The History of Simply Jesus Church | 4 Powerful Lessons We Learned Along the Way

Our first podcast 🎙️ – the birth of Simply Jesus Church!

We tell the story of how God brought an immigrant and his family, picked from a village in India and partnered with an African American man and his family in Yakima Washington to build a multiracial, multinational community of radical believers called SIMPLY JESUS CHURCH.

Journey with Dr. Sunny Bhaskaran and Brian Jones as they discuss the trials, triumphs and the lessons learned.

The Birth of Simply Jesus Church

The founding of Simply Jesus Church feels similar to the biblical account of Mary, who was chosen to fulfill God’s plan of redemption by giving birth to Jesus.

And Mary said, “Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word.” And the angel departed from her.

Luke 1:38 (KJV)

Mary had the greatest privilege of birthing our Redeemer into this world. Similarly, Brian and Dr. Sunny believe that each person has a role to play in birthing God’s purposes. We are all called to birth something from the realm of the spirit into this earthly realm; it’s a crucial task that God uses man for.

The birth of Simply Jesus Church began with a divine calling and a willingness to answer that call. Brian and Dr. Sunny embarked on a journey to birth a ministry that would touch the lives of many in the Yakima Valley.

Men of Action | An Unlikely Friendship

Brian and Dr. Sunny’s paths crossed more than 20 years ago. Brian and a fellow pastor Mark Stevenson started a men’s group called Men of Action. It was here that Dr. Sunny joined in for prayer meetings at Golden Moon on North 1st Street. He had been invited by a mutual friend, Todd Homer.

Initially, Sunny only had an hour for lunch and planned to slip in unnoticed, but it wasn’t long before Brian found him and finally asked, “Who are you?”

From that moment, a spiritual connection was formed. Even though Brian and Dr. Sunny came from two very different cultures – African-American and Indian – the seed of a shared vision began to grow.

International Missions Work

From 2010-2014, Brian and Dr. Sunny travelled the world doing the work of God in other nations. They travelled to:

  • India (3 times)
  • Africa (2 times)
  • Malaysia
  • Sri Lanka
  • Singapore

God gave them a concentrated time period together. They had time to meditate on the Lord, to strive together in the Word, and to talk about what they were seeing God do in their daily lives.

Both pastors felt a deep love for the valley and its people, believing that God had a purpose for them in this community. They recognized the importance of staying focused on God and not getting ahead of His plan.

A Divine Starbucks Meeting

Brian vividly recalls a day in 2008 when Dr. Sunny reached out saying, “Brother, we need to meet.”

They sat outside a Starbucks on 40th Avenue, right next to Fred Meyer. As they sipped some coffee, Dr. Sunny shared a vision that God had placed in his heart: to fill Yakima with the Word of God. Initially, none of their vision was about starting a church; it was about saturating the airwaves, speaking and preaching the message through public access television and radio.

At the time, Brian didn’t realize Dr. Sunny was inviting him into this vision; he didn’t see himself in that kind of role. But Brian had also been praying for a fellow believer that he could strive with in the Spirit. He remembers feeling the presence of God engulf him and say:

Are you in, or are you out? The way you answer this question right now is going to transform the rest of your life. There is a commitment to be made. I’m calling you to expand the ministry I’ve placed inside you. Are you ready to go where I’m taking you?

By the grace of God, Brian said yes.

That memory is also remains etched in Dr. Sunny’s mind. He had been thinking of returning back home to India. As an immigrant, he questioned who would want to work with him; he didn’t feel like he belonged in Yakima. But Dr. Sunny mustered up the courage to ask Brian. He rationalized that if Brian was too busy or said no, God would bring in someone else for Yakima.

Neither man knew that God was uniting them and taking them to a whole new level of ministry, but by simply saying “YES” and surrendering themselves to the process, God moved.

Naming Simply Jesus Church

Brian and Dr. Sunny found themselves discussing and praying for a name for their new ministry. They knew God was leading them to start something, but they wanted a name that could clearly convey His purpose. It was on a trip to Louisville, Kentucky where they had been invited to speak at a friend’s church that God gave them one.

On the last day of the trip, Brian vividly recalls that God woke him up a little after 4 a.m. All he could hear was “Simply Jesus.” He shared the name with Dr. Sunny over breakfast, and they both knew instantly that it was perfect.

It was the simplicity and clarity of the name that resonated with them, and they were filled with anticipation for what God had in store for Simply Jesus Church.

4 Simply Powerful Lessons We Learned Along the Way

The journey to founding Simply Jesus Church wasn’t without its challenges and lessons learned. The process of birthing a vision from the Lord into the world takes time and reliance on God. Here are some of the powerful, yet simple lessons Brian and Dr. Sunny learned along the way.

1. Recalibrate to Christ When You’re Navigating Hard Times

Throughout their journey, Brian and Dr. Sunny encountered many challenges, but they believe that recalibrating their focus back to Christ got them through every obstacle. There were several things they learned to do while navigating hard times:

  • Trust and remember God’s faithfulness in every situation.
  • Don’t rely on feelings or emotions, but stand on God’s Word.
  • Remember God’s promises and hold onto the vision He has instilled in you.
  • Like Mary, submit yourself to God’s plan and trust His process.

