|PARTICIPANTS in the youth revival of the 1940s and '50s gathered for a reunion in Birmingham, Ala.
Youth revivalists shaped a generation
___By Marv Knox
___BIRMINGHAM, Ala.--A platoon of "old men for God" reminisced about a great post-World War II revival and prayed for a spiritual awakening yet to come during Revival Revisited, a symposium at Samford University June 18-20.
___More than a dozen veterans of the Southern Baptist youth revival movement of the 1940s and '50s attended the symposium, sponsored by Samford and its Beeson Divinity School.
___"We were all together during the days of Youth for Christ. Now we're back--50 years
later--as 'old men for God,'" quipped Jess Moody, founder of Palm Beach Atlantic College and retired pastor from Mansfield, who was one of the key preachers in the movement.
|A HOUSTON BILLBOARD advertises the 1949 revival there, featuring featuring BO Baker, Jack Robinson, Charles Wellborn and Bruce McIver.(Photo courtesy of Baylor University's Texas Collection)
___Symposium participants attended Texas Baptist universities--primarily Baylor and Hardin-Simmons--when the youth revival movement spread like wildfire across the Southern Baptist Convention. It paralleled a national movement among teens and young adults, most noted for the rise of evangelist Billy Graham and the Youth for Christ organization he founded.
___The Baptist movement began in a student-led tent revival near the Baylor campus in Waco in April 1945.
___Graham's Youth for Christ crusades inspired Baylor students who had been meeting to pray for revival, recalled Bruce McIver, pastor emeritus of Wilshire Baptist Church in Dallas.
___While many young Americans still fought World War II overseas, many stateside began to look beyond the war with a burden for spiritual battles closer to home. "We had marched overseas," McIver said. "Now, we needed to march in the cities of America."
|BRUCE MCIVER, Reiji Hoshizaki and Bill O'Brien reminisce about the youth revival movement during a symposium at Samford University. (Photo courtesy of Samford University)
___Ironically, a former-Buddhist Japanese-American Baylor student, Reiji Hoshizaki, launched the World War II-era revival, Moody reported. Hoshizaki attended Youth for Christ crusades in Chicago, where he had gone to visit his parents, and he came back to Texas impassioned.
___"Rei laid on our hearts his dream of revival," Moody said. "God has a sense of humor: Revival in America, sparked by a Japanese-American, during a war with Japan."
___God honored that commitment with revival, symposium participants said. The '45 Baylor revival succeeded. By the spring of '46, almost 1,200 returning servicemen flooded the Baylor campus, and 500 students made spiritual commitments at that year's revival.
___Word of the Baylor revivals spread, and the student organizers received requests to lead
revivals elsewhere. Soon, they conducted citywide youth revivals in places such as Dallas, Fort Worth and Houston. Some of them told their stories at the Baptist conference center in Ridgecrest, N.C., and that spawned waves of youth revivals well into the '50s.
|FRANK BOGGS chats with Charles Wellborn and Jackie Robinson.
___The students led youth crusades across the South, in Chattanooga, Memphis, Birmingham and Atlanta, as well as Honolulu. Guided by W.F. Howard, the Baptist General Convention of Texas' student ministries director, they formed scores of teams to take revivals to hundreds of smaller communities as well.
___The Honolulu crusade prompted the start of student summer missions, a staple among state Baptist conventions for the last half of the century, participants noted. The ministries also gave birth to the Journeymen and US-2 two-year missions programs for young adults sponsored by the Southern Baptist mission boards.
___Through the Baptist and other youth revival movements, hundreds of thousands of people accepted Jesus as their Savior. Church historians estimated 30,000 young people nationwide made commitments to full-time Christian service from 1945 through 1951, Moody said.
___"The influence of this movement continues to stun us," Samford President Tom Corts
told the symposium. "The pebble was dropped in the pond, and the ripples continue to this day."
|DICK BAKER (l) and BO Baker talk during the symposium.
___Nobody knows exactly "why or how" revival happens, Corts acknowledged. But symposium participants spent the weekend speculating about the past and hoping for the future.
___"It was of God," confessed Hoshizaki, a retired missionary to Japan. "He is the one who did it. The Lord did the work."
___God "breathed" upon the movement, added Howard Butt, the layman in the group and general chairman of the Baylor revivals, who is president of Laity Lodge Foundation in Kerrville and vice chairman of the H.E. Butt Grocery Co.
___"We had been breathed upon by the Spirit of God," Butt explained. "We were carried by the tide of the Holy Spirit. We expected God to use us wherever we went, and he did."
___Looking back more than 50 years, the revival leaders listed elements that fuel revival then and now. They included:
___ Dependence on God. "We were blessed--not because of anything we did, not because of any virtue," said Charles Wellborn, retired religion professor at Florida State University. "It is the mystery of God, the grace of God that he reached down and touched us to say, 'I want you here and now.'"
