We are sweltering in a heat wave here, with temperatures up to 32° with a humidex of 35°. (That translates into 90° & 95° for those still using Fahrenheit.) I realize that many readers might even consider those temperatures cool for this time of year. But I live in Saskatchewan where we haven’t had a long summer of similar temperatures to get us acclimatized. There is the added factor of being 71 years old — I don’t remember that such temperatures were much hindrance to me 50 and 60 years ago.
Anyway, as I was lolling around trying to avoid any activity that might generate heat, my mind went back to a time around 40 years ago when my wife and I were newly married. (I should qualify the first part of that statement. At dinner time I rode my bike 2 1/2 kilometres to the seniors’ home where my wife was cooking dinner. I was fine as long as I was pedaling along, since I created my own little breeze, but as soon as I got off my bike the heat washed over me.)
Back to forty years ago, we witnessed heat of another kind — young people on fire for the Lord. One young man, around 25 I believe, had kind of slipped into the hippie movement, then encountered some ‘Jesus people’ in Vancouver who challenged him to commit his life completely to Jesus. He did, then returned home to Manitoba to face up to all the things he had done in the past. As much as he could remember, he confessed to those he had wronged and paid restitution where needed.
The change in this young man had a tremendous impact on other young people in the church where he had grown up. Many were convicted and made genuine new commitments to follow Jesus, whatever it would cost. One young lady had shoplifted items of considerable value from a store and didn’t know how she would ever be able to pay for them. Nevertheless, she went to see the store manager, shaking in her boots (or whatever she had on her feet) and told him the full story, including how the testimonies of the peace the other young people experienced moved her to want to come completely clean. The manager listened to the whole story without comment, then said “Do you think your youth group could come to our church and share their experiences? The young people in my church need to hear those testimonies.”
Thus the influence of this group of young people began to spread beyond their home congregation. The pastor was supportive, but perhaps not quite discerning enough. I have no doubt at all that most of those experiences were entirely genuine. But it seemed that there were a few who felt that they had to come up with testimonies like their peers. I don’t want to sound too judgmental, however some testimonies sounded a little flat and there didn’t seem to be a corresponding change in their life.
The congregation became alarmed, not about the experiences that did not seem genuine, but about those that were. All that enthusiasm! This could not be a good thing. So they dismissed the pastor.
The pastor moved to another congregation of the same denomination in a neighbouring town and the youth followed. So did we for a time, then we moved to another province and lost track of what happened in the years since.
I want to believe that those who made such a genuine commitment of their lives to Jesus have remained faithful. It would have been a wonderful thing if the whole church could have experienced a revival. But it rather seemed that the weight of tradition was going to smother the enthusiasm and stifle the revival before it could really start.
Many voices today are pleading for Christians everywhere to pray for a revival. It’s not apt to happen if what we really want is a nice tame revival that won’t shake things up too much.