A few months after the Lord won me to Himself, He made it possible for me to attend Bible Studies with the other “Jesus People” from high school. These Bible studies, led by a 30-something seminary graduate named Kent Philpott, brought together high school kids, street people (many of whom were former drug addicts), college kids, seminary students and a few adults in their 40’s and 50’s.
In 1971, the Jesus Movement had reached its pinnacle, and our strange collection of people rode that wave with zeal. We believed the Bible, evangelized with zeal and embraced the Charismatic gifts of tongues, healing and prophecy. (Kent’s book, Memoirs of a Jesus Freak, chronicles our group’s ups and downs.)
Giving a detailed narration of my time in Kent’s group would slow this autobiographical series down to a crawl, and I’d surely lose sight of my objective in writing it. As we look at my two-and-a-half years as a high school student in that group (I graduated from high school three months before turning 20), I want to make a few observations on the one negative and two positive spiritual foundations the group laid in my life.
Sadly, we all ascribed (in varying degrees) to Charismatic theology. Kent was more restrained than the rest of us, though he still believes a few things that I no longer accept. So, although he did make some efforts to keep us focused on Jesus rather than Charismatic manifestations, he didn’t teach that the sign gifts ended when the apostles died.
The “gift of tongues” seemed to distinguish people as having a deeper level of spirituality. I tried hard to speak in tongues for two years before I “received my prayer language.” What a relief when, the week after I graduated from high school, I finally started making sounds that resembled a bad, and infantile, version of Hindi.
During my high school years, the majority of us actively sought my physical healing, pretty much to the point of obsession. That part of my story will require its own blog post, but I mention it here to demonstrate the degree of influence Charismatic thought had over us.
Like most Charismatics, we minimized the importance of doctrine, seeking fellowship with all Trinitarian denominations…including Catholics.
But I said there were two positive aspects to the group. Firstly, we heavily emphasized telling the unsaved the Gospel. Kent made sure we that we always included Jesus’ death and resurrection, as well as the need for repentance and faith, in our evangelism efforts.
Back then, I evangelized constantly, having no fear of offending people. My joy and excitement that Jesus offered salvation to anyone who believed in Him caused me to approach even the roughest kids on campus with the good news that Jesus died for them. Yes, I was obnoxious, and usually depended on myself to persuade people (which never worked), but I miss having such boldness. I pray daily for the Lord to restore my zeal for evangelism.
The best thing about Kent’s Bible Studies was his verse-by-verse exposition of Scripture and his insistence on its authority. He taught me to love studying God’s Word. That desire to understand it properly may have gotten obscured at times, but it never died.
Those Bible Studies taught me to love Scripture, and to evaluate everything by it. I praise the Lord for His sovereignty in making sure Kent taught me to have a high view of Scripture. That foundation kept me anchored through a lot of error as I navigated through young adulthood and middle age. God proved Himself faithful!