Advancing the Conversation of Jesus
GOT A MINUTE?
Early in my travels to Africa, I became aware of how, for the most part, the continent had been heavily Christianized. When I first realized this, I was initially impressed with the deep penetration of Christianity and its doctrines. Then, as I came closer to those who were the practicing Christians, I found an intertwining of ancient African gods and practices, along with the things they had been taught. Some of this was coming from rural pastors and teachers. All of this gave me pause and wonder what kind of reception we’d have, lifting up Jesus without religious baggage. I wondered if the theme of our work, “Jesus plus nothing” would be accepted.
Much to our surprise, the simplicity and freshness of the experience of Jesus was a sound that resonated with the many audiences we encountered. At the last minute a few years ago, we printed up a little stapled book, entitled, JUST JESUS! We couldn’t keep them in stock and realized soon that we hadn’t printed enough!
It was after the university students, business men and women, ministers, and just the ordinary folks we met in nearly 20 nations heard the message of “Just Jesus” that the sweetest sound came to be! It always went something like this: “After growing up in a Christian home or Church, I met Jesus in a fresh or new way.” I can’t get enough of that kind of confession of Jesus!
It reminds me of my favorite story in Acts 9, when Paul had been struck down by some amazing power, while on his way to Damascus. Paul was a fanatic follower of the Messiah. I like to call him the first Christian, follower of the Christ. He was on his way to go after those who were following the Messiah in the wrong way. At least, that was Paul’s opinion. Now, look at what happened: As he was traveling, it happened that he was approaching Damascus, and suddenly a light from heaven flashed around him; and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus ….”
NOTE Jesus didn’t say I am the Christ or I am the Lord Jesus Christ, but I AM JESUS! Setting Jesus apart from all his titles, his name is enough! Here is Paul, a follower of the Messiah, maybe the first Christian, but was missing something. He had never been introduced to the person of Jesus.
To me, this is the sweetest sound ever…I am Jesus! Or, in the words of thousands of Africans we’ve met, “I met Jesus!”