Appendix 3 - Do The Work Of An Evangelist

Series: Our Fathers Saw His Mighty Works

            Civilization has always been on the advance, but perhaps during no period has it ever progressed as rapidly as it did between 1900 and 1950.  The advances made then in science and technology were enough to astound any American whose adult life spanned that half-century; for it was during those years that electricity, telephones, automobiles, airplanes, radios, TVs, and movies came into use.  Culture too has always been changing, but perhaps it has never done so more explosively than just one decade later during the 1960’s.  The turbulence and volatility of those ten years, during which the first of the Baby Boomers began coming of age, were a far cry from what the “Fabulous Fifties” had been.  A short list of headlines tells the story well - the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., the Civil Rights Movement, the Vietnam War, anti-war protests, riots on college campuses and at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, the Women’s Liberation Movement, the sexual revolution, the Summer of Love, San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district, the hippie culture, psychedelic drugs, the Broadway musical Hair, and the Woodstock Festival.  In general, the 1960’s were marked by rebellion and counterculture, making the United States at 1970 a far different place from what it had been just twenty years previously.


            Along with the disposal of cultural norms came much derision and abandonment of traditional religion.  So dramatic was the social shift of the 1960’s that it seemed nearly to erase all memory of the revival of Christianity which had occurred just a generation earlier following World War II (recounted in Chapters 1-16 of this book).  Many of the children of those whom God had touched at mid-century had little use for the Christianity of their parents.  It seemed that if God was going to stir this younger generation, it would have to be through an entirely new movement - one still Biblical and Christ-centered but one directed in the emphases of its message and methods toward a youth culture radically different from that of 1950.  And this is precisely what God did.  Once again He displayed His mighty works.  He raised up a youth movement known in its own day quite fittingly as “The Jesus Revolution.”  Its focus was Jesus, its fervor was revolutionary, and its marks were still to be seen beyond the end of the 20th century as the young people whom it had affected rose into the leadership of the American church. 


            That God sent a revival in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s is no secret.  During my research of the 1945-1955 movement, I have inadvertently run across numerous stories of revivals between 1967 and 1973, revivals both corporate and individual and usually among youth or young adults.  Even the national news media knew that something unusual was afoot.  Time carried an extensive report in its June 21, 1971, magazine characterizing the youth movement which it said had been growing steadily since at least 1967.  A few gleanings from the article vividly recreate images of the radical Christian enthusiasm so characteristic of that era: exuberant witnessing on streets and other public places, overarching emphasis on an intense personal relationship with Jesus, bumper stickers reading “Smile: God Loves You”, expectation of divine guidance in every area of life, belief in the potential for miracles, deliverances from drug addiction, catch phrases like “Praise God!” and “Bless you,” intense conviction that Jesus’ Second Coming was imminent, back-pocket paperback Bibles, Christian coffeehouses, communal Christian houses, the somewhat eccentric Jesus People, the interdenominational and more evangelical Straight People, the Catholic Pentecostals, total adherents numbering probably in the hundreds of thousands, free “Jesus” newspapers, and an overflow of contemporary Christian music including that in the rock genre.1  A “major part of the Jesus movement,” reported Time, “is the highly organized, interdenominational youth movement of the established churches - a sort of person-to-person counterpart of mass-rally evangelism.”  How true that was!  And it is that statement which leads us back to the story of the Lutheran Evangelistic Movement because it seems to have been especially for the purpose of just such a youth movement that the Lord preserved the LEM from collapse in the latter 1950’s and revitalized its ministry throughout the 1960’s.  The post World War II awakening was not the only revival in which the LEM was powerfully used of God, for the LEM youth movement of 1967 onward was part of another revival of national caliber.



Revitalization of the LEM 1960 Onward   


            After having been so greatly used of God during the mid-century revival, the Lutheran Evangelistic Movement had entered a time of severe crisis by 1955 (as described in Chapter 15).  After a few years of noticeable decrease in attendance at some of its conferences, demand for its Bible Conferences suddenly plummeted to a quarter of what it had formerly been.  Rev. Evald J. Conrad, thought of by many as “Mr. LEM,” had resigned from the directorship in 1954.  So much of the LEM’s Bible Conference and evangelism work seemed to have been absorbed by the Preaching-Teaching-Reaching (PTR) Missions which had become widely used within many Lutheran synods that the LEM’s leadership discussed among itself whether the LEM had fulfilled its mission and ought to be dissolved.2  Over the next half decade, five calls to the directorship were issued but were returned unaccepted.3  But although “the vision concerning the LEM was somewhat unclear for a few years,” “the Lord did not let the Movement die.  As the PTRs began to wane in momentum” towards the end of the 1950‘s, “it became quite evident that the Lord wasn’t through with the LEM.”  “The special need for evangelism surfaced again as the continuing and unfulfilled need of the hour.  This brought the need of a full-time director back into focus, and [a] call was again extended” - this time to LEM National Board member Rev. W.E. (“Ernie”) Klawitter.  Klawitter had been a parish pastor from 1930-1940, an institutional chaplain until 1945, and a teacher and the director of correspondence studies at the Lutheran Bible Institute (LBI) in Minneapolis from 1945 onward.4  As the developer and host of the daily Psalm of Life radio broadcasts, he was well-known to many Christians across the nation.  His poise, confidence, friendliness, and ability to relate to people5 made him a desirable candidate for a leadership position.  There was much rejoicing when Klawitter accepted the LEM’s call in May of 1960 with duties to begin later that October.  To all involved, it seemed to be “the Lord’s timing, with His special mandate for [the] LEM to move on.”  Over the next thirteen years under Klawitter’s leadership, God gave the LEM “a renewed vision and enlargement in the various ministries into which [it] had been led in earlier years.”


            The first of those realms of enlargement was the hiring of additional evangelists in order to field the growing numbers of requests for special meetings.  The resignation of Rev. A.E. Windahl in 19566 and the retirement of Rev. J.O. Gisselquist from full-time ministry that same year7 had left Nels Pedersen as the LEM’s lone evangelist and had reduced LEM evangelistic series to an average of 25 annually.8  But that number was to triple and even quadruple during the 1960’s as the LEM added three more full-time evangelists to its staff within less than two years.  The first of these was Mr. Philip Hanson who in October of 1960 became the LEM’s second lay evangelist.  Hanson brought with him a wide range of ministerial experience having previously served as a parochial school teacher, a lay pastor and assistant pastor, a church and synod-sponsored lay evangelist, and a teacher at the Minneapolis LBI.9  The year following Hanson’s arrival, numbers of evangelistic series preached by LEM personnel jumped dramatically to 76.  Late in 1961, Rev. Kenneth Ellingson accepted the LEM’s call to become its third evangelist.  Ellingson had a somewhat unique testimony in that as a young adult he had been “a fairly faithful, but dead, church member . . . until as Pocket Testament League Secretary I began reading the New Testament.  Through this and the personal witness of several Christian friends, I realized that the Christian life I thought I was living had no reality, and I began to seek the Lord.”10  Soon after this experience, he had attended the Minneapolis LBI where “Christ became a living reality in my life.”  Throughout his subsequent years as a lay pastor, a seminary student, and then an ordained pastor, Ellingson had often “thought and prayed about going into evangelistic work some day.”11  The LEM’s call confirmed God’s leading in that direction. 


