Man, Movement, or Machine?

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In June of 1972, over 100,000 people, mostly college age, attended a 5-day conference in Dallas, Texas, sponsored by Campus Crusade for Christ called Explo ‘72. There were daily seminars and nightly gatherings in the Cotton Bowl for music and preaching. The event culminated on the final night in a huge open field where upwards of 200,000 people gathered for a 5-hour concert featuring Love Song, Larry Norman, Johnny Cash and Kris Kristofferson. It was dubbed the Christian Woodstock, and many saw it as the high point of the Jesus Movement.

I see it today as the end of the Jesus Movement.

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‘Don’t use my name’

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In our excellent interview with Noel Paul Stookey (you will definitely want to visit that interview below), he spoke of two divine interventions that shaped his life and career. The first introduced him to Jesus, the second provided direction for his songwriting and already well-earned public personna as a member of the iconic ‘60s folk group, Peter Paul & Mary. The second came by way of a couple who met him after a concert and said they had a word from the Lord for him. That’s pretty direct from the mouth of God, but the message was an unexpected one. The message was simply, “Don’t use my name.”

Now usually when we hear the phrase “a word from the Lord” we are set up for some heavyweight spiritual content that leaves no doubt as to its meaning. This was surely different. This was a call to be subtle, to not be obviously “Christian,” to, as Emily Dickinson wrote, “tell it slant.” Noel was a new Christian in the public eye, and this was a word for him from God Himself not to be so obvious about his new faith. When you think about it, this was exactly what Jesus did. He spoke in parables.

There are two reasons for this. 1) God wants a relationship with those who want a relationship with Him. You don’t waste the truth on those who are not even looking for it. In Jesus’ own words, He said, “don’t give dogs what is sacred,” and “don’t throw your pearls to pigs” (Matthew 7:6). But right after this, was when He said, “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you” (7:7). Clearly, He will meet us at the point of our need and desire for Him.

2) We simply can’t take all the truth all at once. It would overwhelm our tiny little minds. Or as Emily Dickinson has stated, in a little poem well worth digging into for its huge implications —

Tell all the truth but tell it slant —

Success in Circuit lies

Too bright for our infirm Delight

The Truth’s superb surprise

As Lightning to the Children eased

With explanation kind

The Truth must dazzle gradually

Or every man be blind —

So God told Noel not to use His name, but to find other ways to tell the truth about Jesus and His gospel, and when this is done well, as it has been in Noel’s case, it can come home with even greater impact than with the more literal rendering.

The Jesus Movement was literal. Truth made it into song lyrics, placards on the street, and onto bumper stickers all over town. “Jesus” was on the cover of Time. Arthur Blessitt is still carrying the cross, preaching its gospel all over the world. It was a time to tell everybody to get right with Jesus. There’s always a time for that.

But there is also a time for more subtle messages, especially today, with a public sabotage of the gospel going on. Noel is writing songs that hide the truth, the same way the parables of Jesus do, making the search worth it, and the reward for seeking, bright indeed. We need to be good at both of these approaches as we see the time drawing near.

Click on Noel’s picture below to access our zoom interview.

Use the passcode: d$8bWa6T

or

Listen to the podcast at blogtalkradio.com/thecatch

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The Word of God and Prayer

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At the time of the Jesus Movement, there was a black hole where any authority once existed. The younger generations had pretty much thrown off all traditional authority be it parents, church, school, law enforcement, military, and government. The ‘60s had been a decade of setting oneself free from all domination. But after rebelling against all power and authority, there began a period of drift with no one to trust. So when the Jesus people came along with their Bibles, there was something to fill the void. This would explain a very literal interpretation of the Bible that was common in those days. It would also explain the rise of cults and communes. This, after all, was the generation that gave us the Jonestown disaster. With a need for authority in their lives, people would follow a powerful personality anywhere — even to their death.

Similarly, people in their twenties and thirties today have largely thrown off the older generations for some of the same reasons. That’s why the “Jesus Movement” musicians and influencers are bringing the discussion forward for these people who are currently undergoing the same societal stresses and asking many of the same questions.

In a positive sense, the Jesus people were a generation that wholly embraced the scriptures. The popularity of more friendly translations like the New American Standard made the Scriptures more accessible. Everyone carried a Bible. Many personalized their Bibles with hand-tooled leather covers (mine had snaps), and they wrote all over the pages. Everyone was in a Bible study. And whatever the Bible said, we were supposed to do. If we bring anything forward in regard to the scriptures, it should be this.

