Monday Is for Movements: A Jesus Movement for Today

March 2, 2015 Category :Blog| Missional| Movements| Revival and Awakening 0

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.

1971 TIME magazine cover on the Jesus Movement

1971 TIME magazine cover on the Jesus 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!

A documentary film on the Jesus Revolution will be made in 2016.

A documentary film on the Jesus Revolution will be made in 2016.

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?

Friday Is for Fire: College Revival Movements (and Resources)

February 27, 2015 Category :Blog| Movements| Revival and Awakening 0

NOTE: On Fridays this year I plan to give specific focus at the blog on the subject of revival/spiritual awakening. Today I look at college revivals.

Yesterday, February 26, 2015, believers from all over observed the national collegiate day of prayer (you can read about it here).  If you missed it, don’t worry, you can still pray for college students today!

College ministry is arguably the most overlooked group in the local church today. There are lots of reasons for this, mostly bad; I don’t plan to cover those here. I would rather focus on how God has used college students in His work, in particular in revival movements and missionary movements.

Picture form the 1970 Asbury College Revival

Picture form the 1970 Asbury College Revival

In 1992, I moved my family to Houston, Texas, where I taught at Houston Baptist University. One of the first things I did after arriving was to speak at the weekly college worship service called Quest on a Thursday night. Because I had spent a lot of time in my PhD studies looking at historical revival movements, and in particular the Jesus Movement of the 1960s and 1970s (which included the Asbury College Revival of 1970), I wanted the collegians at HBU to know about how God had used students just like them. So, I spoke on “The Zeal of Youth: The Role of College Students in Revival.”

I did something else; I put together a simple, photocopied booklet with the same title that simply recounted examples of college revivals. This actually became the first chapter in the first book I ever wrote a couple of years later. What surprised me that night was the response of the students. They had never heard of any of these stories. They had no idea that God used college students in His larger plan. I spoke of the Haystack movement at Williams College in 1806; of the revival at Hampden-Sydney in the late 19th century, and of the Yale College revival about the same time led by president Timothy Dwight, the grandson of Jonathan Edwards. I told them about the Student Volunteer Movement, how God used a ministry student named Evan Roberts in the Welsh Revival, and of Asbury.

I did not know that only three years later a few of those same students would see God move in similar ways in their own lives as God stirred campuses in the spring of 1995. Starting at the Coggin Avenue Baptist Church in Brownwood, Texas, this movement began with a college student reading from Joel 2 in a service there. It spread to nearby Howard Payne University, and from there to Wheaton College and–according to the late Bill Bright–at least 100 more campuses.

I came to SEBTS fall 1995 with the wind of revival blowing in my soul. I met a new student in my evangelism class who told me of a Bible study he led at his alma mater an hour from the seminary. He asked me to go there to tell these stories to those students. I did, and the service lasted into the night. He and I left around 1 AM, but students continued to confess their sins and get right with God much later. I met a college senior that night who also demonstrated a great passion for God and a hunger to see Him work.

The student who invited me to speak to his group was named J.D. Greear, lead pastor of the Summit Church. The senior on fire for God I met that night is Bruce Ashford, now SEBTS Provost.

Revival on a college campus raises up leaders for a generation.

Here is my challenge to you:

1 Find some college students. Love them, minister to them, and challenge them to build their lives on the gospel.

2. Tell them the stories of how God has used them in revival. Here are some books:

REVIVAL REVIVED  This book just released by John Avant and me tells the stories of the 1995 movement and adds some insight on features of revival. Several chapters are eye witness testimony accounts of college students.

ACCOUNTS OF A CAMPUS REVIVAL This book recounts the Wheaton College Revival of 1995 and tells of earlier accounts.

ONE DIVINE MOMENT This book edited by Robert Coleman tells the story of the Asbury Revival of 1970.

CAMPUS AFLAME This book by the late J.Edwin Orr offers the best history of college revivals.

JOIN THE MOVEMENT I wrote this little book to help college students and older high school students see how God has used young people in spiritual movements.

3. Bring before your students people who can tell the stories of these movements, but who can also help them know how to so live that God may use them in similar movements. Don’t just deal with the latest issues on campus, dating, etc. Those are not unimportant. But if God touches your students with revival, those things become far less important.

4. Pray with your students. Pray for revival. Pray for God to wreck them for His glory.

This generation of collegians want more than a church building and a class. They want to know God, to see Him move, and to be used by Him for His glory and their good. Helping them to se how God has moved can encourage them to be useful today.

Transitioning a Conversation to the Gospel

February 26, 2015 Category :Blog| Missional 0

I’ve spent a lot of time in seminary classes and in local churches helping people learn to share their faith. Last Sunday night at Richland Creek Community Church where I serve as Pastor to Young Professionals I taught a class on dealing with fears we have in witnessing. Interestingly, at the Q and A following, the main question asked had little to do directly with fear; instead, participants raised the singular most asked question by people who love Jesus and want to be effective in their personal witness:

How do I transition a conversation to talk about the gospel? I.e., how do I move from talking about sports, the weather, or current events to talk about matters of eternity?

conversation-people-bigst-1

I call this the Approach: the initial contact with an unbeliever, through words and actions, which establishes enough relationship to allow a witness for Christ.