            “How many more evangelists does the LEM plan to call?” wrote W.E. Klawitter in Evangelize after Ellingson‘s acceptance.  “We are looking for an ever-increasing number of requests for special meetings which will become a guide to us in the calling of further men.”  “It is our desire to be of assistance to pastors in their evangelism efforts in their parishes.”12  Just a few months later with requests still on the increase, the LEM called yet a fourth evangelist,13 Rev. Sterling Johnson, who accepted the call and began his duties in July of 1962.14  Even as a young child, Johnson had felt the call to preach so strongly that he had often done so at home for his parents on Sunday afternoons.  This childhood urging had led to youth Gospel team service, seminary instruction, and ultimately a career in the pastorate where Johnson had felt increasingly drawn towards the work of evangelism, culminating with the LEM’s call.15  With a staff of four full-time evangelists, the LEM was able to conduct a tremendous 112 series of evangelistic meetings in 1962 and 105 in 1963.  Even after Hanson’s resignation at the end of 1963, the number of evangelistic series for 1964 was 103.  Numbers did decrease a bit after that year but still averaged 82 annually through the end of the decade, the majority of these being in the upper Midwest.16 


            Though their styles and personalities differed from each other - Pedersen more serious and reserved, Ellingson more gentle and affable, and Johnson more animated and upbeat17 - the LEM evangelists preached a unified gospel message.  Two classic examples of their sermons given below in condensed format illustrate that point and serve as evidence of the type of evangelism which the LEM represented and brought into hundreds of churches.  The first sermon is by Nels Pedersen on the topic “Three Kinds of People.”18

            “There are three kinds of people: Christians, backsliders, and unsaved.  Where are you?  You will leave here changed either for better or for worse. 

            “Christian, where are you?  When it comes to your relationship and attitude toward the world, are you living a compromising life?  If you have love for the world, the love of the Father is not in you.  It’s easy to try to live on the fringes.  Are you ashamed of Jesus?  To take up the cross is something in which we voluntarily and consistently identify with Jesus.  Are you living a surrendered life?  The Lord can’t use what He doesn’t have possession of.  Are you witnessing for Christ?  You can’t drink at the fountain of living water without having it spill over.

            “A backslider is one who once had fellowship with Jesus, but other things have now come along instead.  Jesus is only a memory.  Backsliding begins in the heart.  It involves neglecting the Word of God and prayer and being filled with one’s own desires and feelings. 

            “Lost one, where are you?  Death is no respecter of persons, yet people keep putting off thinking about it.  You are either 100 percent saved or 100 percent lost.  There is no in-between ground of hoping or trying to be saved.  Are you hiding from God?  That is a losing battle. 

             “To be a child of God is to be a personal possessor of Jesus.  It is not merely believing something about Him.  Your knowledge must become a relationship.”

This second sermon is by Rev. Sterling Johnson and is entitled “Saving Faith.”19

            “God calls us to saving faith.  There are four wrong ideas about saving faith.  Saving faith is not historical knowledge about Jesus’ life, death, and second coming.  Saving faith is not mental assent to the Bible.  Saving faith is not lip faith which says it believes but has no concern for souls and no love for the Word.  Saving faith is not dead faith which wants to claim God’s forgiveness and promises without having repented.         “There are four ways in which the woman who washed and anointed Jesus’ feet came to saving faith.  First, she was not afraid of the crowd in the house.  Many church people go lost because they are afraid of the crowd.  You’ll have an awful shock when you spend eternity with the crowd that kept you from Jesus.

            “Second, the woman didn’t count the cost.  Satan deceives people into only looking at the negative: what it will cost them to follow Jesus.  But what will it cost them if they don’t?  Everything!  What a person is before he dies determines his eternal fate.  It would be horrible to wake up in eternity and find out you were wrong. 

            “Third, the woman who anointed Jesus came alone.  Some people wait for their spouses.  Are you willing to come alone? 

            “Fourth, the woman came with a repentant heart as evidenced by her tears.  God will not despise a broken and contrite heart.  There is no one in heaven whose heart God hasn’t broken.  The woman threw herself on the mercy of Jesus.

            “Those who are smug and complacent in their churches often hear sermons but never come to Jesus.  Some people hide behind a religious veneer.  But he who hides his sins will not prosper.  Are you in the crowd that has no need of Jesus?”


            Every year, the LEM evangelists saw God save souls and strengthen Christians through the preaching and ministering of the Word.20  “God is still converting sinners in almost every place that we go,” stated Ellingson after eight years with the LEM.  “Some places there are many, [and] other places there are few.”  “In one home where I stayed,” related Pedersen, “nearly the whole family came to know Christ before the week was over.”  Johnson rejoiced at having been able “to lead three young couples to Christ after a service in one congregation,”   Reports such as these were not uncommon.  Other times they were more modest: “Though there isn’t anything sensational to report, Christians do testify of being deepened in their faith, and from time to time we are privileged to see souls saved.”  One aspect of the evangelists’ reports that truly was sensational was the physical healings which frequently occurred under Ellingson’s ministry, particularly through prayer, in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.21  At the end of 1972 Ellingson wrote, “This year I have witnessed more of the miraculous than I ever have before.  God has revealed Himself in healing the sick, the maimed and the oppressed, and in delivering from various kinds of bondage to evil spirits and hateful habits of body and mind.”  “Other miracles took place without our being aware of them until receiving a letter sometime later . . . .”  “Areas where we have not been before have seemingly been more open to the miraculous than where the evangelist has almost become just another tradition.”  “The general reaction of those who witnessed these things was that of thanksgiving and praise to the Lord Jesus.”  “Jesus is the healer; men may be His channels.  To Him be all honor, glory, and praise.”


            Another realm of renewed vision and enlargement for the LEM during the 1960’s and 1970’s was that of Area Conferences.  During the LEM Bible Conferences of the 1940’s and 1950’s, one church or local committee had hosted several days of teaching and preaching sessions which Christians from surrounding churches and vicinities had attended.  The first of these Bible Conferences had been the Midwinter Evangelistic Conference.  Whereas the Midwinter Conference continued relatively unchanged well beyond the LEM’s 40th year, the format for most other Bible Conferences saw a marked change.  “As the PTRs [of the various Lutheran synods] were phased out [in the later 1950‘s and early 1960‘s], a similar conference format was adopted by [the] LEM, involving many more congregations than . . . formerly served” by Bible Conferences.22  “Each participating congregation [was] supplied with a guest speaker for evening services, with morning sessions conducted in a centrally located church.”23  In the eight Area Conferences conducted by the LEM during 1971, all in the upper Midwest, eighty churches participated for an average of ten churches per conference.24 


            One of the names most frequently associated with the LEM during the 1960’s and 1970’s was the name of a place where God revitalized one of the LEM’s earliest ministries beyond many expectations.  At the lowest point in the LEM’s sharp decline, registration for the two-week 1957 Deeper Life Conference at Mission Farms on Medicine Lake had decreased over 30 percent from just three years prior.25  Steadily this number had increased again until 1,375 registrants in 1961 had prompted the conference’s expansion to three weeks in 1962 when a record 1,700 registered.  Then came disheartening news.  After the 1963 season, the Union City Mission would be closing its conference facilities in order to enlarge its work with transient men.26  The LEM would have to relocate.  For several years numerous efforts were made towards building the LEM’s own family camping facility near the Twin Cities, but each time these efforts were thwarted by issues such as zoning regulations.27  In the meantime, what had begun being used as a temporary site for the annual Deeper Life Conference was agreed by all to have become one of the LEM’s most popular venues.  The picturesque beauty and well-maintained buildings of the Lake Koronis Assembly Grounds in Paynesville, Minnesota, seemed to the LEM to more than compensate for its less-centralized location 90 miles northwest of the Twin Cities.28  Though only one week was available that first year of 1964 and the facilities only allowed for 500 to 600 people per week - the Lakeview and Hillside Dormitories housing 250 adults and families with smaller children and 250 youth, and the tent and trailer area accommodating another 50 to 100 people29 - “the feeling was unanimous that [Deeper Life] return to Koronis in 1965.”30  Beginning in 1966, two weeks were available at Koronis for the LEM’s use.  Total registrations of 1,100 to 1,200 each year were augmented by “good number[s] of day visitors,”31 those traveling in for evening services,32 and crowds that swelled weekend attendances and lodged offsite.33  The conference program itself, designed for the whole family, remained relatively the same as in previous years (as described in Chapter 6); and the Koronis facilities became dear to many as the sites of numerous personal encounters with the Lord.  Among its best-loved buildings were the quaint, country-style Chapel where senior high youth met in the mornings and the austere, 1,500-seat, white-clapboard Tabernacle where adults had morning sessions and campers of all ages assembled for evening services.34  Many attendees long remembered the Tabernacle’s tall cathedral ceiling supported by rough wooden columns, its tiers of rustic wood pews sloping downward towards the platform and altar railings, and its rows of large screened windows with shutters that swung upward to open the whole auditorium to nature.  Few could ever forget the evening and weekend services when the lusty singing of a packed audience accompanied by piano and organ so filled the Tabernacle as to seem almost heavenly.  But it was also in the less likely locations at Koronis during informal times that God touched lives both old and young as, for example, in the case of the sixth grade boy who received God’s call to become a preacher while he listened one afternoon “quiet time” in his dorm room to Ken Ellingson explain spiritual gifts.35  By 1969, a two-week registration of 1,400 caused Deeper Life at Koronis to be expanded to three weeks annually from 1970 onward.



