What happens when, rather than inviting new friends to an established church, a bunch of young Christians are led by the Spirit to form a Christian community out in the street-culture of the day? This is the story of Jacob’s Ladder in the City of Adelaide, South Australia, in the 1970s.
Beginning as a Coffee Lounge, it grew into a missional Church. Many of those who came to faith were previously involved in drugs, outlaw bikie gangs and crime. The Holy Spirit worked through ordinary, flawed young people, doing extraordinary things in their lives, and through them blessing many others. Forty to fifty years on, with most of the participants still alive, this is their story of how God worked in their midst.
They were part of something that came to be called The Jesus Movement. Their focus was not on feeding the poor and hungry, but people were fed and given a place to stay. Their focus was not on justice, but the oppressed were set free. Their focus was not on human rights, but God-given dignity and freedom were proclaimed. They joined Jesus in the Father’s mission to his world, and the Spirit brought forgiveness, faith and life to many.
This book asks what we can learn from this story. It looks at the difficulties faced when nurturing young people, who were new to the faith, in community houses. The challenges faced by both Jakes and the Lutheran Church of Australia are described, without suggesting that either the community or church officials always got things right.
The theology and teaching of Jakes, and how it interacted with the emerging Lutheran Renewal movement and the Manoah community is explored. Individual members of the community reflect on their involvement in Jakes, and how it helped shape the next forty years of their lives. Finally, the question is asked: Why did the community fold after only a decade? What have we learned? What can we apply to our participation in God’s mission today?
The book is based on the documents that have survived as well as the memories of those who were part of the journey. It includes many of the illustrations Knarelle Beard produced for Jacob’s Letter and Servant magazines, as well as a few photos. More photos, many of the public documents, including the magazines that were produced, and MP3 files of some of the original music, can be found on the website www.jakes1970s.net
Someone recently said, “We don’t need another Jacob’s Ladder, but we need something like it.”
That is the challenge for today.
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