Jesus Generation

How I Got Theology– Part 3

Photo credit: unsplash.com_NCollins American evangelical churches have worked hard to reach out to younger generations over the past couple of decades. It's not gone that well.

Sure, more mega churches dot the landscape, but a great many people, especially younger ones, have left the organized church, or simply left the Christian faith.

Much effort has gone into attracting and drawing people into church, while others focus on being missional. Sadly, the foundation for faith is often neglected with these efforts.

An assumption

Aristotle is credited with the postulate that nature abhors a vacuum. A vacuum existed in the mid-sixties—a lack of spiritual integrity and substance. This vacuum got filled with philosophy, religion, and cultural trends. Life is cyclical. There is an ebb and flow to everything on earth.

An assumption was made by organized churches in the years preceding the Jesus People Movement. It was assumed that young people had no interest in studying the Bible. I see a similar assumption at present. It was a wrong assumption 50+ years ago and it's wrong now.

The opposite is true. Many young people are seeking the truth and are interested in the Bible. And, many people want mentoring, but they reject authoritarianism.

[bctt tweet="Many young people seek truth and are open to be mentored" username="tkbeyond"]

A hunger

A great biblical ignorance exists today. Not a lack of Bible knowledge or resources, but ignorance. Why? Much of what is presented and promoted is not processed thoughtfully and spiritually by those who receive it. The truth of God needs to be processed in our mind and meditated on in our heart.

[bctt tweet="The truth of God needs to be processed in our mind and meditated on in our heart" username="tkbeyond"]

A great hunger and interest in the truth existed when I came to faith over 45 years ago. Yep, I'm old. I'm a holdover from the Jesus Generation, as it was called.

I remember hours of shared engagement studying the Bible with other people of my generation. We did it in churches, often sitting on the floor, in homes, on our own, or outside in public. We couldn't get enough. I couldn't get enough.

It wasn't listening to well-crafted messages from the Bible, it was a personal encounter with Jesus. He (Jesus) has a lot to say about the value of digging into the Scriptures—

You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me (John 5:39 NIV)

It is the Spirit that gives life. The flesh doesn’t give life. The words I told you are spirit, and they give life. (John 6:63 NCV)

“If you continue to obey my teaching, you are truly my followers. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.” (John 8:31, 32 NCV)

 “Use the truth to make them holy. Your words are truth. (John 17:17 GW)

A personal encounter

Is there a difference between attending a Bible study and studying the Bible? Yes. I've seen many people attend a Bible study, taking in what is said as valuable information. But, if that information doesn't become life-giving truth for them, it is simply Bible knowledge.

Bible knowledge isn't a bad thing, but it doesn't transform a person, it informs them.

[bctt tweet="Bible knowledge doesn't transform a person, it informs them" username="tkbeyond"]

If our study of the Bible isn't a personal encounter with Jesus, but only a pursuit of truth, we miss the most important thing. As Jesus said, "these very Scriptures speak about me!" (John 5:39 GNTD)

So, how does Bible study become a spiritual encounter with Jesus? Here are some things that help build a good foundation for your own personal theology to develop—

  • Prayer—perhaps too obvious, yet so vital it must be mentioned—we need to ask God to reveal His truth to us (Matthew 16:17).
  • The Holy Spirit—the Spirit of Truth (John 14:16-17)—How can we receive God's revelation apart from His Spirit?
  • Reading and listening to the Scriptures—there is nothing that can replace this. No one else can do this for us (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
  • Regular study of the Bible—if not daily, weekly—a consistent digging into the Scriptures so your faith is founded on a solid foundation (Matthew 7:24-27)

Need more?

This is the final of a 3-part series that began with How I Got Theology– Part 1. It's my personal answer to three questions posed in a previous post called Got Theology? where I look at how we all develop a personal theology.

If you'd like more guidance on how to study the Bible in a personal, yet systematic and objective way, you can download my 7-page Primer on Inductive Bible Study. It is a simple guide to Inductive Bible Study (IBS) developed from many years of training pastors, leaders, and other followers of Jesus, here in the US and overseas.

Just click on the link below, fill out the short form, then download it.

Click Here to Download the Basic Primer on Inductive Bible Study

The Missing Part

OldCalvary_study I just started to read a book I came across this week. It's written by Ed Underwood, someone from my era, the Jesus Generation. When I finish it, I'll do a book review.

This book hooked me in a couple ways. First of all, I relate to it experientially. I was part of the Jesus Generation on the west coast. It was also known as the Jesus People Movement. Whatever you call it, it had a great impact on the late 1960's and early 1970's, something I've posted about before, and also written about.

Secondly, it addresses the question I spoke of in last week's post.

Something missing

We returned to the US after fifteen years in the Philippines, and I sensed something was missing in the church in America. I wondered what happened, but after a while realized it was more about what didn't happen.