Roots of the LEM Youth Program


            The ministries described in the foregoing paragraphs, together with several others such as the Evangelism Book Center and the monthly magazine Evangelize, were the major components of the LEM of the 1960’s and 1970’s around which its youth movement burgeoned.  Observing in 1964 that focusing much attention on youth was becoming a widespread trend, W.E. Klawitter encouraged the LEM “to plan for an enlarged ministry to youth.”36  By the end of the decade he could declare, “Our youth ministry that began as a mustard seed many years ago is now a mustard tree . . . .”37  According to Jesus, that analogy concerned the kingdom of God; and truly the LEM’s youth program was nothing other than God’s own work which, in regards to both organization and people, had its roots within the earlier movement of God post World War II.  It was near the peak of that previous revival that the first Midwinter Youth Conference had been held on the closing weekend of the regular Midwinter Evangelistic Conference in January 1951.  “Christian students from virtually all the Lutheran colleges in the Midwest”38 had gathered for Bible hours, discussion times, and preaching under the theme, “The Master is Here and Calleth Thee.”39  By the mid 1960’s, this event was attracting 2,000 young people annually.40  The summer of 1951 marked another important first for the LEM in its sponsorship of a singing group, the Messengers Quartet which consisted of male Augsburg College students who traveled throughout Minnesota, North Dakota, and the Pacific Northwest.41 


            But the most significant youth-related development for the LEM in 1951 was its connection to a man who, although never occupying a position more prominent within the LEM than that of a National Board member, was to be mightily used of God for many years as both catalyst and coach of a youth movement which touched tens of thousands of lives.  Donald J. Fladland was born on March 7, 1928, in Grand Forks, ND, the youngest of eight children.42  In accord with the nominal affiliation of his family with the local Lutheran Free Church, Don attended confirmation classes but viewed their completion as his graduation from church and effectively ran away from God.  Sports was his god, and his athletic prowess contributed to high school championship teams in basketball, football, and golf.  After high school graduation in 1946, Don’s athletic ambitions were interrupted by being drafted into the Army which, after basic training, sent him to Japan to work with prisoners of war.  There during the early years of the American mid-century revival, Don was to become one of its converts, albeit on the other side of the world.  On a certain Sunday morning in Yokusha, Japan, an Army buddy invited him to chapel to hear a Christian medical doctor who, as Don later described, “shared simply and powerfully how Christ had died for me and that by faith I could receive salvation and full forgiveness.”  “After that message,” said Don, “my heart was stirred up all afternoon [though] at the time I did not know it was the Holy Spirit.”  Returning for the evening service, Don went forward at the altar call and knelt to receive Christ as his personal Savior.  “That turned my life upside down!” he exclaimed. 

“I knew I was forgiven and . . . I had assurance of salvation.”  “I was keenly aware that I was . . . a child of God.”  “The grass was greener and the sky was blue in a way I had never seen before.  I began reading the Bible constantly and writing letters home talking of my conversion.”  “My heart was filled with Christ’s love and forgiveness and I wanted to share this good news with my family.”  “I wrote letters to businessmen in Grand Forks thanking them for wanting to sponsor me on the Pro-Golf Tour, but I knew I had to decline their offer as I had a calling from the Lord to spend my life encouraging young people to live for Christ.”


            In preparation for that life of ministry, Don began studying at Augsburg College in Minneapolis in January 1948 after his return from overseas.  There he met and married the young lady who became his faithful companion and ministry partner, Violette, or Vi as she was better known.  It was also while at Augsburg that Don was challenged by a local Lutheran pastor to round up area youth and invite them to church.  “So,” said Don, “I visited homes in the area and told the boys I met that if they came to . . . morning services every Sunday we would form a basketball team.  And that was the beginning . . . .”  Yes, it certainly was the beginning - not merely of Don’s career with youth but, much more broadly, of a new move of God.


            Following graduation from the college at Augsburg, Don began studying at the seminary there in the fall of 1951 while simultaneously filling the pulpit of a Lutheran church in Spicer, Minnesota.  It was at this same time that he became acquainted with the Lutheran Evangelistic Movement and its director Rev. Evald J. Conrad and began eagerly taking many of his Spicer youth to the LEM’s Midwinter Youth Conferences and Deeper Life Conferences.  By 1955, Don had become so involved in the LEM’s work that he was elected to its National Board,43 a position through which he was to deeply influence its program over the next three decades.  And Rev. Conrad, who had recently returned to his post at Trinity Lutheran Church of Minnehaha Falls, was so pleased by Don’s work with young people that he successfully recommended to Trinity that they call Don to be their youth director. 


            At Trinity from 1955 to 1965, Don Fladland led the youth groups, co-taught confirmation classes with Rev. Conrad, and organized youth events that became well-known around the Midwest.  More significantly to the broader picture, he began pioneering youth-to-youth ministry, a relatively new method which was destined to become, though perhaps somewhat unbeknownst to him at the time, one of the spearheads of the whole youth revival movement in the years ahead.  In Don’s own words,

“From the time I accepted Christ as my personal Savior, the Lord implanted in my heart a burning desire to lead young people to Christ.  And so I began my work [by] speaking with and confronting them about a personal relationship with Christ.”  As my work progressed, “I discovered that . . . letting young people meet and share thoughts and ideas . . . allowed them to grow in their faith and in turn they wanted to share this new found faith with others.  When this began to happen, I decided to form youth group teams and arranged for these young people to go to other churches and travel sharing their faith.”

The first of these teams, led by Don and composed of thirteen Trinity youth either in high school or attending the California Lutheran Bible School, bore the name The Gospel Crusaders and traveled to Lutheran churches throughout the upper Midwest during the summer of 1962.44  Its members shared their faith during evening evangelistic programs through personal testimonies, devotions, and songs (including their theme song “We Are More Than Conquerors” taken from Romans 8:37) and during extensive interaction with local young people both in organized activities and in host homes.  In late 1963, Don organized a similar but smaller team to visit World Mission Prayer League fields in South America.  In the Midwest, the Gospel Crusaders quickly became an annual summer outreach of Trinity Lutheran with “many young people [coming] to the altar to accept Christ . . . and hearts [being] transformed by the Holy Spirit” in the wake of their ministry.  So impressive was the growth of the Crusaders that even Don was amazed.  “Young people heard about it from all over and wanted to be involved with [the] teams.”


            Don Fladland’s assembling of youth-to-youth ministry teams allowed him to employ a unique talent which God had given him especially for that purpose.  “I believe the Lord gifted me in seeing the potential and talent in a young person before they even had a chance to realize it themselves,” he reflected years later.  “So I encouraged them [and] believed in them and the Holy Spirit took over and did the rest.”  One of the young men in whom Don early perceived great potential for youth leadership due to his energy, charisma, and dependability was Gary Alfson.  Gary had entered Trinity’s youth group and confirmation classes in mid 1957 after his parents had purchased a corner grocery store just two blocks from Trinity and had become members of the church.45  Earlier that summer, fourteen-year-old Gary had asked Christ into his life at a Bible camp.  The evangelical emphasis at Trinity did much to nurture his faith over the next four years of high school, the last of which he served as senior high youth group president. 


