The Jesus Revolution

Yesterday I went to see the movie, “The Jesus Revolution“. The movie is about the beginning of the Jesus Movement started in California in the 1970’s. One of the effects of the movement was the start of churches by the name of Calvary Chapel. Calvary Chapel churches and their original pastor, Chuck Smith have meant a great deal to me.

My early church years

I grew up going to church. We were Baptists. That meant something. We believed certain things like water baptism and the infallibility of the Bible. We didn’t believe in other things like christening babies and speaking in tongues. It was like playing for a team. We rooted for that team and worked to make sure that team won in any argument or conflict. People on our side we forgive quickly. People on any other side needed to wise up and move over to our side.

I had my first personal encounter with Jesus around 5th or 6th grade. It was a Sunday night and they showed a movie called, “A Thief in the Night“. I won’t go into detail about the movie, but it scared me. I “gave my life to Christ” that night. But, it was out of fear.

Our family attended church twice on Sundays and then again on Wednesday nights. Well, actually 3 times on Sunday if you count Sunday school. Our family occupied the 2nd pew on the left hand side of the church. That was the “Dunn” pew. Everyone knew that. No one else ever sat there. My grandparents sat on the same side but further back. I don’t remember anyone visiting the church. I’m not saying it didn’t occasionally occur, I just have no recollection of it happening. (Other than a family member who might be in town visiting someone.)

One Sunday the youth pastor asked me a question. “Are you saved?” I replied in the affirmative. He then asked the strangest question. “How much do you feel you have grown since then?” The question made me angry. What did that even mean? I gave myself to Christ, said the prayer. What is he even talking about? That youth pastor eventually moved on. He wasn’t very well liked by the adults at the church.

College and the Navigators

Jumping forward to college I suddenly realized that I needed to start making my own choices about how and where I would approach God on Sundays. I started by finding a nice Baptist church. It was very much what I was used to. I had a friend who was part of one of those “Pentecostal” churches! You know, hand raising, tongue speaking wild people! I was a little afraid to go to his church. I feared “catching” some spiritual germ that would infect me.

While in college I was encouraged to attend a weekly Bible study sponsored by the “Navigators“. We gathered a group of guys together in our dorm and studied the book of John. When we reached John 10, verse 10 I had my second encounter with God. But, this one was the opposite of my initial experience. Verse 10, in paraphrase, says that Jesus came to give us an awesome, full life. I broke into tears! Jesus wants me to experience joy? He wants me to have a good life? He isn’t standing over me with a switch, waiting for me to do something wrong and then smack me? This was a radical change for me!

Church after college

I graduated from college and found another nice Baptist church. This one challenged me a bit and I walked the aisle after one morning service. I got involved in a mission trip and took the “Evangelism Explosion” course. These were good days of growth.

I changed jobs which moved me away from this church. But, it also moved me into the epicenter of a mega-Baptist church. I was now working for a Christian school that was started and supported by Thomas Road Baptist Church under the pastoring of Jerry Falwell.

I worked there for 10 years with great people who genuinely loved God. But my wife and I (enter the scene, my beautiful wife Brenda) began to realize that the church wasn’t right for us. I often left Sunday service irritated about the government and society. I remember frequently telling Brenda that I was angry about the state of the world but had no idea what I was supposed to do about it. We felt that this was an unhealthy position for us.

Calvary Chapel

One day my wife Brenda told me that her hair dresser knew someone who attended Calvary Chapel Lynchburg and that they liked it. My first thought was, “Oh great, a bunch of holy rollers. They’ll be jumping around and shouting…” But, I love my wife so I said I’d go.

On our first Sunday we arrived a bit late and had to sit in an overflow area. We watched the message on a little tv mounted on the wall near the ceiling. The pastor, Troy Warner, was giving a message using the Bible. That may read as a odd statement. Doesn’t every pastor give a message using the Bible? Well, … yes .. sort of. Most pastors use the Bible as a launching pad to their point. This was a different thing entirely. This was the Bible to interpret the Bible to allow the words of the Bible to be understood. And, he preached for close to an hour! When he finished he indicated that he would be picking up with the next verses the following week. They were teaching verse by verse through the Bible! This was unheard of.

My wife and I decided that this was a place we needed to consistently attend. I petitioned the school for permission to attend Calvary Lynchburg and they approved. (Yes we had to ask permission!). The next few years I was introduced to the verse by verse studies by Chuck Smith. His slow, methodical delivery was almost hypnotic. And it was deep while being completely accessible. I learned that Calvary Chapels were all over the country and that they had begun in Costa Mesa, California at Chuck Smith’s church.

Getting serious about the Spirit

One evening my wife and I were at the Warner’s house for a small group get together. During the evening I realized that I had grown up being afraid of the third person of the Trinity. The Holy Spirit. He terrified me. My Baptist upbringing told me that He didn’t speak to us outside of the Bible. People juiced up on the Holy Spirit were possibly demon possessed. They needed to be prayed for and avoided. You didn’t want to catch what they had! But, when I studied the Bible I didn’t see the Holy Spirit as anyone to fear. Actually I saw Him as empowering. I could feel emotions sweeping over me as I came to this realization.

I’m still not speaking in tongues. I’ve never been “slain in the Spirit” or been present during a miraculous healing (that I know of), but I am open to these things. A few years ago I even began to raise my hands in church! Wow, right?

In 2000 we moved to Florida which, of course meant that we could no longer attend Calvary Lynchburg. We never did find a Calvary Chapel in Florida that suited us. But, I feel indebted to Calvary Chapel, Chuck Smith and Troy Warner for their commitment to teach God’s Word faithfully.

The Jesus Revolution

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