Ed Underwood oversees the ministries of Church of the Open Door in southern California with Judy, his wife of almost forty years. Still a “Jesus Freak” at heart, Underwood placed his faith in Christ during the Jesus Movement of the late 60s, and his passion in life is to see revival one more time. During his lifetime, Underwood has served as a fireman and a commissioned Army officer, but his passion for revival moved him to enter full-time ministry. Reborn to Be Wild is Underwood’s second book. He wrote his first, When God Breaks Your Heart, after almost dying from a vicious and chronic disease.
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List Price: $16.99
Paperback: 320 pages
Publisher: David C. Cook (June 1, 2010)
AND NOW...THE FIRST CHAPTER:
I don’t have to wonder what it would be like to be a part of a genuine revival. I lived through one in the late 1960s and 1970s. I was there. I didn’t meet Jesus in a church—I met Him on the streets of Bakersfield, California.
If you knew me in those days before I met Jesus, you would never have thought that I would be writing about revival forty years later. Especially if you knew and thought what religious people knew and thought back then.
There was no way the people who knew and believed that stuff would have chosen me to be on their team. I was the guy who didn’t even know that the Bible had books, the one who went to church only because it was Mother’s Day and my grandmother’s church had some type of pack-a-pew-for-Jesus event and my grandmother, Sister Patrick to her friends, was part of it. You didn’t have to worry about me coming to your church because I didn’t want to be there in the first place. I was the guy telling dirty jokes in class and buying beer for my friends, the one who loved it that the teachers couldn’t figure out, “What has happened to Eddie? He used to be such a good boy.”
Well, I wasn’t a good boy anymore and I liked it that way. I hated just about everything having to do with authority, and if you had anything to do with God, you had a lot to do with authority. So I didn’t want to be on your sorry team.
No, if you had anything to do with religion or church or God, you wouldn’t have chosen me to be on your team. You wouldn’t have picked any of my friends either. In your most undisciplined theological imagination, you would never have dreamed that my friends and I had anything to offer “God’s Team.
Fortunately for me, and for them, God doesn’t let religious people choose who gets to be on His team.
I became part of a very special team chosen by God, a handpicked army of revolutionaries who took our culture by storm—thousands of us at the center of the last great revival of American history, the Jesus Movement.
But to understand our revival, you have to know more about us, my generation. I graduated from high school in 1968.
I like Tom Brokaw a lot. His books and documentaries move me because he is more than accurate; he is passionate and honest. When he told the stories of the men who went to war with my dad and the women they left behind, I felt like he was letting others know what I already understood about those boys who gathered into bands of brothers and stared down Hitler, Mussolini, Tojo, and Stalin. They were the greatest generation because they saved our skins and didn’t brag about it.
He also wrote about my generation in his book Boom!: Voices of the Sixties. When I read and listen to him it’s like hearing the slightly older brother or very young uncle I never had but always wished for explain what happened to us—to me. How we could be so noble and so screwed up at the same time. So open to ideas but so unbending in our convictions. So full of advice, but so unwilling to listen. So bent on changing the wide, wide world, but so incapable of changing the little worlds around us: our marriages, our families, and our neighborhoods. So full of hope for the future, but so full of anger about the past.
His documentary 1968 with Tom Brokaw takes us through what historians tell us is one of the most tumultuous and decisive years in American history. For twelve months America stood at the crossroads of who we always were and who we might become. The anger fueling the debates over politics, civil rights, feminism, music, and recreational drugs turned to rage in 1968.
In a single summer, terrorists shot and silenced two of the most powerful voices for change when a homegrown Southern bigot gunned down Martin Luther King Jr. for “his people,” and an angry Palestinian from Jerusalem placed a small caliber pistol to the back of Bobby Kennedy’s head and pulled the trigger “for his country.”
Riots broke out; we burned our own neighborhoods and beat our own people over the head with nightsticks. We watched a war on TV in all its gruesome reality and wondered why our boys couldn’t stop the real enemy in their Tet Offensive and why they had to shoot women and children in a tiny hamlet named My Lai. Our brothers were dying in Vietnam and our sisters were burning their bras. Bob Dylan had warned us in 1964, “the times, they are a-changin’.”