Not that we disregard scholarship. Literal interpretation of scripture is often distorted because there is no thought given to the original languages, the cultural influences, or the context of a certain passage or verse. Indeed there were programs set up during the Jesus Movement to train new believers how to properly discern what was in the scriptures. Marti was is such a program in Los Angeles as I was in one in the San Francisco area and we both learned to use the same tools in biblical interpretation.

A common practice was to act immediately on what was taught in the scriptures. So if the scriptures taught us to pray, you would stop what you were doing right then and pray. Prayer was participating with God and, therefore, was seen as a powerful spiritual weapon that was believed to cancel the plans of the enemy. 

Bringing forward that power of prayer, should be the hallmark of any ministry today. It is certainly a truism for us that without the Prayer Ministry, the Catch Ministry and its community would not exist. We believe as we did back in the day that God is present with us every moment, and why our Prayer Warriors provide an interactive covering for the entire Catch Ministry, its endeavors and community citizens with specific requests always welcomed.     

As I write, it is my prayer that you see God’s power at work in your life right now!

Confidential requests for prayer can be made at catchjohnfischer.live; Facebook.com/thecatch, and within this email.

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The voice of Christ for today and tomorrow

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In the only recognized authority on the Jesus Movement, the book, God’s Forever Family, by Larry Eskridge, a great deal of time is spent on a Bible study in the home of Ted and Liz Wise, in Sausalito, California, as the origin of the movement. The story of Ted’s conversion is a perfect illustration of the two characteristics of the Jesus Movement that we are looking at this week: 1) there was a very literal interpretation of the Bible, and 2) the Holy Spirit played a key role in its development.

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We are the Family of God

One aspect of the Jesus Movement that is missing from younger generations today is the realization of the importance of community. In many ways, social media has tried to make up for the loss of community, but it hasn’t done a very good job. Joni Mitchell sang “you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.” Well, it’s also true that you don’t know what you’ve lost if you’ve never had it. And that’s the case with many Millennials and Gen-Z, they’ve never really experienced community so they don’t know what they’re missing.

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‘Everyone, Everywhere’

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“Leadership rose from among the new believers.” – Number 9 of 14 Characteristics of the Jesus Movement

Marti Fischer, my wife, has the spiritual gifts of a leader. To some that is somewhat of an issue in that they believe women should not be in leadership positions in the church. However, the sheer evidence of Marti’s gifts and abilities would indicate that the Holy Spirit must be confused on this issue, to give her obvious gifts and the desire to lead, and then tell her not to use them. And since I can’t imagine the Holy Spirit confused, I must assume it’s us that has this wrong. If she wasn’t supposed to lead, no one told her that. That was the thing about the Jesus Movement, it rewrote the book on a few things.

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The experience of salvation

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I am over talking about the Jesus Movement strictly in the past tense, as if Jesus stopped moving. Of course He didn’t. Never has. The Jesus Movement is wherever Jesus is moving, and one place that is happening is in and through you and me. Wake up.

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An adventure of a Lifetime

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We are providing over the next few weeks a new way of looking at a time and a generation that laid the foundation for today’s Christianity.

As the leader of this Catch community, I am suggesting an adventure of a lifetime for those who witnessed a movement that blew fresh air through the Church and society in general. I am suggesting we create, with a new relevance as older, wiser pioneers peering into a new frontier, relationships with those in their twenties and thirties who are currently undergoing the same societal stresses and asking many of the same questions we asked. Together, young and old, we will offer a Christianity yet to see the light of twenty-first century day.

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Try to catch the wind

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There are two characteristics of the Jesus Movement that set it apart as a legitimate spiritual awakening on the level with other major spiritual movements in the history of western civilization like the Great Awakening and the Reformation. 1) There was no central organization in control; and 2) it happened simultaneously everywhere (U.S., Canada, Europe, South Africa). Taken together, these two characteristics tell us one thing: This was the Holy Spirit’s doing. There is simply no other explanation.

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Jesus brings us all together

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Jesus is the source of unity among believers. He was that fifty years ago in the Jesus Movement and He is that today as the next generations peers into a new frontier. When divisions and denominations exist in the church, it’s because we have made something else more important than Jesus. We have allowed some doctrine or some practice or some particular belief to become a barrier to unity. So we hunker down in our partisan group and cut ourselves off to the Jesus that exists in the lives of those believers who don’t hold to our particular bent.

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