            Following high school graduation in 1961, Gary attended the California Lutheran Bible School (CLBS) in Los Angeles where LEM National Board member and former Trinity co-pastor Maynard Force was president.  There Gary spent over 2,500 hours studying the Bible in two school years and also received a distinct calling from the Lord.  In his own words:

“A major theme of CLBS instruction was the importance of seeking and understanding God's will for a life's work.  As the months passed, I would occasionally walk through the failing neighborhood surrounding Angelica Lutheran Church, whose educational facilities the school rented, and pray for direction concerning my future.  One night while contemplating the future, I ducked into Angelica to escape the rain and found myself kneeling at the dimly lit altar in the darkened church.  I pulled a small New Testament from the pocket of my soggy trench coat and began to read when my eyes fell upon words in II Timothy chapter 4, one phrase of which jumped from the page at me: ‘Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season . . . watch thou in all things, endure afflictions, DO THE WORK OF AN EVANGELIST, make full proof of thy ministry.’  I re-read the passage again and again and wondered if this might be the beginning of a call from God to a life of evangelism.  I discussed the experience with Pastor Force who counseled me . . . that, if it was a calling from God, it wouldn't be extinguished through time and that God would illuminate a pathway.”

The advice was sound and God certainly did illumine the path.  But that path led to a decade of such atypical evangelistic activity that it would not be until forty years afterward that Gary would realize that he had indeed done the work of an evangelist, the Lord having been good to His Word and Gary to His calling.


            The first leg of that calling for Gary was his participation on the 1962 Gospel Crusaders and the 1963 South America team for both of which he was recruited by his old youth director Don Fladland.  During the summer of 1964, he served as speaker on a similar eight-member gospel team organized by David L.C. Anderson which traveled to Sweden, Norway, Finland, Denmark, and France.  In Sweden alone, the team held “101 programs in 44 days in 29 locales from the southern tip of Sweden to an area north of the Arctic Circle and including churches, Bible camps, youth halls, city parks, dance pavilions, beaches and schools, [in short] wherever there were young people” willing to listen to the gospel.  The following summer of 1965, Gary traveled for Anderson across the U.S. as speaker for six weeks with a gospel choir from Sweden and then for the remainder of the summer with a six-member musical gospel group.  Out of these two summers of experiences, David Anderson formed Lutheran Youth Encounter.  Gary Alfson meanwhile, now about to begin his junior year at the University of Minnesota, was called by recommendation of Don Fladland to serve as one of two part-time youth directors at Trinity Lutheran, Don himself having accepted a call to teach at the Lutheran Bible Institute (LBI) in Seattle. 


            Under the leadership of Gary and his co-director, Trinity’s youth group flourished, expanding far beyond just regular activities.46  A Wednesday afternoon Campus Club was begun to which senior high youth invited outside friends for Bible study, music, and potluck meals.  Each evening during the summers, volleyball games were played on the church lawn by 30 to 40 youth and often concluded with gospel singing, devotions, and prayers.  A large youth-to-youth ministry team called The Reflectors was formed and traveled around Minnesota putting on programs for smaller churches on certain weekends.  Thus, in addition to mentoring his youth in their own Christian lives, Gary instilled in them through various outreach activities the confidence that they could indeed serve effectively though relatively young.  Little did he know for what God was using the experience of developing Trinity’s youth-to-youth outreach program to prepare him.


            With his senior year at the University of Minnesota progressing, Gary considered next attending seminary but was yet undecided about the future when he received an unexpected invitation which changed the course of his life.  One evening during the LEM’s January 1967 Midwinter Evangelistic Conference and accompanying National Board meetings, Gary shared dinner with his old friend Don Fladland.  Don disclosed that his ongoing recommendation to the National Board that the LEM establish a dedicated youth program was gaining ground.  Then, to Gary’s surprise, Don asked if he might put forth his name as a candidate for LEM youth director.  Gary replied that since his future plans were yet undecided, he would be honored for Don to do so and would pray that God’s will be done.


            The LEM National Board had, in fact, just earlier that day voted to expand their youth program by officially taking over from Trinity Lutheran the work of the Gospel Crusaders47 whom they had already sponsored during the summers of 1965 and 1966.48  The following day Don Fladland reported to the board that Gary Alfson, “whom he felt was very well qualified and competent,”49 was open to a call to direct this work.  And although several other candidates were considered during the next few months of board interviews and presentations, it was ultimately Gary whom the LEM selected to be their first National Youth Director.  At just 24 years old himself, he possessed seemingly inexhaustible amounts of energy and enthusiasm so advantageous for leading youth-to-youth ministry.  And his arrival as youth director coincided with the beginnings of a mighty moving of God’s Spirit which was to rapidly multiply the LEM’s youth program beyond the highest of expectations.



The LEM Youth Revival Movement


            As Gary began planning for the enlargement of the LEM’s youth program, his core question was, “How can we, empowered by Christ, best communicate the reality of living with Him to young people, the majority of whom have been raised in the church, in such a way as to encourage young Christians to experience a closer walk and to challenge young non-Christians to accept Him into their lives?”50  Expanding on his own Gospel Crusader experience to answer this question, Gary envisioned a youth ministry team spending three days in each community; interacting with youth during mornings and afternoons through such means as Bible studies, discussion groups, picnics, softball and volleyball games and other recreational activities; presenting two evening programs of quality music and drama with testimonies and preaching; and interacting with youth and parents further as overnight guests in host homes.  The personal encounters would create opportunities for team members to build relationships and witness one-on-one while the programs would mass-communicate the Gospel attractively and encourage definite response.51  Both facets of ministry would feed off each other.  The music would be a mixture of hymns, Gospel songs, and contemporary Christian music,52 the latter style being at that time classically melodic with syncopated rhythms, precise multi-part harmonies, unusual chord modulations, little instrumentation, and conversational lyrics on contemporary themes like God’s love and a purpose for living.53  With little alteration, these initial concepts of Gary’s became the model for all LEM Gospel teams for years to come.


            Having a team model in mind, Gary’s next task was to find college-age Christians willing to dedicate an entire summer to being team members without receiving any of the monetary compensation so necessary for their ongoing studies.  His interviews with eager students that spring at LBI in Seattle and CLBS in Los Angeles soon resulted in 27 such young people being selected for three nine-member Gospel Crusader teams, the size of each being determined by the number who could fit into a van pulling a U-haul trailer for luggage and equipment.  Itineraries were created largely through the responses of pastors to advertisements in Evangelize and the needs of Bible camps for counselors, and they consisted of a western team in Montana, South Dakota, and western Minnesota; a northern team in North Dakota and northern Minnesota; and an eastern team in Wisconsin, Illinois, and northern Michigan.  After a six-day training camp with instruction in personal witnessing and Bible study preparation by LEM personnel, vocal music by high school music director Sam MacKinney, and dramatic skits and plays by Sam’s wife Gallia who was an actress and concert pianist originally from France, the teams began their summers.


            It is difficult to assess the overall results of that summer of 1967, for teams were not mainly interested in numbers nor did they often know the aftereffects of their relatively short visits.  But it is clear that they were part of something out of the ordinary: the beginnings of a youth-oriented move of God of a nature not seen in recent decades.  Not only was there “the thrill of sharing Jesus Christ with teenagers and seeing them ask Him to come into their hearts and rule in their lives”54 but also were there unusual situations such as the young man who frankly stated that he was not a Christian and did not want to become one but several days later “came to a [Crusader] service in a neighboring town and there gave his testimony, telling how after [the team] left he had invited Christ into his life.”55  Or there was the girl who opened her heart to Christ through the witness of a team member while walking together to the gas station after the team member had given her a ride home and had run out of gas in her driveway.  “Many such incidents happened throughout the summer” and team members shared some of these at the summer’s-end homecoming rally at Trinity Lutheran.