___"We were amateurs," McIver admitted. "We didn't have one good sermon between us.
That's why we all had to preach--none of us had enough sermons to last a week" of revival services.
|JESS MOODY, Foy Valentine and Samford President Tom Corts take a break during the Revival Revisited meetings.
___"Jesus was this big," Moody said, spreading his arms wide. "And our doctrine, while important, was smaller than Christ."
___"We discovered we had witnessed the work of God," said BO Baker of McKinney, retired longtime pastor of Plymouth Park Baptist Church in Irving. "This was a work far greater than we had anticipated, a work empowered by the Holy Spirit--and all the glory must go to God."
___ Availability to Christ. Those young students turned themselves over to Jesus, stressed Warren Hultgren, pastor of First Baptist Church in Tulsa, Okla., for many years before he retired. "They were men who were predisposed to be used by God. They feared nothing or no one but were filled with the love of God."
___"We learned you didn't have to be experienced or a Bible scholar," explained Ralph Langley, retired pastor of First Baptist Church in Huntsville, Ala. "God took a group of green, green kids and did something wonderful with them. ... We learned kids can win kids to Christ. The whole youth revival movement was peer pressure par excellence. The peer pressure was God-sent and a powerful, positive catalyst."
___"God was at work because in the fullness of time we were ready to receive his blessings," added Foy Valentine, retired director of the Southern Baptist Christian Life Commission who now lives in Dallas.
|THE 1949 Houston revival, where Jack Robinson (inset) preached a sermon titled "No, Devil."
___ Trust in the Holy Spirit. "This was when Baptists were not afraid of the Holy Spirit," Moody stressed. "This is the era of the Holy Spirit. You either deal with him, or you don't have a God to go to."
___ Prayer. "It preceded, guided and saturated all that we did," Butt noted.
___"The power of prayer literally undergirded the whole movement," Langley added.
___"Guys cancelled dates (with girls) so they could go to prayer meetings for revival," McIver said.
___"A young man must be insane or intoxicated by God to take a gorgeous girl home from a date to go to a prayer meeting," Moody said. "But it happened."
___ Passion for souls. "We had passion for Christ and for other youth to commit themselves to him," Butt recalled.
___"I'd never heard young men that age pray for lost people," added Bob Harris, a retired Baptist missionary to Bermuda. "Jack Robinson (an All-American point guard at Baylor) wept for his basketball teammates. ... Each person was pouring himself out to God--praying, weeping, confessing sin."
___Sharing their Christian faith was part of the young peoples' lifestyle, Moody said. "Witnessing was intensely spiritual, but perfectly normal.
___ Boldness. "The sheer boldness of a bunch of kids was like a magnet in the hands of the Holy Spirit," Langley said. "We found that people with less experience have more boldness, and God can use it."
___ Fun. "Holy hilarity filled it all," Butt declared. "We enjoyed each other, and that joy bubbled around us and caught others in that undertow."
___Buckner Fanning, longtime pastor at Trinity Baptist Church in San Antonio, who recommitted his life to Christ during the Dallas crusade, affirmed that notion. The crusade leaders won him over "by their spirit, attitude and inclusion of me," not just during the revival itself, but at a mealtime in his parents' home after evening services.
___ Trust. "It was amazing that so many pastors let 19-year-olds preach in their pulpits," McIver marveled. Many of the participants reported they made lifelong friends with pastors in whose churches they preached during those years.
___ Music. "Every great awakening was characterized by a change in worship form," Moody said, noting the songs of those revivals ushered in a new era of revival music. He and others lauded BO Baker and his brother, Dick, retired longtime minister of music at Prestonwood Baptist Church in Dallas, for writing and leading a host of hymns and choruses that shaped the revival meetings and reached a generation with the gospel.
___Music was "the frontrunner--to prepare the way for revival," Dick Baker said.
___"Wherever there is spiritual vitality, there is song," Butt added.
___ World events. World War II and its aftermath profoundly shaped the country and deeply impacted the youth revival movement, participants agreed.
___"We had seen too much death, too much carnage, too much cruelty," Wellborn remembered. "And we tried to preach in that kind of world."
___"I have no doubt God did this at that time for servicemen returning from the military," said Jack Robinson, retired pastor of churches in the Southeast and East. "Hundreds of them made promises to God in foxholes." And the revival movement helped them keep those promises, he added.
___"We were just a part of the moving wheel of God that made a difference," BO Baker said.
___Although the revival veterans looked longingly to the past, they also looked fervently to the future. They kept asking themselves if America can or will experience such revival again.
___Don't expect a replica of the postwar youth revivals, Butt advised.
___"I don't think I'm able to pray, 'Lord, do it again.' God doesn't use carbon paper," he explained. "We are to expectantly wait for God to do a new thing. God is here and now, doing a new thing."
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