The Church, Past, Present, and Future #7

The Church Today – Part Three

In the 20th Century, in North America, there were a number of different moves of God. The best known one is the Azusa Street Revival from 1906 to 1909. The Pentecostal Moment came out of this revival.

Then in 1948 (to 1952) we saw the Latter Rains Revival in North Battleford, Saskatchewan, Canada. In those years, God brought a revival that stunned the nations and the Church. It occurred in the traditional church. People who were part of traditional church structures were experiencing and touching authentic body life. But, for the most part, these experiences were taking place outside of regular church services. We also saw the reintroduction of the ministry of the apostle in this move of God.

There was, at the same time, in the wider church what became known as the Post-War Revival. This spread across denominational lines. But it eventually died out, however, because leadership sought to control it. Nevertheless, it produced a number of gifted servants of God who would go on to have world-wide ministries. Dr. Billy Graham was one of them. It also brought many of the new and budding para-church organizations into being and some prominence.

The next move of God occurred from 1968 to 1972. We know it as The Jesus Movement. It began and continued to thrive outside the traditional church. House churches, Simple churches, and Christian communities sprung up wherever this new move the Spirit was embraced. Numerous young people came to the Lord. Some say that you could simply say the same “Jesus” and people would get saved.

This movement thrived among the youth in the counterculture. They were turning from the free-sex-and-drugs culture to Jesus Christ. They were also experiencing the body of Christ and body life in close-knit communities. The major impact of this move of God ended in 1972. However, people were still being impacted by the communities and churches that formed as late as 1979.

What happened? The men who were in the 20s during the 1948 to 1952 moves of God were in their 40’s during the Jesus Movement. These men stepped into leadership roles and began to take over – and control – the new move of God.

The problem is that none of the men who took the leadership in the Jesus Movement had any experience outside the traditional church. None of them had grown up in Christian community -experiencing body life. None of them were “brothers among brothers” in a church life situation outside the religious system. Instead, they were pastors, teachers, and organizational clergy in a religious system one day and overnight became leaders of these fresh and budding organic expressions of the church. 

The main issue was: Leaders who had no experience outside of traditional church could not effectively lead a church that was functioning outside of the traditional structure. In the organic church, the Christian communities that were forming, there was a lot of testing, sifting, mutual iron-sharpening, and breaking that went on (as in all organic church life) and the leadership coming out of a traditional expression of the church simply did not know how to lead the new expression that was rising up. The leaders were not able to give anything of life, reality, and especially freedom to young believers who were experiencing the Lord outside of the known, traditional structure. 

The leaders ended up loading the Jesus Movement with the same baggage that had divided Christians for centuries before. The result was division. The Movement began fracturing over peripheral doctrines like speaking in tongues, what is going to happen in the Millennium, when is Jesus coming back, can a person lose their salvation, what does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit, how long will the tribulation be and who will participate in it, and a million other points of theological contention. 

Sadly, the Jesus Movement splintered into many groups. And, a form of authoritarian control began to spring up which eventually snuffed out the life, freedom, and joy of the Movement. Discipleship in its truest form was lost, and many spiritual lives were wrecked. Today, you would be hard-pressed to find one church that’s still online that was spawned during the Jesus Movement. All have disappeared. The only churches born in that Movement that still exist today are Calvary Chapels and Jesus People USA, The Vineyard was forged Ibn 1977 during the afterglow of the Movement.

That leads us to the rumblings of another move of the Spirit that we are now sensing. Not a revival. But a serious resurrection that will lead to a revolution (see yesterday’s blog). And, the men and women who have experienced body life during the Jesus Movement and the churches and communities that sprung up now need to step forward to help direct – not control – the new and emerging move of the Spirit. These non-leaders in the previous move have been broken and tested, know the Lord deeply, and are non-sectarian, non-elitist, and as openly inclusive as Jesus Himself. These men and women must be seen as a powerful resource within the new move. Hopefully, those who will help to lead this resurrection – revolution will avail themselves of the help of such people.