Wednesday, July 24, 2013

God's Forever Family

JUST FINISHED THE kindle edition of God's Forever Family by Larry Eskridge. Published by Oxford University
Press this book chronicles the revival that started with the Jesus People in 1967 and spread to the larger culture after 1976.

The story begins in the Haight-Asbury district of San Francisco where four drug popping couples came to Christ. Seventy thousand hippies had descended upon Haight-Ashbury for the 1967 Summer of Love. Into this environment these couples moved with the gospel. God's presence and power went with them. Soon the move of God spread to southern California, Seattle, and other parts of country. By June of 1971 it had become so prominent that it graced the cover of Time Magazine. By 1976 the movement was dead, having been absorbed into the larger Evangelical Church.

Cover of Time, June 71
Having lived through this period I found this book fascinating. I was converted three months after the attached Time Magazine cover story appeared. Christ and Christianity were cool. I started a Bible study and within a few weeks sixty kids were coming. I had no idea that this was unusual. We were experiencing miracles, healings, answered prayer, etc. It was a time of intense supernatural activity.

What I didn't know, and what Eskridge chronicles in great detail, is that my experience was replicated thousands of times over throughout North America. We were theologically ignorant, but we understood the basic gospel. We enthusiastically and joyfully proclaimed it, and God used us anyway.

The Jesus Revolution was an example of bona fide revival. As in all revivals their was more smoke than fire. Many counterfeits muddied the waters. For example, Eskridge spends a chapter on the Children of God which ultimately became a dangerous cult. In addition, some of the leaders went through moral failings. But thousands also experienced solid conversions, and are still serving God today.

What happened to the Jesus People? Because it was a  movement of  singles it was destined to expire. Soon the Jesus People began to marry. Children came. They cut their hair, got jobs, and became responsible members of society. By 1976 the Jesus Revolution was dead having been absorbed into North American evangelical church culture.

Eskridge closes by giving considerable attention to the lasting legacy of the Jesus People. It came through their music (Petra, Second Chapter of Acts, Larry Norman, Phil Keaggy, Maranatha Singers, etc.). we owe the origins of Contemporary Christian Music to the Jesus People. The Jesus People also spun off two denominations; Calvary Chapels, and the Vineyard. In addition, the movement had a term affect on worship patterns and church attendance.

Many thanks to Eskridge for his voluminous research. He has recorded the history of a movement that should not be forgotten. In doing so he has served both the church and future historians.