Ch 7: The Winds of Change

  • Author: Mark S. Mitchell

Ray Stedman's commitment to expository preaching of the Scriptures remained unchanged throughout one of the most turbulent periods of American history--the sixties. The 1960s dramatically changed American society. The Civil Rights movement and the Vietnam War coincided with, or perhaps even caused, a widespread reexamination of traditional morality, and the church in America was profoundly influenced by these changes. While mainline denominations declined, many evangelical and nondenominational churches flourished.(Author unlisted, ''An Unruly Time (1960-1980)," Mark A. Knoll, ed., Eerdmans' Handbook to Christianity in America (Grand Rapids, Mich.: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1983),464.)

In the 1950s, these evangelicals, who were outspokenly conservative in doctrine, had rejected the sectarianism, anti-intellectualism, and cultural isolation of the fundamentalists. Evangelicals were also beginning to reflect the material prosperity being enjoyed in America, as suburban churches like Peninsula Bible Church were planted and vast resources were channeled to support parachurch ministries, mission organizations, and pilgrimages to the Holy Land. (Ibid., 465-468.)

With an emphasis on eastern mysticism and self-actualization, much of the new spirituality that emerged in the culture during the 1960s was unorthodox if not heretical. There was also a reaction against this new spirituality in that a significant segment of the youth culture was attracted to a conservative form of Christianity that still allowed for countercultural expressions. These young people were part of what came to be known as the Jesus Movement in the late sixties and early seventies, a movement especially prevalent in California. "From the cradle of the counterculture in San Francisco's Haight-Ashbury to the suntanned set of California's beach scene, thousands of young people were 'turning on to Jesus,"' (Ibid., 469.) says sociologist Ronald Enroth. Those evangelical churches and leaders pliant enough to make room for this counterculturalism were in a perfect position to benefit from these winds of change.

Ray Stedman was forty-two years old when the sixties began. With his receding hairline, Montana roots, and fundamentalist education, the man could not have seemed more ill-suited to lead a church through these turbulent times. But even in middle age, I, Ray always had a maverick side to him, and his fearless, creative independence served him well when it came to leading a church through this turbulent era. Thus, the 1960s were a time of growth and expansion both at PBC and in Ray's ministry.

Body Life

IN 1960 PBC WAS comprised of approximately six hundred people. By the end of the decade almost three times as many called PBC their church home, and it was known throughout the nation as a place where young people who were part of the Jesus Movement flocked. In 1972 Ray published his most popular and influential book, Body Life, in which he defined his vision for the church according to the pattern of Ephesians 4.

Several chapters in Body Life were developed from messages Ray had preached to his congregation in 1966. The final chapter, "Impact," was designed to give the reader a practical example of the outworking of the Body Life principles. Therefore, it serves as a retrospective look at Ray's leadership and what happened at PBC in the sixties and early seventies.

Ray wrote about what God had done at PBC with characteristic humility:

With considerable reluctance, I now turn to the experience of a single church in order to demonstrate from real life how these principles work in the modern world. The church I have in mind is the one in which I have been privileged to be a pastor-teacher for over twenty-one years (since 1950). It is the Peninsula Bible Church, located on the San Francisco peninsula, at Palo Alto, California. I am fully aware that there are many churches that could serve as illustrations of the principles we have studied, and doubtless some of them would be much clearer and better examples than the Peninsula Bible Church. But my limited experience forces me to write only about the church I know best, known familiarly to its members as PBC.

I must also make clear at the outset that by no means is PBC a perfect church. We've made many mistakes through the years and some of them have been grievous indeed. We are still very much learners, being led along by the Holy Spirit into continually unfolding vistas and clearer understanding of the principles we seek to follow. We have learned much from the experience and teaching of others, and feel most keenly our debt to members of the body elsewhere for their deeply needed ministry to us. Compared to many other churches around we have found what many regard as an enviable plateau of success; but compared to the New Testament standard, we often fall very short, and can perhaps be best described by the word of Jesus to the church at Philadelphia in Asia Minor: "Behold, I have set before you an open door, which no one is able to shut; I know that you have but little power, and yet you have kept my word and have not denied my name" (Revelation 3:8 RSV). (Ray Stedman, Body Life (Glendale, Calif.: 131-132.)

