Updated: Mar 27, 2021
There was a unique season in a time long ago when I was part of a genuine move of God that swept around the world. It was a time of innocence, exhilaration and joy in the Lord. It was called, “The Jesus Movement” and those of us who experienced it were called, “Jesus Freaks”. Yes, those were the days my friend and we thought they would never end. But then there came Churchianity.
For a few brief years, we had nothing and we wanted nothing except Jesus. We were as biblically illiterate and mixed up as they came. We didn’t know the epistles from the apostles but we had a childlike innocence that believed that Jesus was the only answer. We were giddy with joy and like little children who were enthralled by the sheer wonder of what we had found. Simply put, it was a time when Jesus really was our first love. But then there came Churchianity.
t burned with fervent heat in the midst of a counterculture of young people. It was a grassroots revival that sprung up out of nowhere and swept through a wayward generation like a firestorm. With very rare exceptions it spontaneously exploded outside of church walls. It happened on the streets, while hitchhiking, on campuses, in city parks, on beaches, in communal settings, in simple house meetings like the early church. But then, there came Churchianity.
The institutional church had almost nothing to do with this sovereign move of God which ignited beyond the church walls. For all intents and purposes, we had been “written off” by them. In fact, if the truth be known, the established church was appalled by us. We were anti-establishment renegades, reprobates, long-haired freaks drugged out, dropped out and tuned out. To them, we were a hedonistic sub-culture disenfranchise from mainstream America - a lost generation beyond any hope of redemption. But eventually, Churchianity wanted to be a part of the action so they began to absorb us into the church pod like the “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”.
It didn’t take long for us to become spiritually housebroken and church broken (pun intended). We quickly became “churched”. The “new wine” was gradually poured into the old wineskins and slowly drained of the vitality and potency we once experienced. We soon learned to conform and fit into this thing called “church life”. We learned to look like them, talk like them and act like them. We learned the lingo, the spiritual pecking orders, ministerial protocol, church etiquette and the politically correct way of “doing church”. We cut our hair, “cleaned up”, bought fancy leather bibles, three-piece suits & “daytimers”. In short, we became religiously “correct” and spiritually groomed. The wild children had finally learned to behave. We had become Churchianity.
Some were rigorously disciplined on how we should idolize past moves of God which had long ago become “dust in the wind” or new theology that was rotten as day-old manna. Some were manipulated by religious bullies or pressured to perform by legalistic pastors in order to please God and prove our Christian commitment. Some were led on an endless merry-go-round of church hype by spiritual buffoons. Because of unquestioning obedience and the unspoken threat of censorship, we bought into manmade systems and the self-serving agendas which had little to do with God’s will or His original designs for our generation. Sadly, we became institutionalized, fossilized and cloned into a church lifestyle that bore little resemblance to our spiritual roots.
What had once come so naturally and effortlessly in our newfound faith deteriorated into a barren round of church duties, methodologies, spiritual “how to’s” and programed ways of doing what once came naturally. The once “living organism” became just another lifeless organization. Church life became Churchianity. We had become the “establishment” we once despised and rebelled against. Some of us ended up in some pretty weathered wineskins over the years. Many became disillusioned, “burnt out” and discarded. Not a few turned back - mostly because there was Churchianity.
Those days of innocence are gone forever but some of us old-timers have come to understand just how precious those days were when we were simply called the “Jesus Freaks”. It must have been like that too for the early Church before Churchianity came along and brought the great falling away.