They weren’t just a-changin’; they were a-fallin’-apart!
We questioned everything, read the writings of revolutionaries, and decided to start one. Our motto was simple, “Don’t trust anyone over thirty!” Ours was a revolution of the people, and it happened on the streets of our campuses and cities.
Brokaw brilliantly depicts the political and cultural aspects of the revolution using images and firsthand accounts. Everything he says about the 1960s is true, but there was more—a revolution he never mentions, a revolution that maybe he didn’t see, a revolution that hardly ever made the nightly news on earth but a revolution that was big news in heaven.
It was a revolution of the Spirit of God.
Towards the end of the documentary, Bruce Springsteen says, “The 1960s made room for outsiders and their ideas.”
I was one of those outsiders for whom the spiritual revolution of the sixties made room, and the ideas erupting from our redeemed hearts hit the streets of the campuses and cities of America with the freshest expression of the good news modern man had ever heard.
It intrigues me that Springsteen used the same word the apostle Paul used to describe those who now find room for their ideas in a revolution—outsiders.
Paul used the Greek term three times to remind Christians of their responsibility to live in a way that “outsiders” (NIV, NASB) or “those outside” (NKJV) would want to know more about Jesus (1 Cor. 5:12; Col. 4:5; 1 Thess. 4:12). Outsider is his technical theological description of people who live outside of God’s mercy and grace. Outsiders were those living in the domain of darkness, outside the borders of the kingdom of the Son of His love (Col. 1:13).
Even if I didn’t know what the Bible called it, I couldn’t think of a better title for the place we lived before God’s love brought us inside—darkness. The revolution reached into the darkness outside, where we lived:
• Tough, hip neighborhoods where God was for dorky church kids and the only thing we liked about Jesus was that he wore long hair and sandals.
• Busy, preoccupied homes that didn’t have time for the silly charades of religious folk.
• A culture in which grace was when a well-starched family took the booth next to yours in a restaurant, bowed their heads and folded their hands in a way that made everyone around them feel weird.
• Neighborhoods where loyal, lifelong friendships seemed to be unraveling from the pressures of growing up, where mercy was what you called for just before blacking out when the big neighbor kid caught you in his famous “sleeper hold.”
Oh, it was darkness all right. But it didn’t seem dark to us then, before we saw the light. It was just life, our reality, our dark reality. From the core of our blackened souls to the gloomy, immoral rhythms of our everyday lives, to the sinister generational evil we were trying to ignore, we were incapable of knowing anything but darkness.
I think our hopelessness had a lot to do with our revolution that became a revival. From the darkness of our lives, we couldn’t see the light, had never seen it before. We didn’t entertain ideas about how much the light might need us or how it could improve our lives in ways that would enhance our career or get us to heaven when we were through doing what we wanted to do down here. We were blinded by the light.
Before we met Jesus, we were outsiders and we knew it. After we took Him at His word, we were insiders, and we knew that, too. And we knew how we got on the inside. Jesus rescued us from darkness. We couldn’t quote it from memory because we probably didn’t know where to find it in our crisp new American Standard New Testaments, but when we read His words, we knew Peter was talking about us when he said:
But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; who once were not a people but are now the people of God, who had not obtained mercy but now have obtained mercy. (1 Peter 2:9–10)
If you’re going to have a revolution, you need to have new ideas. If you’re going to find new ideas, they will never come from those who are comfortably inside. They come from the outside, from outsiders. Even though we were now inside the borders of the kingdom of the Son of God’s love, the old insiders never did embrace us. To them we would always be outsiders.
It didn’t bother us much. Actually, it didn’t bother us at all. To be totally honest, we dug it. Our hearts were on fire with the love of Christ and we didn’t really trust them with the fire anyway. All they wanted to do was douse it, control it, or worse, take credit for it.
And so we did what outsiders often do, we started a revolution fueled by a passion insiders can’t know… unless they reach out to us. And like revolutions everywhere, our fresh expressions of truth didn’t move along the protected stain-glassed corridors of the institutional church. Our revival happened in the very places that had been deserted by most religious insiders as they watched in horror, threw up their hands, and screamed bloody murder from inside their cloistered fortresses of irrelevance. It happened on the street.
