I can still remember the scene even though I was a little boy. It was Sunday afternoon and a bunch of long haired young people were gathering on the lawn outside of one of the main buildings on our campus. CLC had generously agreed to let these folks play guitar, sing and worship the Lord in their unique style right on our property. Even more interesting one of our team members was helping to co-host these events. As a small child, I couldn’t help wondering who these people were that looked so different than me and my parents and I remember asking my mom who they were. She said, “They are Jesus People and they love the Lord too”. Little did I know that I would come to embrace their music as my own in the years to come.
Every generation needs a revival and for those just a little older than me, the foment of the 1960’s and 1970’s resulted in a major move of God. This “Jesus People” movement was catalytic in the lives of thousands of young people in America and around the world. Hippies were coming to faith in huge numbers and changing the church as they did. Many conservative churches were not so welcoming of these long haired youths with their desire to play loud music and worship in new ways. Despite this, the evangelical church did adapt, and new churches were formed like the Calvary Chapel churches that embraced these new converts. When God moves like this, new methods of doing church are often the result.
For my parents’ generation, the Billy Graham Crusades were at the heart of what God was doing in America. A fresh move of God began in tent meetings in California with this tall southern preacher and began to impact the entire country as hundreds of thousands gathered in stadiums to hear the gospel message. Many older Christians today can point to that pivotal moment when they responded to the call of God and went forward at a crusade. Often these new converts became new members of local churches and these churches began growing in significant numbers. They did not look like the churches of the past any many emphasized a return to preaching the gospel and using robust choruses and hymns to draw people in.
Interesting, Christian literature has always played a crucial part in the revivals. During the Jesus People movement, books like “The Late Great Planet Earth” created an urgency to respond to the gospel message and Francis Schaeffer’s “The God Who is There” provided the intellectual underpinning for many skeptical young people. Carl Henry’s “The Uneasy Conscience of Modern Fundamentalism” was a foundational spark for Billy Graham and his team. Henry even became the first editor of Christianity Today Magazine that Billy Graham founded. God used the powerful words in these books and many others to create an awareness of need and to draw people to himself.
It has been a long time since anything approximating a revival has happened in America. The closest thing might be the Promise Keeper’s movement in the 1990’s that gathered thousands of men together in stadiums across the country. Sadly, that movement faded and nothing on that scale has ever happened again. In the years since, we have seen the rise of the mega church, the multi-site church and the splintering of the evangelical church into many “tribes” and factions. It is almost hard to identify the center of evangelicalism anymore as the writers and editors at Christianity Today can attest.
We desperately need a new move of God. We are a forgetful people and each generation needs their own experience of His power and presence. Most researchers will point out the precursor to revival is almost always prayer and repentance. If ever there was a time that we need to get on our knees again, it is now. I am praying that God will empower a new generation of writers, speakers and influencers to present the good news in a way that is compelling to millennials and those coming after. Only a fresh experience of our awesome God will change the trajectory of this nation and those leaving the church in such large numbers as they become adults. Come Holy Spirit Come!