Introduction to “What Happened to Jesus’ Grassroots Movement?”

This small book is foundational to the other books I have written. It came about, as God would have it, through an invitation. I was asked to give a message during the 2021 Advent season about the Christmas story as seen through the Gospel of Luke. A couple years earlier, I had been touched by Faith Hill’s beautiful song “A Baby Changes Everything”1 and thought I would make this the focus of my message—how the birth of Jesus changed the trajectory of Mary and Joseph’s lives.

As I began reading through Luke and studying, the Lord slowly changed the focus of my message. Insights began to leap off the pages, and my eyes were opened to some things in the Gospel of Luke that I had not seen before. The Holy Spirit began to communicate to me the significance of Jesus being referred to as “the Son of Man” and His mission—thus the title for that sermon “Luke Reveals the Son of Man and His Mission,” which can be found on YouTube by clicking here.2 Apart from revealing God’s kingdom in the here and now, Jesus – behind the scenes – was establishing His kingdom work on the earth through his disciples, work that would change the trajectory of people’s lives around the world for centuries to come. This was His grassroots movement.

A grassroots movement is self-organized and purposeful, usually mobilized for social or political change. Here, it refers specifically to sweeping, powerful spiritual upswell that begins in the hearts of ordinary people, not clergy or academics or thought leaders, and harnesses Christ’s power, person, and message of love to inspire others and grow His Kingdom exponentially.

This is the movement Jesus launched with His disciples more than two thousand years ago. He worked outside of the religious institution of His day and invested His life in people, who for the most part were viewed as outcasts by those who were a part of the religious elite. After all, most of His disciples were from Nazareth and Galilee and were not at all respected by the noble-religious class in Jerusalem. His movement wasn’t flashy, but it found its way into every community in the known world and every social class…even in Caesar’s household. The Lord’s Church grew exponentially. For the first three hundred years nothing could stop it. Persecution only enhanced its influence. Our archenemy recognized this and had another plan that would be more effectual to impede the expansion of God’s kingdom in the world. It has had a long-lasting effect that has carried on to this day, particularly in the West.

We might be surprised to find what the enemy used to steer the Church away from Jesus’ original plan and to restrain the Church’s advance throughout the world. He chose to work inside the Church to replace the kingdom values that Jesus had set in place with the those of the world. Humble-servant leadership gave way to hierarchal leadership. Before long, leaders in the Church looked and acted like the political elite, very much like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day who continually stood in opposition to the advance of His kingdom. This was a slow process starting with the early church fathers, but the Church eventually became a full-fledged institution under the powerful hand of Constantine. The Church meeting intimately in homes was usurped by large gatherings in grand cathedrals. This and so much more killed any semblance of what Jesus set forth with his disciples.

How did this impact the Lord’s Church and prevent it from fulfilling its original purpose? I invite you to join me in a closer look at how Luke’s Gospel presents the birth of Jesus (an event of singular importance), the simplicity and intimacy of His community-centered vision, the impact that Emperor Constantine had on the Church and the precise ways we can once again participate in and enliven the movement Jesus set in motion – a grassroots movement that would change the whole world.

<To be Continued>

Listen to Bruce Zachary's experience with Neighborhood Initiative.

Listen to Dallas Willard's word to pastors and leaders about Neighborhood Initiative.

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