“Jesus Freak” is a label that suits me well. I was part of the Jesus Movement in the 1970s. Our Baptist church’s youth group conducted a weekly prayer meeting that attracted many lost kids and youth groups from several other churches.
Keep in mind the setting: small town, rampant drugs and alcohol, over half of the freshman classes never graduated high school, unchurched families moved in with a new manufacturing plant, stagnant churches, perfunctory Bible teaching, and few if any teens ever attended church functions.
It wasn’t until attending the OneCry National Symposium for Revival and Spiritual Awakening in October 2014 that I met men who studied revivals. Bob Bakke provided eight elements that I had to agree that God used to foster a churchwide heartfelt revival that saw a community impacted by the Gospel.
1. An authoritative voice: Asbury College’s chapel service in 1970 sparked a prayer movement. Asbury had credibility and their students cared deeply about the Lord and the counter-culture it presented to the “establishment.” In my community, the Methodist church had Asbury connections. This gave credibility to leaders in our Baptist church. One of the assistant football coaches, for instance, was one of the Methodists’ youth ministers.
2. Common points to agree upon: The movement was not about theological specifics, but praying for the needs. We sometimes discussed doctrine in our Sharing Group, but we never let differences interfere with the focus on prayer. We sought God’s forgiveness and devotion to Jesus. We also prayed against ills wreaking havoc in our community and boldness to be proactive with our faith.
3. Histories to point to: Our youth group was very aware of the Jesus Movement. We sang choruses, put on Christian musicals geared for our group (Celebrate Life), and ministries like bus ministry and children’s church that we could lead.
4. Training: In each church in our town, pastors knew that teens were inviting their lost friends to church. Their messages included gospel invitations. Our discipleship teachers prayed for us and planned trips – mission trips and to places like Ridgecrest. We had overnight youth retreats that had great speakers and Bible studies. We learned how to share our faith and the adults (well, at least my parents) expected us to do it, too.
5. Friends: I wasn’t alone. We weren’t alone. We prayed constantly for each other, too. The networking of resources and results was a great encouragement. Bob Bakke said, “Revivals happen among friends.”
6. Concerts of prayer: It all started when two of our church’s teenagers were invited to weekly Methodist youth prayer meetings. These older girls asked our church’s youth group leaders to start a prayer meeting. We didn’t know any better than sing a few songs and start praying. Each session went from 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays and concluded around 9:00 p.m. It went unbroken for five years.
7. Revivals: Each worship service was a revival experience. Our church had two-week revivals in the Spring and Fall. Vocational evangelists came to our church and preached incredibly moving messages. Could you imagine walking in knowing that a revival was already underway? The altar was full every night. (Missouri has 31 vocational evangelists ready to help your church.) We conducted lay renewal revivals during high school and for several years afterward. Baptist Campus Ministries were strengthened by students that showed up knowing how to pray and be active witnesses.
8. Home prayer cells: Our youth group did not start new groups, but several tongues-oriented students started their own group out of ours. When we outgrew my parents’ home, we renovated an unused second floor of a house our church owned. Leaders from our group started a Fellowship of Christian Athletes chapter and the Agape Club, which met before high school started each week.
To get started, set praying goals: Once weekly small groups, once monthly churchwide event, once quarterly praying with other churches, and once annually the first Thursday of May with the National Day of Prayer – May 7 this year.