Ray went on to describe the beginnings of PBC and the success of the Home Bible Studies in reaching unbelievers, and the subsequent development of the PBC staff. In the late 1950s PBC expanded by hiring numerous men and women to work with youth. They also called one of the five founding businessmen, Robert (Bob) Smith, to be Associate Pastor. The fact that Bob had no seminary training reflected Ray's growing conviction that men were better trained in the context of the local church than in a seminary where they were so often divorced from the practical realities of ministry. Nevertheless, a few years later, in 1961, PBC turned once again to Dallas Seminary to hire David Roper to work first with high school students, then in Christian Education, then with college students, and eventually as leader of the pastoral training ministry called Scribe School. In 1968 PBC added William Dempster to work with children, and in 1969 Ronald Ritchie, another Dallas Seminary graduate, was hired to oversee the expanding high school ministry.

This addition of staff was a relief and an encouragement to Ray, but it also added new challenges for a man who was never a strong administrator. When selecting staff, PBC operated on the principle of unanimity. Prior to hiring David Roper, for example, several men interviewed for the job, and each time the same elder opposed the hire. Ray refused to try to override the board's decision to wait. "I never saw Ray use raw power," remembers Roper. "He would never do that. He used the power of persuasion. And he was persuasive simply because he brought us back to biblical principles." (David Roper, interview with author, March 15, 2001, Gleneden Beach, Ore., tape recording.)

Although the elders eventually agreed on hiring Roper, he recalls the unusual way he was interviewed: "I went out there and they picked me up and took me to Bob Roe's house. We sat in a circle with the elders. We introduced ourselves, and we chatted a little while, and then they asked me a question, which I began to answer. And then they got into an argument among themselves, and they never got back to me. They just ignored me. They just went on, arguing away, and I sat there thinking, What in the world is going on? (Ibid.)

Ray's involvement with staff was normally "hands-off," and he did not see it as his job to disciple or manage the staff. His influence on them was mostly through staff meetings at which he would discuss the text he was to preach on the following Sunday. The outstanding thing about Ray's leadership, believes Roper, was that "he gave us such freedom; he never would coerce or second-guess us." (Ibid.) At the same time, his wisdom and character were such that his influence was unrivaled.

Ray never took the title of Senior Pastor and refused to operate on such a basis. "But, in fact, he was the senior pastor," says Roper. "And nobody would question that, simply because of his authority. . . . It wasn't a forced authority; it was just there. It was inherent in the man. . . . We'd be sitting in a board meeting, and we'd all be muddling around, and Ray had this uncanny ability to see through all the guff and just get right to the heart of an issue, because he had this breadth of biblical knowledge that he brought to bear on the problem.. . .We'd sit there and kick something around for hours and then Ray would say, 'This is what we need to do, guys. This is where we need to go.' And we'd all say, 'You bet!''' (Ibid.)

Ray rarely critiqued sermons preached by others on the PBC staff He encouraged them not to try to imitate him, but just to be themselves. Nevertheless, his model was a powerful influence on the young pastors. Roper remembers an important lesson he learned from Ray shortly after he came to PBC. Having been presented with a high school ministry that was bursting at the seams, David realized he was in over his head. He walked into Ray's office and complained, "Ray, I feel inadequate."

"You are," said Ray, and then went on to quote one of his favorite New Covenant verses: "Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God" (2 Corinthians 3:5 NASB). (Ibid.)

Roper also recalls Ray's transparency and humor. On one occasion he confessed to the congregation that while speaking at a Christian conference center, he was sorely tempted to steal a coffee carafe from one of the rooms. The next day someone went out and bought Ray a beautiful carafe and placed it on his desk. The following Sunday when Ray got up the pulpit he said, "You remember last week I told you about the coffee carafe? I just want to tell you, this week I've been coveting a color television set!" (Ibid.)

