Dream Bigger with the Next Generation feat. ‘Chief Dreamer’ Bonny Andrews
Wondering how you can get an awesome job title like ‘Chief Dreamer’? Start by listening to this episode with the one and only Chief Dreamer of LiveJam, Bonny Andrews to see if you can start dreaming like him about what God can do in your city! Bonny began his dream of LiveJam in 2005. Based in New Delhi, India, they are spreading the gospel to youth across the globe and have impacted 1.4 million youth with the gospel.
In this episode, you’ll be set on fire to dream bigger with what God wants to do with the next generation, your ministry and prayer life! Listen or read the show notes below.
Who is Bonny Andrews? share your story with us!
I am from a small town, in India. I grew up in a business home, but my dad was an alcoholic, which was very hard. When I was 12, my mother was sick with cancer, but God healed her when she was prayed over, and she began following Jesus. One day, I went with my dad to pick up my mom from a prayer meeting and you know these revival prayer meetings never begin on time. When we got there, they were just getting started, my dad says to me, “Why don’t you close your eyes?” I close my eyes and you wouldn’t believe it, there was an electric power going through my body and a bright light shining. I had an encounter with the Lord. He put me on fire, until today man, I feel every day, the fire is burning brighter, and the passion is just rising!
This started my journey, God saved me, and the Holy Spirit fell upon my life. My dad said, “My wife could be faking it, but my son cannot be faking this.” He saw my life changed and gave his life to the Lord. Then my brother gave his life to the Lord, some of my friends did as we brought them to church, and it rippled off a movement in my hometown.
In 2005, I had the privilege of being a part of Youth with a Mission (YWAM) and I studied in New Zealand because I wanted to be exposed to a global vision. While I was there, the Lord spoke to me and said, “Go back home and start a movement that will work with the Church.” I came back to India and the Lord put the words, “Live Jam” on my heart. I asked him, “What do you want me to do?” He said to me, “You’ve got a story to tell, a song to sing.”
I am a singer-songwriter, so we started with that and began in my hometown. We name the ministry LiveJam, which stands for Jesus and Me. I learned later why God gave us this cool brand name because it is opening doors to amazing mainstream places. We have multi million-dollar corporations sponsoring the large events that we do. The name doesn’t sound Christian, but young people come to listen, and come to know Jesus. We were opening the events where young people could experience Christ in a non-threatening way and they could bring their friends! When we started, hundreds of kids were getting saved!
Where do you meet youth to share the gospel with them?
We want young people in churches to partner with us to bring their non-Christian friends to our events. India is primarily Hindu, so they believe in some kind of god, which gives us a great opportunity. We create an environment where they can be entertained and hear the gospel. However, our ministry was not always this way.
At one point, we realized that 75% of those coming to our event were already Christian. I felt the Lord asking me to go around the country and pray. Prayer is such an active and large part of our ministry. If America was going to war with another nation, the first thing they would do is send air strikes and foot soldiers. Ephesians 6:12 states, “For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.”
I see many of the churches and mission organizations most of the time, forget to do the air strikes of praying before they send the troops in. Then you see a lack of fruit happening on the ground, but when you go and pray, things happen. We gathered a bunch of people and for 30 days we prayed across the nation in 7 different cities. At the end of the prayer time, the Lord spoke to us and said, “If you want to reach this generation, you have got to go to where they are.”
The Lord says, “Where your foot treads, I will give you those places” (Joshua 1:3). In the 7 cities that we were praying in, they welcomed us. Churches and ministries were partnering and walking with us. The high schools were even opening to us. We were going into the high schools and using music that young people love from different bands and artists. Kids got excited because when was the last time a band came into their school and they got to get out of class?
We share stories with them because stories are something that will stick. We use social media for campaigns to move these conversations from offline to online. We do all this through partnering with the local church. We believe the local church is the hero. We believe we are called to encourage and equip the local church to reach out to Millennials and Generation Z kids. In the last 14 years, we have touched 1.4 million young people, right in front of us. We have had many kids have conversations with us on social media platforms and some of these kids come and volunteer with us or work for the ministry! 80% of our staff are kids who we have ministered to.