            In the fall, Gary Alfson began a program tour of Lutheran churches in the northeastern United States where his Moments of Meditation messages, in tandem with the sacred concerts of Norwegian pianist and soloist Harald Tolfsen, served as the vehicle for him to meet hundreds of Lutheran pastors and secure invitations from them for Gospel Crusader teams in Detroit, Chicago, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, New York, Philadelphia, Boston, and many other smaller cities for the following summer.  That tour and a similarly successful tour with Harald through the western and southern U.S. in early 1968, together with heightened student excitement at LBI Seattle, CLBS, and Concordia College in Moorhead, Minnesota, resulted in seven full Crusader teams for the summer of 1968.


            Training facilities for the large group were offered by Bethany Lutheran Church of Thompson, Iowa, which housed the 21 young men in their sixteen-room educational unit and the 32 young ladies in homes nearby.  For twelve days in early June, the team members, together with Gary, the MacKinneys, and Evangelist Ken Ellingson, spent fourteen hours a day at Bethany, meals being served on site by the church ladies.  Besides training extensively, the group hosted four youth or congregational picnics and presented six programs including one that filled the high school gym with 900 people.  Even the Forest City Summit took notice with an extended article about these genuine Christian young people.


            Then the teams fanned out across the northern U.S. and into Canada for nine weeks.  As they ministered in churches, youth rallies, and Bible camps, both young people and adults were drawn to them and listened to them intently.  Reports flowed into LEM headquarters from pastors and others about the impacts on churches and communities.  Once again statistics were subsidiary to life changes.  “I just remember leading people into a saving knowledge of Jesus

. . . not specific numbers,” stated one team member some time afterwards.56  She recalled, for example, two campers with troubled pasts amazed to find full forgiveness in Christ and another younger camper bursting with joy after receiving Jesus as her Savior.  In another place, eight teenagers committed their lives to Christ under a Crusader team’s ministry and began witnessing boldly to their friends.  In yet another place, a team member who was “aroused from a restful sleep by a girl who need[ed] to know NOW what this business is about Jesus Christ and ‘all that jazz’” was able to lead her into a relationship with Jesus in the middle of the night.57  Most dramatic of all was the story of a Chicago gang leader whose drinking, girl-chasing, loitering, and generally destructive lifestyle afforded him “no time to think of God” but who did accept the invitation of a friendly pastor to attend an LEM Gospel Crusaders program.58  Amazed that “the group seemed to be every bit as hip as we [in our gang] were,” he listened to some singing and then to the testimony of one of the female team members.  Her testimony “was enough to scare a person into reality.  She seemed to have gone through the same things we were going through now, and then some.”  Then followed an open floor discussion about Jesus.  The gang leader “became so interested that I came back to talk with [the team] some more.”  “The impression they made on me . . . was really something tremendous.  They said and did things to me in a matter of a few days that no adult could accomplish in forty years.”  When the team left a few days later, the gang leader’s “mind and heart began ticking at a super rate of speed.  Feelings about Christ and religion began to flow from me like an erupting volcano.”  He talked with the friendly pastor who invited him to receive Jesus, but the fear of “giving up worldly pleasure” sent him into inner conflict for the next two days.  Finally, “on the third day, while walking down the street, I accepted Christ Jesus as my Savior.”  Immediately he began witnessing to his friends about his conversion, but his old gang quickly ostracized him.  Yet, under the tutelage of the pastor and his wife, the former gang leader continued faithful to Christ, even sharing his testimony at the next Midwinter Youth Conference. 


            At the 1968 Gospel Crusader homecoming rally, attentive youth and adults nearly filled the rented 2,200-seat sanctuary of Minneapolis’s First Baptist Church to hear 53 exuberant young Christians sing and share experiences from their summer’s ministries.  During the subsequent school year, as had become the practice, teams of former Crusaders living near the Twin Cities continued to minister by traveling on weekends to churches, youth retreats, and LEM Area Conferences.  And Gary Alfson, ever eager to expand this incredible work of God across the entire nation, spent three months in early 1969 visiting about 250 Lutheran pastors in the western, southwestern, southern, and eastern states and receiving an overwhelmingly positive response from them which resulted in dozens of new invitations for the teams.


            Though once again seven Gospel Crusader teams traveled during the summer of 1969, they were organized differently with a resultant increase in impact.  Inspired by the outcome of the last-minute combination of four Crusader teams for a quickly planned yet surprisingly widely publicized and major program in La Crosse, Wisconsin, at the end of the previous summer, Gary organized a large 26-member Crusader team to travel throughout Iowa, Illinois, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, and Ontario.  This team, with which Gary and the MacKinneys traveled all summer, consisted of four smaller teams performing their usual functions within four local cooperating congregations but combining on the second evening to perform a musical drama in a centrally located high school gym or civic auditorium with the hopes of attracting more un-churched people and combining again on the third evening to perform a sacred concert of both hymns and contemporary Christian music in a church.  The remaining three individual Crusader teams covered churches and Bible camps in Alberta and Saskatchewan, Canada; Pennsylvania, New York, New Hampshire, and Maine; and Minnesota and North Dakota.  One additional team, the Coruscation Singers which had formed at CLBS as a folk Gospel group, was sponsored by the LEM for weekend travel to locales within 300 miles of Minneapolis. 


            God changed at least one life before the teams had even left the training camp that summer at Bethany Lutheran in Thompson, Iowa.  The previous summer, the teams had unsuccessfully reached out to a group of popular Thompson high school guys who, though members of Bethany, had little interest in religion.  Wearing their lettermen’s jackets and swaggering into the back row of the balcony for Crusader programs, they had often been seen poking each other and snickering about every part of the presentation.  The apparent leader of the group, a dark and curly haired youth with a quick mind for wisecracks and double entendres, was Tom Eggum.  Now a year older and having graduated from high school, he and his group were cockier than ever.  In another attempt to reach them, the Crusaders challenged them to a basketball game open to the public in the high school gym, then to a volleyball game.  And after the games, the group’s attitude did seem somewhat changed for the better.  Continuing to pray for Tom and several others by name as the camp neared its end, the Crusaders presented their dramatic musical Love Is A Strange Word which suggested the various places that young people look for love and acceptance and crescendoed to the concluding lyrics sung en masse,

But if we’re to know what love is, then we’ve got to know who God is. 

            And if we want to love, then we’ve got to know Him well. 

For God is love in person, and that person is Christ Jesus,

            And knowing Him as Lord shows us all that love can be.”

By the end of that training camp, Tom Eggum had surrendered to Christ.  That fall he began studying at CLBS, and the following summer he was himself a Gospel Crusader.  In subsequent years he began an evangelistic ministry to youth,59 smuggled aid into the Soviet Union until arrested by the KGB, made similar trips into China, and founded Hope 4 Kids International which provides care and Christian witness to children in 94 countries.60  Clearly, God had revolutionized him.


            Of course, training camp was only the beginning of God’s work through the Gospel Crusaders.  Throughout the rest of the summer, the large team especially made deep impressions on many whole communities.  Night after night during pre-program prayer meetings, team members shared stories of people they had encountered who either had made or were considering making commitments to Christ.  And each time the team departed a community, entire families brought their Crusaders whom they had hosted in their homes to the departure point.  Emotional and tearful scenes often ensued as, prior to the boarding of the bus, scores of teenagers and adults held hands while the Crusaders softly sang their departure song, finishing with its chorus:

When you pray, will you pray for me?

            For I need His love and His care.

When you pray, will you pray for me?

            Will you whisper my name in your prayer?

And then, often catching the eyes of their hosts while repeating the chorus with a simple interchange of pronouns, they sang:

When I pray, I will pray for you;

            For you need His love and His care.

When I pray, I will pray for you.

            I will whisper your name in my prayer.


