The Beginning of the End of the JPM

Chapter 44 from Memoirs of a Jesus Freak

The year that marked the ending of the Jesus People Movement in my view, at least in Marin County, was 1972, the same year Church of the Open Door was founded in San Rafael. It may be that the JPM had not reached some places in America yet, and based on what I have seen and read, it did not impact England until the mid 1970s. More about that later.

1 In my book, Awakenings in America and the Jesus People Movement, published in 2012, I make an argument for the JPM meeting the qualifications for being a genuine American awakening. 

The flood of awakening converts who came into newly established churches like the Church of the Open Door in San Rafael, reached its pinnacle in the early 1970s. It was now time for mopping-up operations. Yes, this a military term used for what happens after a major battle has been concluded. 

I did not know at that time that awakenings began and ended. Many of us had assumed that, in the years prior to the JPM, the visible church had withered and died, even becoming resistant to the moving of the Holy Spirit. We expected revival would continue as a matter of course. When the “deadness” we knew from before and had witnessed in many denominational churches crept into our own meetings, it was worrisome and fostered the idea that it was due to “sin in the camp.” In 1990, as I started to look back and re-evaluate, I had to admit that the charismatic gifts, especially speaking in tongues, had begun to fade away in and around 1972. Even prophecy, words of wisdom, words of knowledge, healings, and miracles, ministry of casting out of demons, which was really a part of the mopping-up operation. 

I began speaking in tongues in 1968 and continued to do so until about 1975. This was not a conscious decision of mine, it simply happened. For a time I still tried to do it, but it was forced and no longer had a spiritual nature to it. Over the years, there is nothing I have so much examined as my speaking in tongues, almost to the point of obsession. I have concluded that the gift was genuine, as were the others—miracles, healing, words of wisdom and knowledge, and yes, even prophecy. I remain of this opinion, although most people who embrace a Reformed theology like I do are cessationist, meaning that the gifts of the Spirit, particularly the so-called power gifts, have ceased to be given to us now that we have the fullness of Christ and the New Testament.

Our Use of Prophecy 

Prophecy is a subject that needs a little more attention here. The charismatic gifts practiced among the Jesus People principally were speaking in tongues, healing, and prophecy. Prophecy turned out to be much more problematic than speaking in tongues, at least for those of us who rejected the idea that tongue speaking was the chief evidence of true conversion. Opportunities for healing via having hands laid on by the elders continued and proceeded fairly smoothly. In our ministry in Marin, tongues were fine, no big deal. But prophecy had its own brand of usefulness. 

By useful, I mean we could get people to do what we wanted. “Thus saith the Lord,” or, “God gave me a word for you,” or something similar, were the words or formulae we used. I must admit I misused prophecy and that it was commonly done among us. The elders would circle a person who desired direction from God, and direction he or she surely got. At some point, I began to record and track some of the more directional “words” and discovered they failed to materialize. Hmmm. False prophets in our midst! Should they be stoned? 

By around 1977, I made a serious attempt to understand what prophecy should look like and how it should be undertaken for a New Testament church. My conclusion was that, having the fullness of God’s revelation in Christ, each Christian being a priest with the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, and having the actual written Word in hand, prophecy was for us a declaring of the Word of God already revealed in Scripture and Scripture alone. I came to that conclusion then and am still firmly holding to that understanding. 

Signs of the End 

Now, back to the ending of the JPM. Surprisingly, even conversions tapered off. Baptisms of large numbers of new converts at a time were seldom held, and Joyful Noise disbanded. My personal focus was on counseling, writing books, getting more education, helping build up Love in Action (the ex-gay ministry), and pastoring a very demanding church. The reader will notice I did not mention my family, and this because the press of people and events meant that the family got lost in the shuffle, to some degree. Oh, to be able to revisit those years! 

The early years of the Church of the Open Door were marked by power struggles in the leadership, which was one of the lesser reasons that the single San Rafael congregation was divided into five in 1975. The roaring fire to reach the lost was reduced to a flicker, and now the concerns were money and positions of power. It almost seems sacrilegious to bring this up, but however much we would like to avoid such thinking, that is what happened. Over the years I have had many a conversation with those who had been outside the power structure yet witnessed it directly. It was painful to hear the things that were said about me. Yes, I am guilty of engaging in the political battles to maintain prestige and authority. And the striving for money! We who had been Jesus freaks living on next to nothing, were now marrying, having children, and wanting to buy such fleshly things as cars, clothes, and homes. How ungodly! 

The deck was reshuffled a number of times, and attempts were made to bring back the glory and the excitement. Mostly this was done through prayer, fasting, exercising church discipline, and a renewed emphasis on the gifts of the Holy Spirit. Courses on discovering one’s spiritual gifts were coming out by any number of Christian publishers, but they did not seem to help. In fact, those courses usually created more confusion and disagreements than they helped people get into active ministry. 

The so-called praise bands formed, new worship music was written, and the volume was turned up. And this was years before the church growth movement got under way. The dark sides of the awakening were about to emerge. 

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