A Heart to Raise Up leaders

ONE OF THE FRUSTRATIONS fellow staff members did have with Ray, however, resulted from one of his most endearing qualities. Because of his care and concern for young men in need of spiritual fathering, Ray would often keep on staff at PBC men who in one way or another were probably not a good match for the church. Others could see the problem, but Ray just kept giving these men another chance. No doubt his own experience of having been abandoned and then adopted came into play in these circumstances. Bill Lawrence, who interned at PBC in 1964, called this phenomenon "Ray's kennel," and commented, "Like stray dogs to a kennel, he kept bringing people in, and the people in the church who had to figure out how to fund this would get real unhappy." (Wade Whitcomb, "Passing of the Torch", 73)

Of course, not all of these young men were misfits in their positions. In 1958 Ray traveled to Argentina with Dick Hillis of Overseas Crusades, where he met Luis Palau, a young man who came to hear Ray speak at a theater in Buenos Aires. Palau had never heard of Ray Stedman; he came to hear him because he was under the impression that Palo Alto was somewhere near Hollywood. Luis, a native of Argentina, who was twenty-four years old at the time, was part of a separatist church, and the combination of Hollywood and the gospel sounded intriguing.

After hearing Ray speak on the believer's call to be "salt and light" in the world, Palau recognized something different about this man's teaching, and he introduced himself after the meeting. As the two men got acquainted, Ray discerned a unique giftedness in this young man and encouraged him to come to the United States to study for the ministry. When Luis said good-bye at the airport a few days later, he thought he had seen the last of Ray Stedman. But within a few days he received a letter from Ray with further encouragement to come to the States, and even an offer of financial help.

In the summer of 1960, Luis Palau came to Palo Alto and stayed for two months in the Stedman home before spending a year at Multnomah School of the Bible. The following summer, he interned at PBC and developed a relationship with Ray that was so close that Ray subsequently referred to Luis as his son and even offered to legally adopt him. As his spiritual father, Ray was ruthlessly honest with Luis. "He really worked me over and tried to get me to crucify the flesh," Luis remembers. At the same time, he always felt Ray's fatherly support. "He opened many doors and gave me credibility. I always felt he was really proud of me. My dad had died when I was ten years old, so to me he was my dad." Besides Ray's loving support, Luis learned lessons from Ray that summer about expository preaching and the New Covenant that have remained with him throughout his worldwide evangelistic ministry.(Luis Palau, interview by author, September 9, 2002, by telephone, tape recording.)

Luis Palau participated early-on in the summer internship program at PBC that had begun to grow out of Ray's desire to provide practical ministry experience for seminary students, much like he'd had with Dr. McGee. As Ray and the staff quickly discovered, most of these young men and women were deficient in three major areas: an experience of walking according to the principles of the New Covenant; an understanding of spiritual gifts and how the body of Christ should operate; and the manner in which the church should relate to and impact the world around it. This program, which started with two or three interns each summer, became so popular that at one time PBC had twelve summer interns, and eventually the demand forced them to expand the internship to involve more than just one summer. By 1971, PBC had twenty-five interns who stayed at PBC for one to two years at a time. And within a few years, under the leadership of David Roper, the focus of the program, eventually called Scribe School, shifted to allow for a full two years of training, which included seminary-type instruction and mentored ministry experience with a pastor.

Scribe School was a reflection of Ray's growing conviction that not only did seminary students need practical experience, but also that pastoral training should take place exclusively in the local church. Howard Hendricks remembers well how Ray persistently tried to convince him to leave Dallas Seminary and come to PBC to train pastors. "This was not just an ancillary idea that he pulled out of a hat someplace," says Hendricks. "Every time we got together he talked about this. . . . This was his point: that the seminary followed the university model rather than the pastoral model. If you see it in terms of medicine, it would be ridiculous to train a guy in medicine without a hospital." (Howard Hendricks, interview by author, March 15,2001, Gleneden Beach, Ore., tape recording.) When it came to training pastors, Ray was way ahead of his time, because today almost all major seminaries require extensive practical ministry experience for Master of Divinity students.