When I hear most other Christians talk about their spiritual journeys, I’m reminded of how different our stories are. They talk about hearing a powerful sermon and deciding to do this or being at a Christian retreat and realizing that, or the way a Sunday school teacher or youth pastor told them what they needed to hear. The story usually starts at church or some religious event surrounded by Christians.
I didn’t know any people who were Christians, but a lot of the people I did know were becoming Christians. None of it happened at church.
The very first conversation I remember ever having about God was with an old drinking buddy and fellow degenerate. It was during homeroom at South High. Mike, Jim, and I always sat together near the back. That way Miss Beane couldn’t tell that we weren’t discussing our assignments. I can’t remember what we were talking about but I’m sure it had something to do with girls or beer or sports. I’m also sure it had a lot to do with the fact that everyone else around us was stupid. Mike, Jim, and I were smarter than most of our peers and we knew it. We thought we were cooler than everyone else too, but we probably weren’t.
One of us brought up the subject of Bobby. Bobby used to do everything with us. He was our contact at the local grocery store where he stocked shelves. We would give Bobby the money to pay for the massive amounts of beer we needed for the weekend and he would put the money in the cash register before sneaking cases of Coors in bottles out the back door in big toilet paper boxes. We wouldn’t want to steal.
“So what do you think? Is Bobby a Jesus freak? I heard that he’s not going to get us beer anymore.”
Somehow the next comment turned the conversation in a way that amazes me today. I know it happened because I was a part of the discussion, I just can’t believe that we were talking about it.
“Hey, how does this work anyway? If there is a God, then He has to know everything, doesn’t He?”
“Yeah, seems like He should.”
“Okay, if He knows everything, then He must cause everything. Right?”
“Wait a minute. Slow down, what are you getting at?”
“Well, if I’m supposed to somehow accept Jesus, but God already knows what I’m going to decide, because He’s controlling me, then how can He send me to hell if I don’t do it?
“Accept Him, or Jesus, or whatever it is we’re supposed to do.”
“How can He send anyone to hell? It’s all His fault, isn’t it?”
Mike broke in. “I asked Bobby about that. He said he didn’t know, but he would ask someone. He said the important thing is that we should know that God loves us and that He wants to have a relationship with us.”
Jim and I immediately reacted. “What? Have you been talking to Bobby about this (let me use a better word than we used on that day) … stuff?”
That’s how the revival started, how it began moving. People like Bobby were everywhere. On every football team, in every car club, every drinking buddies club, every neighborhood, every dorm, every locker room, every Spanish, history, and physics class, every cheerleading camp, cruising every strip, sitting in every McDonald’s, every group waiting to catch the next wave at Huntington Beach, every work crew improving trails in the High Sierras, at every family reunion, every wedding, every party, every spirit rally and dance in the school gym. At every event that gathered high school and college students together—there was a Bobby. There was someone who had just discovered the grace and mercy of God and who simply refused to stop talking about Jesus.
The penetration was that broad and that deep. When I think of it now, it absolutely blows me away. We were three pagan kids sitting in our little corner of the universe debating the sovereignty of God and the free will of man!
The critical time in each of our lives was when God came onto our scene, to our street, our homeroom, our team, our dorm. He did this by sending a Bobby. The scenes of my life shifted dramatically as God brought my Bobby to my street.
Scene 1, Home Phone
“Hey Eddie, this is Bobby. I’m on my way out to Phil’s new ranch. He needs me to watch the ranch house for him tonight. He has to work. You want to come with me? I’ll cook you some steaks from the steer we butchered last week.”
Before I said yes, I thought it through. I had heard about this so-called ranch. Phil was the first one to fall for Bobby’s Jesus message, and he was all in. I never saw him in the old places anymore. His girlfriend told people that he broke up with her because he didn’t think that their relationship was “pleasing to God.” Since I knew what they were up to (the same things we were all up to), I had to agree with him on that point. If there was a God, He probably didn’t like the things we were doing with our girlfriends. Phil and a couple of his new Jesus friends had actually rented a ranch outside of town. How they did it, I didn’t know. How do three guys our age rent a whole ranch?
