My first real exposure to the Jesus Revolution came in 1972, sometime during my 9th grade year. That experience also taught me that sometimes, even the wisest adults don’t know squat.
I lived in Lake Havasu City, Ariz., and attended a vibrant, growing UB church that was doing most things right. I loved the youth group, and loved my youth pastor, Jack Wade, a former Campus Crusade worker who influenced me significantly.
One night we all bundled into cars and traveled the 40 miles to Needles, Calif., where a Christian rally was being held. That’s Needles as in, “Well I headed for Las Vegas / Only made it out to Needles.” Pastor Marvin Price, Jack Wade, my dad, and probably several other adults accompanied us to Needles High School, where a bunch of sound and music equipment occupied the middle of the football field.
The music was loud Christian rock music, something new to Sheltered Stevie. Our church was progressive in many ways, but not in music. But it was not a concert. It was more of a worship service. For probably the first time in my life, I sang worship songs to the accompaniment of a full rock band. I tell you–it really grabbed my heart, like nothing I had experienced before. It connected. The preacher, probably just another hippie who found Christ, spoke not necessarily with eloquence, but with conviction and urgency. Again, my heart leaped with something I couldn’t explain. I caught glimpses into a whole new level of Christian living, and my heart yearned for it.
An altar call was given. As people went forward, the band sang and the preacher prayed and talked. And as he talked, he occasionally lapsed, just briefly, into another language. It was my first exposure to speaking in tongues. He didn’t make a show of it. A few words, then it was gone. And I remember the words, burned into my mind like it was yesterday. It sounded just like this: “Shone alamos.” Whatever that means.
But that was a sideline, not something I focused on. Rather, I found myself overwhelmed with the newness of this whole experience–the drums and screaming guitars, the long-haired hippie preacher, the urgency and depth of his message, and the overwhelming way in which I sensed the Holy Spirit’s presence in that gathering. It was incredibly real to me, unlike anything I had experienced before (though I’ve had many such experiences since then).
Well, afterwards we headed back to Lake Havasu and were directed into the fellowship hall, where we sat around on the floor. Dad told me, while we were still outside, “Pastor Price wants to talk to everyone about something.” “What?” I asked. “About speaking in tongues.” And I wasn’t even sure what he meant.
Some denominational tussles over tongues in our California churches had embroiled Pastor Price to some extent. Now his whole youth group had just been exposed to someone speaking in tongues, and he felt compelled to talk to us about that. So he did. Now, I heard years later that Pastor Price himself prayed in tongues, but it was purely a private thing; he never emphasized it, never preached about it, never encouraged it publicly. He just privately practiced it. So he knew what he was talking about. We teenagers received a doctrinally sound, balanced presentation about speaking in tongues. Pastor Price did a fine job. He beautifully answered questions I wasn’t asking.
You see, this incredible man of God totally missed the point. So did Jack Wade and my dad. The three most influential men in my life at that point. My mind was still back on that football stadium, still wondering:
“What was that?!?”
I was thinking about the incredible new way I sensed the Holy Spirit in that meeting, and how much I loved experiencing worship with my generation’s style of music. The adults totally missed this. Lousy antennae. The style just wasn’t their cup of tea, or maybe the Holy Spirit simply didn’t target them.
I think about that as I’m around today’s teens and young adults. I may participate in a gathering and find myself concerned about some theological issue, or perhaps a lack of Bible content, or something else. That may be all I see, as a 49-year-old, and I may downplay the event’s value. Meanwhile, a 20-year-old could be experiencing direct contact with the Holy Spirit and wondering, “What’s going on here?!?” Where I see shallowness, he may be thinking, “Wow! They are so genuine! So real!”
So on one hand I can take some pride in five decades of accumulated wisdom, experience, theological knowledge, and general spiritual discernment. But on the other hand, I need the humility to recognize that in contexts related to today’s emerging generations, I can sit amidst them and yet be totally blind to what God is actually doing. If a spiritual giant like Marvin Price can miss it, then I sure can.1 Comment