“In the Last Days I will pour out My Spirit on all flesh.” Acts 2:17

I hated church.

My family attended a boring, liberal church in Pasadena, California. After we sang a few old hymns and listened to the choir, the minister would read his sermon. Fortunately, it lasted only twenty minutes. I don’t remember much of what he said, except he told us once that the reason the disciples fell asleep when Jesus prayed in the Garden of Gethsemene was because they were drunk from too much wine at the Last Supper. Even my parents would get tired of this and we wouldn’t have to go too often.

One Sunday, our minister announced the formation of a new youth group. We didn’t have many young people at the church so the elders decided to hire a youth minister from the local seminary. The only person to apply was a young man named Steve Schell. He told them that he was a Pentecostal, but I don’t think they knew or cared what that meant – he was the only applicant so he got the job.

I was not interested in religion. The Jesus Movement was going strong at the time. Some of my friends had become “Jesus Freaks” and I certainly didn’t want to become one of them with all their “Praise the Lords!” and “Hallelujahs!” They were strange. So, I went to that youth group meeting with a much more realistic motive: I went to check out the chicks. When I arrived, I found myself alone with two other girls – neither of whom I deemed worthy of my coming back. Steve introduced himself and said that since there weren’t enough people to have your typical youth group with the games and activities, he would just talk to us about who God was and what He could do in our lives.

As far as I was concerned Steve’s new group already had two strikes against it: no cute girls and no fun. But since I was trapped, I had to listen to him at least for a while. He began to talk about God in a way I had never heard before. It was like He was really there: when Steve prayed, God answered! He told us a few stories of how God had answered his prayers in miraculous ways. That got my attention. Here was someone who wasn’t acting weird, but seemed to know God.

I decided to give Steve another try so I came back the next week. (I think he was surprised to see me again.) But another thing about Steve held my attention. I had always considered myself somewhat intelligent. I did not want to throw out my brain in order to believe in the God of the Bible. So I asked as many tough questions as I could. And Steve was able to answer them all. I was impressed! Here was someone who not only knew about God, but this God could demonstrate His power in the world today!

By this time in my life, I had already accepted the Lord – several times. I had always called on God when I was scared or in trouble. I remember clutching my Teddy bear when I was three years old and calling out to God telling Him that I didn’t want to die. The first formal time I accepted the Lord was when I was sent to a Vacation Bible School at another church. There the teacher asked who had never been “born again.” Well, since I was from a liberal church, I had never heard of the term before. So, naively, I raised my hand. Promptly, I was taken away to another room where some assistants led me in “the sinner’s prayer” (whatever that was). Another time was when my parents and family were all away from home on vacation. I had to stay home because I couldn’t get time off from my job. One night I came home and decided to raid my parent’s liquor cabinet. After fixing myself something, I settled in to channel surf. I landed on a Billy Graham crusade so I decided to listen to what this notorious person had to say. It wasn’t long before I poured the drink down the sink and got down on my knees to say that “sinner’s prayer” once again. I don’t know how many times I “accepted the Lord,” but I know that at least one of them took!

I had also read the Bible. I found that it really helped me fall asleep at bedtime. I didn’t understand much of it and I certainly didn’t believe all that stuff about God creating the world only six thousand years ago in just six days. But I knew it said a lot of good things about how to live, and I did want to go to heaven when I died so I figured I should read up about it.

But now at the youth group Steve was making sense about God. He told me that I didn’t have to act strange or fanatical like the Jesus freaks. All I had to do was follow Jesus and allow Him to lead my life. He told me that following Jesus was not something I had to do on my own; God would give me His presence through the Holy Spirit who would live inside me. I figured I could do that, so I went home and prayed, giving my whole life to Jesus. I did not have any real experience at this point. All I know is that changes began to take place in my life.

For one thing, the Bible came alive. It began to make more and more sense. The more I read, the more God would show me. I knew something was happening. Whereas I used to fall asleep after a few minutes of reading, now I couldn’t put it down. I would rather read the Bible than watch my favorite TV shows. I began to take it everywhere with me, reading it every chance I got. And I really didn’t care if anyone saw me with it!