Our vision at LiveJam is to commission 10,000 youth leaders every year all over India in every sphere of influence. We do that through creative ways like media, music, stories, and social media. We even do this around the nations as God has expanded our ministry.
Bonny, you have always had a passion for cities and nations, where did that paradigm come from?
I live in a city and our ministry focus is really to reach influencers. It is much easier if you focus on the influencers because it trickles down quicker. A kid in New Delhi is probably gaming with a kid in Portland. Their fathers are watching the same movies, their mothers are both watching Master Chef. It’s the global population that we are reaching. I understand the power of cities, the power of influence, and touching big cities, it multiplies.
We started in a small town, but when we moved to New Delhi, the ministry went up 50 times what it was. There is data that says by 2050, 70% of the world is going to move into cities. I am a fan of cities and I believe things move faster in cities. When you read the Bible, you read how Paul picked some very influential cities to preach the gospel and we want to model that as well.
I saw a statistic that said by 2030, India will have the most youth globally.
Yes, that is right, we will have 600 million people under the age of 25 and we will be the youngest country in the world. We have a huge responsibility in our hands, even more so to an American context. We are the largest touring body in the world, we have a 5% success rate on visas. Every 100 kids who apply for a visa in America, 5 get it. Just to give you a paradigm, I was in Austin, TX recently and there are 50,000 students at UT, out of that chunk, majority of the international body is coming from India! I am very excited about it.
What role do you think youth have in cities?
People say that youth are the future, but I believe they are the hope for today and for tomorrow. They are climbing up ladders quicker than before so there is such a need for us to reach youth. The church needs to engage with these leaders. I heard some shocking statistics from America, it said 1 million youth are going to be leading churches for the next 35 years. I would say it is the same thing in India. Leaders are getting older and young people will be in the forefront of things. In India right now, we have so many young leaders in the forefront of elections because the nation is young, and they are starting to look to the young people to make a change.
When you think about India, people often think of rural populations. I understand that there is a huge amount of people that are living in rural areas, in poverty and in need, but seldom we forget the majority of young people living in big cities. They have the power to change things quicker than ever before. That is why there is a huge burden in my heart to reach people in big cities.
Bonny, you are traveling all over the place. Can you help us understand what are some global trends that you are noticing about the Church as you travel?
I hear from pastors from all over more and more, that they do not know how to engage the kids in church. Since I am on the cutting edge of youth ministry, most of my conversations are about how we can engage the youth in our churches and cities. A massive wake up call that the church is having is the need to reach Millennials and Generation Z because a church without a youth ministry is a dead church.
I have seen it several times where churches cave in and go after where the tithes and offerings are coming from because youth ministry is a lot of work. I shut down my youth ministry two times in my church, so I know, but I was always encouraged by others to keep going.
Nobody knew God would use me to touch over a million people, so I am trying to wake up the church all the time. The youth are the future and they must reach them. I am helping to equip them to engage with youth all the time because these churches understand that if they don’t engage them the Church is going down.
When someone is sitting across from you and sharing that they are struggling to engage youth in their city or church, what are some of those best pieces of advice that you pass onto these leaders?
Number 1 thing is you must take risks with these kids and trust them. I know you don’t want your church to go down, but I remember my pastor back in the day took several risks to invest into us and that is exactly why I am here right now.
Give youth responsibility and maybe they fail or maybe they do it much better than you thought. Either way you must ask yourself, “What are you going to let them own?” Most of the time pastors are just telling kids what to do, but when kids create their own event or initiative, they seem to be running with it far greater than something that has been passed on from generations. You will see fruit happening like crazy when we give them this opportunity and responsibility.
Let’s expand this conversation to not just youth, but all people because you are for the gospel. What are you seeing in trends of evangelism and sharing the gospel? Are you seeing people as open or not open towards the gospel?
Newer churches are on fire, they want to grow. Tim Keller has said that churches peak after 10 years, so when I see younger churches, they are passionate, full of zeal, they want to grow their church, but this staggers as the numbers grow.
Evangelism is becoming like a long-lost tribe. One of my statements is, “I want to make evangelism fashionable again.” Church planting seems to be the flavor of the month like global campaigns can be and it’s great. However, when you start planting a church, pastors are called to be fathers of their flock, in the course of looking after their flock though they start to only look inward. My challenge to all the pastors that I meet is to live outwardly too.
