In the early 1970s at a park on the north side of Flint, Michigan, a guy with long hair and tattered jeans approached me and asked in a simple, straightforward tone, “Do you know Jesus, man?”
At the age of 11, I looked back at the man through his rose-colored lenses and replied, “Yes, sir. I know Jesus.” He smiled and said, “Cool, man,” then he walked further into the park talking to others as he had with me.
That is my earliest recollection of a stranger mentioning Christ to me. Three years after that day in the park, in a Southern Baptist congregation of 50, my life was changed from knowing about Christ to knowing Him as my personal Savior.
I realize now the stranger came out of the Jesus movement, an evangelical phenomenon that occurred during the late 1960s and early ’70s throughout North America, Europe and Central America. Tens of thousands were baptized during spontaneous celebrations. Spiritual discussions took place in houses and in parks. Witnessing happened on the streets by word of mouth.
However, that unusual movement may not have reached its full potential due to the fears of those within established churches and Christian institutions. The Jesus movement experienced widespread resistance. What stands out to me as I recall each person’s story from the ’60s and ’70s was the suspicion they once felt. Yet these heroes of the faith still have that forward perspective and desire to advance God’s kingdom.
Tim Patterson, executive director of the Baptist State Convention of Michigan, can testify his salvation came out of the Jesus movement during the ’70s in Texas. He went from being a local bad boy to an evangelist. Because local churches refused to make room for the young people coming to Christ, Patterson’s congregation met in a park and numbered 300 people.
Policemen, who at first monitored the crowd with distrust, became Christians through his preaching and evangelism. The public school board allowed Patterson, his Christian band and his teenage leaders liberties to share the gospel among their classmates because they saw authentic transformations in the lives of young people, whereas local congregations and pastors often were doubtful and refused to welcome a new generation of believers.
The results of the Jesus movement may be difficult to identify today, but the God-inspired movement I see happening among young adults is easy to recognize. God is up to something.
I see determined young adults pursuing greater callings in life. Adults in new church plants put their careers on hold while serving tireless hours as volunteers. Some are leveraging their professional training to benefit a new local church.
University graduates are dedicating two to three years as servant leaders in a university church plant before starting their secular careers full throttle. This new adult generation does not separate life into secular and sacred categories. They believe being authentic requires people to be the same at work, at home and at church, 24/7. Young adults are more serious about a meaningful purpose than most give them credit for.
As I compare the barriers set before those who came out of the Jesus movement and the obstacles in front of today’s believing young adults, I see some similar patterns. If we want to see a movement of God unleashed on our world, there are several things we must do to empower new adults in our churches and Christian institutions:
- Anticipate that God will release His Holy Spirit upon a particular generation to do amazing things when He desires, and let’s pray we see it in this decade.
- Place more confidence in the solid evidence that believing millennials are driven to do something meaningful even though they are young, so that godly devotion is not hindered by age.
- Stop assigning mundane, simple, assisting roles to young adults and instead authorize them to be creative leaders who initiate fresh approaches to ministry.
Praying for young adults
- Release our white-knuckle hold on the traditions in our churches, institutions and calendars and instead hold these young adults up in prayer as we empower them to speak up, serve and steer us into the future.
- Fall in love with what the future brings under God’s sovereignty, rather than allow the fear of the unfamiliar or the loss of control to cause us to take back into our hands what God is entrusting to this new adult generation.
Every day of my life, I see a new believing generation that is setting “an example for the believers in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith and in purity” (1 Tim. 4:12).
Let’s participate in what God is doing so we do not hinder His movement.
He is our breathing space
“The wind blows where (He) wishes and you hear the sound of it, but do not know where it comes from and where it is going; so is everyone who is born of the Spirit” (John 3:8).
When I read John 3:8, the portrait of God that comes to my heart is how He is our breathing space.
When we become stressed and weary, He becomes:
A swirling breeze
John 3 says the Spirit (pneuma) blows where He wishes in creative, timely and usually unpredictable ways.
All we have to do is simply ride the wind in utter dependence on Him.
An empowering wind
If it is strength we need to carry on in the midst of physical, emotional and spiritual exhaustion, the day of Pentecost in Acts 2:1–4 provides the metaphor of a mighty, rushing wind to put wind in our sails.
