I came to Christ in 1970 in a small Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. That’s not unusual. Lots of boys and girls came to Christ in Baptist churches around then. But our church was different. We saw hippies getting saved. We turned an old skating rink into a “One Way Christian Night Club” where young people could come and hear about Jesus. That was not so typical.
Our church was one small example of a lot more happening in that day, for in the late 1960s and early 1970s an awakening among the younger population called the Jesus Movement or the Jesus Revolution touched a generation. It made the cover of Time magazine in 1971, Life in 1972; others also featured the movement.
I wrote my PhD dissertation on the impact of the Jesus Movement on Southern Baptist evangelism. I learned a lot.
But I forgot something.
I forgot most people today do not know about the Jesus Movement. So, I’ve started talking about it more. And I have been amazed. Over the past two months I’ve spoken to leaders in a variety of venues: religious educators in Georgia; pastors and church leaders at an evangelism conference in Arkansas; at a breakout at our Go Conference at SEBTS; and this past Saturday at an associational meeting in South Carolina. In every single case, I’ve had people come to me to tell their personal Jesus Movement story:
In Georgia, a man told me about being a layman in the early 1970s outside Atlanta when two students from Asbury College came to testify about the Asbury College Revival. Their church exploded in revival with over 100 youth coming to Christ in a few weeks. In Arkansas, a man told me he had been saved through the original Calvary Chapel and ministry of Chuck Smith in the early 1970s. Oh, and I bumped into Tom Elliff, who shared a few remarkable stories from his experiences in those days. At the Go Conference a man about 60 who was on fire for God told me about being at Explo 72, the massive gathering of Campus Crusade for Christ where 80,000 students came for a week to learn to share Christ and where 150,000 gathered for a “Christian Woodstock” the Saturday of the event. And this past Saturday, a businessman several years my senior took me to the airport. He told me about coming to Christ in the Jesus Movement, about a prayer meeting he started that has continued for 40 years, and how he too was at Explo 72. He told me something I had never heard, that when they took an offering at Explo, they then turned around and sent the money back around, saying that anyone who needed money to pay their way home or other expenses could take money from the offering!
Four specific events where I mentioned the Jesus Movement, and four eyewitness testimonies. There is one more:
Bill Mackey was evangelism director for South Carolina Baptists when I met him in 1989. He told me of the work of God when he was a pastor in eastern Kentucky in the early 1970s. They had an evangelistic meeting led by Eddie West of the One Way Baptist Church in Augusta, Georgia, that had to move to the high school stadium because so many people responded. Bill later became Executive Director for Kentucky Baptists. He’s retired in Raleigh now, and is still so hungry for God that he audits my evangelism class. I had Bill share with class recently some things he saw God doing in those days.
This week I will speak of the Jesus Movement at the Joseph Willis Symposium at Louisiana College with Sammy Tippit and John Bisagno, two Jesus Movement veterans. My heart is stirring. God is working. What if we had a Jesus Movement in our time?