I was on an Uber drive the other day in New York City and I asked the guy straight forward, “Do you know Jesus?” In the whole process he said he wanted the follow Jesus right now. He repeated the sinner’s prayer as he was driving and accepted Jesus.
Another time I was on a plane to New York from Dallas and there was a guy sitting on my left and a girl on my right and although it was an early flight, and everyone wanted to sleep we became the loudest group on that flight. I shared Christ with them, I prayed with them, held hands with them before we got off the plane. Next thing I know is it’s three weeks later, both are from Dallas, and they are now dating and, on their way, to getting engaged. The gospel is not only touching people it’s bringing people together like this couple.
The message is still touching people, so we got to preach and do everything in our capacity to get the word out. You will see your churches and organizations turn for the good.
Make sure you pray within your organization and church. I’ve seen it, when you come and pray, you will see those principles of prayer operate from the scriptures and it will be an acceleration not a deceleration of your ministry.
Bonny, since you were young you surrounded yourself with people who think big. Leaders in gospel movements think big too and believe that the united Church can have an impact on their city. Can you walk us through why it’s important to surround yourself with people who think big and tell us the story of someone specific who impacted your life who was a big thinker or dreamer?
You are the sum of the five people you hang out with. You must be careful whom you choose to hang out with. A favorite quote of mine is from Socrates, he says, “Strong minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, weak minds discuss people.”
If you are with people who are talking about other people, you are in bad company. You are not going to grow. When you hang out with people who talk vision, who lead the conversation on steroids, you dream bigger and learn with them. Hang out with people of high caliber any way you can, just ask them to get coffee and learn!
You are responsible for your own growth. If you want to grow and think big you must hang out with the right people. When I was growing up, the Lord knew that all these things were going to happen, so he led me to good company. We sat with people on our porch and would rant about filling stadiums around the world. 20 years later we filled some of the biggest stadiums in the country. We talked bigger things back in the day with those big idea people because whatever you speak will happen. We have a voice activated faith and life is in the power of the tongue. When you are in company of people who talk big things and dream big things, man, you feel like your life is being taken to the next level.
The stories I get stimulated by are from listening to leaders’ stories. Listen to the story Luis Palau, he came from a small town in his South American country with a big dream and took it worldwide.
In Dubai, I met with A.R. Bernard, and listened to his ideas. I was able to go to minster to his church of 40,000! I would say push yourself to get good company and believe in the power of association. Seriously, go on YouTube and look at the things that are out there that can stimulate you and push yourself to the next level.
Sometimes I wonder if I ask too quick to be in their company, but when you’re in proximity to these people you’re just drawn to them. Coaching and mentoring are about appreciating where someone is at and wanting them to speak into your life so they can take you with you. I am even quick to ask them when’s the next time I can come, even if it is getting on a non-stop flight to New York City. I will do that anytime because I understand the power of association and it is about the relationships.
Bonny, you mentioned the importance of prayer and I know it’s a passion and conviction of yours. What would you say to the big dreamers who think about strategy and impact, but also want to live a consistent steady life of prayer?
The first part is, we just have to pray. Without prayer we are nothing. Prayer is talking to God. I am constantly reminded that if the vision is not from God it’s going to be like towers of Babel and the Lord would look out to the sky and it would be detestable in his sight. I don’t want to be building up towers of Babel, I want to be dreaming with him. I feel like every time I’m praying, I’m praying in the spirit, and I know that I’m connecting with God and through God. If you want to see that dream come true you’ve got to pray.
The second is we have to listen. We often forget when we’re praying that God already knows what you’re going to pray, but in the whole process God seems to be whispering certain things to you. Are you paying attention to that? That’s been the game changer for me every time I pray, I ask, “What is God trying to speak to me?”
The third part is that prayer is a spiritual weapon. When the Bible says in Ephesians 6 that we don’t fight against flesh and blood, but we fight against principalities, we have to understand there are forces that want our cities and if you want to seek a breakthrough you have to pray. I don’t care if it’s about strategy, if it’s not from the Holy Spirit it’s not going to happen. You and I can sit together and create strategy after strategy but it’s not going to take off. It must be from the presence of God.
