The impact the 1960's had on culture and Christianity

I graduated from high school in 1971. The world then bears little resemblance to the world today. In fact, other than structures and traditions; the world is completely different today than it was just 44 years ago. Starting in the 1950's, waves of change flooded our culture and with each decade they brought bigger and more powerful change than the one before. Before the last two decades, the decade of greatest change was the 1960's. It was during that turbulent decade that society permanently lost its way and has never returned home.

As late as the early 1960's, most Christians worshipped in a church affiliated with a denomination. Most of Christianity was fairly conservative in nature even when their theology was liberal. Churches gave youth a moral compass by which they could keep their lives on the “straight and narrow” . The seeds of change, both in society and among Christians, were sown in the early 1960's with the Beetles and exploded in the late 60's with Viet Nam, , SDS, free love, hippies, drugs, the assassinations of Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy and of course Woodstock. From 1965 to 1970, the entire fabric of society changed and drug Christianity with it.

In the late 1960's, a movement began in California among younger Christians called the “Jesus People” . This movement rejected organized Christianity, complete with their churches. They reached out via coffee houses and music and conducted fellowships wherever they could. Although the Jesus People movement only lasted a little more than a decade, the impact it had on Christianity in the United States was as profound as the secular aspects of the 1960's had on society. Life and worship were never the same.

In February of 1971, I was invited to join a few adults on the Drug Abuse Counsel in Wichita to go to Los Angeles to visit the most vibrant Jesus People facility in place. We toured the facility, went to their coffeehouse and attended their big Saturday night concert. The people were charismatic, fully devoted to Jesus and dedicated to spreading the gospel to others. Many in the group were “hippies” but many were not. The concert drew close to a thousand people and if Keith Green would have been a few years older, he would have been the star performer. It was that kind of music.

Just as the cultural changes that took place in the late 1960's tilted the country left; so the Jesus People movement succeeded in forcing many Christian denominations to “think younger” and introduce programs and music that appealed to younger people. Also arising from the Jesus People movement was a host of non-denominational ministries that have flourished and exploded in growth the past 45 years.

Good, bad or otherwise; the riots, anarchy, protests and massive cultural changes that rocked society in the late 1960's forever changed the landscape of Western culture. Good, bad or otherwise; movements such as the Jesus People rocked the stuffy world of Christianity and forever changed how many churches reach out, minister and worship.

My brother was born in 1945 and I was born in 1953. Although born only eight years apart, the differences in how we think and live are HUGE. He was in college by the time the Beatles came to the USA and married by the time the Viet Nam protests started. He has never understood me and the way I think. In lifestyle and living, he is aligned with my sister who was born in 1940 and not me. Both my brother and sister think and live more like our parents than I ever have. Coincidentally, I was born squarely in the middle of the “baby boom” generation, which is the generation which has seen the greatest changes take place in all aspects of life.

Although I never considered myself a “Jesus Person” , I ended up on a ministry that more or less mimicked the Jesus People movement. Perhaps that is why I love Keith Green music, proudly say that I am a charismatic and have preferred fellowshipping in the home to the stuffy atmosphere of many church worship services. Perhaps this also explains why I am a bit of a radical when it comes to what I believe and how to put it into practice. I hope you enjoyed this lesson in cultural and Christian history.