The John 17 Movement began with an experience that I had early one morning in 2013 in New York City. I was awakened around 3:00 AM with a strong impression to pray for the newly elected Pope Francis. Not being a Roman Catholic, I was further surprised by a deep sense that I was going to personally meet the Pope. As I prayed, I was taken back to my memory to the years when I was a young campus minister at a university. There, I saw a number of Christian organizations and denominations displaying their ministries on separate tables. At that moment, I felt the Holy Spirit speak to my heart: "Don't set up another table; I have one church; one bride. Speak that word to all of them."
When my wife, Mary, awakened several hours later, she asked what had happened to me. I shared with her what had taken place that night and told her, "I believe we need to serve out our days working for Christian unity."
Three significant things happened following that morning.
First, I discovered that my dear friend, Giovanni Traettino, a Protestant minister from Caserta, Italy, had become a close friend of Pope Francis when he was the Cardinal (Jorge Bergoglio) of Argentina.
Secondly, I asked Pastor Gary Kinnaman of Mesa, Arizona, to allow my wife and me to attend a dinner hosted by his friend, Wayne Rich. Wayne, a Catholic, had invited his bishop, Eduardo Nevares, to be their guest. At that dinner, we felt that the Holy Spirit was impressing upon us to pray together for unity in the body of Christ.
Thirdly, I felt we should invite the Protestant pastors and Catholic bishops, Tom Olmstead and Eduardo Nevares, and priests to join together for two nights of meetings of worship, prayer, and fellowship in the Phoenix area. I asked Giovanni if he could get a letter from Pope Francis sharing his feelings about unity among Christians. The Pope agreed, and Giovanni came from Italy and personally read the Pope's greetings and prayer.
What began as a prayer in the night, at a table of friendship, and as an initial gathering of believers has evolved into a growing community of leaders from various and diverse Christian denominations. The John 17 Movement believes that the mission to evangelize is best served by a witness of Christian unity among those who have personally experienced the fruit of relational reconciliation. It is our conviction that the table is our starting point where listening, praying, and loving each other the way Jesus commanded us can begin. (John 13:34-35)
This century, we are sensing that God is sovereignly visiting His people with a fresh optimism and desire for unity in the church. This is a unity not based on uniformity of doctrine and practice, but rather a reconciliation of relationships calling us back to Jesus' prayer in the 17th chapter of John's Gospel—that His followers would be one. That prayer, we believe, expresses the clear purpose of salvation. Sin's goal is division, ending with each of us being alone, separated from our Creator and each other. Salvation's goal is to bring us individually and collectively back into harmony with our Creator and each other. Displaying that harmony is a major part of the church's call. It is our sense that awareness is already and will continue to take center stage during this century. The Holy Spirit is stirring at this moment, causing faith to rise in the Lord's people throughout the world, reminding us of Jesus' words to His first disciples, "You know the saying, it's four months between planting and harvest, but I tell you, wake up, the harvest is now." (John 4:35)
Founder, John 17 Movement