FORGET NONE OF HIS BENEFITS
volume 18, number 8, February 21, 2019
“Wilt Thou not Thyself revive us again, that Thy people may rejoice in Thee?” -Psalm 85:6
Do It Again, Lord!
I have often wondered how we made it out of the 1960’s. John F. Kennedy’s election was most certainly corrupt and therefore stolen by ballot box stuffing in Illinois. The Bay of Pigs fiasco in March, 1961 where a number of the Alabama National Guard pilots were shot down and killed in the aborted invasion of Cuba to take down Castro was a disaster. In 1962 riots broke out at Ole Miss when black students sought to enter the University. At least one Federal Marshall was killed in the melee. Martin Luther King was arrested and imprisoned in Birmingham at Easter, 1963 where he wrote his famous “Letter from Birmingham Jail” which gave a Biblical precedent for civil disobedience. A month or so later Commissioner for Public Safety Eugene “Bull” Connor turned fire houses and attack dogs on children at Kelly Ingram Park in downtown Birmingham. Hundreds of these children were arrested and hauled off to a makeshift jail at Fair Park. In September of that year four little black girls were killed while they were at Sunday school at the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church, right across the street from Kelly Ingram Park. A couple of months later John F. Kennedy was gunned down in Dallas and his assassination most assuredly was a conspiracy by, take your pick-Cuban Americans who were incensed that he did not adequately back the Bay of Pigs Invasion, by mafiosos like Sam Giancana of Chicago who set up JFK with Marilyn Monroe, or high ranking military officers who thought Kennedy was soft on the Red Menace.
Then there was the trek in March, 1965 from Selma to Montgomery for voting rights when the marchers were turned back by tear gas and Alabama Highway Patrolman on horseback at the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. Just a month earlier Black Muslim activist Malcolm X was gunned down by Black Muslims in New York City as he spoke at the meeting of the Organization of Afro-American Unity. By January, 1968 the Viet Cong infiltrated every major city in South Vietnam and brought the war into the very living rooms of every home in America. We soon discovered that we were not winning the war. In April, 1968 Martin Luther King was gunned down in Memphis as he prepared for a meeting with sanitation workers of that city. In June Robert F. Kennedy, who had just won the California primary for the Democratic Party, was gunned down in Los Angeles. In the summer of 1969, as we were in the process of putting our first man on the moon, Senator Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts was involved in an automobile accident which left his car upside down in shallow water with one of his interns, Mary Jo Kopechne, inside. Kennedy fled the scene of the accident and autopsy reports show that the young woman died, not from drowning, but from lack of oxygen. In other words, she could have lived if Kennedy had extracted her from the car. In August, 1969 hundreds of thousands of young people, high on drugs, sex, and rock and roll traveled to upstate New York for the famous Woodstock festival. And a week or two after Woodstock Charles Manson, a crazed killer, coaxed several of his followers to murder several people over two nights, including actress Sharon Tate who was eight months pregnant at the time. And the debacle we call the 1960’s ended in May, 1970 when National Guardsmen at Kent State University opened fire on anti-war student demonstrators, killing four of them.
Yet in the midst of all this mayhem God was beginning a great work. In Southern California, around 1966 a young pastor named Chuck Smith, who pastored a relatively small church, had been disgusted with the hippie movement for some time. His wife encouraged him to reach out to these young people. He did so and a great work of conversion began among them. Chuck baptized hundreds, if not thousands, of young people in the Pacific Ocean who had come to faith from their debauched lifestyles. This movement began to spread to the San Francisco Bay Area with many conversions at Haight-Asbury and well as at Cal Berkeley. This movement of God spread across the United States and made its way to Alabama around 1968. Pastor Jim Baird of First Presbyterian Church, Gadsden, Alabama invited Baptist preacher John Haggai to preach an evangelistic crusade in Gadsden which resulted in countless conversions and many young men going into the gospel ministry, most of them into the PCA which would begin in December, 1973 at Briarwood Presbyterian Church, Birmingham. Literally thousands of people were converted in and around Birmingham from around 1968 through 1975 through the ministry of Frank Barker, pastor of Briarwood, and Dick Vignuelle, a former bank vice president, who had become the pastor of Shades Mountain Independent Church. God also raised up at that time some very effective evangelists like Howard Borland and Dale Cutlip, as well as Wales Goebel who became a very powerful evangelistic preacher. I well remember being at the University of Alabama in 1973 when the Christian students there put on Decision 73, a three day evangelistic crusade at the Memorial Coliseum with at least ten thousand in attendance each of those nights where Wales Goebel preached powerfully.
And 1972 may have been the climax of this great work. The Southern Baptist Convention that year reported the most adult professions of faith and baptisms in their history, 445,725. Campus Crusade for Christ put on Explo 72 in Dallas, Texas where 80,000 students gathered each night for a week in the Cotton Bowl to hear Bill Bright, Billy Graham other well known preachers challenge the young people to world missions and pastoral ministry. One doctoral candidate several years later in his research found that as many as sixty percent of the young people from one part of South Carolina eventually entered the ministry. I was converted in 1972, as was Wini. Our good friend Dale Cutlip and Wini were actually converted on the same day in August, 1972.
I say all of this because I believe the only thing which saved our nation at that time was the great movement of God, some would call it a revival. Surely there were at one million people converted from 1966 through 1975, and these sound conversions brought dramatic change in our nation and slowed down the slide of our country into judgment and calamity.
My friends, my simple plea is this – Please God, do it again. In Your wrath, for we surely deserve your wrath, please remember mercy. May You smile on us again as we forsake our evil ways and turn to You who alone can give us refuge.