Revolution to Revival

By Madison Olejnicak
March 16, 2022
 
Editors note: This story was written at the same time that Table Salt’s “Faithfully Forward” blog came out. 

In the midst of a tumultuous era of racial injustice, political unrest and counter cultural beliefs, students who attended North Central in the 1970s watched revival come on the heels of revolt when the Jesus People Movement exploded across campus. Before the Jesus People Movement swept across the nation, dissension had begun dividing individuals. After fighting in two world wars, the United States had barely taken a breath before the Civil Rights Movement, the Cold War, the sexual revolution and the Vietnam War began. A whirlwind of tensions began building from the unjust horrors that were occurring in the world. Political beliefs began to polarize, and anti-establishment groups ran rampant.

In an attempt to reject societal norms, many young adults in the ‘60s had turned to drugs,
sex and music as a way of escaping the reality of the unsettled world. They became the polar
opposite of culture in an attempt to find the love that was lacking in America. Flower children
and hippies sprung up in communes, while protests against the Vietnam war began brewing on
college campuses across America. Drug culture had ignited a fantasy of escaping the present
reality by using LSD and other psychedelic drugs. Christian beliefs like including prayer in schools were dying off and being dropped from the everyday lives of Americans. Even church attendance was decreasing because of the rise of Eastern religions and the “death of God” movement.
 
In Robert S. Ellwood Jr’s book “One Way: The Jesus Movement and its Meaning” he writes, “From 1955-1971, Church attendance dropped from 49% to 40%.” In the 1960s, traditional beliefs about marriage and
sexuality were being challenged by counterculture. With the release of the birth control pill in 1961,
it fueled the rise of the sexual revolution and the widespread acceptance of free sexual expression.
Though these cultural beliefs were mainly prevalent among the society outside the
corporate American church, they soon seeped into the youth culture of the later ‘60s.
 
Gary Grogan, Lead Pastor of Stone Creek Church in Urbana, Illinois, graduated from North Central in
1973. While interviewing him, he spoke about the rebellious attitudes he saw among fellow
students while in high school.
 
Grogan said, “My generation got fed up with the haves and have
nots, the racial injustice, the materialism of the western world, and in fact, my high school
graduating class in 1969 was a notorious class known for rebellion. Rebellion against authority, rebellion against the establishment.”
 
Sadly, North Central wasn’t excluded from these attitudes. In fact, before the Jesus
People Movement swept through North Central, traditional mindsets within faculty members had
led to a disconnect between the leadership and students. Although the Jesus People Movement
would spring to life nearing the middle and end of Grogan’s college years at North Central, there
was a season of spiritual complacency before the revivals happened. Grogan talked about how
students would distractingly read newspapers while sitting in the back of the chapel as worship
music played or even while individuals preached sermons.
 
He said, “My first few years at NCU was a spiritual desert. The chapels were formal;
many professors and staff were very traditional and seemed to be disconnected from what was
going on in American society and seemed out of touch with the Jesus Movement. Cynicism was present and pervasive among the student body—it was common for students to skip maximum
chapels and hang out at ‘Cousins’ restaurant.”
 
But this nationwide attitude of rebellion against the government and against traditional
culture would soon begin caving in on itself. The mirage of stability that counterculture provided
had begun to disappear. Four years after “The Summer of Love”, many of the hippies who had
previously found joy in music, drugs and relationships were again feeling empty. Ellwood writes,
“Many hippies—those ‘gentle people’ with flowers in their hair—who had pursued a brightly
colored revolution of freedom, found themselves as confined as their parents, trapped in
addictions, destructive relationships, discord, and disappointment. The sweet life of the
commune, contentedly nibbling brown rice, had become dumpster diving for half-eaten trash on
the dirty streets. The ‘harmony and understanding’ and ‘mystic crystal revelation’ of the Age of
Aquarius turned out to be a fleeting experience, not an ongoing and dependable reality.”
 
Yet in the midst of this dark conflict, the greatest joy began blossoming. On America’s
West Coast, countercultural revolutions were turning into revivals. Calvary Chapel in California,
pastored by Chuck Smith, was one of the leading ministries that would introduce Pentecostal
beliefs back into the traditional church and emphasize the power of the Holy Spirit. The love and
power of the Gospel began piercing the lies of drug culture and rescuing those who had been
enslaved by addiction. The Jesus People Movement caught fire across the nation.
 
Bob Price attended North Central University after accepting Jesus during the early years
of the Jesus People Movement. Although he had grown up Catholic, Price hadn’t fully
experienced God until he attended a New Mexico City tent revival one week after he turned 21
years old. One year later, he became a student at North Central. As he talked about the culture he
walked out of when he became a Christian, 
 
Price said, “The world of the ‘Make Love, Not War’ became empty as they found that drugs and sex was not the answer. The Church was not the answer as many young people fled the old ways. Social fabric was becoming undone as these young people escaped into whatever they could. In this emptiness were the beginnings of the Jesus Movement.”
 
Tom Elie, founder of Oasis World Ministries and One Minute Witness, had a front row
seat to the revival as a young music pastor at the Jesus People Church in Minneapolis. In an
interview with Elie, he explained how he participated in Bible study groups as a young adult and
witnessed many “hippies” come to know Jesus. He said, “Most of them were newly saved, most
of them were ex drug addicts. They were really fresh in their faith, and really in love with Jesus,
and eager to grow—hungry for God.” Band members and musicians, who were previously
hippies, were coming to Jesus and changing the aesthetic of worship in American churches. With
droves of ex-druggies, flower children, and runaway teens pouring into churches, the American
church realized they would have to adapt.
 
