In the 20th century, the United States saw two major moves of God. (I’m not counting the Azusa street revival from 1906-1909 because the influence of that revival was mostly localized and less global than the others I mention in this chapter.)
The first occurred from 1948 to 1952. In those years, God brought a revival that stunned the nation. It occurred mostly in the traditional church. People who were part of traditional church structures were experiencing and touching authentic Body Life. But those experiences were taking place outside of regular church services.
The “post-war revival,” as it’s sometimes called, spread across denominational lines. It eventually fizzled out, however, because leadership sought to control it. Nevertheless, it produced a number of gifted servants of God who would go on to have world-wide ministries. Billy Graham was one of them. It also brought many of the new and budding para-church organizations into prominence.
The second move of God occurred from 1968 to 1972. We know it as “the Jesus Movement.” It was the first revival ever to hit the United States that began and continued to thrive outside the traditional church.
House churches, simple churches, and Christian communities sprung up all over America. Droves of people came to the Lord.
The movement thrived among young people who were experiencing the Lord for the first time. They were also experiencing church life. It was a glorious time. The revival reached its peak in the summer of 1972. The afterglow lasted for another seven years. By 1979, the revival was virtually dead.
What happened? Presumably, the men who were in their 20s during the first move of God were in their 40s during the second move of God. These men stepped into leadership roles and began to take over (and control) the new move of God.
The problem is that none of the men who took the helm of leadership had any experience outside the traditional church. None of them grew up in Christian community. None of them knew Body life. None of them were brothers among other brothers in a church life situation outside the religious system.
Instead, they were pastors, teachers, and Reverends on Saturday, and overnight they became leaders of these fresh and budding organic churches.
This leads me to raise an important question: How, pray tell, can someone who has no experience outside the traditional church, with all the testing, sifting, mutual iron-sharpening, and breaking that goes on in organic church life, give anything of life, reality, and freedom to young brothers and sisters who are experiencing the Lord outside the traditional structure? My answer is simple: They can’t. And they didn’t.
Instead, these leaders ended up loading the Jesus movement with the same baggage that has divided Christians since the Reformation. The result? Where there was once unity, there was division. The movement began fracturing over peripheral doctrines like speaking in tongues, what is going to happen during the Millennium, when is Jesus coming back, can a person lose their salvation, what does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit, how long will the tribulation be and who will participate in it, and a million other points of theological contention.
Sadly, the Jesus movement splintered into a thousand pieces. Plus a specific form of authoritarian control began to emerge which eventually snuffed out the life, freedom, and joy of the movement. Discipleship quickly turned into oppression and many spiritual lives were wrecked. En. See Who is Your Covering? for details.
Today, you would be hard-pressed to find one church that’s still online that was spawned during the Jesus movement. All have gone belly up. The only churches born in that movement that still exist today are Calvary Chapel and Jesus People USA. En. The Vineyard was forged in 1977 during the afterglow of the movement.
Why is this significant? It’s significant because we can all too easily repeat the same mistakes. There is also another danger, however. It’s the danger of reacting to these mistakes so extremely that we fall off the other side of the horse.
By all good measure, it appears that we may be entering into the third major move of God in this country. And if Barna is correct, it will again occur outside the traditional church.
That being so, my concern is that we have men and women who have experience in Body life as non-leaders, who have been broken and tested, who know the Lord deeply, and who are non-sectarian, non-elitist, and as openly inclusive as Jesus Christ. And that the new churches that are being born in this Revolution will avail themselves of the help of such people.
We will undoubtedly make mistakes. But let’s do our homework and make new ones.
As I have written in, Organic Church Planting, there are presently seven main sub-cultures in “the house church movement.” But the Lord, I believe, is after something higher.