Updated: Aug 5, 2021
Once upon a time, before many of you were born, a motley group of hippies, street-people, college kids and nomadic youth were caught up in a sovereign move of God which has been called, “The “Jesus Movement”. A lot of laps around the church block have happened since I surrendered my life to Him in, 1969 and became a ”Jesus Freak”. I’m an old Jesus Freak now but I still remember.
Back then we had nothing and we wanted nothing except Jesus. We weren't looking for prosperity, self-empowerment or the next mind-blowing experience becuase we had already had our fill. We’d done it all drugs, sex, rock & roll, anti-war protests, mysticism, the occult, astrology, TM, eastern religions, communal lifestyles, back to nature and even health foods but nothing had filled the emptiness in our souls until we met 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 which 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.
It burned with a fervent heat in the midst of a counterculture of young people. In reality, the established church had almost nothing to do with this sovereign move of God that ignited beyond the established 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 antiestablishment renegades, reprobates, long-haired freaks who were drugged out, dropped out and tuned out. We were a hedonistic sub-culture disenfranchise from mainstream America - a lost generation beyond any hope of redemption.
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 hitch hiking, on campuses, in city parks, on beaches, in communal settings, in simple house meetings like the early church. But like the “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” we were quickly absorbed into the church pod when churchanity decided to get in on the action.
It didn’t take long for us to became spiritually housebroken and church broken (pun intended). We quickly became “churched”. The “new wine” was gradually poured into the old wine skins 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 & “day timers”. In short, we became religiously “correct” and spiritual groomed. The wild children had finally learned to behave. We had become “them.”
Some were rigorously disciplined on how we should idolize past moves of God which had long ago become “dust in the wind.” 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 man made systems and the self-serving agendas of ambitious men which had little to do with God’s will or His original designs for our generation. Sadly, we became legalized, systematized 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 churchanity. 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.
But the children are grown now and a remnant of us are no longer clueless and naïve. We’ve come full circle. We’ve been to the wilderness and learned and learned what “churchanity” is and what it most certainly isn’t. “Losing our religion” was part of the process. We’ve discarded the old wine skins that never fit well in the first place. We learned to smell a rat and know spiritual B.S. when we see it. Yes, the grown children are returning to the first love they once knew. We’re returning to our simplicity in Christ and we’ve come to understand how precious those days were when we were simply called the “Jesus Freaks”.
Though this was another time and another day for most but maybe some of it will resonate with you in your own journey?