Another of the internship participants was a young Dallas seminarian named Charles Swindoll, who arrived at PBC in 1961 for a summer internship. Years later, after hearing of Ray's death, Swindoll reflected on the impact that internship and thirty years of friendship with Ray had had on him. "I remember my trip with Cynthia to Palo Alto, California, and the beginning of a brief but life-changing internship with Ray. I remember those eyes that just had a way of looking right back into the rear of my cranium, as he probed me with questions about character and commitment to ministry and love for wife and family, as he challenged me to be the man that I so wanted to be and that he was.

"I thought about the laughter we had had together over three decades of time. Such a touch he had on my life.

"I thought about the times that he charged me to think theologically. I don't know of anyone I've ever known who thought theologically more than Ray Stedman. He had incredible insight into the biblical text and practical wisdom, but never an attitude of arrogance or needless dogmatism. He was a man of strong character and firm convictions, but I never knew him to be insulting or intolerant. He was comfortable being alone and often would spend hours in the books as a real student of the Scriptures. But I never found him inaccessible or aloof He was a man's man." (Charles Swindoll, "The Picture of Integrity: Ray Stedman," Insights Newsletter, vol. 2, no. 6, December 1992.)

In 1965, Bill Lawrence, another student at Dallas Seminary, did his summer internship at PBC. Bill later went on to pastor one of the first churches that PBC planted in the Bay Area, South Hills Community Church in San Jose, and has served on the faculty of Dallas Seminary since 1981. He, too, remembers the impact of his internship and Ray's leadership. "I remember sitting in board meetings where men prayed and acted in concert together or they didn't act at all. I saw men who had been developed by a pastor who loved them and whom they respected in profound ways. I saw a staff that studied and worked together. I learned the ministry of the New Covenant, meeting with the staff for study each week under Ray's leadership. I went on the Stanford campus and saw five people come to Christ that summer--two of them later came to DTS for a time. I taught the college class and was amazed at what God did in the lives of several people in the group. All of this was life-changing in virtually every way I could think of." (Bill Lawrence, quoted by Joanie Burnside in ''A Stone's Throw," 21.)

The influence of Scribe School also penetrated the nearby secular campus of Stanford University. In the late 1960s, several Stanford students spent their college years being mentored by David Roper and sitting under the ministry of Ray Stedman. Later, after they, too, attended Scribe School, some of these young men--including Jack Crabtree, Brian Morgan, and Steve Zeisler went--on to join the staff of PBC.

Brian Morgan, who still serves on the staff of Peninsula Bible Church, Cupertino, says, "I came to Stanford in the fall of 1968 when the campus was in the midst of revolt. But brooding over the visible chaos, which came like a whirlwind and vanished with the dawn, was an invisible revolution of a deeper kind that seized me unawares and touched me. At the center of that revolution stood Ray: Hearing his sermons on Leviticus, Romans, and Genesis. His prophetic voice, wild imagination, ringing clarity, and piercing application. Traveling with him to pastors' conferences, and conventions where you went to hear him teach, but in the process he birthed your soul into full sonship, and then lifted you up to the equality of brotherhood." (Ibid., 13.)

Ray and His Words Travel

ALTHOUGH RAY HAD BEEN writing for small publications for some time, it was during the mid-sixties that PBC began printing his sermons, which eventually led to the publication of his books. In 1965, Peter Irish, a graduate student at Stanford, heard Ray preach from Ephesians 6 on spiritual warfare. Peter was so enlightened by what he heard that he determined to make these messages available in printed form. He organized a group of volunteers to transcribe and edit the messages, type them on stencils, and run off mimeograph copies for distribution. These printed sermons became so popular that he was encouraged to do the same with other messages, and soon Ray's sermons were traveling all over the world. As this ministry expanded, PBC purchased an offset press, Peter was brought onto staff full-time, and Discovery Publishing was born.

Ray's first book, an exposition of the Olivet Discourse called What on Earth's Going to Happen? was published by Regal Books. His second book, and arguably his most well-known, Body Life, was published in 1972 and became an influential force in evangelical church renewal during the late twentieth century. Later, many of Ray's printed sermons were edited to become books such as Folk Psalms of Faith (1973), What More Can God Say? A Fresh Look at Hebrews (1974), Understanding Man (1975), Secrets of the Spirit (1975), and Authentic Christianity (1975).