Word on the street was that they got together out there and had Jesus meetings. They would all work together to care for the stock and keep the place up. Guys, girls, all together feeding cows, cleaning stalls, brushing horses, watering crops, washing walls, painting the barn, cooking meals and doing dishes. In the evening, they would all get around a campfire and someone who knew something about Jesus would teach stuff from the Bible and they would all sing Kumbaya and then pray and hug each other.
Anyway, that was what someone told us.
It sounded boring compared to our Friday nights of cruising the strip, getting drunk, and picking up some girls if we got lucky, or getting in a fight with guys from North High if our luck ran out.
But I did hear that some of the best-looking girls in Kern County were there. And Bobby was my friend. I calculated.
What do I have to lose? What could happen on a Tuesday night anyway? Besides, I could use some steak and nobody else will be there. It was a good excuse to get out of the house.
“Okay, Bob. Come on by. But I don’t want to talk about Jesus all the time.”
“I promise, Eddie.”
Scene 2, The Ranch
“Great steak, Bobby. But, I sure could use a beer.”
“Sorry, no beer out here. What do you think of the place?”
“Pretty nice. Feels good to be out here. You come here a lot?”
“Most nights after work at the market. I like getting away. We really have a lot of fun out here, Eddie.”
“You mean at your ‘Jesus Parties’?”
That’s not what we call them. We’re just a bunch of Christians getting together. I’m no different from you, Eddie. Only forgiven …”
“Bobby, you promised,” I stopped him.
“You’re right. Sorry. Oh, I forgot to tell you. Mo’s coming by tonight on his way down to L.A. He’s just crashing here for the night.”
“No problem. Just don’t wake me up when he gets here.”
I had heard about Mo. His real name was Craig and he was Phil’s old friend who used to live in Bakersfield but now lived up north. He went to Chico State and all the Jesus people talked about him like he was the coolest thing since whipped butter. Long hair parted down the middle, drove an MG, talked a lot about philosophy and religion, understood some things about the Bible, and lived in some type of Jesus commune or something. He was a student leader of this “club.” They called it Young Life.
I didn’t want to talk to that character, so I made sure they thought I was asleep when he showed up around midnight. But I listened to this guy and my friend Bobby talk late into the morning. I heard every word. I still tear up today as I write these words telling you what their sentences awakened in my heart that night: a spiritual desire for Jesus more powerful than any sensual desire I had ever experienced.
They were talking about Jesus like they were talking about a friend, only different. They not only admired Jesus, it seemed like Jesus was really a part of their lives. I began to wonder if maybe they had something, if maybe I was missing something, something big, something forever.
Then they began to talk to God about people, some of the people I knew. I guessed that this must be how they prayed. Didn’t sound like any prayer I had ever heard at Grandma Sister Patrick’s little country church. It was just conversation and they weren’t telling God how bad these people were; they were asking Him to help them show these people how much He loved them. They asked God how they could help these people believe in Jesus, how they could tell them about what a difference Jesus was making in their lives.
And then they mentioned me. As far as I knew then, this was the first time anyone had ever talked to God about me in a way that wasn’t bringing up all the stuff I hoped He hadn’t noticed.
I stared at the wall, didn’t move a muscle, and secretly hoped God was listening to them.
The next morning Bobby and I left before Mo stirred.
“You okay, Eddie? Pretty quiet. Did we wake you up last night? We tried not to be loud.”
“No,” I lied. “I’m just thinking about my day.”
No I wasn’t. I was thinking about my night, last night and the rest of my life and beyond. I was deciding that maybe I needed to ask Bobby more about Jesus, that maybe I wanted to meet this guy, Mo, or Craig, or whatever his name was. Maybe I wanted to be able to talk about God and to God in the same way they did.
But not right now, I told myself as we hit the first red light back into town. I needed time to think and room to breathe.
Scene 3, Kern County
I had plenty of time to think, but no room to breathe. I remember the months following the night Bobby and Mo prayed for me at Phil’s ranch as the most miserable months of my life. The darkness was beginning to smother me.
