Perhaps we were trying to cast ourselves as New Testament disciples. One of my favorite Bible passages was then and still is Acts 2:42-44:
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, to the breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed were together and had all things in common.
We began to think we were living the same life as the early church experienced close after the outpouring of the Spirit at Pentecost. And it began to produce in us a dangerous, indeed a cultic-like notion, that we were more spiritual than other Christians.
After all, we were seeing miracles. We saw people healed of real disease and medical problems. We saw many dramatic conversions. Our meetings were jammed with people. We were speaking in tongues and seeing other gifts of the Holy Spirit. We were witnessing on the streets when no one else was, just like Jesus, Peter, and Paul. All of these things were real and apparent, leaving us with a view that the “churches” were being by-passed. We were the elite, and we started being treated as such.
How I was living from 1967 to 1972 was nothing like what I had known at First Baptist Church of Fairfield or the Excelsior Baptist Church in Bryon. Even at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, where I was a student, I heard of no reports of great workings of God among the students. Sad to say, I developed an elitist attitude, a silly arrogance that I regret now.
Without the influence of the wonderful folk of Evangelical Concerns, it might have been worse. Real life would eventually be a teacher also, but we were blinded by what we thought was God’s favor, a favor bestowed on us because we were, of course, so sold out for Jesus.1
1 Actual favor or grace is a sovereign work of God independent of any merit on the part of the recipient of the grace. For instance, Mary, the mother of Jesus, found favor with God, which had nothing to do with her personally.And although we had no personal wealth, our needs were continually being met, either by our own labor or by unexpected and large gifts. It was, without doubt, an unusual time.
Awakening vs. Normal Times
Not until I read Iain Murray’s book, Revival and Revivalism, did I understand the difference between “awakening” and “normal” times. At no time in my ten seminary years did I run across the concept, and that was much to my detriment, indeed the detriment of so much of the JPM. Murray, who inherited the mantle of David Martin Lloyd- Jones as a world-class expert on revival and awakenings, pointed out that in awakenings God pours out His Spirit in special and powerful ways. During normal times, however, although Christians pray, prepare, and plan, there are few conversions and miracles.
Without knowing it, what I had previously experienced were normal times, and now in a time of awakening I began to actually judge others who were not “walking in the Spirit” as somehow failing. We commonly said, “Well, they are not Spirit filled.” This was the language and the mentality of the Pentecostal/charismatic folk, and the Jesus People quickly adopted it. Another of our statements was, “They are not flowing in the move of God.” And it actually got more ungracious than that, but we were full of ourselves and saw ourselves as special and thus without need of correction. We were moving in the Spirit and no one could tell us anything different.
Going over this chapter for the last time prior to handing it off to the editor, I am reminded of Dr. Fred Fisher, a renowned professor of New Testament at Golden Gate Seminary during the early days of that institution. He called me sometime in 1970 and asked me to visit him in his office at the seminary. The next day I arrived, and he spoke kindly to me but warned me of the trouble I was heading for. I listened patiently to my former teacher, but when I walked out of his office, I left behind all the good counsel I had just received. After all, he was not baptized in the Holy Spirit with speaking in tongues like I was.
The fruit of this mentality was undermining me and my ministry at the time and would bear much worse fruit in the years to come. Little by little, I will recount that process.