Part 2 of a 4-part series
Continuing through to the end of the week, we are going to be putting the Catch in historical context, corresponding to how God has led us (John & Marti) from the beginning of our lives until now. This is because we believe we are on the cusp of a major shift in attention by the Holy Spirit related to the church and the world, and we want you to understand and appreciate its significance, share in our excitement, and be ready for what’s coming.
In June of 1972, a five-day event was held in Dallas, Texas, that came to be known as “The Christian Woodstock.” Estimated crowds of 100,000 or more young Christians converged on the city for daily seminars and nightly gatherings in the Cotton Bowl, culminating in a large outdoor concert featuring many of the new Christian rock bands in an open field, and attended by an estimated crowd of 80,000. The event was organized by Campus Crusade for Christ, and officially called Explo ’72.
It was the beginning of a new era for the church and for Christians in general, and what I look upon as the end of the Jesus movement. I think of it as the end of a movement because it was highly-organized and promoted all over the country, and attended by people who were for the most part already Christians. Up until this time, events were poorly-organized, hastily thrown together and attracted large numbers of curious non-Christians. It was a street movement with the goal of presenting the gospel of Jesus Christ and had a real sense of being Holy-Spirit-inspired. No one could take any credit for what was going on.
The new era, however, was highly-organized, commercialized and well-marketed. Immediately following this event (and some commentators think because of it), Christian music exploded at a rapid pace as record companies sprang up, utilizing Christian radio as a centralizing force. Christian radio became a sort of non-denominational headquarters for promoting everything that was culturally Christian. By 1973, non-Christians stopped coming; they pretty much left us to ourselves. Consequently, it wasn’t Jesus music anymore; it was now “contemporary Christian music.”
The young people of the Jesus movement were becoming young parents wishing to raise their kids in a safe Christian environment, and a multi-billion dollar contemporary Christian industry was more than willing to serve them, offering Christian music, Christian jewelry and Christian books covering everything from personality temperaments to the end times. Out of the Jesus movement, a subculture was born, providing conformity, and a safe place to hide in an ever-threatening world.
Now we can see what was dangerous about this; then it was too new and exciting to notice anything wrong. What could be wrong with large numbers of Christians coming together to worship God? What could be wrong with Christian music, Christian radio, Christian schools, Christian aerobics, and pretty much Christian anything that the culture at large enjoyed? In other words, what could be wrong with an alternative Christian subculture?
I can think of a few things:
- A new sense of power in numbers
- A new sense of cultural power
Even way back as far as Explo ’72, one local newspaper reporter who attended explained what he experienced there as “militant Christianity.”
I think I can see where this thing is headed. What happened to the gospel? What happened to “Welcome Back?” When did open arms to the world turn to folded arms of a culture war? What happened to the Gospel of Welcome?