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.
Not that Jesus stopped moving, but that we got a hold of the reins and suddenly the Movement became manmade. Ray Stedman used to say that any great move of God starts with a Man, then it becomes a Movement, then a Machine, and finally, a Monument. Explo ’72 was the transition from Movement to Machine stage for the Jesus Movement. In some cases, like in the Christian music business, Jesus was largely left out of it.
It took a massive amount of planning and organization to pull off something like Explo ‘72. Up until then, you could say the Holy Spirit was pretty much running things. We sure weren’t. Ask anyone who was involved and they’ll tell you that most of the time, we didn’t know what we were doing. People were simply being drawn to the Lord everywhere. People literally would walk up to you on the street and ask you about Jesus. If we did a concert, our promotion consisted in putting up a few flyers around town and people came in droves. Marti did the same thing with flyers where airport employees gather — “Come hear about Jesus” — and a thousand people would show up.
So what’s different today? No difference, really, from our point of view. There may be a difference in the air — in the number of people who are tuned into the Spirit or who are on the right wavelength — but our job is the same, to walk alongside those who are curious and those who are seeking and speak to the truth we know about Christ.
In 1970, God was gathering people to Himself. He’s doing the same thing today, without a promoter. And we do the same thing. We trust that in whatever we do, we don’t rely on our planning or organization, we rely totally on the Holy Spirit to draw people to the Lord through us.
I leave you with a thought from our good friend, Dave Roper. I applies to any generation, any time.
A number of years ago our three sons and I spent a couple of days drifting and fishing the Madison River in Montana. We hired two guides who served as our boatmen. The guide I drew was a man who had lived on the river all his life and knew where the big trout held.
We were fishing in choppy water; my eyesight is not what it used to be and I was missing every take. Eventually, my guide began to alert me when a trout moved under the fly by quietly murmuring, “fish.” When I raised the tip of my rod… Lo! A trout on my line.
I’ve often thought about that guide, the occasion and the great and mysterious opportunities that come our way each day to catch not fish, but men and women, boys and girls. All day long folks circle -’round us, ceaselessly cruising, searching for that elusive “something more” that will satisfy the hunger of their souls. All represent occasions to show compassion and understanding in Jesus’ name—opportunities you and I might miss if not alerted.
May the Great Angler, who knows every heart, whisper “fish” in our ears all day long (Luke 5:9).
According to Stedman, a movement starts with a Man, or a Woman. We’re not in the Movement stage yet, so that means we’re at the start of something. And that can only mean one thing: you’re the Man, and you’re the Woman. Time to Go Live!