After a few weeks at the youth group, we had about five or six people coming regularly. We never did play games or do silly things. Instead, the next thing Steve did was to teach us to pray. I, like nearly everyone else in the world, had prayed before. My parents had taught my brothers and me the Lord’s Prayer, which we recited every night before bedtime. And I had prayed many other times asking God to help me or give me something I really wanted. But prayer seemed to be just a hit or miss proposition – sometimes you got it; most of the time you didn’t. Kind of a holy guessing game.

Steve taught us what the Bible says about prayer. It is a conversation with God. It is not just a shopping list of our wants and wishes. Instead, it is as much listening as it is talking. Before we pray, we need to know if what we are praying is God’s will. And if it IS God’s will, then we should expect God to answer. Therefore, we needed to know what God wants in this world, and partner with Him in seeing it come to pass.

At first we would pray simple kinds of thank you prayers. We were just getting used to hearing each other pray out loud. Steve would encourage us to listen to the Lord, asking Him what to pray for. “What would Jesus pray for? What do you believe down deep in your heart that Jesus will do in this situation? Don’t just pray empty words – really mean it. Agree in your heart about other people’s prayers. Join them in their prayer,” he encouraged us.

These simple instructions were quite powerful. We began to see God answer prayers from one week to the next. We had a sharing time when we reported how our prayers were being answered through God’s direct intervention or through God’s giving of wisdom. We began to believe God could and WOULD do anything!

I was going to college at this time. I commuted from home in my 1963 Chevy II. One day the transmission began to slip. I checked the fluid levels and found no problem there. So, as the slipping got worse every day, I took it to a transmission repair shop for an estimate. They called with the bad news – the transmission was shot and I would need a new one at the cost of $400 (remember, this was back in 1974). My car had only cost me $200. I couldn’t afford the repair – I only made $2 per hour, part time. So I told the mechanic that I would pick it up. On the way home, as the transmission slipped between each gear, I prayed, “Lord, you know I can’t afford to fix this, please fix it for me.” That was it. I prayed, gave the problem to God, and drove home.

The next day I had a test at school. I was so preoccupied with studying and remembering the subject that I just hopped into my car and drove to school, concentrating on the test the whole way there. Then I went to work. Then I drove home. I repeated the process the next day and the next. I was so focused on the Lord and my studies that I just simply forgot about the transmission and my prayer. It must have been a week later that it suddenly dawned on me that the transmission wasn’t slipping anymore! God had fixed it!

A couple of years later, I sold the car to a friend of my fiancée. He later sold it to his sister. About tens years later, I saw this old friend at a family function. I was curious about what happened to my old car. He told me that the car had been stolen from his sister after a few years. “How many miles did it have on it?” I asked. “Over two hundred thousand,” he replied. “Did it ever need to have transmission work?” I asked. “Never!” was his answer. When God does the repair work, it is guaranteed for life! (I have to be honest, I have had to buy several new transmissions for the cars and vans I have owned since then – but then, I can afford to have them fixed now!)

Our Sunday night youth meetings began to develop into a pattern. First we would share what God was doing in our lives and how He was answering our prayers from the week before. Then we would pray around the circle – everyone had to pray out loud unless they were brand new. Then Steve would teach from the Bible, verse by verse, book by book. In three years we went through just about the entire New Testament and a few Old Testament books as well.

After a few months, Steve introduced us to Chuck Smith’s Calvary Chapel. This was the place where the Jesus Movement had been born. Every Saturday night was a Maranatha Concert, emceed by Tom Stipe. We climbed into our cars and drove an hour to find a place in the back rows of a large green circus tent perched on the edge of a bean field in Costa Mesa, California. We heard the message of Jesus’ love and salvation through the kind of music we were familiar with. We began to invite our family members and friends to come and hear – and get saved!

