Since my previous blog posts on this topic, I’ve had some interesting discussions, online and in real life, with people whose experiences during that time were far more positive than mine. Putting that together with discussions that I’ve had over the years with pastors and leaders about how to be better prepared for the “next Jesus Movement”, here are some things I’ve been mulling over, in no particular order of importance:
People are far more important than things.
Chuck Smith was willing, if necessary, to sacrifice the church carpet in order that hippies would feel welcome. What are we willing to sacrifice? What if it was our church’s elaborate sound systems, multi-media, and smoke machines? What if it was wasn’t so much things but our church programs? What if, for example, in order to reach a certain subculture, we needed to welcome large families with children of all ages into our church services, instead of practicing age segregation?
Before and during the Jesus Movement, it seems like we spent a lot more time at church.
On Sundays, we went to Sunday School, and then the morning service. Later, we went to the evening service, followed by youth group or an “afterglow service”. The evening service was more informal, and “testimonies” were an exciting part of it. When my father was pastoring in Big Bear, he formed what he called a “combo” (a sort of precursor to worship bands) that practiced Sunday afternoons and then led the singing during the evening service, which was soon filled with young people.
But church and related Christian activities didn’t just fill our Sundays. There was Tuesday night prayer meeting and Wednesday night Bible study. In Big Bear, a young couple from our church held a youth Bible Study (I was too young to attend) that literally overflowed their home one night a week. Once we moved, many of our Friday nights were youth nights at church. The Bible Rap met on a different night. Spending five or more hours at church on Sundays, and three evenings a week at church or related activities was not at all unusual.
Would we be willing to prioritize our time like that today? Which of our current activities would we be willing to sacrifice? How important do we believe it is to assemble together as the Body of Christ? Are we gathering now to pray for the next Jesus Movement?
The “Jesus People” were enthusiastic about personal evangelism.
That enthusiasm was so catching that weird, shy, social misfit me handed out tracts and “Jesus Papers” at school, took part in a door-to-door witnessing campaign, and tagged along with other people sharing their faith. I knew kids who “went out witnessing” at least once a week.
What are we doing? What are we willing to do?
Testimonies are powerful.
The reason many of the Jesus People so eagerly talked about Jesus is because He was active in their lives. We may not all have dramatic initial conversion stories but our lives should be stories of ongoing conversion as we follow Jesus and allow Him to change us.
I have a lot of theories as to why so many of the kids that I knew “fell away”, and there might be almost as many reasons as there are kids, but I think a lot of it has to do with relationship — not just relationship with God but with His people.
During the roughest parts of my life, including the times in which my relationship with God was truly faltering, there were people who stood in the gap for me — people who prayed for me and loved me even when I was not the nicest person.
New converts need discipling and mentoring. Jesus gave us the example — the crowds that gathered about Him came and went, but He continually taught and equipped the twelve disciples. Eleven of them went out and changed the world.
Who are we pouring our lives into?
It’s usually not a good idea to give new converts a platform or leadership role.
In fact, the Bible warns against this. Common sense tells us that a teacher should be catechized, instructed, and taught how to teach, and a leader should likewise be taught and mentored. Jesus’ disciples didn’t just “go to school” for three years; they lived and ate and ministered with the perfect Rabbi — God incarnate — for three years.
Christianity is extremely “incarnational”.
God became flesh and dwelt among us. Jesus resurrected bodily, and still exists in bodily form. We believe in our own bodily resurrection, and thus we should believe that our bodies, and what we do with them, truly matter.
When I was an evangelical, I gradually became both puzzled and amused at how disembodied our worship was. We would sing “let incense arise” without incense. We would sing “Come let us worship and bow down” without bowing, and “let us kneel before the Lord our God” without kneeling. Somehow we thought we were doing these things without actually doing them, and supposedly what our bodies actually were doing wasn’t so important. People got annoyed at me if I brought up this disconnect.
As human beings, we are not spirits inhabiting bodies, but both body and spirit. As those whom Christ has bought with a price, we are one with Him and one with His Body. It is a mystery to be sure. But our faith, our worship, our obedience, everything we do — it needs to involve all of us. We aren’t disembodied spirits worshipping God merely in some spiritual sense. We are living sacrifices, and our bodies belong to the One who saved us. Holiness involves our entire being.
That’s how we need to live.