light. We are grateful that God has granted us to serve his body through preaching of his gospel. There is no greater calling and no greater responsibility than to minister the word of the life———and as we nears the return of our Lord –no greater challenge! The word of God declares that we are a” chosen Generation “ 1: peter 2:9 Never has this been of greater significance than inn our day! It is ours to know the sighs of the time and the season of his coming, One Jesus’ serest rebuke was to the religious leaders who could not read the “weather sighs” of a red sky.
Or southern wind, but they could not discern” the sighs of the time” and consequently they failed to recognized the prophetic fulfillment of his coming.
We are those who are given to not only discern the signposts of his return. But to prepare the way of the lord!
Romans 8:14 declares for as many are led by the spirit of God they are sons of God those who hear their Lord’s voice they obey and follow
I Am Debtors that was Paul’s declaration! It drummed in his heart, it throbs in his mind! It burned in his soul! It was his meat by day and his travail by night! By that he lived ! by that he was sustained ! for that he preached ! For that he toiled! For that he suffered! For that, when in God’s wisdom, the time came, he died! he was a debtor ! So are we! We are debtors to Christ Beloved of all the mighty, munificent blessings Christ has showered down upon us throughout the days of our lives. It will take this day and tomorrow.
And the next, even a lifetime of every one of us to tell the sum of all.
The benedictions that have been poured out upon us in all the days of our beings. However, most of all, above all, beyond all, we are debtors for redemption. In agony, in loneliness, in shame, in travail, in blood, in death on the cruel cross of Calvary , Christ provided our Salvation. He built a bridge across hell, paved a way into heaven, and provided a mansion in glory. Surely our blood must Run faster, our hearts beat harder, our eyes fill with tears of gratitude at the measure of his love and sacrifice for us. We are debtors to a lost world all around us, on every hand, in every place, in every block, in a multiplied multitudes of homes there are souls without God, without Christ, without hope.  We must give them, hope for we are the hands and feet of Christ. Again Souls steeped in sin, sold to Satan straying into hell they need help, we and we alone have the keys of heaven. It ought be our prayer by day and our dream by night that we must be ready to go out weeping, sowing the seed so that we may come back rejoicing, bringing our sheaves with us, to deposit at the feet of Christ Think what it shall be when we close our eyes andThink upon Calvary’s cross, we see the pierced hands the torn feet of our lord the steaming wounds on his side and The crown of thorns and the agony of his abandonment at the cross. is without Limit, it reaches to the most unlovely, it knows no barrier of race, color, class, Or intellectual level. It plumbs the lowest depths and soars to the highest Pinnacle.
Acts: 16 9

Yours truly, In Christ Service

Rev Martin Njenjere
PO BOX 2964
MERU 60200

This article was shared with me, and at present I am in transition between embracing Jesus as one of his sons with embracing Jesus and remaining a Christian. At the same time embracing Jesus and living in the context of my inherited Lutheran faith. At times the ride is rather bumpy.

i think that you are fine and still running in good health , BURUNDI Still love your noble work , the lord bless you richly , we are in touch , if you and hanna planified to visit BURUNDI

I appreciate this article very much. As a mixed blood French Cree woman I have experienced alot of pressure to capitulate entirely to my Euro American Christian culture and deny or diminish the Spirit of the Creator in my Aboriginal blood and ancestry. I enjoy my faith in Christ as a Roman Catholic but it is not the only way I express my faith in Creator. I go to pow-wow and woman’s sweat when I am invited. I smudge my prayers every morning. I don’t see any conflict with my smudge and the incense my priest offers to the Lord at services. I don’t think he would be put out either. But, some are. There is a great need for more understanding between Euro American Christian culture and Native North American cultural ways. They are quite complimentary. At Heart of the Methow Pow Wow in Twisp, WA this last weekend two beautiful regaled Methow women signed the Lord’s Prayer as a blessing before the meal and to close the sacred circle. It was all so beautiful. Everyone loved each other at that pow wow. I think some non-Natives were a little afraid of the circle but that is because they have not been taught right about what a blessing it is when we talk to each other. When we love and accept each other. Jesus is Good Medicine in any culture and you don’t have to do anything but just keep being yourself. Peace+

Susan, why is the blogger an idiot with a poesrnal agenda? And how is he trying to cause agitations between groups? The film’s agenda has been to mock Hindus and the Hindu faith, depict Hindus as murderous thugs, and falesly portray Muslims as victims—the blogger is one of very few Indians with the courage to note this and state it. And a week after this deceitful film was released, Muslim terrorists in Mumbai went on a murdering spree! Do you feel any and all attacks against Hinduism should be tolerated? And if someone points out these attacks, should they be muzzled by calling them names (“complete idiot) and have their integrity questioned (“poesrnal agenda”)? Because that is what a lot of people did, in the West, when Hitler’s Germany began its attacks on the Jewish faith. A lot of people pretended they didn’t see what was happening, and some sided with the Third Reich’s attacks on Judaism. Look where consensual silence led.

my analogy—about cnsseonual silence on Hindu abuse and the cnsseonual silence in the West which led to the Holocaust—is “crude.” I’m not sure what is “crude” about an analogy—either an analogy is apt or it isn’t. If you feel my analogy was not apt, let me explain:The Holocaust did not happen in a day. There were repeated sly and snide attacks on the Jewish faith & its practitioners. When these attacks went unchallenged, the authors of these attacks got bolder and bolder, and it ended in 6 million innocents being slaughtered.You might argue that there is no corresponding slaughter of Hindu innocents—yes, not yet. These mass-scale exterminations do not happen in an instant. But keep repeatedly attacking a religion and a culture (for Hinduism is both a religion & a culture), and keep making fun of their barbaric “idol-worship” (although, somehow, Catholic worship of the idols of Mary & Christ are conveniently forgotten in this idol-worship debate), and keep making practioners of the faith feel ashamed of their religion and its dictates—and you set the stage for a Hindu genocide. That was the basis for my analogy. And in saying this, I do not want to forget the genocide of Hindus in Kashmir. Kashmir ws where Hinduism began 6000 years ago—it is like Jerusalem to the Jews & Christians, like Mecca to the Muslims. And yet Hindus have been “ethnically cleansed” from the birth-site of their faith—and how many in the world know this, or care? So genocide of Hindus has already happened in Kashmir, and genocide is what is crude—not my analogy.

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