• Larry got killed in Vietnam just a few months after I organized his going-away party, where we all got drunk and told him he was “too ornery to get killed.” No, he wasn’t; I helped carry his casket from the chapel to his grave. And then we all “remembered” his death by having another party in the same place
with the same people. The only difference was that this time we all loaded up in my ’69 GTO and a couple of other muscle cars and went out to Beach Park where the hippies and protestors hung out and beat a couple of them within an inch of their lives. We told ourselves that we did it for Larry and America, but we knew better. We knew we were just being mean because we didn’t know what else to do with the pain.
• My girlfriend, the one I hoped God didn’t know what I was doing with in the backseat of my GTO, met some guy at a ski resort in the Sierras and decided that she wanted to become an Olympic skier and that she needed some “space” to train. Right.
• I launched a very short and unsuccessful career as a petty thief. I felt horrible when we stole stuff from friend’s garages, batteries from tourists’ cars, and hard liquor from anywhere I happened to be when I noticed it on the shelves. I didn’t even want the stuff, but it made me popular with my friends. I gained quite a rep as a reckless dude, until I got caught and spent the night in jail, scared spitless. My dad didn’t say much on the drive home. He just kept looking at me with that, “What happened to my son?” look I was beginning to recognize. I had no answers to that question because I was asking it myself.
• And college? Forget that. All of my smart friends who had been with me in the smart kid’s classes since first grade were off to places like UCLA, USC, and even the Air Force Academy. Me? I was flunking out of the local community college because I spent all my time at the lake water skiing or at the pool hall, honing my “skills” in these two life-success-critical talents.
Kern County was my open-air playground—skiing on pristine lakes in the foothills on weekdays when we were the only boat in the water, hunting quail in the Sierras whenever I felt like it, skipping class and heading to the pool hall where an old guy sold us drinks as if he really believed we were twenty-one. We were living the 1960s dream expressed in the songs we listened to on the radio—we took “surfin’ afaris” whenever we felt like it, drove “country roads” proving that we were “born to be wild,” got lovin’ “eight days a week,” and “lived for today.”
But the dream was turning into a nightmare for me. Especially when I was alone. When I was alone the desperate lyric of the day seemed more appropriate, “Hello darkness, my old friend.”
As the suffocating shadows closed in, proving that Simon and Garfunkel didn’t know what they were talking about—that darkness was not my friend—another friend dropped by, a friend whose smile brought a glimmer of light to my dark existence.
Scene 4, Keith’s House
The smell of the sizzling quail filled the house. Mom and Dad were gone somewhere and I was all set to watch something on TV when Bobby walked in the way he used to when we were close. He never knocked because he didn’t need to. My family loved him. He was the only one I ever knew who did that; it was just his way.
He popped in to report that Billy Graham was going to be on TV later and told me I should listen to him. Then, just as quickly as he had arrived, Bobby left. On his way out he said this, “See you, Eddie. If you want to talk, come on by.”
I don’t remember any of what Dr. Graham had to say, but it was enough to get me to drive the few blocks to Bobby’s house for the first time in over a year.
“Bobby, I need to talk to you. I did watch Billy Graham; that’s why I came here tonight. I don’t know what to do. I have to talk to someone.”
Bobby smiled. “I know just how you feel Eddie. I don’t know a lot, but I do know this …”
As my friend explained the core message of the good news that he and my other “Jesus friends” had believed, I knew this was the best news I had ever heard. Bobby quoted the first Bible verse my ears would ever really hear:
For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. (John 3:16)
The questions poured from me. Bobby tried to keep up and then held up his hand and said, “Let’s go ask Keith.”
I had never met Keith, but I knew he was talking about Keith Osborn. Keith had quit his job teaching and coaching in a local high school to become the Kern County Young Life Leader. A few months prior, Keith had been the last person I wanted to talk to; now I couldn’t wait.
We drove the few blocks to Keith’s house. His wife met us at the door.
“Keith’s at a club meeting. He should be back soon. Come on in.”
“No,” I offered, “we’ll just wait outside.”
I didn’t want to be rude, but I wanted to talk more with Bobby about God and Jesus. It didn’t seem like we could do that in some stranger’s living room.
Keith drove up in an old beat-up car. I picture him in my mind today and he looks tired, but I didn’t even notice any of that; I just had to know more about God. Keith was easy to talk to. He smiled when he saw me and said he had been praying for me. I gave Bobby a look that said, “Have you been talking about me to all these Jesus guys?”
