While I was growing up in the 1960s, my father was a gambling womanizer, my mother was an astrologer into all things occult, I was a shoplifting rebellious punk, and together we attended the United Methodist Church.1 If asked, all of us would have self-identified as Christians. We weren’t Buddhists, after all! Our pastor, like many pastors especially of mainline Protestant denominations, didn’t have a real relationship with Jesus and taught that if you lived a basically good life, then you would be saved. In grade school, I’d watch our pastor spout spiritual stories, read poetry, and sometimes weep over who knows what. He was clear about one thing: being born again was “old fashioned.” Listening to him, I’d muse that I would rather be a garbage collector than a pastor.
Thankfully, my parents became “born-again” Christians while I was in junior high school, and they took me to a 1969 Billy Graham Crusade. Billy preached on heaven and hell that Sunday afternoon, and by the time he finished, I was convinced that I was going to hell. So I “went forward,” and within a few months was devouring the Bible. This was during what was called the Jesus Movement. Soon, other “Jesus freaks” and I went witnessing to strangers in parks and at the beach, to fellow students in my high school, and door to door proclaiming the Good News. Our biggest obstacle in witnessing back then was that almost everyone would say, “I go to church; I’m a Christian.” But we had a ready reply: “Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than standing in the garage makes you a car.”
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