The change from hymns to Contemporary Christian music was truly born out of The Jesus Movement. Musicians like Keith Green had turned to relationships with Christ after trying to find their identity in psychedelic drugs and mysticism. This modernization of Christian music also opened the doors to inviting hippies to churches and making them feel comfortable to attend while wearing non-traditional church clothes and donning long hair or afros. Elie said, “The atmosphere was one of great joy. People really looked forward to going to church. We had two Sunday morning services, and two Sunday night services and we’d pack them out.”
 
Though a cultural cynical attitude had permeated into the North Central student body, the
students would be moved to desperation for God in one moment. Grogan spoke about an event
that happened early in the fall of 1971 that rocked the school. A fight had broken out between customers
at the liquor store, where the modern day Praise FM Radio Station is located on campus. A student named Denny, one of Grogan’s friends, was out on the street when a customer from the store beat him in the head with a tire iron. As he was rushed to the hospital with a serious concussion, students at North Central began interceding for Denny’s healing.Grogan emphasized how this hunger for God began preparing them for the revival that was about
to take place on campus.
 
Grogan said, “We cried out to God to save his life, and the Lord did save His life. That kind of prepared us for Dick Eastman. We realized, ‘Oh my land, one of our own
students got attacked and got beaten. God protect us, we need you!’”
 
In the next few weeks, revival fell from Heaven. Dick Eastman, a youth pastor who had worked in both Wisconsin and California, came to preach at North Central during spiritual emphasis week in October of 1971. He told students about what God had been doing on the West Coast, and the presence of God began changing the lives of North Central students. Grogan spoke about a time during that week in October when
Eastman lined up all the students at North Central on separate Miller Hall floors to pray and
prophesy over each one of them individually. Many were so overcome by God’s presence that
they fell to the ground, but Grogan was not entirely convinced that he would fall over.
 
Though he had grown up in a Pentecostal church, he had never experienced falling under the presence of
God. But as soon as Eastman walked up to Grogan, the presence of God pulled his feet out
from under him. Grogan said, “I tried to stand up—I could not stand up. I melted under the
presence of God, and then I laid on the floor of Miller hall and I wept and laid there for 45 to 50
minutes. ‘God help me to be humble, help me to be more open, help me to desire you more.’”
 
From this spiritual emphasis week in October, a 24 hour prayer room in the basement of Miller
Hall was born that continued until Christmas break of 1971. In an era before the Trask Word and Worship Center was built, students attended chapel within a room on the second floor of Miller Hall. With a growing number of students, President E.M. Clark and the board at North Central were looking to build a new chapel during 1971.
 
However, the money needed to take out a loan was much greater than the school could afford.
But during that same spiritual emphasis week, a heart of generosity began to stir. In one of the
last chapels that Dick Eastman preached at, the Holy Spirit began prompting students
individually to go back to their rooms and donate the large ticket items like water skis, bikes,
motorcycles and even cars for the cause of the new worship center. Without being asked or
prompted by the faculty to give, students began giving from the overflow of joy in their hearts.
North Central even requested that students get their parents approval before donating money or
possessions.
 
Grogan was among those who simultaneously got up during that chapel and ran to grab
their donations. He chuckled as he said, “My roommate said ‘Man dude when you got up, man I
thought you were gonna get my stereo and give it to North Central!’” When the student’s
donations had been cashed in, it came to the exact amount the school needed for the loan’s down
payment. Gary and Bonnie Grogan were the first couple married in the Trask Word and Worship
Center on May 26, 1973.
 
Yet even during this historic time filled with great moves of God’s spirit, students were
still making time to participate in college mischief. Price said, “There were the normally rowdy
students as well, like the ones who grabbed a multitude of recycle bags full of pop cans and
threw them down the back concrete stairs of the men’s dorm at two am. Hundreds of cans exploding from
the fifth floor all the way to the basement, waking up most of the dorm! The men’s dean took them to task.” God’s presence was still active and moving, even amidst the noisy pop can bandits.Though the 1970s were infiltrated by seeds of countercultural revolts that left lasting scars, they sprouted revivals across the nation and on the North Central campus that would impact the lives of individuals for generations to come.
 
Elie said, “God breathed his Holy Spirit on that young generation. In the ‘70s we were involved with the Vietnam war, and there were a lot of protests on the college campuses against the war. Things were changing, they had already taken prayer out of the schools in ’62, and in ’73 abortion was legalized. So, there were a lot of moral wars going on between good and evil in our country.”
 
The war between good and evil has been evident in 2020 just like it was in the 1970s. In
June of 2020, the world watched as Minneapolis fell apart under the pressure of racial injustice,
riots and looting. But in this current destruction and counterculture, could Minneapolis again be
on the edge of revival? What will it take for the nation to see awakening and hope?
 
Grogan said, “I have often said in America that you can build a church without the Holy Spirit in the western
world. All you need is money, professional staff, nice buildings, skinny jeans, and a slick
presentation. Because COVID-19 has stripped all that away, perhaps churches will start crying
out to God more for a genuine outpouring of the Holy Spirit.”

How the Jesus People Movement Turned North Central From Cynicism Into Awakening