The Jesus Army is launching new cutting edge evangelism teams. Team leader Nathan White tells us more.
IT ALL started in the summer of 2011, when the riots in London were kicking off. I remember feeling that we needed to be there – to respond to the need. There was obvious social breakdown and, as a church that identifies strongly with the poor, we should be representing Jesus in the midst of the chaos. Unfortunately we couldn’t organise anything quick enough. We did get down to Tottenham within the month, and did some outreach there, which culminated in three young guys finding Jesus.
We adapted to the specific needs of the situation by using artwork on the pavement as a means of interaction. We also used smoothies to engage with young people. It was brilliant, but we all felt we could have done more. It made me think we need to resource ourselves much more effectively, to be ready for situations that could evolve, like these riots.
After that, I came up with the idea of kitting out a vehicle that would be specifically a ‘fast-response’ vehicle, something eye-catching, to engage with young people particularly. We wanted to rebrand our image, in a more striking, youthful manner. So the idea grew: a mobile base, an identity, and finally we needed to assemble a team. The plan was to identify people who were particularly gifted in outreach, who were ready to respond at a moment’s notice and go on a mission! This became ‘Jesus Army Action’ or ‘JAA’.
Since starting ‘Jesus Army Action’ this summer, we’ve found that a team of about eight is the best number (any more than that is a bit unwieldy). Something else we realised early on was that a crucial part of success in outreach depends on the team’s unity. The ability to gel well together, have fun and be a little crazy – that’s what made it attractive to people. It’s not just a ‘dream team’. We’re including one or two people who are trainees, or are quite new to faith, but show signs of having an evangelistic gifting. No-one’s perfect: we’re all still training each other as we go along. We’re breaking out of the mould of what we’ve always defined as evangelism, into something that’s a lot more spontaneous. Making the most out of opportunities as they arise. A bit like Jesus in the New Testament – that’s our aim anyway.
We’re breaking out of the mould of what we’ve always defined as evangelism, into something that’s a lot more spontaneous.
A group of us stayed in Belfast a week before a main Jesus Army event there at the weekend. We were based in a hostel and so we had the opportunity to display Jesus by being generous and expressive with our spirituality, chilling out together, playing music together and praying into people’s situations. That was very magnetic and drew a lot of people to us. We made quite a few friends at that hostel.
We had a great time in Sheffield, a month later. There were some young people we got to know, who are now part of a regular cell group. Our team breaks the ice with people, then introduces them to friends in the local area, so that the evangelism is followed through.
For God to really work in someone’s life, there has to be a moment of power or revelation
Facebook has been great for keeping in touch with people. I believe there’s massive scope to train people in the use of social media for mission.
John Wimber’s book about power evangelism has inspired us all a lot. It serves to confirm what we’ve already sensed, that in order for evangelism to be effective, there has to be a power encounter at the start. Friendship evangelism alone isn’t enough. Friendship with people in itself doesn’t build the church – in fact it can drain the church if there’s nothing more. For God to really work in someone’s life, there has to be a moment of power or revelation. So the team has been learning how to use spirituality in a
courageous and relevant way; we’ve been praying for people, praying for healing, speaking directly into people’s lives.
We haven’t made any firm plans for this year, in terms of which cities to go to, although there’s the possibility of getting into certain festivals. There’s already been interest from similar minded people who do outreach, who want to work with us. We want the effectiveness of the gospel to be seen and heard as a positive force for change in UK society.
Our team wants to be ready for whatever comes up in 2013 and beyond. The preparations we’ve made and the initial ventures we’ve undertaken by no means define JAA. It really is going to be dependent on young men and women stretching their wings and moving under God’s anointing. We will raise the bar in this generation.