The quote below is from Gavriel Gefen’s “Jesus Movements,” in Mission Frontiers, May-June 2011 (p. 7). I found it over at NextReformation. What I find particularly interesting here is the notion of following Jesus — and not following him lightly — without feeling a need to convert to Christianity. Such a notion flies in the face of much of my own education and formation, where belief in Jesus and being part of “Christianity” (and, by default, a church) was a no-brainer.
I have, over the years grown in my understanding of what it looks like to be a Christian and not be part of a church. I’m pretty comfortable with that at this point. However, I’m not sure I’ve ever thought that one could be a follower of Jesus and actually not consider themselves to be part of Christianity.
“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?”