A transition in title is now necessary, and in this blog I will explain why.
Prior to a winter night late in 1968, at Soul Inn, at 2 o’clock in the morning (the story of which is yet to come), I had consigned anything to do with Pentecostalism to the nether regions, meaning that I thought such was error or even outright demonic. After that night I was a tongue speaker from 1968 to 1975. When I ceased speaking in tongues I continued to hold to its validity, as well as all the other charismatic gifts. It is simply that I stopped speaking in tongues, a ceasing I cannot explain.
I am not a “cessationist,” the definition of which is someone who believes that the charismatic gifts as listed in 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12 – at least the “power gifts” like speaking in tongues, prophecy, and miracles – are no longer operative and are also unnecessary due to the publication of the Bible. I never bought that idea, because I did not clearly see it in Scripture. I was tempted to do so – yes – since distortions of the charismatic gifts, especially prophecy, became all too flagrant.
Early on in the Jesus Movement, which was a designation originating from where I do not know, we called ourselves “Street Christians.” Our fields of labor were the streets of the big cities. For me it was San Francisco, specifically the Haight-Ashbury District, where the young and restless, those looking to expand their minds and explore the esoteric spiritualities, and sex and dope, were to be found. Sex and dope went hand in hand and likely became the major motivators for the majority, but there were definitely those who wanted to find God and assumend He was not to be found in the American churches. The causes for this are beyond the scope of this piece, but to identify with a “church” was not the thing to do.
I was a Baptist but I didn’t tell anybody that. For a period of time I avoided the term “Christian” as well. “A follower of Jesus” is how I described myself. Eastern religions were big, Buddhism more than Hinduism, but there was the Hare Krishna thing, and the Beatles made TM (Transcendental Meditation) popular for a time. There were so many isms out there then, and all of them were foreign and new to me. During 1967 I received so many rejections, sometimes beatings and threatening, that I felt like giving up and concentrating my efforts in Byron, but I kept on figuring that God had called me and I was not going to discourage easily.
Sometime in 1968 there was news coverage of what was going on. Some reporter used the phrase “Jesus Freak,” a tag I did not appreciate and rejected in favor of Street Christian. A more friendly term, “Jesus People” was coined along the way and I adopted that one. Later on, the whole thing that was going on then across the country was termed the “Jesus People Movement” or JPM. This worked for almost everyone
It is not clear to me when I realized that what I had been involved in was unusual. During my seminary years the great revivals of religion were taught but I had no idea that the JPM was actually one of those. It was only in looking back at it that I realized that the JPM was an awakening like the great awakenings America had experienced, and this realization came primarily through reading the books of David Martin Lloyd-Jones and, above all, Iain Murray.
In my book, Awakenings in America and the Jesus People Movement, I attempt to demonstrate that the JPM meets the requirements for inclusion in America’s great awakenings. (see www.evpbooks.com)
Jesus freak was not a term of derision, as it turned out. Everyone who sought after more than could be found in main street USA was a freak of some sort, even if it did not involve sex, dope, or far out religion. Artist, poet, musician, writer, occultist, astrologer, psychic, Satanist, monk, wanderer – these and more were considered part of the freakiness that seemed to offer more. I was really not one of these, as I had already found what I had been looking for, and I had no sense I had ever been looking for anything at all, as I thought I had it all.
The writing of this very blog is the first time I have embraced the term Jesus freak.