Recently I was given a copy of “Jesus Revolution” (thanks, Bill!), the story of how God showed His saving power to thousands of people in America in the 1960s and 1970s. Our church was part of this movement, brought to life in November of 1979, and more than a few of us here came to Christ during those days as well.
The 60s and 70s were a time of great upheaval, chaos, and division in this country. The Vietnam war, assassinations of Martin Luther King Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy, the Beatles, Woodstock, Watergate, flower power, and more resulted in a time when young people were questioning authority, throwing off the values of previous generations, using lots of drugs and, in the midst of all that, coming to faith in Christ in large numbers.
I love reading stories of God’s work in the past, since it reminds me of His saving power and gives me courage to press ahead in the present. Here’s one of my favorite stories from “Jesus Revolution,” about a teenager named Greg Laurie, and one of his first experiences sharing his faith with others.
[Greg] went to a group baptism at Pirate’s Cove [CA] but got there late. There were still dozens of people hanging around, though, and so he sat down with a group of kids who were playing guitars and singing.
Then he felt an irresistible urge to do something he’d never done. He’d been reading his Bible that morning, soaking up the story of a blind man whom Jesus had healed. The man’s excited words from two thousand years ago were fresh, real, and echoing in Greg’s head. I once was blind, but now I see! He felt like he just had to tell the other people about it.
This was not Greg’s personality. He didn’t like to take risks that had unknown social outcomes.
But he realized he had to say something.
Today Greg doesn’t even remember exactly what he talked about, but the real shocker came when he finished talking. Two teenagers had joined the group, and they got his attention.
“Pastor,” one of them said, “we missed the baptism earlier. We accepted Christ earlier this week. Can you baptize us?”
Greg looked around to see who they were calling pastor. He asked them to repeat what they’d said. He had no idea if he had any right to baptize people, but these kids were insistent, and he felt like Jesus was in favor of baptism. So maybe he should do it.
They waded out into the water. Greg asked the kids to declare their faith in Jesus for the forgiveness of their sins, and repeated the ritual that he had seen Pastor Chuck [Smith] do many times. He managed to dunk both teenagers without drowning them.
They all waded back to the shore.
Then Greg looked up. Now there were about forty people scattered on the rocks above the cove. They were waiting for what would happen next.
All Greg could think of was a memory from his druggie days, when he’d come to Pirate’s Cove and there would be this weird guy, dressed in long sleeves and long pants, preaching about Jesus. Greg had watched as people would laugh at the guy, or yell at him, or ignore him.
Now, evidently, he was that guy.
He called up to the kids sitting on the rocks, who looked like New Testament characters sitting by the Sea of Galilee. “Hey! You might be wondering why we’re down here baptizing people. You might be wondering what baptism even is! The reason is, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, died on a cross and paid for our sins. He rose from the dead! And He’s changed our lives!”
Greg went on. “If any of you want to, you can accept Christ as your Savior right now! Just come on down here, and I’ll tell you more, and I’ll pray with you.”
Five or six people actually climbed down the rocks and came to the water’s edge. Greg explained more about the gospel, answered their questions, and prayed with them. To his surprise, three of them decided they also wanted to be baptized right then.
Greg hadn’t even turned twenty yet. But to his shock, God did something that night that set a calling on the rest of his life. He knew he wanted to be an evangelist.
Exciting, isn’t it? And a little messy, too. This probably isn’t the text I’d turn to in order to explain best practices for baptism, but it I love this story because it illustrates what we heard last Sunday from Romans 10:1-4, God saves people who know they can’t save themselves. And this story strengthens my confidence that evangelism is simply sharing the good news about Jesus. Finally, this story makes me thirst for revival, for times when the Holy Spirit secretly works deeply in many hearts so that they become unusually receptive to the gospel.
May the Lord bring revival here in our city, now in these days, and may we be faithful to follow Jesus and share this good news in times of revival and times of spiritual apathy and any time in between.