This is long, real long. It’s not so much the “rest of the story” about church in the Panhandle as much as it is a ramble about doing church in the 60s and 70s. Read if you have time.

The 60s and 70s were a time of upheaval and discontent, on all levels. By the late 60s and early 70s our innocence had been shattered because of the assassinations of JFK, Martin Luther King, and Bobby Kennedy. There were the Kent State shootings, the Viet Nam War, drugs and Woodstock.

I’m going on down to Yasgur’s farm
I’m going to join in a rock n roll band
I’m going to camp out on the land
I’m going to try an get my soul free

Set my soul free. That was what we wanted from the church. In the late 60s The Jesus Movement took off. Of course it was started in California, but it soon would be rocking the nation with a “different” way of worshipping Jesus. Out of the Jesus Movement came performers who were the fore-runners of today’s “contemporary” Christian music artists. But back then there wasn’t as much hype and money. There were such artists as Andrae Crouch, Larry Norman, Evie, Randy Stonehill, Keith Green, Russ Taff, Amy Grant, Petra, and Chuck Girard and Love Song (with one Phil Keaggy). They had long hair and played guitars and sang praises to Jesus. On the Sunset Strip, Arthur Blessitt opened his nightclub and coffee house called “His Place.” There were bumper stickers proclaiming “Jesus is my Bag,” “Honk if you love Jesus,” “Smile, God Loves You,” and “One Way – His Way.” There were little round orange stickers that said we were “Hooked on Jesus,” and “Turned on to Jesus.” And it was all coming into the Panhandle much to the chagrin of traditionalists.

We started bringing in guitars and drums and electric keyboards. By today’s standard of Contemporary Christian Music, the music we played had a very traditional feel to it. When I was in the youth choir, called “The Choraleers” of all things, we had to wear ties and the girls wore long dresses. But it was different. And different is always good. The older people just couldn’t understand it. We never played and sang on Sunday morning, it was always Sunday night at a special “youth-led service.” We opened coffeehouses around town to try and reach the generation that was now turning on to drugs and dropping out of society. Almost everyone I hung out with outside of church, and yes, some even in church, were doing something illegal. Drugs were flowing through the youth culture like cockroaches in an abandoned house. We tried to be different in church, and we got little support. Teaching/preaching was still done on a traditional level, much like it had been done for years. Sunday morning was still at 11:00 am and over by noon, if you were lucky. Baptist never wanted or cared to go past an hour unless you were in “revivial” mode, then it could last two hours. But that was at night. Sunday mornings were almost always over by noon so you could get home and eat the roast that had been on the stove all morning.

Slowly, the questioning of authority in society was drifting into the church. Why do we do the same thing every Sunday? Why do we believe what we believe? Why can’t church be more INTERESTING? Why can’t I wear my jeans with holes in them? Why, why, why? Who said the preacher knows everything? Who said the Bible is the final authority on everything? Who said we couldn’t say “Give peace a chance” in church? The prevailing feeling in the youth culture of the late 60s and early 70s was to “not trust anyone over 30.” And this included church.

So how did this affect today’s churches and those who are searching for answers? We are now the generation in leadership roles, and I see us mucking it up as bad as ever before. We still have difficulty in grasping onto how to make the church relevant, or at least able to change with each new generation. We still have a cultural divide that seems to be getting wider with each new generation. We are losing youth who actually grow up in church, and we are not reaching youth who won’t set foot in church. A lot of churches are still insisting on doing church the same way they always have, and they are dying. Oh, there are churches growing, but I wonder how many of them are growing because of new converts or people just moving their membership because something more is offered at the bigger churches?

I’m going to stop now. I can ramble on and on but I grow weary as I’m assuming you are too if you’ve made it this far. Perhaps a comment will trigger more rambling. Be careful what you say.