I just started to read a book I came across this week. It's written by Ed Underwood, someone from my era, the Jesus Generation. When I finish it, I'll do a book review.
This book hooked me in a couple ways. First of all, I relate to it experientially. I was part of the Jesus Generation on the west coast. It was also known as the Jesus People Movement. Whatever you call it, it had a great impact on the late 1960's and early 1970's, something I've posted about before, and also written about.
Secondly, it addresses the question I spoke of in last week's post.
We returned to the US after fifteen years in the Philippines, and I sensed something was missing in the church in America. I wondered what happened, but after a while realized it was more about what didn't happen.
In the early days of the Jesus People Movement, young people were disenchanted with the status quo and shallow life of middle class America. Social unrest, fueled by issues that ranged from civil rights to anti-war protests, helped accent an emptiness that cried out to be filled.
Great interest in eastern philosophies and religions, coupled with a surge of psychedelic drugs and "love-ins," intensified this emptiness. The political scene and economy also contributed to it.
God's Spirit began to flow into a broken and lost generation, to fill up this emptiness.
A generation found and filled
No specific leader started the Jesus People Movement or headed up the Jesus Generation. It was a sovereign move of God's Holy Spirit.
Some people did have influence in this move of God, but because of God's favor, not their expertise at leading. Young people began to gather in public and private places, as well as in many churches. They were hungry and sought to be filled with the truth of God and God's power.
A generational revival began to grow across the nation, which led to the raising up of evangelists and disciple-makers. They had no special training and needed no prompting to spread the gospel. This was not the product of a well designed program.
Simple, but mighty
Simple Bible study, often led by non-seminary-trained teachers, was a core element of the movement. Pastors and teachers who did have training were also swept up in the movement. My first pastor, Chuck Smith, was one of those teachers, but he was one among many solid teachers of God's Word.
The gospel was preached and the Bible was taught in a simple way. Theology was simple in the early days, mostly born out of an organic biblical framework. Praise and worship was typically a blend of folk and rock music led by young people with long hair and buckskin. It was simple and genuine, and seemed innocently spiritual.
Even prayer had a simple power to it. People were set free from their brokenness and bondage.
Communal life and mindset
In much the same way as the early church, communities began to spring up where everything was shared. Communal life seemed to thrive off the flow of people being set free. Houses, ranches, and even apartment buildings became homes to people who had fulfilled lives with broken pasts.
These communities were inclusive, non-discriminatory, and often had strong leaders. It was a shared life with shared resources. My wife and I lived a few blocks from one in our first year of marriage. It was called Mansion Messiah located in Costa Mesa, CA.
They became models of biblical discipleship. Because Bible study was a core value, it spawned young people who were grounded in the truth of God's Word, filled with God's power, and released to share their faith with others.
At first, it seemed there was a constant flow of new young people equipped and prepared to disciple others. It did last for quite a while, but then it seemed to fade.
As happened with the radical activists of the 60's, the Jesus Generation became more and more mainstream. Where once they were anti-establishment, they became the establishment. Once shunned by society, and many churches, the blended with the culture of the times.
When Christian believers don't seem very different from the culture around them, something is lost. But what was lost?
There are several books and blogs that speak of the so-called demise of the Jesus Generation, and lots of factors are involved.
But I see one thing in particular at the core of that movement, which is not as strong as it was then.
The missing part
In a word discipleship—intentional, relational, organic discipleship led by the Holy Spirit. In the past several years, even the last decade, discipleship has once again become popular. But I wonder if it's just the next thing to catch people's attention. I hope I'm wrong about that.
The difficulty with intentional, relational, and Spirit-led organic discipleship is that it's hard to package. So, it is by nature hard to control. It also takes considerable time to do well, and requires genuine commitment. Commitment not to the task, but to the person discipled. Commitment is also needed on the part of the one being discipled.
Do you see the dilemma? Genuine commitment isn't very popular nowadays, not in this distracted ADHD-culture of ours.
We can't go back
It's easy to long for the good old days, but that genders useless nostalgia. We need to look forward, not backwards.
About fifteen to twenty years ago while on a furlough, I spoke at one of our supporting churches. A young man came up to me and said, "I miss the days when we learned about the Holy Spirit." He was telling me that the moving of God's Spirit and teaching about Him wasn't as common as before.
God hasn't stopped being God. He's supernatural and sovereign. He alone is the one who stirs up a revival that produces something like the Jesus Generation. But believers do have a part in what God does upon the earth. He's chosen us for such things (Eph 2:4-10).
What can we do?
So, what can we do if we long for revival like the Jesus People Movement of the 60's and 70's?
- We can start with prayer and follow after the Lord with a radical commitment. A commitment as simple as, "If anyone wants to follow me [Jesus], he must say no to himself. He must pick up his cross and follow me." (Matt 16:24 NIRV)
- Daily Bible reading is important. Yes, I said daily. And while we're at it, reading through the whole Bible would be real valuable.
- Church fellowship, or at least a home group, is important for building relationships that can grow into a shared community.
- Then we can began to share our faith with others. When we find someone who is hungry for spiritual life, we can begin to disciple them with what we've learned ourselves, and share how God changed and fulfilled our own life.
Sound too simple? It's not. It's the way it was with the first church, and during the Jesus Generation. It's our choice to make this commitment to God.
Let me know your thoughts on all this, I'd love to hear them!