Brian and Dr. Sunny’s relationship was not a result of chance but of God-ordained connection. They came from two very different cultural backgrounds, and yet they submitted themselves to God’s will and recognized that He was working through their relationship despite the obstacles.

2. Don’t Get Ahead of God

Trusting in God and not getting ahead of Him is another key lesson Brian and Dr. Sunny learned. Sometimes God can’t reveal the full vision to us if He doesn’t trust us; we may chase after the vision and leave Him behind.

Brian and Dr. Sunny describe this as “Dot-to-Dot Christianity.” Our relationship with God is like a coloring book where each dot represents a step of faith. By obediently moving from one dot to the next, and waiting for God’s timing, a beautiful picture will begin to emerge.

It’s like Joshua’s experience crossing the Jordan with Ark of the Covenant. Israel was instructed to stay behind the Ark of the Covenant. This guidance was to keep Joshua and Israel from leaving God behind.

“When you see the ark of the covenant of the Lord your God, and the Levitical priests carrying it, you are to move out from your positions and follow it. Then you will know which way to go, since you have never been this way before. But keep a distance of about two thousand cubits between you and the ark; do not go near it.”

Joshua 3:3-4 (NIV)

It’s important that we trust God and not get ahead of Him. We must remain focused on Him throughout the journey. God’s timing and preparation is essential in fulfilling His purposes for our lives.

3. Focus on Cultivating Hearts, Not Numbers

This is a lesson Brian and Dr. Sunny both feel young ministers rising up really need to know. Simply Jesus Church started as a small home church; Brian and Dr. Sunny weren’t even looking to plant a church in the beginning. They were just happy to do what God was doing, and they only had 20-30 people.

It doesn’t matter if you have 30 members, or 3,000. The church is not your platform, it’s God’s.

Brian and Dr. Sunny recalled that they’ve had worship leaders like Moses & Erica Lugemye come to Simply Jesus Church, worship with the congregation for 3-4 hours, and say that they’re refreshed. It’s only by God’s power that so much work could be so easy and refreshing.

Don’t worry about what you’re going to be doing 5 years from now. You’re still going to be following God. Just be faithful. If the congregation learns to reverence God’s presence, He will show up in signs, wonders, and miracles. Just focus on creating an atmosphere for Holy Spirit to reside. Cultivate the hearts of those longing for the presence of God.

4. Don’t Ignore the Call That is On You!

Brian and Dr. Sunny believe that most people have a call of God on their life, but there’s a common problem. Because people want to know what God’s whole plan looks like, they can become paralyzed with fear or disobedience.

You can always ask, “Lord, where are you taking me?”

But it’s far more important that you say, “Lord, I’m willing.”

Surrender to God’s calling on your life; don’t expect someone else to fulfill it.

What Can I Expect When I Attend Simply Jesus Church?

You can invite anybody to Simply Jesus Church. When you attend with us, there are a few important things you can expect:

You Will Encounter the Presence of Jesus

When you step through our doors, our primary focus is having you encounter the presence of Jesus Christ. Brian and Dr. Sunny have both made a promise to God to not waste people’s time. If someone comes in solely see them showcasing their own talents or skills, that’s a waste of time.

At Simply Jesus Church, it’s not about a performance. We are committed to experiencing the transformative power of our Savior. It’s our hope that every individual meets Jesus during their time at our church.

We Are Lead by the Holy Spirit

We believe in being sensitive to the leading of the Holy Spirit, whether it’s moments of quiet reflection or shouts of victory. Our focus is on encountering God and allowing His Spirit to lead us. We might have moments of extended worship, where songs are repeated multiple times or even sung for an hour.

For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God. 

Romans 8:14 (NKJV)

No matter what, we allow the Holy Spirit to guide us.

We Authentically Connect & Minister to People

Our atmosphere may be different from traditional churches, with some elements you might consider messy. We might deal with demons, because we don’t believe it’s right for people who are bound up by the demonic to come to a church and leave without deliverance.

Simply Jesus Church may not always look like a traditional church, and you have to be prepared to ask yourself, “Am I willing to be a part of something a little less traditional?” But we believe that if you come with a willing heart, you will meet the Savior, not just Brian Jones or Dr. Sunny Bhaskaran. You’re going to meet Jesus Christ.

We desire to be a place where the fire of God’s presence burns bright and draws others into His transformative light.

Closing Prayers & Thoughts

The story of Simply Jesus Church is a testament to the power of divine calling, obedience, and reliance on God. Brian and Dr. Sunny have been constantly reminded that with God, nothing is impossible, and His plans will never fail.

Today, Simply Jesus Church continues to impact lives and bring the love of Jesus to the people of Yakima Valley.

Father, I thank you for this amazing relationship. God, it’s not just me and Brian, but there are so many more people that You have added into this mission. Lord, help us value each other so that Your purpose will be birthed in the Yakima Valley.

Dr. Sunny Bhaskaran

Thank you for joining us!

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