            Reports of God’s true work followed in the wake of the teams’ ministries.  From central Pennsylvania a pastor wrote, “The Gospel Crusaders have completely renovated the youth of the valley.  It is the talk of the barber shop, grocery store, butcher shop, even at the corner where the kids hang out.  Our youth have gotten a good idea of what it means to know Christ.”  A Chicago pastor was grateful that, “The Spirit of God was able to reach into the hearts of our young people through both your friendship and your witness in music.  They were deeply moved.”  At a church in Green Bay, Wisconsin, two girls told their pastor with tears how happy they were to have “really found the Lord and His assurance through the forgiveness of their sins” during the Crusaders’ recent visit.61  After numerous similar reports from team members during the crowded homecoming rally, Gary Alfson thought it impossible that anyone “could have left the auditorium . . . without realizing that something truly spiritually notable and unique had occurred during the summer.”  A tiny bit of the impact of those 1969 Gospel Crusaders was enabled to continue beyond that summer through the cutting of their first record, Love Is A Strange Word.  The summers of 1970 and 1971 yielded two more Crusader records with the dramatic musicals of those years providing the titles To Be Alive and Jesus, Jesus.  And typical of the Crusaders’ ministry each of those summers and beyond was Gary’s report from 1970 that, while the team members especially felt the need to rely on God’s Spirit working and loving others through them, “many young people and some adults responded to the Gospel and became Christians” and “many Christians were challenged to a deeper commitment to [the] Lord.”  These were years of revival that could not be defined simply by location or event.


            The enormous volume of invitations for Gospel Crusader teams that the LEM began receiving in 1968 and 1969 at first seemed to Gary to be an impossibility to handle, then a welcome opportunity.  Why not meet many of these requests with a team that traveled for a full year?  Plans soon materialized and the first eight-member Living Dimension Singers began their ten-month 30,000-mile tour across the northern, western, and southwestern United States and western Canada in October 1969.  Their venues were churches, Christian coffeehouses, Christian schools and colleges, nursing homes, and even three TV stations.62  Their programs were similar to those of the smaller summer Crusader teams and always included a message given by one of the team members who, incidentally, had first been encouraged to speak for the Lord publicly by Don Fladland at the Seattle LBI.  The Living Dimension’s grueling schedule put them on the move twelve hours a day and often saw them sharing at a different location every night of the week.  Their focus was both to encourage believers into a closer walk with Christ and to challenge the lost to become Christians.  And the Lord turned those goals into many realities, though often after the team had moved on.  As always, it was people that mattered and not numbers.  One night when the team presented their entire program in spite of there being only eight in the audience, four of the eight became Christians afterwards.  On another occasion, two girls approached a team member and “started asking questions.”  When the team member “finally asked them if they wanted to ask Jesus into their lives, they were so eager and ready that they both started telling [her] at once that this was just what they had been looking for.”63  Once when the Living Dimensions stayed in the same location for a while, a team member began leading a college Bible study that “increased in number each night.”  Several at this study became Christians after one of them fell into a coma but regained consciousness when prayed for by the leader.64  Other testimonies of the Holy Spirit’s stirring abounded. 


            As invitations for Gospel teams continued to increase, a six-member year-round team named The Clear Light joined the Living Dimension Singers and enabled the LEM to reach both the northern and southern halves of the U.S. during 1970-1971.  A one-day sample from these teams’ rigorous schedules, which does not even include time for driving and setting up or tearing down sound equipment, makes it plain that these busy young people were only kept going by the love of God. 

7:30 am - breakfast with Bible school students

9:00 am - program at Bible school followed by personal witnessing

12:30 pm - program at high school

2:00 pm - singing and personal witnessing at shopping mall

5:00 pm - dinner with church youth group

6:15 pm - singing at seminary

7:30 pm - program at church followed by personal witnessing

10:30 pm - meeting with university students

The music of the 1970-1971 Living Dimension Singers and Clear Light was preserved on a record entitled I Believe In You.  The same spirit of revival with which the Holy Spirit touched so many youths and young adults during that era called The Jesus Revolution was preserved centuries earlier in the Biblical book of Acts.


            If the LEM Gospel teams were witnesses to a youth revival in the latter 1960‘s and early 1970‘s, then the LEM Midwinter Youth Conferences of those years were witnesses to the same youth revival concentrated tenfold into one weekend.  For the structure of these widely-attended annual events, better known as Youth Days, Gary Alfson’s model was once again an enlargement of the groundwork laid in previous years.  Since many youth arrived in Minneapolis by bus, train, and car on Friday afternoon or evening to be ready for the early morning start to Saturday’s twelve-hour program, the conference was expanded to include Friday night.  Outstanding Christian communicators with messages specifically geared to young people were secured for both Friday night and Saturday.  And the conference was packed with quality youth-oriented Christian music performed primarily by young people such as the LEM Gospel teams and similar teams from churches, Bible schools, and Christian colleges.  Each year’s Friday night program served as the first in a series of newly-organized quarterly LEM youth rallies, the other three being an April rally, the Gospel team commissioning rally at the end of June, and the Gospel team homecoming rally at the summer’s end.  But Midwinter Youth Days was by far the most highly-anticipated event of them all.  Such was its draw that thousands of youth from surrounding states readily rose at 4:00 am; rode buses hundreds of miles to Minneapolis; eagerly packed pews, sat in aisles and on steps, or even stood during sessions from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm with hardly a word of complaint; rode buses back in temperatures as cold as 20 degrees below zero; arrived home at 3:00 am; and declared that they had had a wonderful time.65 


            Each year, Midwinter Youth Days attendance increased and often necessitated larger auditoriums to be rented for the following year.  In 1968, when Bill McKee of Overseas Crusades and Venture for Victory missionary basketball team was the keynote speaker, 900 youth jammed St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in Minneapolis on Friday night and between 150 to 200 of these indicated a desire to commit their lives to Christ following the service.  On Saturday, 2,200 youth filled First Baptist Church where the lighthearted yet dedicated McKee spoke on Christ’s second coming.  The following year, Campus Crusade’s articulate and dynamic Jon Braun spoke to over 1,400 young people on Friday night at Minneapolis’s First Covenant Church and to about 2,500 on Saturday, telling them about the love of Christ that caused him to wash the feet of his very imperfect disciples.  Don Fladland, Minnesota Twins pitcher Jim Kaat, and Vietnam hero Rev. Ray Johnson were among the special speakers in 1970 when 3,000 youth overflowed First Baptist’s pews into the aisles and stairs until the Minneapolis Fire Department warned that unless people cleared the aisles and packed into the pews the conference risked being shut down.  Never had First Baptist’s pews been packed so tightly.  Youth Days in 1971 saw 1,800 teenagers fill First Covenant Church on Friday night to hear former New York gang leader Tom Skinner tell how Jesus had changed his life.  In spite of inclement winter weather, about 3,500 young people were on hand in the Minneapolis Armory for Saturday morning’s opening session.  And at that evening’s closing rally, an audience of 5,500 youth and adults66 listened to Skinner and several hundred of those came forward to dedicate their lives to Jesus.


            What was the impact of these Midwinter Youth Conferences?  Several micro-examples will serve here as representative of the larger type and scope of effect that these rallies often had.  After 1969‘s Youth Days, one father reported that the spiritual questions, doubts, and problems which his son had previously planned to discuss with him had been so resolved through the conference sessions that the father had not even had a chance to find out what specific issues his son had wanted to discuss.67  Instead, the son had come home so excited for the Lord that the first thing he had done was to walk the floor while describing to his parents the blessings he had received.  And he had since begun meeting on Thursday evenings for Bible study with several other local youth.  The aftereffects of Youth Days on larger groups or even on communities was even more remarkable.  In 1970, one young man with an especially sinful reputation attended Youth Days along with other teenagers from the small town of Hendrum, Minnesota, and surprised everyone by responding to an altar call to receive Jesus.68  “This news spread through the [Hendrum] community like a shock wave.  God had everybody’s attention.”  Within a short time, three other high school boys were converted and began meeting independently for Bible study and prayer.  Revival began spreading and other youth were saved until the group comprised teenagers from several churches and communities.  Often the group met spontaneously for fellowship in a church basement or at a nearby farm.  At the revival’s peak, thirty or more enthusiastic Christian young people would gather on log seats around a bonfire in the woods for singing, testimonies, and prayers.  Having a burden for their friends, they also organized a youth-led evangelism crusade and formed a Gospel Crusader-like group that sang at area churches.  This move of God had quite an impact on the Hendrum high school’s early 1970’s graduating classes.  Numbers of graduates attended one of several Bible schools and at least three of the revived boys went on to become pastors or lay pastors.