In the latter part of 1970, Ray and several colleagues began to talk with Paul Winslow, a successful businessman who was a part of PBC, about the administration of both Scribe School and the publishing ministry. The group met for several months as Paul gathered information, and their decision-making resulted in the birth of Discovery Foundation, Inc. Eventually, Discovery Foundation became the umbrella under which several ministries flourished. Besides Discovery Publishing and Scribe School, Discovery Art Guild, led by well-known songwriter and musician John Fischer, became a clearinghouse for Christian artists creating everything from songs to ceramic pots. Discovery Foundation also sponsored two pastors' conferences each year. Conferees came for two weeks at a time from all over the world; they were hosted by the PBC body and taught by the staff Often Ray had met and invited these pastors while on one of his speaking trips, or sometimes they had just been lured by reading one of Ray's many printed sermons that continued to fly around the globe.

Ray's sermons were not the only things flying around the world. Ray himself traveled extensively in the sixties, often accompanied by Dick Hillis of Overseas Crusades. Often Ray would also bring along one of the PBC interns. And everywhere he traveled, speaking for various churches and Bible colleges, Ray preached on familiar themes such as the New Covenant and the proper functioning of the church as the body of Christ.

A significant amount of Ray's travel was also the result of his serving on numerous boards, including Overseas Crusades, Mount Hermon Conference Center, and Bible Study Fellowship. Ray's speaking engagements for the first half of 1968 took him to Costa Rica and Mount Hermon in January; Wheaton College, Moody Bible Institute, Forest Home Conference Center, and Simpson Bible College in February; a Mennonite conference in Dallas in March; Evangel College in April; and Mount Hermon and Forest Home in May. Later that year he traveled to South America, Europe, the Middle East, the Far East, and Southeast Asia all in one trip!

Ray's travel did, however, create some frustrations for the staff at PBC. David Roper remembers decisions being made while Ray was gone, only to be met with his disapproval and subsequent change when he came home.(David Roper.) Nevertheless, Ray still managed to carry most of the preaching load. During the sixties, he preached through the books of Romans, Esther, Hebrews, 1 John, Ephesians, Acts, Daniel, and Genesis 1-25. He also preached expositional series on prayer, parables, spiritual warfare, Psalms, the Olivet Discourse, the Christian and possessions, and the Christian and moral conditions. In addition to his Sunday morning sermon, Ray often preached on Sunday nights, including one sermon on each of the sixty-six books of the Bible.

Stretching the Faithful

AS IS ALWAYS THE CASE, growth necessitated change, and in 1969 the church was forced to begin holding two services each Sunday morning to accommodate the growing congregation. But these changes had another wrinkle. Many of these people were not typical churchgoers, and the Jesus Movement stretched the faithful at PBC.

"When Ray and I arrived in Palo Alto in 1950, we found a city of quiet dignity, perfect climate, and quality education amid enchantingly green hills and flowering orchards," remembers Elaine Stedman. "The population was about thirty-five thousand. What a privileged environment for our two babies, eight-months and two-years, and the young couple we were. But during the children's' elementary school years this seemingly idyllic scene was invaded by air-raid alerts. Frightened children were dismissed to their homes, fearing a bomb attack. Some people were building bomb shelters, and there was talk of erecting public facilities as well.

"Then there was Vietnam. And beatniks became hippies, the 'flower children.' The drug culture emerged, and Cubberly High School in Palo Alto became center stage for revolutionary upheaval.

"PBC, that quiet, well-ordered congregation, was caught in the middle of these baffling, frightening phenomena. Jesus Himself was asking admittance for barefoot, bearded escapees from the kingdom of darkness. With fear and trembling we opened our doors. They tinkered with our self-righteousness, infected us with their contagious excitement, and shattered our complacency. And I finally had to give up my hat and gloves." (See Elaine Stedman's message Body Language.)

