At the beginning of the 1970s, I was, along with several others including my wife Marti, part of an ad hoc group of Christian leaders and musicians who shook Christianity to its core. We burst on the scene seemingly unknown to each other, yet all with the same message. The message was about Jesus and how His gospel related to the deep, unresolved needs of our generation for love, meaning, community, peace and justice. These “Jesus Freaks” melded the freedom of the ‘60s and the Jesus of the Gospels into a new way of looking at Christianity. We were people with very distinct views of Christianity. We embodied the best of the best of a movement that revitalized the Church and blew fresh air throughout our culture.
Over the years since this movement took place, Marti and I have been forming a list of characteristics that marked those early years as a movement for the purpose of connecting with today’s millennials, because these characteristics remain the issues out of which movements are born. And whether we are on the verge of another one is not for any of us to decide, but it is for us to be obedient to the same stirrings of the heart out of which God, through the Holy Spirit, can create whatever He wants.
That said, in many ways the most important characteristic of the Jesus Movement was the leadership and authority of the Holy Spirit in making the movement happen. There was no central organization in control. Nor was there a geographical center. It began simultaneously all over at least the western world — Europe, Canada, South Africa and all over the United States. We continually ran into people who received the same vision and the same message at the same time. What could that mean except that this was indeed God’s thing and we were simply being obedient to it?
Ray Stedman used to teach that any move of God starts with a man (or woman), then it becomes a movement, then it turns onto a machine, and finally, a monument. The first two stages are where we want to stay. Machines and monuments we’ll leave to someone else. Leaders and movements can be influenced by the Holy Spirit; machines have no room for the Spirit, and monuments … well, at that point, you might as well have an idol. Gives new meaning to Os Guinness’s comment, “It is a travesty when the people of God become the holy oil sprinkled on the status quo.” Great: Holy oil to grease the status quo machinery!
Not that we didn’t make plans. We planned concerts, street theater, baptisms, Bible studies and church services, but we were entirely dependent on the Holy Spirit to show up at all of these events, and if we sensed that the Spirit wasn’t in it, we were quick to let it go no matter what was at stake.
And while, for me, this was all taking place in the context of brand-new rock and folk music with the message of the gospel at the center, for Marti, it was all taking place in the context of her job as a flight attendant. Marti, a brand-new Christian at this point, formed a chapter of Fellowship of Christian Airline Personnel in Los Angeles and started filling hotel banquet rooms with airline people to hear speakers and singers she met on her flights such as Hal Lindsey, Lane Adams, Barry McGuire and Larry Norman, and watching hundreds come to Christ. We didn’t know a lot about what we were doing then, but the Holy Spirit did.
One of the hardest things to do is let go of something that worked well once, but no longer is relevant. Now, with the internet, we have all kinds of room to experiment and try new things. This is a new time for innovation, as long as it is innovation in and around the work of the Holy Spirit. That is the challenge. It’s also the adventure, and it’s truly the adventure we are on.
Last night, on BlogTalkRadio, we interviewed Andrew MacDonald, Associate Director of the Research Institute at the Wheaton College Billy Graham Center in Wheaton, Illinois. Andrew is heading up the Jesus People Oral History Project, a joint venture of the Billy Graham Center and the Center for the Study of the Work and Ministry of the Holy Spirit Today at Biola University in La Mirada, California. Be sure to catch this interview.