            The LEM’s national youth program continued to grow each year; but by the time of Youth Days in January 1971, Youth Director Gary Alfson had begun feeling nearly burnt out.  During the past four years of nonstop coast-to-coast activity, almost all of which had been traveled by car, he had literally lived out of a suitcase and had never spent more than five days in a row in any one place.69  As he approached his 28th birthday, he realized that such a lifestyle would never be conducive to establishing a deep relationship leading to marriage and greater stability.  These factors, together with some growing differences in perspective between himself and the LEM leadership regarding the most effective methods for reaching a contemporary national audience of young people, caused Gary to submit his resignation to take effect at the end of the summer of 1971.70  At the Crusader homecoming rally that August, a formal thank you to Gary and a tribute to his efforts resulted in several minutes of uninterrupted applause from the audience of over 1,000.  When the applause had finally concluded, it was only with uncharacteristically halting words and misty eyes that Gary could express his appreciation.  All glory belonged only to God, for it was He who had placed a teenage boy under the spiritual leadership of LEM personalities such as Revs. Conrad and Force who were key to the mid-century revival and had then made that young man His instrument to transmit that same spirit of revival to the next generation.  Who could estimate how many thousands of lives had already been transformed during this youth revival?  And according to the testimonies of former team members, the spiritual impact on their own relationships to Christ and their eagerness to share Him had been just as immense.  Now hundreds of them were spread across the country involved in many types of outreach, and a significant percentage were preparing for the pastorate or the foreign mission field.71 


            As Gary prepared to depart the LEM, the one name that kept coming to his mind as a candidate for his successor72 was that of a youth director from Seattle, Washington, whose youth group Gary had considered “one of the most mature and concerned groups of teenage Christians I had ever met” after spending a weekend with them at a ski chalet in late 1969.  That youth director was Richard (Dick) Klawitter, son of LEM Director Rev. W.E. Klawitter; and at Gary’s recommendation to the National Board,73 Dick became the LEM’s second National Youth Director late in 1971.74 


            Though he had grown up the son of a pastor, Dick Klawitter had not always been so concerned about spiritual matters himself.75  When about ten years old, he responded to the inquiry, “Have you made a commitment to Christ?” by affirming, “Yes, I’m OK.  My dad’s a pastor.”  By the time he reached fourteen, Dick was a rebel at heart.  Just before beginning high school, he attended a youth Bible camp where, in spite of the evangelist’s challenging nightly messages, Dick resisted the Spirit’s work in his heart all week long.  But after the final service, he finally broke down while listening to other youth share testimonies around the campfire; and he ran to his cabin where he threw himself onto his bed and cried out to God for mercy and grace.  The evangelist that week had been Dick’s own father.  The year had been early in the mid-century revival.


            Following high school, Dick studied and worked in auto mechanics, even operating his own engine repair shop in the Twin Cities for a time.  Then he sold his business and instead took a job in construction in order to make more time for his wife and young family and build them a house on a four acre hobby farm.  By human standards, life was going quite well for the young Klawitter family when God suddenly announced to Dick that He had other plans for him.  Dick described this experience as “the baptism of the Holy Spirit” which resulted in his being consumed with a passion for serving Christ and his understanding that God wanted him to forsake all earthly pursuits and study His Word in preparation for a yet unspecified ministry.  Though his co-workers called him crazy, Dick Klawitter quit his job, sold nearly everything he had, and moved his wife and three children from Minneapolis to Seattle, Washington, where he attended LBI for the next two years. 


            Several months after finishing Bible school, Dick began to see that for which God had been preparing him.  He accepted a position as the first youth director of Glendale Lutheran Church in southwest Seattle where the potential for youth ministry was great but participation amounted to just three teenage girls at a Bible study led by a parish worker named Amy.  At Amy’s request, Dick took over this small group; and, slowly but steadily, interest in simple Bible study grew until attendance reached 37.  But it took a remarkable happening one weekend to convince Dick and Amy that God had much bigger things in mind.  It was a weekend on which Dick took 32 of the 37 youth on a canoeing trip and Amy led a Bible study for those who remained.  But those in Amy’s group still numbered 30.  From where had they all come?  Dick was dumbfounded.  The youth group had literally doubled in size overnight.  And attendance continued to multiply in the months ahead as youth invited friends from school, many of them from troubled backgrounds.  Then a certain answer to prayer for a group member one night spawned such an appetite for prayer that the entire group began meeting a half hour early to pray for each other‘s needs.  The half hour soon turned into a full hour as the ever-enlarging group relocated from the youth room to the church’s sanctuary where they filled the 70-person altar rail and each of the five steps leading up to it.  In addition to Bible study and prayer, they spent much time enthusiastically singing unto the Lord.  Advertised in the church bulletin as “Teen-Age Bible Study,” the group became known simply as TABS; and red-on-white TABS buttons worn by the youth to school resulted in many inquiries from classmates and invitations to come and see for themselves.  When TABS attendance reached 120, God laid on Dick’s heart to train mature high school seniors to lead several smaller Bible study groups which would reassemble at the evening’s end for a final application by Dick.  By October 1968, TABS attendance had reached 150 and even The Seattle Times had taken notice, reporting that “the TABS generation has become a big thing around high schools in South Seattle” and its young people “sense ‘some sort of revival’ among their peers.”76  Revival it was indeed.  What was happening at Glendale  was just one small part of The Jesus Revolution nationwide.  And the characteristic modesty of Dick Klawitter, noted by The Seattle Times as “prefer[ring] to remain in the shadows,” made it all the more clear that Glendale’s explosive growth, which eventually peaked at 185 youth, could only be the result of the Lord’s moving. 


            And now, to further prepare the unsuspecting Dick Klawitter for the role he would soon play in the LEM’s youth program, none other than Don Fladland reentered the scene as the Lord’s golden thread running throughout the whole course of the LEM youth movement.  Upon joining the Seattle LBI teaching staff in 1965, Don had also been given the job of student recruitment.  When he offered his recruits the opportunity to serve on youth-to-youth ministry teams similar to the Gospel Crusaders but called Impact Teams, “the enrollment at LBI increased dramatically.”77  Don also organized Saturday night youth rallies at LBI, and Dick Klawitter’s youth always outnumbered every other group in attendance.  It was by watching Don’s teams at these rallies that Dick learned the method of youth-to-youth ministry which he was himself about to use widely.  When one day some of his youth asked if they could testify elsewhere of what God was doing for them, Dick knew it was time to employ what he had learned.  Under his guidance, twenty youth prepared a program to present at a nursing home.  And out of that simple experience, six groups each consisting of ten Glendale youth contagiously on fire for the Lord began traveling throughout Washington and Oregon every summer leading youth retreats, Bible camps, and even Sunday morning church services.  By the time Dick received the call to become the LEM’s National Youth Director in 1971, he was well experienced in the style of youth-to-youth ministry used so extensively by the LEM.


