Do it again!
A few weeks ago I had a surprise phone call from someone in Adelaide who knew me 40 odd years ago at the charismatic youth-oriented Jesus Centre. A few days later at a church fete they were playing, “If You’re Going to San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)”, a melody about the hippies and hopes of a counterculture generation that grew up in the 60’s. After not being able to get this familiar psychedelic pop tune out of my head we were at dinner with friends discussing past moves of God. One was inspired by the revival that visited Perth in the 30’s associated with J. Edwin Orr and that it is 40 years since the Jesus Movement came to Perth. The Spirit seems to be saying that as he released his power on successive past generation he is intending to do so once again. But what would a revival move look like today? I believe some reflections from my memories will help.
War and Peace
The old joke, “If you remember the 60’s you weren’t there!” speaks clearly enough of a time when marijuana and LSD were in vogue, but lots of other things were creating a cultural atmosphere which God used to provoke a mass turning of young people to Jesus. The Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament with its upside down broken cross symbol was stirring up a generation that realised that there could be no tomorrow. We all realised the protest song “We’re On The Eve of Destruction” was actually true and were in the midst of an ongoing global emergency. This song was banned by some radio stations in the US and by Radio Scotland for giving encouragement to the communists fighting us in Vietnam. I had many friends who participated in the huge anti Vietnam War marches in Adelaide, and who were roughed up as “long hairs” by the police. Some of my Marxism friends were involved in taking over the admin centre at our uni campus by force.
On the streets the Children of God cult would accost you on the streets with “Jesus loves you”, the Hare Krishna’s burst on the scene with their shaven heads and noisy street marches; TM had been blessed by the Beatles and so on. When a Christian group sung in the Flinders Uni plaza the leftists set our literature on fire and broke into the chant, “Crucify him! Crucify him!” I remember going forth at an evangelistic rally in a town hall, young men were weeping aloud over their sins and demons were manifesting around me and in me. Conservative Christians were casting “demons of tongues” out of charismatic believers. In those days we were “Jesus freaks” wearing our Jesus badges daily to campus, with our Jesus rallies, Jesus Houses and Jesus 1-Way sign. Mockery was an honour. The nation was in a spiritual ferment. Where do we see such energy today?
The time of the Jesus Movement was a time boundary breaking. Rebellion was “normal”. The pill meant ages old sexual boundaries were collapsing, politically young people were swinging to the far left way, and communes were modelling new forms of family. New wineskins in church and spirituality were highly compatible with the edginess of broader culture. The times they were a changing!
Yet in hindsight the greatest boundary of all was rarely crossed. Jesus was central and the work of the Spirit was loved but who was leading us to the Father? One of the greatest hindrances to my spiritual life was that no older person attempted to intentionally mentor me. This was pretty standard, a reflection of the so-called generation-gap and a foundational reason why the Jesus Movement never matured.
A favourite revival verse says; “God, I’ve heard what our ancestors say about you, and I’m stopped in my tracks, down on my knees. Do among us what you did among them. Work among us as you worked among them. And as you bring judgment, as you surely must,
remember mercy.” (Hab 3:1-2). The cry “Lord do it again! Do it again!”can only arise if we have had some taste of the “it” of revival. The carefulness of the churches has largely deprived our young people of the riskiness of revival experiences. Where is the Lord saying in all of this?
As I was praying in my car about a new boundary breaking generation I stopped in banked traffic at red lights. Loud sirens rang out and an ambulance with flashing lights pulled around 2 lanes of cars, crossed over a traffic island and went through the red light on the wrong side of the road. In a genuine emergency you need to break every natural precaution for the sake of others. The state of lost humanity in our nation heading down the road to hell is just such an emergency; but who is listening to the siren sounds of the Spirit, who will risk all for Christ. For all their youthful enthusiasm the baby-boomers, and every generation since, has become ensnared to a materialism which kills the risky way of life to which Jesus calls us (Matt 16:24-26). As emergency personnel risk their very lives to save others so must we.
Dig Your Own Well
One way to talk about restoring the Church’s memory of God’s sovereign past actions is “re-digging the wells”. I am all for revisiting God’s great acts (Acts 2:11) to stir us up in prayer for another outpouring of the Spirit. Such remembrance must however be stripped of all nostalgia and sentimentality. The biblical basis for “re-digging” is Isaac’s unblocking the wells his father Abraham had built that had been filled in by the quarrelsome Philistines (Gen 26). Whenever he re-digs his dad’s wells and gives them the name his father had once gave them his efforts are met by failure and frustration. Only when he digs his own well and names it does material-spiritual blessing flow. By all means learn about wells from another generation, but dig and name your own spiritual wells with the authority God gives your age group. Australia desperately needs a cohort of younger leaders that can hear God for themselves and break through the boundaries that have long held our Church in spiritually captive.
The first Christians believed they were living on borrowed time and in an absolute emergency situation, “the appointed time has grown very short…the present form of this world is passing away” (1 Cor 7:26, 31). Marriage, money, work were all made absolutely secondary to Christ’s cause by the expectation of the impending End. It was this apocalyptic anticipation that united all ages “sons” “daughters” “young” “old” in the original and greatest revival (Acts 2:14-21). I have zero idea of what conditions might grasp the imagination of our young people today, but I have a feeling that if we ask God for it he will “Do it again!”