He winked and smiled.
Keith took a seat on the curb in front of his house, invited me to sit down next to him, and opened his Bible. I remember it didn’t look like any Bible I had ever seen before—the huge ones on coffee tables in religious homes or the big black ones the people in Sister Patrick’s church carried under their arms. Keith’s Bible was ragged and used, he had scribbled notes all over the pages and underlined a bunch of sentences. Wow, this guy actually reads this, I thought.
Keith began talking about God and Jesus and truth and mercy and a word that I was especially attracted to, grace. He was so gentle, so real, and so different from anyone who had ever talked about God around me before. And it was on that curb in Bakersfield, California, on that summer night, that the Jesus Movement moved into my heart.
This man I had just met asked me to pray with him, and I did. In everyday sentences, I told God that I knew I was a sinner, that I believed Jesus died for my sins, and that I wanted to receive Christ as my Savior. Keith said “Amen,” grabbed me in his arms, hugged me wildly and read from his Bible how the angels were having a party right now because they were so excited that I had become a Christian.
That was the night the light dawned in my heart and the darkness lifted from my life. Like the thousands of others who were meeting Jesus through the Bobbies and Keiths in their lives, I knew I was different. Especially when the darkness tried to hang on, while Jesus pulled me from its death grip.
Scene 5, Jeff’s Car
We called it the “Hole.” It was a huge depression in the desert floor outside of town, a perfect place to party. If you didn’t know it was there, you couldn’t find the source of the rock music blasting from the huge speakers someone wired to their eight-track tape player. If you knew the unmarked way, you would slow down just before you hit the edge of our four- or five-acre crater turned rock concert. As you dropped into a lower gear you would look for a place to park, pull out your drug of choice, depending on whether you were a “juicer” or a “head,” and start partying. The cops couldn’t find us so it got pretty wild.
My new Christian friends had warned me against hanging out with the guys from the neighborhood. They said something about not having “fellowship with darkness.” I had already figured out that fellowship was Christian-talk for friendship but I didn’t see any harm in spending a Friday night with my old buddies at the Hole.
Jeff promised he wouldn’t tell Bobby I was going out there with him. I was already learning how to be a hypocrite. And besides, what would a few beers and some laughs with my buddies hurt? I never wanted to become some holy nutcase.
I tried to have fun like before, but it just didn’t take. I had another beer and danced with some pretty girls to see if that would help. It just got worse.
I walked over to Jeff’s Malibu, sat on the hood and talked about Jesus with a guy I had only met a few times. I remember thinking as I talked about Christ that I was becoming a Bobby. I also remember deciding that I didn’t care.
My most distinct memory from that night was leaving the Hole riding shotgun in Jeff’s car with a buzz on from the alcohol and hearing God say plainly, You don’t belong here anymore. This is not your life; there’s nothing here for you. Your future is with me.
I never looked back.
I made mistakes and still committed a lot of sins, including many of the same sins I was committing before I met Jesus. But I always knew that it wasn’t the real me, or the new me, doing these things. That was just the old me messing up on the way to my real future, the one I really wanted, my future with Jesus.
You Say You Want a Revolution
We said we wanted revolution and that we wanted to change the world. John Lennon sang about it. We immortalized it.
Tom Brokaw tells us now that some things changed for good and some things changed for worse. As I said earlier, I think he’s correct in everything he says, but he missed the most significant world change, the most lasting revolution of the 1960s.
It didn’t start in Berkeley or at Woodstock. It began in Southern California with the Bobbies of Santa Ana, Huntington Beach, Venice, and Westwood. It spilled over the mountains, as the Bobbies came home to places like Bakersfield, Santa Barbara, and Chico. It was a revolution that happened on the streets, but it was a revolution of the heart.
We called it the Jesus Movement, and it consumed us. Only one word accurately describes what it was—revival. If you’re a Christian, you’re already thinking about what you hope is coming next. There is a question in your heart that you hope I’m going to answer. You want to know if there was a pattern, a path to follow toward revival.
For years my answer to that was always, “No, it just happened. God just did it.” My wife, Judy, changed my mind when she said, “Honey, when I read 2 Corinthians 4:15, it makes me think of when we came to Christ in Bakersfield.”