A Sabbath breath
Exodus 20 reminds us God rested on the seventh day of creating the world, so shouldn’t we rest every seventh day as well? We need to breathe and hydrate emotionally and spiritually, or we will not make it through the journey.
Psalm 23 gives us the picture of the Lord leading us to enjoy the refreshing air of green pastures and quiet waters. Take time to be outdoors and listen for the whispers of God.
Ephesians 5 gives us a vision of being imitators of Christ, walking in His love and absorbing His fragrant aroma.
By Mark Gonzales
Royal Palm Network in Fort Myers, Florida
“In the greatest story Jesus ever told, He tells of a prodigal son, a pardoning father and a petty older brother. While we may can relate to the prodigal, we also have a choice each day if we will resemble the father or brother,” said Bobby McKay, pastor of Pleasant Grove Baptist Church in Brookhaven, Mississippi.
“Seven years ago, it was cool; today, it is a necessity,” said Craig Culbreth, east region catalyst for the Florida Baptist Convention, on the importance of connecting with and encouraging pastors.
“You can live with cancer or die of cancer. I choose to live,” said Steven Strauch, the director of missions for Laclede Baptist Association in southwest Missouri, on being diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.
“It’s the best job I’ve ever had,” said Dewayne Rembert, church planting strategist for Alabama’s Montgomery Baptist Association. Rembert enjoys meeting with area pastors, “answering hard biblical questions in regard to race and culture and then seeing them go back and change their church culture.” He recently celebrated five years of serving on the association’s staff.
“I know how frustrating it can get and how much it can mean to get some help. You’re without power, without water, and a truck pulls up and says, ‘Hey, do you want a hot meal?’ Or someone drives up and says, ‘Can I help you with this?’” said Becky Noland, who grew up on the Gulf Coast in Texas and volunteers with Alabama Baptist Disaster Relief.
“God gave us six beautiful hours with them,” recalled Lindsay Lyon on the loss of her conjoined twin sons. “I trusted the Lord and knew they were in His hands, but I was in a dark place, and it was very difficult in many ways afterward. … I’m coming to a realization that His ways are not my ways and He sees the bigger picture.”
“What does it look like to go and be the hands and feet of Jesus? What does it look like to go and have a really consistent message, but one that is rooted in love? … It’s having an attitude of ‘What can I do?’ instead of ‘What can I do?’ while being Spirit-led,” said author and pastor Jonathan “JP” Pokluda.
“I want the book to offer hope for anyone facing a life or health crisis. I want it to point people to Christ as their Lord and Savior,” said Sammy Gilbreath, author of “Learning to Live Like You’re Dying.”
“I do not hesitate to point folks to the manger as the real reason for the season,” said Cameron Reeder, a minister who portrays Santa during the Christmas season.
“Guide them. Sanctify them. Fill them with joy. Illuminate their call. Guard their hearts. Give them courage, wisdom and peace.” Excerpt from prayer for December seminary graduates — Jennifer Davis Rash
From the Twitterverse
Whenever God’s servants have an opportunity to proclaim the truth and win the lost, the enemy will oppose and attack, often using religious people to oppose the work (see Acts 4:1–4).
Sometimes the Lord answers your prayer not by giving you what you prayed for, but instead by changing your heart.
The most loving thing you can do for the people around you is to slow down, relax and be with yourself and Jesus.
“We are only stewards of the world’s resources. They are not ours; they are God’s. When we find our security in Him, we can then give generously from what He has entrusted to us. This is our Christian duty.”
He who can say, “I know my Redeemer lives,” knows God loves him and pities him under all suffering.
Being told a guest enjoyed my message, felt it was relevant and wasn’t sugar coated was the encouragement I needed. … Student pastors, open the Word and teach it. We aren’t required to be cool!
Recently read an article discussing the 21st century equivalent to foot washing: listening. … We intentionally make time and space for others to be heard. Then we just pray.
Come, Thou long expected Jesus
Born to set Thy people free;
From our fears & sins release us,
Let us find our rest in Thee.
Israel’s strength and consolation,
Hope of all the earth Thou art;
Dear desire of every nation,
Joy of every longing heart.
As we’re winding down 2022, there are pastors celebrating [and] others ready to throw in the towel. … Remember, Jesus will build His church, and the gates of hell will not overpower it.