In the midst of a very turbulent and discouraging time in our nation’s history, God intervened in a supernatural way during a five-year period from 1968 to 1973. A grass roots spiritual movement burst forth on the scene with a spiritual explosion that revolutionized millions of lives.

By most accounts, the revival of the ‘70s began in 1967 with the opening of a small storefront evangelical mission called the Living Room in San Francisco’s Haight Ashbury district that catered to the unchurched hippie generation of the day.

Within a short time, a number of independent Christian communities sprang up all across North America spawning a number of other Christian coffeehouses  and “street ministries” as well.

New converts began enthusiastically pointing their one-way finger heavenward and hitting the streets to tell others about a living, dynamic relationship with Jesus Christ. They were baptized—many in rivers and in the ocean. They found themselves gathering informally in coffee houses where they shared testimonies about the living God. Like wildfire this move of God spread across the country from city to city. And this was before the advent of cell phones, computers, smart phones, tablets, Facebook, Twitter and other social media!

In order to proclaim the message of the gospel, these new Christians, referred to as Jesus Freaks, simply adopted existing forms of communication. Christian publications with names like Right On!, The Fish, Street Level, and Cornerstone became a fundamental component of each street Christian community.

Realizing the need to open their churches to these “Jesus Freaks”, many conservative pastors recruited hippie liaisons to their ministerial staff. People like Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel, in Santa Ana, California, soon found their churches being radically transformed.

The revival of the 60s and 70s also birthed many prolific writers such as Leonard Ravenhill, Winkie Pratney, David Wilkerson and many others who influenced many who were involved in the revival.

Another development was Jesus Music, the controversial combination of rock music and the gospel as one of the most effective—and subsequently the most lasting, result of the revival.

There has been a long legacy of Christian music connected to the Jesus movement. Jesus music, also known as Gospel Beat music in the UK, primarily began when some hippie and street musicians of the late 1960s and early 1970s converted to Christianity. They continued to play the same style of music they had played previously but began to write lyrics with a Christian message.

Many music groups developed out of this. Most notably: Barry McGuire, Second Chapter of Acts, Petra, Phil Keaggy, Randy Stonehill, Keith Green, Glenn Kaiser and the Resurrection Band, and Larry Norman. Many of these artists traveled throughout the U.S. and Europe, performing in festivals held underneath giant tents.

As Christian coffeehouses and Jesus music festivals emerged as a popular alternative to popular rock music, many mainstream church-goers lamented that this Jesus Music was a spiritual compromise and a trick of the devil to entrap young people. But these pioneers of Christian music maintained that they were combating the negative influence of mainstream rock music. In an attempt to develop an apologetic for their evangelistic efforts they echoed the sentiments of reformer Martin Luther when he asked “why should the devil have all the best tunes.”

So what happened? Why did the revival of the 1970s die?Long-haired evangelists, and Jesus rock musicians were portrayed throughout national magazines like Time, Newsweek, Life, Rolling Stone, and U.S. News & World Report. In 1971 the Jesus People were the religious event of the year while ranking third in Time Magazine’s story of the year. Press articles, and other media reports all detailed various facets of what was now being called the  “Jesus movement.”

With Watergate and President Nixon’s promises to end the war in Vietnam dominating the front pages, the cynicism born of societal fears towards “cults” and their “brainwashing” techniques made evangelism a less fruitful endeavor than it once had been.

Soon those involved in the revival began to believe the world’s description of the revival as a “movement” rather than a move of God. And as the revival came to an end, Jesus People groups either disbanded, or joined the institutionalized church, following traditions of men as though they were doctrines of God. (Matthew 15:8-9; Isaiah 29:13 ) Sadly, many simply returned to their countercultural roots of sex, drugs and rock and roll.

And those who stood firm in their faith and followed the truth of God’s Word have been labeled legalistic or fanatical.

Leonard Ravenhill was one of those who were labeled too fanatical. Ravenhill argues in his book “Why Revival Tarries” that, “We do not have revival for the simple reason that we really don’t want revival. We are simply too contented, too smug, too self-satisfied, and too carnal. Our hearts are not broken and we do not earnestly long for a powerful move of God.”

Ravenhill reminds us that “As the Church goes, so goes the world. The world is in a mess because the church is in a mess. And the church is in a mess because so many of its leaders and preachers are in a mess: The tragedy of this late hour is that we have too many dead men in the pulpits giving out too many dead sermons to too many dead people.”

Until we are broken and repentant, we will see no fresh move of God’s Spirit. As Leonard Ravenhill says, “The church must first repent; then the world will break! The church must first weep; then our altars will be filled with weeping penitents.”

Like John the Baptist, Leonard Ravenhill was a voice crying in the wilderness as he continued to preach, “This generation of preachers is responsible for this generation of sinners.”

Strong words, but true. Our problem is ourselves and our spiritual leaders. We need to break up our fallow ground and seek God’s truth and his righteousness. (Hosea 10:12) That is what happened during the revival in the 70s. People rejected man’s religion and returned to the practices of the early Church.

We simply cannot keep blaming the world and others for all our troubles because In many ways, we have only ourselves to blame. So let’s humbly learn lessons from the errors of the past and seek God with passion so that he, in our time, might be merciful, and revive us again, however and through whomever he sovereignly chooses.

“From the days of our fathers to this day we have been in great guilt. And for our iniquities we, our kings, and our priests have been given into the hand of the kings of the lands, to the sword, to captivity, to plundering, and to utter shame, as it is today. And now for a little while grace has been shown from the LORD our God, to leave us a remnant to escape, and to give us a peg in His holy place, that our God may enlighten our eyes and give us a measure of revival in our bondage.” (Ezra 9:7-8)

There is no question that we are reaching a tipping point and a place of desperation in our land. I pray that God will leave us a remnant and bring a fresh move of God before the clock runs out.

 

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