For all things are for your sakes, that grace, having spread through the many, may cause thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God. (2 Cor. 4:15)
Have you ever had one of those moments when you suddenly understood something so perfectly that you were able to say what you felt so intensely with absolute clarity? Something you always had to get out of your soul but you just couldn’t find the words, and then it unfolds and the words just flow from your lips, and as you hear yourself, you’re thinking, That’s it!
I had one of those moments in our living room that day just before breakfast when Judy read 2 Corinthians 4:15. The apostle Paul had condensed everything that happened to us in the Jesus Movement into one sentence: “The grace God planted in our hearts spread through the many and caused thanksgiving to abound to the glory of God.”
That’s it. That’s the path to revival.
When I checked 2 Corinthians 4:15 in my favorite paraphrase, The Message, I was really fired up because it divided the path to revival into three progressive steps:
We’re not keeping this quiet, not on your life. Just like the psalmist who wrote, “I believed it, so I said it,” we say what we believe. And what we believe is that the One who raised up the Master Jesus will just as certainly raise us up with you, alive. Every detail works to your advantage and to God’s glory: more and more grace, more and more people, more and more praise! (2 Cor. 4:13–15 MSG)
There it is, the path to revival: more and more grace, more and more people, more and more praise! Grace, People, Praise.
If you want to change the world for Christ, if you want to start a spiritual revolution, it all begins with grace, and lots of it.
More and More Grace
The only starting point is grace, pure and free. If you want revival, you must embrace grace, or it’s not Christianity. Grace sets Christianity apart from all other religions. It’s what makes our message good news.
Years ago a group of British thinkers on comparative religion furiously debated whether one belief set Christianity apart from other world religions. C. S. Lewis wandered in late, took a seat, and asked, “What’s the rumpus about?” When they told him they were trying to determine Christianity’s unique contribution among world religions. Without hesitation he replied, “Oh, that’s easy. It’s grace.”3
It’s grace. Would you say that? Without hesitation? If not, you’re not ready for revival. Whether you met Jesus in the Jesus Movement like me or you’re an emergent Christian or you’re a believer anywhere in between who’s asking God to use you to make a revival-difference in this world, you have to get this straight.
Only those who are willing to join God in risking grace by extending it to sinners without hesitation or compromise will know the spontaneous spiritual joy that sparks spiritual revolution.
Undeserved, unending, unearned, unconditional, uncontrollable, unblinking, unbound, undefiled, undeniable, unequivocal, unfaltering, unhinging, unlimited, unmistakable, unprecedented, unsettling—grace—God’s gift of life to all who believe in His Son, unheard of anywhere else but in Christ.
To us, grace was so much more than a theological doctrine. It was the air we breathed and the new reality of our existence. We never thought for one minute that we were walking a path of measuring up to God. We knew we were walking a path of trusting God. Those two paths never lead in the same direction. One leads to a world of failure, defeat, and misery; the other leads to a world of strength, victory, and joy.
The ones on the path of measuring up never invited us along. Even if they did, we would have told them what they could do with their religious selves. The ones on the path of trusting couldn’t contain the message of grace or the joy in their hearts. And so, like my friend Bobby, they invited us to trust God with them … and we did.
If you were there, you remember when your Bobby came to your street and the moment the light of Christ began to shine in the darkness. But that’s not all you remember. You remember how it felt, the adventure of living on the edge of a powerful movement of God. And you know that you want to feel that way again.
If you’re a Christian but you weren’t there and the institutional church has yet to anesthetize your heart, perhaps you’re reading about something you would love to experience. Maybe you never even thought of yourself as someone who could be part of a revival.
By the time you finish reading this book, you will know that it can happen again. You will understand that in order to get a clear picture of revival you don’t need to strategize, analyze, contextualize, or market Jesus the way some leaders are telling you today. For revival, you simply need to get back on the path of grace, the path wild revolutionaries walk, the path of trusting God. Then, you will look at the streets of your life and imagine what would happen if you decided to be a Bobby.
That’s what we did. As soon as we met Jesus on the streets by hearing His message of grace, we couldn’t keep it quiet—more and more grace. Every detail worked to God’s glory as more and more people praised God as we took Jesus to the streets.