            Under Dick’s leadership, the ministries of the various LEM Gospel teams continued to prosper as they had under Gary Alfson.  To the year-round Living Dimension Singers, the year-round Clear Light, and the summer Gospel Crusaders were added The Camp Ambassadors who ministered exclusively at summer Bible camps.78  And each of these groups continued to produce recordings: Let’s Talk About Jesus (1971-1972 Living Dimension Singers), Let His Love Shine Thru (1972 Gospel Crusaders), Think About These Things (1972 Camp Ambassadors), Thank You, Lord (1972-1973 Clear Light), Along Came Jesus (1972-1973 Living Dimension Singers), and Meet Jesus My Friend (1973 Gospel Crusaders).79  More importantly, Dick was able to report that through the teams’ ministries, “Many have come to know Jesus as Savior and Lord”80; and a member of the Living Dimension Singers added, “Many have rededicated their lives to Christ.”81 


            Almost more remarkable was the fact that a significant percentage of the teams’ members were now themselves products of the youth revival.  A member of the 1971-1972 Living Dimension Singers testified that for eleven years she had been trapped in a life of hate, bitterness, deceit, theft, and a desire to die, all of which she had hidden from her Christian parents and had tried to escape through alcohol and relationships.82  To please her unsuspecting father, she had lied to get onto an earlier Gospel team but had hardly been able to bear training with a large group of vibrant young Christians.  Peaking in desperation when the training evangelist had asked the group how dare any of them serve on a team if they did not know Jesus as their own personal Savior, she had confessed her sin to Jesus and given her life to Him and had then tasted her first moments of total freedom and been filled with a genuine concern for others.  A member of the next year’s Living Dimension Singers had become a Christian when he had seen the 1970 Gospel Crusaders’ warmth, love, and living relationships with Jesus which he knew he did not have.83  More than half of the 1972-1973 Clear Light’s eight members possessed testimonies similarly linked to the youth revival years.  Their pianist had, through the ministry of the 1968 Gospel Crusaders at her home church, “realized there was more to life and asked God to take over and lead . . . .”84  One of the tenors had grown up attending Sunday School and church and had even counseled other youths about the joy of accepting Christ but had never done so himself until a retreat in 1970 at which the Lord questioned the direction of his faith.85  Another of the tenors had discovered just two years earlier that Jesus lived only in his head but not in his heart and had subsequently opened the door in surrender to Him.86  One of the sopranos had spent two years in cocky, fearless, and worldly rebellion against Christ until He had completely withdrawn His presence from her and she had repented and begun seeking His love once again.87  And another of the sopranos had been in bondage to her friends for the security of their love and acceptance until as a high school freshman she had desperately cried out to God to come into her life.88 


            The 1972-1973 Clear Light also provides a good example of the diverse composition and wide variety of ministry of the LEM Gospel teams.89  Their membership consisted of a principal second soprano and a principal tenor whose powerful voices and outgoing personalities made them the chief spokespeople for the team; a soprano noted for her crystal clear voice; a principal first soprano with an operatic voice who became a sort of little sister to the other team members; an alto who blended well with everyone else; a baritone-bass who played guitar; a baritone-tenor who played guitar and also served as driver, mechanic, electrician, and sound technician for the group; and a female pianist who became something of a mother figure to the group.  “The Clear Light was known for its tight harmony and often seven voices sang seven parts . . . .”  Not only vocal harmony but also relational harmony characterized this group of young people who grew to love each other very much over the course of their tour.  Their concert and ministry venues ranged from Sunday Schools, churches, evangelistic meetings, youth groups, and Bible schools to college campuses, high schools, malls, parks, restaurants, and even one juvenile prison.  In response to their ministry, both public and private and aimed at both Christians and non-Christians, they saw a wide spectrum of Spirit-affected results such as curiosity, deep interest, salvation, deliverance from drug addiction, healing, rededication to Christ, and call to full-time Christian ministry.  Though the smallest gathering to which they ministered numbered but three, some of their largest crowds evidenced that God had in a significant manner given the LEM Gospel teams even the ear of the secular world.

            “At the University of Thunder Bay, Ontario, campus police had to disperse a crowd of 7,000 that enthusiastically kept the concert going past midnight.  At the University of Wisconsin, Madison, the capacity crowd of 5,000 left after the Clear Light concert ended, but on hearing the group rehearsing new material, some of the crowd . . . slipped back in to hear an unplanned encore . . .”

            “The final large-venue Clear Light concert at North Star Arena [in the Twin Cities] featured two excellent opening groups, but to say their reception by the enormous crowd was lukewarm would be generous.  Backstage, the singers were considering an escape through the backstage door when . . . Dick Klawitter stood center stage, faced the crowd beaming [as was so characteristic of him] and shouted into the microphone, ‘LADIES AND GENTLEMEN - THE CLEAR LIGHT!!!’  Fifteen thousand people leapt to their feet in a thundering cheer.  A full 5 seconds passed among the group in frozen disbelief.  And then they ran onstage . . . .”


            Midwinter Youth Days, too, continued much the same under Dick Klawitter’s leadership as it had under Gary Alfson’s, including the tremendous attendance and response.  During the 1972 conference, when the theme was “The Way? Yes! The Truth? Yes! The Life? Yes! JESUS!” large representations were present from all over the country and the LEM collected over 500 cards indicating decisions such as salvation, rededication, and commitment to Christian service.90  Excerpts from keynote speaker Dr. Leighton Ford of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association give an idea of the Spirit’s power under which many of those decisions were made.

            “[Jesus] is changing men and some day He’s going to come back to completely change the world.

            “But until He rules you, He can’t rule the world.  Until He saves you, He can’t change the world.  I hope that today you will say with Thomas, ‘My Lord and my God.’  And make the great experiment of faith and ask Him to direct and control your life.”

            “No one can ever prove to you that Christ was the Son of God.  You’ve got to find out for yourself.  It’s like love - you can only know love by experience, not by reading in a book.  All we as Christians can do is to tell you when we tested Jesus in the laboratory of our own life - He worked!  He’s given us an inner peace and a freedom and a new sense of purpose and direction for our lives.”91 

After each of his messages, Dr. Ford insisted that Dick give the invitation since Dick knew the youth better than he did.92  Following the closing message alone, several hundred of the 6,000 in the Minneapolis Armory flocked to the front.93  In 1973 when the conference theme was “O Magnify the Lord with Me!” over 5,000 youth, parents, pastors, youth directors, and sponsors flooded the Armory, and decision cards represented all ages and many denominations.94 


            As the Apostle Paul once said, “What then shall we say to these things?  If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Romans 8:31 NKJV)  Certainly that seemed the case during the LEM youth movement of 1967 onward when the stirring of God’s Spirit was at times so powerful that nothing could stand against it.  As Don Fladland put it years later,

“I feel that the LEM Youth Movement was a revival and during those years there were hundreds and hundreds of young people that came to Christ.  As each of these young people went into Christian work their lives had a long lasting effect on so many people across the nation, so I believe this time was truly the work of the Holy Spirit . . . .”95

Don could have just as accurately said that thousands and thousands of young people came to Christ.  Did the movement stop?  Yes, there did come a time in the middle to later 1970’s when, for reasons perhaps known only to God, the stirring of His Spirit was no longer quite so widespread or powerful.  What of those who had been saved or revived?  Did they stand firm?  Yes, though some did backslide, the vast majority continued in the faith, growing in Christ.  Where are they today?  As Don observed, “across the nation,” spreading their own faith to countless others.  For those of a younger generation who are curious to learn that fact firsthand for themselves, they need only to begin querying the Baby Boomers in their respective home congregations when it was that they became Christians or dedicated themselves anew to Jesus.  In a great percentage of instances, their answers will fall somewhere between the late 1960’s and early 1970’s.  That fact stands out as one of today’s greatest living testimonies to God’s reviving power.  And if our fathers saw His mighty works, why may we not hope in Him to so move again in our own day?  Let us pray to that end and be willing to do whatever He says so that we too may see His great glory revealed and then “show forth [His] praise to all generations.” (Psalm 79:13b NKJV)

Share this post

Log in to add a comment

Click Here For Content Archives