Friday, January 10, 2014

Book Review: What Jesus Started: Joining the Movement, Changing the World

In What Jesus Started: Joining the Movement, Changing the World, Steve Addison starts off with a brief introduction on Jesus where he points to the reality that without Jesus there would be no Christian movement, communities of believers, or Bible. Christianity at its very essence is about Jesus Christ, as he is the founder of the religion that bears his name. The idea of a Christian or missionary movement was unheard of at that time in history, but Addison shows that Jesus first recorded public act in three of the four Gospel accounts was the calling of mobile missionaries. The task that Jesus left all followers of himself with is also the task of being missionaries based on the Great Commission. Addison says, “The purpose of a missionary movement is that people accept the message, begin to follow Jesus, share him with others, and form new communities of faith that become partners in the spread of the gospel.”
To give a frame of reference for the entirety of the book, Addison proposes six elements of the movement that Jesus started: see the end, connect with people, share the gospel, train disciples, gather communities, and multiply workers. Addison contends that there is a job for all followers of Jesus to do and the book is written for those that want to have Jesus train them in his movement. In order to do that, the book is broken down into two main sections. First, he takes a look at what Jesus began in his mission, and at how he called his followers to continue his mission. Then within these two main sections there are four parts that helps break down the ideas and concepts.
In section one, Addison points to Jesus coming to earth to seek and save what was lost. Initially he focused on the people of Israel, as they were the ones chosen by God to be the witnesses to the world. Jesus started with the twelve and gave them a vision for a worldwide mission once he departed from the earth. In other words, Jesus will build his church, but he has given all believers a task in seeing that accomplished through obedience to the Great Commission.
Addison helps one see that in Jesus ministry he did not wait for people to come to him, but that he actively went to them. The ones that Jesus went looking for were the ones that knew they needed him, and in turn the gospel message spread through these people. Addison shows the key to the movement Jesus started was that he allowed it to spread beyond his direct control or influence and everything about it was reproducible and sustainable.
Jesus came in and not only taught about the Kingdom of God, but made it happen and in doing so he radically redefined what it culturally meant to be “right” with God. Addison shows that Jesus focused in on two main audiences, his disciples and the large crowds. Typically he spent a little bit of his time with the large crowds, but the majority of his time with the close followers who would carry on the movement he was starting.
Everywhere Jesus went he gathered people, not only to save them, but also to build his church and turn her into a missionary movement. Addison contends that Jesus always intended for his followers to continue on with the movement, as he knew his time on earth was temporary. Once Jesus departed and the Holy Spirit came, there is one main theme woven throughout the book of Acts, the missionary expansion of the movement Jesus founded.
A key difference with modern missions and the movement Jesus started as pointed out by Addison is that there was no central organization, but only Jesus and his teaching. In Jesus teaching he made sure that his followers were clear on the message and he showed how ordinary people were key players in the movement, not professionals as is common today.
Once Jesus departed the earth he had fully equipped a group of faithful followers to carry on the movement he started in his absence. The disciples were expected to carry on this movement faithfully and most did so even when it meant their own death. Once the Apostle Paul comes along, the mission that he was on is just an extension of the mission of Jesus.
Addison shows that the movement spread the quickest through the cities. For this reason it is commonly observed that the message went first to the big culture making cities as the church spread through them to all places. The key way that the movement continued was through the training and multiplication of workers into the harvest. Addison shows that Jesus intentionally picked twelve to invest in as the faithful ones to continue the mission.
In the last section of the book, Addison wraps it up with what Jesus is doing today. The basis for this is by seeing the end vision, spreading the gospel, making disciples, gathering them into communities, and continuing the process in all places. The mission and the movement are not finished yet, but the end vision is in sight. Addison invites people to join the movement that Jesus started in order that the word will be changed and even has a helpful guide on showing how that can happen.

Addison has written a book on how one can join the movement that Jesus started that is packed full of Jesus. Everything in and about the book in someway points back to Jesus and his method. Addison rightfully points to Jesus as the basis for everything that those in Christ propose to do and shows that it was Jesus himself who gave us our marching orders.
The way in which the book is written is helpful because it is twenty-five chapters that are broken down into four parts. Part one gives the basis for Jesus and the movement that he started. Part two shows how Jesus equipped the twelve and the early church to continue on with the mission even after he departed. Part three shows how Jesus continued to work through the Apostle Paul and his team. Part four shows what Jesus is currently doing and how each of us can be involved in the movement. By breaking the book down into four parts, it allows for there to be a clearer understanding of how we got to where we are today based on what started from Jesus. It helps one see that the mission Jesus gave us was meant to be a movement, not a stagnant idea with a bunch of pews filled with people one time in the week.
More than once it is pointed out that Jesus actively went to the people instead of waiting for them to come to him. It seems simple, but often in the church today we do the opposite and wait for the people to come to us. I am all in favor of inviting people to church, but we should be more concerned with actively going to the people and sharing the gospel with them. Jesus modeled this simple concept and if we would only implement it then I think we would be surprised at the results.
Addison also presents the book in a way that shows that although Jesus started this movement, he allowed it to get beyond his direct control or influence and kept is completely reproducible and sustainable. This again, is something that we do not often do well in the Western context. Typically leaders want to keep everything within arms reach and the model that most churches are using is neither reproducible nor sustainable, but only designed for the professionally trained clergy. Addison rightfully helps one see that the movement Jesus started assumed that all Christians would play a role in the process.
Overall I enjoyed reading this book and agree with how it is presented, primarily because Addison is really just showing what Jesus did and how he left it. Another reason that I am in favor of the book is because it is very similar to the current practice that I am implementing in my own life and ministry in India. What Addison presents is the same process that my team uses and he even cites a couple of examples from people that I personally know that have experienced success in joining the movement Jesus started in the way in which Jesus himself did it.
Many times a book will tell you about something, but not give you any practical steps in implementing that idea. Addison does both in his book and actually includes a forty-eight-page implementation guide after the last chapter. For that reason alone this book is worth the cost, as I firmly believe in the implementation of Jesus movement in all places.

In concluding, this book is one of the most concise in recent years to come out that helps the current day church learn how to be part of the movement that Jesus started. It would be a good idea for every pastor in the American church to read this book and evaluate their own ministry to see how they could line it up more with Jesus’ movement.

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