When I came into my city, people told me this is a dry city. This is one of the most unreached cities in the world with 20 million people living in it. When I went to the city, I came in prayer, I came exercising spiritual warfare doing prayer walks and drives. Our ministry has grown 50 times larger after coming to the city where people said your ministry won’t grow.
I’ve seen it grow after I came to the city because we were tapped into the fullness of prayer and it allowed us to tap into the fullness of the city. Let prayer be part of your lifestyle. I had a friend say that when we were traveling by train I was sleeping, and he heard me still praying! Whatever works for you, just pray. Don’t get me wrong, we make mistakes, but I’m just throwing you the key things that have worked for our ministry and me.
Bonny, can you share your vision for LiVeJAM? give us a peek as to what is on the horizon for your ministry.
I believe in big cities and being in the right place at the right time. The other day God spoke to me that we have to move from houses to tents. That was a big revelation for me. We tend to buy a house and pitch a tent. Last year the Lord woke me up in the middle of the night and asked me to take my family to America and my wife thought I was mad. She thinks I’m a madman, but she loves this madman. For those of you who are married, remember that your life partner is going to double up everything that you are doing. One person will chase 10,000, but two will chase 20,000 (Deuteronomy 32:30). My friend, everything will explode.
A couple of days later I find termites in the house and we have to leave. God didn’t intend for me to buy a house but pitch a tent. In less than 24 hours we are on a plane to Lancaster, Pennsylvania. The third week there I am asking God, “Why did you bring me here?” The Lord brings me this word, “Zip code number one.”
Zip code number one makes a lot of sense because we’ve been praying for years where we have a ministry in India in zip code number one. It’s the most influential zip code in India, it’s where the Parliament is, the Supreme Court and Capitol Hill. We wanted our office to be in Capitol Hill so we could speak and pray into the system and we have a great space right now there.
God gave me this word, “Zip code number one in building number one,” but I heard the Lord say, “It is not zip code number one India it is zip code number one America.”
My goodness it’s a big shock. I Google it and find out 10001 is Midtown New York City. The Lord said, “I’m calling you to Midtown New York City.” This was a big wake-up call, I mean you can imagine I thought India is where I was going to live and die. I could travel around the world, but India is home.
It’s a lot of changes and I’m telling my wife and she’s not able to process all of it. I have a friend of mine come over and he walks into the house and tells me the same thing I’ve been praying for. He says, “I see the Lord saying your call to be in the same spot.”
My family and I drove down to New York City on the weekend and we attended Hillsong church. Brian Houston was speaking, and he talks about risks. About halfway through the message he stops and says, “If God is calling you here to Manhattan, I know it’s the most expensive city, but listen to what God is speaking and make the move.”
Before the service we were talking about schools and all the stuff that is connected to moving to New York City. Then, the next thing Brian says is, “You’re worried about your kids and future, but for the sake of the kids, make them move.” I look at my wife and she’s just like, “Woah.”
Then, I spoke to another friend of mine and he says, “Within 24 hours we feel it is mandated to get you here.” We start processing our Visas and by the end of the day I have a house given to me to stay for free in Brooklyn and I have money coming in for support. It’s been a supernatural experience and what I really feel is going to happen with our movement in New York City is that New York is the Rome of the world. I believe it’s going to be like a Jerusalem to Rome and we felt that hate.
The gospel has been coming to us from the West and we feel like we are going to be part of the generation that’s going to take the gospel from our part of the world to the whole world and what better city than New York City? There are 800 languages being spoken and it’s probably the most influential city of the world. There are so many people from different nations there, so we are excited about this Global explosion. The Lord spoke to us that the year 2019 is going to be the year of explosion, so it’s coming together and coming really quick.
In the next three months were going to be in New York City and it’s going to be exciting to dream bigger dreams and our ministry is going to be launching out of New York City hopefully to 500 cities around the world. I would ask and encourage all of you to pray for us and this and you can check out more details about this on our website, transform.org and that’s going to have all the information with the new move that is coming up.
Stay in touch with Bonny through his website.