One of those "Jesus People" was Ted Wise. Ted and his wife, Elizabeth, had come to San Francisco in 1960 with "beatnik sentiments," but were soon disappointed with their lifestyle and drawn to Jesus through the reading of the New Testament and the witness of a small Baptist church in Marin County. "While on my way to my own Damascus. . . ," says Ted, "I found it necessary to cry out to God to save my life in every sense of the word. . . . I could choose Him or literally suffer a fate worse than death." Soon, as many Jesus People did, Ted and Elizabeth tried to follow the lifestyle pattern of New Testament Christians. They sold all their possessions and lived communally with other Christians in Marin County. Eventually they rented a storefront in Haight-Ashbury to feed people and preach Christ.

Traditional churches did not take kindly to their living arrangement. "We naively thought they would see that we were simply doing it right," Ted remembers, "living out the New Testament in 3-D. Slim chance. Fat attitude." The one church that welcomed Ted's ministry was PBC, which invited Ted to join their staff and start a drug rehabilitation program, which he eventually did together with a counseling outreach. The beatnik from Marin County was subsequently seen frequently following hard on the heels of the Montana cowboy. "Ray Stedman became my mentor and teacher. I learned that in the beginning I had indeed read the New Testament rightly. What the Bible taught me on that first reading was that\Christianity was something that was supposed to happen to me, not something I did to myself." (Ted Wise, quoted by Joanie Burnside, ''A Stone's Throw," 23.)

Ray's penchant for embracing the disenfranchised drew in many who normally would not enter a church. But Ray was never one to passively wait for people to show up in the pews. Thus, in the spring of 1975 he and an intern attended a meeting of gay students at Stanford University, which featured two speakers: one a gay woman who was a professor at San Francisco State University, and the other a gay man who was ordained in the United Church of Christ. Ray listened to them speak for over an hour. The woman was vitriolic and denounced the church in almost every form. The young man was milder and told of his experience of rejection in the church.

When opportunity was given for audience participation, Ray stepped up to the microphone. "I'm Ray Stedman, the pastor of Peninsula Bible Church here in Palo Alto," he said. "On behalf of the church, I want to apologize for much of what I've heard here today. You are right. . . the church has failed you in many ways. We oftentimes have not shown the love of Jesus." He then went on to tell about freedom from a lifestyle that ultimately is destructive. When he finished, the crowd gave him a standing ovation and many approached him for further discussion.(Whitcomb, 42-43.)

The following Sunday Ray told the church about what had happened and described his feelings for the participants: ''As I looked at that roomful of young people, I did not see a room full of lesbians and faggots, though they were calling themselves those names. I saw some hungry, mixed-up, stunted, fragmented, and hurting young people--wanting somehow to find the secret of life, thinking they had found it--but on a wrong track, and destroying themselves in the process. Over and over, Paul's words in Romans about homosexuals kept coming into my mind: 'They receive in their own persons the due penalty of their error' [cf. Romans 1:27b RSV]. The stance of the church toward those who are involved in wrongful and evil things is never to be one of denunciation. It is never to be one of stigmatizing and of rejecting. It is to be one of open-armed acceptance, but with an honest evaluation of what is going on, and the offer of the way of release." (See Ray's message The Child in Our Midst, from March 2, 1975)

PEOPLE OF EVERY WALK and experience were drawn to Ray because they could tell he genuinely cared about them, and the growing presence of these disenfranchised culminated in the Sunday evening Body Life service. Prior to this time, the Sunday evening services were typically dry, recalls David Roper, following a conventional pattern of song service, announcements, Scripture, special music, and preaching. Attendance was rather sparse, running about 150-250 with only a handful of youth present. Then in late 1969 Ray returned home from a conference and started to encourage people to stand up and share honestly about how they were struggling in their Christian walk. It took time for the practice to take root, but the dam really broke when one prominent leader stood and shared about his battle with sexual temptation while traveling for business.(David Roper.) This practice of open sharing fit perfectly with the then-prevalent encounter group movement and the cultural emphasis on personal transparency. It also fit well with Ray's idea of how the body of Christ should function. He took literally the principle in James 5:16, "Confess your sins to one another," and he often quoted Galatians 6:2 as a proof text for Body Life, "Bear one another's burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ" (NASB).