In the early days of the Jesus People Movement, young people were disenchanted with the status quo and shallow life of middle class America. Social unrest, fueled by issues that ranged from civil rights to anti-war protests, helped accent an emptiness that cried out to be filled.

Great interest in eastern philosophies and religions, coupled with a surge of psychedelic drugs and "love-ins," intensified this emptiness. The political scene and economy also contributed to it.

God's Spirit began to flow into a broken and lost generation, to fill up this emptiness.

A generation found and filled

No specific leader started the Jesus People Movement or headed up the Jesus Generation. It was a sovereign move of God's Holy Spirit.

Some people did have influence in this move of God, but because of God's favor, not their expertise at leading. Young people began to gather in public and private places, as well as in many churches. They were hungry and sought to be filled with the truth of God and God's power.

A generational revival began to grow across the nation, which led to the raising up of evangelists and disciple-makers. They had no special training and needed no prompting to spread the gospel. This was not the product of a well designed program.

Simple, but mighty

Simple Bible study, often led by non-seminary-trained teachers, was a core element of the movement. Pastors and teachers who did have training were also swept up in the movement. My first pastor, Chuck Smith, was one of those teachers, but he was one among many solid teachers of God's Word.

The gospel was preached and the Bible was taught in a simple way. Theology was simple in the early days, mostly born out of an organic biblical framework. Praise and worship was typically a blend of folk and rock music led by young people with long hair and buckskin. It was simple and genuine, and seemed innocently spiritual.

Even prayer had a simple power to it. People were set free from their brokenness and bondage.

Communal life and mindset

In much the same way as the early church, communities began to spring up where everything was shared. Communal life seemed to thrive off the flow of people being set free. Houses, ranches, and even apartment buildings became homes to people who had fulfilled lives with broken pasts.

These communities were inclusive, non-discriminatory, and often had strong leaders. It was a shared life with shared resources. My wife and I lived a few blocks from one in our first year of marriage. It was called Mansion Messiah located in Costa Mesa, CA.

They became models of biblical discipleship. Because Bible study was a core value, it spawned young people who were grounded in the truth of God's Word, filled with God's power, and released to share their faith with others.

At first, it seemed there was a constant flow of new young people equipped and prepared to disciple others. It did last for quite a while, but then it seemed to fade.

What changed?

As happened with the radical activists of the 60's, the Jesus Generation became more and more mainstream. Where once they were anti-establishment, they became the establishment. Once shunned by society, and many churches, the blended with the culture of the times.

When Christian believers don't seem very different from the culture around them, something is lost. But what was lost?

There are several books and blogs that speak of the so-called demise of the Jesus Generation, and lots of factors are involved.

But I see one thing in particular at the core of that movement, which is not as strong as it was then.

The missing part

In a word discipleship—intentional, relational, organic discipleship led by the Holy Spirit. In the past several years, even the last decade, discipleship has once again become popular. But I wonder if it's just the next thing to catch people's attention. I hope I'm wrong about that.

The difficulty with intentional, relational, and Spirit-led organic discipleship is that it's hard to package. So, it is by nature hard to control. It also takes considerable time to do well, and requires genuine commitment. Commitment not to the task, but to the person discipled. Commitment is also needed on the part of the one being discipled.

Do you see the dilemma? Genuine commitment isn't very popular nowadays, not in this distracted ADHD-culture of ours.

We can't go back

It's easy to long for the good old days, but that genders useless nostalgia. We need to look forward, not backwards.

About fifteen to twenty years ago while on a furlough, I spoke at one of our supporting churches. A young man came up to me and said, "I miss the days when we learned about the Holy Spirit." He was telling me that the moving of God's Spirit and teaching about Him wasn't as common as before.

God hasn't stopped being God. He's supernatural and sovereign. He alone is the one who stirs up a revival that produces something like the Jesus Generation. But believers do have a part in what God does upon the earth. He's chosen us for such things (Eph 2:4-10).

What can we do?

So, what can we do if we long for revival like the Jesus People Movement of the 60's and 70's?

  • We can start with prayer and follow after the Lord with a radical commitment. A commitment as simple as, "If anyone wants to follow me [Jesus], he must say no to himself. He must pick up his cross and follow me." (Matt 16:24 NIRV)
  • Daily Bible reading is important. Yes, I said daily. And while we're at it, reading through the whole Bible would be real valuable.
  • Church fellowship, or at least a home group, is important for building relationships that can grow into a shared community.
  • Then we can began to share our faith with others. When we find someone who is hungry for spiritual life, we can begin to disciple them with what we've learned ourselves, and share how God changed and fulfilled our own life.

Sound too simple? It's not. It's the way it was with the first church, and during the Jesus Generation. It's our choice to make this commitment to God.

Let me know your thoughts on all this, I'd love to hear them!

Still want some nostalgia? Here you go— Jesus People Film (1972) | The Jesus Movement of the 70's