Evangelical Concerns

Chapter 1 8

This memoir is not strictly chronological; rather it weaves in and out. It is necessary to backtrack now and recall a group of men who made a great deal of difference in my life and in the lives of many others—Evangelical Concerns.

Ted Wise, Danny Sands, Rick Zacks, Jim Dopp, Steve Heathner, Richard Haskell, Lonnie Frisbee, and others began a ministry in the Haight on Page Street, one block from Haight Street, called The Living Room. Quickly after they opened in 1968, I discovered it and began showing up, especially around lunchtime. These were the first Chris- tians of a like mind and passion for evangelism that I encountered in the Haight. Later, after the media began covering the Jesus freaks, lots of Christian groups showed up. Behind Ted and the gang was a group of men who mentored their outreach to the hippies.

Ted, Danny, and most of the others, except for Lonnie Frisbee, were a bit older than the general hippie, even a couple years older than me, and they were all part of a group called Evangelical Concerns, headquartered at the First Baptist Church of San Francisco on Octavia Street. John Streater was its pastor, and John MacDonald was pastor of the First Baptist Church of Mill Valley, where Ted and the rest attended. There was also Howard Day, a leader at the San Francisco Church, and Ed Plowman, pastor of Presidio Baptist Church in the City. All of these were American Baptist Churches.

Soon enough, they invited me to the regular monthly meetings of Evangelical Concerns, which was some time in 1968. Before that year was up, I invited both Dr. Francis DuBose from Golden Gate Seminary and Martin (Moishe) Rosen, who later founded Jews for Jesus, to attend the meetings with me. Before the end of 1968, the three of us
along with David Hoyt, were on the board of directors of Evangelical Concerns (EC).

EC acted as an umbrella organization, especially for Ted’s minis- tries: The Living Room and The House of Acts, which was a Christian commune in Novato, a town in northern Marin County.1 Financial contributions for these ministries were funneled through EC. Larry Hoyt became the treasurer after EC began to connect with Christian World Liberation Front in Berkeley, a ministry headed up by Jack Sparks, Pat Matrisciana, Billy Squires, Brooks Alexander, and others. Soon, nearly all of those who were involved in street ministry to the hippies in the Bay Area were somehow connected with EC.

David Hoyt and I, however, chose not to use EC as an organizational covering; we developed United Youth Ministries instead. Later on, we formed an actual non-profit corporation called Christian House Ministries, and Chuck Kopp of Greenbrae was the attorney who drew up the legal papers.2

As the years have gone by, I am increasingly aware of what EC meant to me. Without it, I might have made a bigger mess of things than I did. These wonderful servants of God were able to prevent some of us freaks from being completely taken over by the Pentecostal/ charismatic emphasis that came to characterize the Jesus Movement. While I am not casting disparagement on charismatically oriented Christians—I was one myself—I was made aware of the dangerous errors that come along when the charismatic is accentuated. For the most part, the EC directors were mainline, solid Christians in the Bap- tist tradition.

In the Long Term

  1. John MacDonald wrote The House of Acts, published by Creation House in 1970. It is one of the first stories of the Jesus People Movement.
  2. There were so many people who came along side us in those days, and many of them, such as Chuck and Nancy Kopp, were parents of kids that became a part of what we were doing. A flood of names and faces are coming to mind right now, and I realize I will not be able to give them the notice they are due. In my mind, it was the hand of God that brought so many well-meaning people to us during those early days, and most of them did not fully realize what we all were a part of. They just knew that their kids liked us.

An interesting side note is that John MacDonald served as the second pastor of the First Baptist Church of Mill Valley and lived with his wife Marilyn and their children in the parsonage, which was also the home to several of the early leaders of Jews for Jesus.3 Into that same parsonage later came John Streater to pastor the Mill Valley Church after he resigned from First Baptist San Francisco. (Streater, while a student at Wheaton College had introduced Ruth Bell to Billy Graham.) Then in 1984, I became pastor of that very same church, though we changed the name to Miller Avenue Baptist Church of Mill Valley. For twenty-six years I lived in that parsonage, and now the privilege belongs to my son Vernon and his wife Libby. I am still pastor of the church, along with my wife Katie and son Vernon. My goal is to continue doing so until I drop dead!

In October of 1968, John Streater, John MacDonald, Howard Day, Larry Hoyt, Ed Plowman, David Hoyt, Francis DuBose, and Moishe Rosen were the directors of Evangelical Concerns. They and the ministries they served then are now gone, yet their labor was not in vain. Ed Plowman is still going strong and writes for a number of Christian journals and magazines, including one of my favorite publications, World Magazine. Ed visited me some years ago, and I had enough sense of history to arrange for a photo of the two of us.

I must confess that I did not value those men to the extent I should have; I did not know what I had in front of me. Many of us, and espe- cially me, were blinded by the success we were enjoying and had no idea that we were part of a special outpouring of the Holy Spirit. We therefore were unaware that the so-called success had nothing to do with us. It is with some pain that I am recalling this now; I did not esteem those men as I would now. I never even bothered getting a photograph of them.

  • Moishe Rosen made First Baptist of Mill Valley his home church during John MacDonald’s tenure as pastor. Some of the founding members of Liberated Wailing Wall also lived in the parsonage.

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