The Maranatha Concerts made the next stage of our growth a little easier for Steve. Before each concert began Tom Stipe would lead the crowd in simple heart-felt worship choruses. So, Steve suggested that we begin singing at our Sunday night meetings. He brought his guitar and we learned what real worship was all about. Although it is nice to listen to thousands of people singing to the beat of an amplified rock band, we learned that the style wasn’t the essence of worship. Real worship takes place whenever people turn their hearts and minds over to the Lord in praise and surrender, adoration and love. And when we did that, an amazing thing happened: God’s presence could be felt in that place! It was so tangible we could tell when that presence came! Afterwards I would often ask Steve, “Did you feel Him? It was while we were singing this song, wasn’t it?” He and others in the room would affirm it. We learned this is what Jesus meant when He said, “When two or more are gathered IN MY NAME, I will be in the midst of them.” He really was!

Now our meetings took on a fuller dimension of Jesus. Not only were we talking about who He was and what He did, but we were directly experiencing the presence of God through the Holy Spirit. It was about this same time that our discussions began to focus on what the Baptism of the Holy Spirit was. Steve shared about this dimension of God’s plan for the church in gentle ways, often just giving us a book entitled, “Nine O’clock in the Morning” by Dennis Bennett – a leader in the early charismatic movement. Several of us read it with hunger for more of God.

So, in addition to going to the Maranatha Concerts, we often took trips down to a hot spot of the charismatic movement – Melodyland Christian Center in Anaheim. One night a visiting speaker asked all the young men in the audience who wanted to be baptized in the Holy Spirit to come down to the stage area. That was my chance; I went forward and prayed with dozens of other people my age to receive the Baptism. We prayed and then the leader told us to simply begin thanking the Lord in faith for what He was giving to us at that moment. I didn’t feel a thing. Suddenly the young man on my right began speaking in tongues. “Interesting,” I thought. I had heard Steve pray in tongues a few times during our worship or prayer at church, so I wasn’t surprised by what it sounded like. Then the young man on my left began speaking in tongues. “Wow, that’s neat,” I thought. But then I wondered, “What about ME?” I didn’t want to be left out! “Lord, what about me?” I prayed. And He answered in a way that I cannot describe as a voice, or words, but just a thought in my heart, “Just start talking and let Me control what comes out.” So I opened my mouth, and started speaking whatever my voice wanted to say. It was a moment of surrender to God, even if I sounded foolish. And out came a new language!

The very next moment my rational mind said, “You’re just making this up!” But I knew deep in my spirit that I wasn’t. I had tried to speak in tongues several times before using my mind as the source. The best I could come up with was “goo-goo, gaw-gaw” – baby gibberish. This time it was different. It had variety; it flowed naturally, and most of all, I wasn’t using any brain effort to do it! I was speaking in tongues!

A few others from the youth group were baptized with the Holy Spirit that night. We began to have what we called “The Afterglow” following our regular meetings. We still did the worship, sharing, praying and Bible Study. Then we would break for fellowship and allow anyone who wanted to go home to do so. Steve began to teach us how the gifts of the Spirit were meant to operate and how to practice them in the group. Then we would gather around the fireplace to worship and allow the Holy Spirit to manifest His gifts. We learned how to listen to that voice of the Lord within us. In the safety of the loving group we learned how to step out in prophecy and other supernatural ministry. We began to see our Lord move in even more power and glory.

God did amazing things in this group and since then as I continued to grow and mature in the Lord. I have always been very analytical in nature. Whenever I witnessed something God did I would examine it and ask how did it happen, why did it happen, what did it feel like, etc. The Lord has given me the awesome privilege to teach a course called “Spiritual Gifts and Ministries” at LIFE Pacific College for the Foursquare denomination. My goal is to teach people how to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit in a biblical, balanced, and loving manner – to demonstrate that Jesus Christ is Lord!

(c) Testimony of Chip Crosby, Pastor of Harbor Light Christian Fellowship, Costa Mesa, CA, and professor at LIFE Pacific College, San Dimas, CA