"The biblical principle of the Spirit's gifting of Christ's body for ministry created a welcoming environment for this 'invasion,''' recalls Elaine. "In the Sunday evening meetings, where we learned to identify various scents, including the aroma of pot, barefoot, straggle-haired youth crammed our turf and our hearts. That astounding opportunity to combine the teaching of the Word with the sharing of life experiences marked the inception of 'body life,' a term now endemic in the evangelical vocabulary. Ray eventually wrote under that title to spread the news of God at work in His people." (See Elaine Stedman's message Body Language)

News of Body Life spread throughout the nation. In May 1971, Christianity Today reported in great detail what happened at a typical Body Life service:

It happens every Sunday night. Eight hundred or more people pack into a church auditorium designed to seat comfortably only 750. Seventy per cent are under twenty-five, but adults of all ages, even into the eighties, are mingled with the youth, and people of widely varying cultural backgrounds all sit, sing, and pray together.

A leader stands at the center front, a microphone around his neck. "This is the family," he says. "This is the body of Christ. We need each other.Let's share with each other." When a hand goes up toward the back of the center section, a red-haired youth runs down the center aisle with a wireless microphone. It is passed down the pew to the young man, who stands waiting to speak. "Man, I don't know how to start," he says, his shoulder-length hair shining as he turns from side to side. "All I know is that I've tried the sex trip and the drug trip and all the rest but it was strictly nowhere. But last week I made the Jesus trip or I guess I should say that He found me and man, what love! I can't get over it. I'm just a new Christian, but man, this is where it's at!" A wave of delight sweeps the auditorium, and everyone claps and smiles as the leader says, "Welcome to the family. What's your name?"

Other hands are waving for recognition. The leader points to a well-groomed, attractive woman in her mid-thirties. "I just wanted to tell you of the Lord's supply to me this week," she says into the mike. She is a divorcee with small children. Her income had dwindled to the point that she'd had only forty-two cents to eat on that week. But unsolicited food had come. The family had eaten plenty, and she wants to share her thanksgiving. Another enthusiastic round of applause. . . .

Other needs are shared. One youth asks for prayer that he might be able to buy a car cheaply so he won't have to depend on hitchhiking to get to his college classes on time. When the prayer is finished, a middle-aged housewife stands at the back and says, "I don't know how this happened, but just this week the Lord gave me a car I don't need. If Ernie wants it, here are the keys." She holds up a ring of keys, and the crowd applauds joyously as the boy runs to pick up the keys.

Then an offering is announced. The leader explains that all may give as they are able, but if anyone has immediate need he is welcome to take from the plate as much as ten dollars to meet that need. If he needs more than ten, he is warmly invited to come to the church office the next morning and explain the need; more money would be available there. While ushers pass the' plate, a young man with a guitar sings a folk song. . . .

After the song, someone calls out a hymn number, and everyone stands to sing it together. Then the teacher for the evening takes over. There is a rustle of turning pages as hundreds of Bibles are opened. For perhaps twenty-five minutes the teacher speaks, pacing the platform, Bible in hand. He illustrates with simple human incidents, some humorous, some sobering. The crowd is with him all the way, looking up references, underlining words, writing in the margins. . . .

When the meeting is dismissed, few leave. They break . .. up into spontaneous groups, some praying, some rapping about a Bible passage, some singing quietly with a guitar, some just visiting and sharing with one another. Gradually the crowd thins down, but it is a good hour or more before everyone is gone and the lights are turned out.(Quoted from Christianity Today in Body Life, 139-143.)

Ray's independent and creative spirit made him the right man to lead the church through this turbulent era. But within his family, the sixties took a damaging toll. Indeed, in many ways, especially as husband and father, Ray was not prepared for the challenges of the sixties, and he and his family would not emerge from this decade unscathed.

Title: Ch 7: The Winds of Change Author: Mark S. Mitchell
   Date:2004
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