I am a child of the '70s. I can say that even though I was born in 1975, because I am a product of the 1970s. I am the result of all that was in my father's heart during that time. The spark that was in him, the seed of hope that he had, all that he longed for he passed on to me. The burning desire he had in the '70s went deep into me as a child and stayed with me as I grew up.
My father was a radical Christian hippie of the '70s. He was one of the zealous, eager 20-something-year-olds of that time that helped to bring about the Jesus Movement. A young Christian, he set out on a course to truly devote his life to God and sought for a place to pour out his appreciation for the message proclaimed to him. He wanted more than to just settle into the status-quo Christian experience of attending a Bible-believing church and holding a 9-5 job.
He came to the place where many others with similar hopes and desires came: the West Coast of America. Many other young people were flocking to the West Coast at that time, seeking to be a part of something real. So many communities and ministries came into being at that time; so many had hope to re-establish a simple devotion to Jesus just like the early believers in the Book of Acts. They longed for a vibrant life, distanced from the hypocrisy and lifelessness, the stale traditions that they perceived in mainstream Christianity. They longed for something true and genuine that wasn't fake and wouldn't disappoint them. They wanted something real.
My father and mother met and married in one of the Shiloh House communities in Oregon. There they shared a communal life planting trees, picking strawberries, and evangelizing wherever and whenever they could. But even that simple, promising life proved to be disappointing, as soon the Shiloh organization dissolved over tax issues and questions about the authority of the leadership. The community members all went their separate ways. Burned out and disappointed, eventually my parents and some other couples moved to the Midwest where they tried to start their own house church and ministry for young Christian couples.
As I grew up in the Midwest, my family visited literally dozens of churches ranging the gamut of doctrine and denominational affiliation. I could not understand why my parents were never satisfied with any of the churches we visited. Certainly a few of them were good enough for me, since I had young friends there and the atmosphere was exciting enough to satisfy my young heart. But looking back with more life experience and a deeper understanding of spiritual matters, I can see that with every step my parents were disappointed. They weren't finding anything that was satisfying or fulfilling. Never again could they find that early spark, that promise of a life of togetherness and love. They had tasted something early on along the West Coast in the Jesus Movement and so desperately wanted it to be enduring and lasting.
Over time, my parents stopped looking. They stopped searching and eventually drifted not only from their spiritual pursuit, but also from one another. Soon afterward they divorced. The years have ticked by. Now on his third marriage, my father has settled for a Bible-believing church and the middle-class American dream of owning his own business. He has settled for that which he probably told himself he would never settle.
In the meantime, I went out on my own as a young adult and wanted nothing to do with organized religion due to the many overwhelming disappointments my family had suffered within the ranks of the Christian churches. Deep down inside I still believed in Jesus, but I could not bring myself to go to church or participate in what I knew had never satisfied my parents and wouldn't satisfy me. I drifted during high school and college, numb and detached from anything relating to the "Christian experience."
But something stirred in my heart after graduating from college. Somehow the hope that my father longed for in the '70s had been passed on to me. I wanted to realize what he had never truly found. I wanted the life described in the Bible. Whatever the truth was, I wanted it. I knew that a successful middle-class life wasn't satisfying and wasn't what I wanted; I knew there was more to life than that. So I began seeking, searching, groping to find the truth.
I knew that the truth wasn't in the mainstream Christian experience because it had never satisfied my father and had never produced anything lasting in my life. So I began searching outside of the mainstream of Christianity -- looking at the Messianic movement, Seventh Day Adventism, house churches, and many other groups and movements that were positioning themselves outside of the mainstream. Somehow I had an innate sense that Jesus wasn't a part of the mainstream and that He never compelled others to join the mainstream. I knew that He couldn't be found in the mainstream -- I would find Him and His true followers outside of the camp.
After searching far and wide and receiving many disappointments, I finally found what I was looking for -- not only what my father had searched for, but also what so many in the '70s sought for in the Jesus Movement. Someone told me of a web site that was written by a community of believers who followed the Messiah. With great interest and excitement I devoured what was written there. The life described on that site seemed almost fantastic or unbelievable: a life of togetherness where people daily lay down their lives for one another and also receive salvation with the hope of being purified to meet their coming King. What intrigued me the most wasn't the doctrine I read about or even the lifestyle that was portrayed; rather, it was the promise that there actually was a place where people loved one another. It seemed like the fulfillment of a dream or long-sought desire.
I had to go and see for myself whether what was written on that web site was true, or just another disappointment. Going there, I saw that what they had written was true. It wasn't an exaggeration or something false: I found the life that so many longed for in the Jesus Movement! I found what my father had looked so long for, but had never come to realize. So I have joined them and have come home to a community of people who love one another with a simple love from the heart, a people who have connected with the Spirit that produces a life of true love and unity, based on the foundation of the true Gospel.
This life is sustaining and enduring and will not fade away. The spark of hope will not disappoint and will not pass away. It is being kindled into a white-hot flame of love that will endure not only for the remainder of this age, but also for all eternity. Because it is truly founded on the Rock, it is a hope you can put all of your trust in and not be disappointed.