It’s the initial contact when talking with someone we don’t know well. In the case of someone we already know, it’s the ongoing attempt to move a conversation from the mundane to the Master. And, it’s actually much simpler than we think.

Remember these principles when seeking to move a conversation toward Christ:

1. Approach People With A Heart Of Love—If we really do love Jesus and people, we will want to introduce those we love to our Savior. If we don’t, no technique or people skills can mask that. There are 3 things people can tell about us in a 15-minute conversation:

-If we care about them. People really do not care how much you know about God unless they can tell you also care about them!

-If we believe what we are talking about. By the way, if we never talk to people about Jesus we have told them by our silence that He is not a big deal.

-If we have the hand of God on our lives.

2. Approach In A Spirit of Prayer—This is spiritual work.

3. Approach With An Attitude Of Expectancy—Believe God will use someone just like you for His glory.

4. Be Sensitive To The Spirit—So much of Christianity today is predictable, perfunctory, and pretty boring. Sharing Christ regularly causes us to depend on the Spirit, because you never really know how the conversation may go!

5. Be Confident in the Gospel–Our confidence is in the gospel, not our people skills.

With these principles in mind, transitioning to the gospel can be as simple as asking a few questions with which you are comfortable.

Conversation

I have a student named Joshua who recently told me how he transitions the gospel based on some simple questions from my evangelism class. Here is part of an email he sent me:

My name is Joshua and I took your evangelism class over a year ago. During the class I read your Evangelism Handbook and three questions from the book have helped me immensely in sharing the good news of Jesus Christ. Those questions are:
 
What is your faith background?
When you attend church, where do you go?
In your opinion, what is a real Christian?
 
I have approached people who were strangers and those who I have worked with for years and just asked, “Can I ask you something?” and proceeded to ask those questions. Every time I have used these questions it has opened up dialogue to share Christ. In fact, these questions have helped in a alleviating a struggle I have always found with sharing Christ, which is having a way to bridge to the gospel.
 
I want to share with you two recent encounters. One happened while working in a factory lifting heavy boxes with a co-worker named Antwan. I simply asked him while we were picking boxes if I could ask him a question and he said “yes.” So, i went through the three questions I just mentioned. To the question, “What is a real Christian,” he said, “You know Josh, I really don’t know.” So I asked him, “Can I tell you from God’s Word what a real Christian is?” Antwan said, “yes.” I proceededto tell Antwan the overarching story of the Bible using the Story material.  When Igot to the point of telling Him why Jesus had to suffer and die and what the future holds for followers of Christ and how real change never comes from resting in all the things we must do for God, but resting in what God had already done for us is when he looked at me and said, “I have never heard the things you are saying about Jesus.” I called him to respond to the Gospel by turning from sin and turningto Christ and committing to follow, love and obey Christ for the rest of his life and Antwan just said, “this makes complete sense to me, I have never thought of it this way before, it changes everything.”
 
The next week Antwan told me, “The things you told me has changed me. I went home that day you told me about Christ and spoke to my wife and children about why Jesusis the only one who could rescue us.” I almost wept when this new believer was telling me, without him knowing, how he was becoming a disciple-maker.
 
Another story is about a 22-year old named Anthony I met in a Barnes & Noble. He told me he did not really know what his faith background is and that he would occasionally attend a Lutheran church with his girlfriend. Anthony thought a real Christian was someone who just sent forth positive vibes in the name of Jesus. After having awhere I explained to him about Christ he said, “I want that, I need that.” We prayed together right there in Barnes & Noble and he trusted Christ as Lord and Savior.

There are other questions you can ask. If I sense someone has a background in church, I may ask, “Would you say you know Jesus in a personal relationship or are you still in the process?” Invariably the response is, “I guess I am in the process.” I then tell them how they can know Jesus.

Or, you can ask them about their life, basic information, and then share your story briefly, centering it on Jesus changing your life. You can follow that with, “Has anything like that ever happened to you?”

Most of us quite honestly overthink things. Try this: talk to people you know or people you meet. Ask them some of the questions mentioned above, and then try NOT to share Christ. Okay, kidding about that. I think you will find transitioning to the gospel can be as simple as asking the right questions and depending on the Spirit.

NOTE: The information was adapted from Alvin L. Reid, Evangelism Handbook: Biblical, Spiritual, Intentional, Missional (B&H, 2009).

Businessmen talking

Keep Those Cards and Tweets Coming for GET OUT

February 24, 2015 Category :Blog 0

Josh and I have been so blessed by the response already to our book Get Out: Student Ministry in the Real World by Rainer Publishing. Here are some recent tweets from student pastors and leaders. Get your copy HERE.

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