Tom and Maryellen Stipe during the Jesus Movement
When most people search back through the annals of their memories and remember the life changing passages in their lives they often think back to high school or college.
They remember the schools they attended, the relationships they had there, and the music that played in the background.
But when I think back on my life molding times—I am different.
I’m different because it was not the hallowed halls of an educational institution that profoundly shaped me. I am not without an educational alma-mater but the influence that sent me on my life course did not come from there.
What profoundly formed my life was a spiritual time—a special period of “God history.” And the spiritual environment, the spiritual experiences and the relationships that I tasted then are the elements that make up the indelible imprints of my young adulthood.
I consider myself fortunate to be one of “thousands” of so-called “Jesus freaks”– individuals whose teens and twenties were dominated by no less than Jesus himself. We are an unusual bunch, who when thinking of “where were you in the seventies?” don’t think of a school or a stadium, or even a war, but instead think of three words—The Jesus Movement.
The Jesus Movement was a culture unto itself—a counter-culture expression contrasting a youthful society gone mad. By the grace of God, at a time when evil raised up a banner extolling free sex, drugs and eastern mysticism, the Almighty raised up a standard of His own. To a generation looking for love in all the wrong places God lifted up his Son and His Divine love and thousands including me flocked to Him.
There was never a time before or has there ever been a time since when God moved so dramatically on young people. It was “revival” –and a spiritual Wind moved across a generation whisking tens of thousands into its influence. My life was dramatically changed by that Wind and my choice for a mate, my calling, and my lifestyle were cast in its wake. I chose to follow Jesus and I have never looked back.
As a result, the story of my youth will never be encapsulated in a yearbook. Instead, the saga of my young years is tied to a dynamic people—the Jesus People—and their culture.
Yes, we had our own culture. We had our own brand of religion, with its own liturgy and a new spiritual jargon. We had our own dress; our own music and we even had our own folk heroes.
It was the music, which was a new type of sacred song that was the most defining element of our “spiritual culture.” And the music was pioneered by an elite group of young minstrels. The band that was at the epicenter of the musical awakening taking place was a group of redeemed “rockers” called Love Song.
The young guys who made up Love Song were unlikely “Levites.” They were not the beneficiaries of a long religious heritage, like the worship leaders of old; instead God drafted them off the street. They came out of the “hippie” culture they were called to juxtaposition and God gave them inspired songs for the spiritual climate he was creating. They became the “pied pipers” of the movement, calling young participants to follow The Master.
Tom Stipe preaching in "Tent" at Calvary Chapel during the Jesus Movement
As I said, we also had our own folk heroes, these were teens that God raised up from amongst us to take the forefront leading the new sacred gatherings we were initiating. Jesus music concerts were one of the staples of the spiritual life of the Jesus People and they were almost always punctuated by the messages of young evangelists. I married one of these evangelists/folk heroes and nearly forty years later we are still making disciples.
I never went to one of my high school or college reunions, but through the years I have attended several “Jesus People Reunions.” These events are extremely popular because they help true “Jesus People” to remember the happenings that for most of us eclipsed everything else in our young lives. We have a chance at these gatherings to sing the old songs, to raise our hands in the same holy ways and to consider once again the spiritual truths that have always been so important.
These reunions, while misunderstood by many, are immensely clear in their importance to those who actually lived through the Jesus Movement. They are meaningful and bring to our remembrance the sacred times that carved out our personalities and determined our futures. At these events we have an opportunity to savor the spiritual essence of a time gone by while we worship the Savior who’s always the same and who we will always love!
On September 15th at 6:30, Crossroads Church of Denver will host the Love Song Reunion Tour with Chuck Smith; also on hand will be hundreds of Jesus People who actually lived through that incredible time in history. I will be there with my husband Tom Stipe. Tom and I moved to Denver in 1976 to plant a Jesus Movement type church in Colorado. We were on staff with Chuck Smith from 1970 until 1976 and during that time Tom was the staff evangelist in charge of the Saturday Night Maranatha Concerts.
We invite you to come and join us for what we are sure will be a life-changing concert with Love Song and Chuck Smith. If you are a Christian who dates back to the Jesus Movement days please come ready to be part of a heart warming reunion and if you are one who wants to just come and check out what you have heard about this incredible band please feel welcomed. I am sure no one will go away without experiencing a blessing and a dose of God’s love. God’s love in abundance was one of the hallmarks of the Jesus Movement and it’s the same yesterday, today and forever!
For a taste of the time, I’ve included the following excerpt from an article from a local newspaper of the period. This posting is a part of just one of the many articles that I have collected that reported on the spiritual happenings in the tent that Calvary Chapel called home during the Jesus Movement. This particular piece is one of my favorites because it captures the preaching of my husband Tom Stipe.
Sunday March 31, 1974 Long Beach Independent, Press-Telegram (from article “Jesus on Campus”)
Tom Stipe, the folk hero of Calvary Chapel comes on after the large, youthful congregation has warmed up with an hour of moving ballads interspersed with deep-bass, hand-clapping Jesus rock from the musicians of Love Song, one of the chapel’s nationally known rock groups. He’s wearing faded jeans, a blue work shirt and tousled, shoulder length hair. Stipe is a showman, but he mocks his own showmanship, dropping into a Southern preacher drawl that delights the teenagers.
“Now when ah got saved, ah wasn’t falling into the depths,” he drawls. “Ah was into the whole party thing in pursuit of fun—you know the kinda guy who is driving around at three in the morning to see it anybody is still awake…” Laughter rocks the light-flooded chapel. It’s Saturday night and it’s the biggest Jesus show around. For local high school and college students, it’s the Southland’s religious mecca. They come driving down to South Santa Ana from as far as the San Fernando Valley and San Diego.
“Now, everybody thinks they can get more from Pier One in Newport Beach than from Jesus Christ,” Stipe preaches. “They think they can get more action on Long Beach Boulevard or Pacific Coast Highway than from the Lord…Before I got saved I always thought that if you became a Christian, you’d become like a stone, You know,” he says, dropping into a deep, moronic voice. “duh I am a Christian.” And people would just roll you around. (Roars of laughter). Well let me tell you what it’s really like…”