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The Roots of Jerusalem Cornerstone

(1969-1982): Baptism of Spirit and Fire


The Jesus People Movement broke out in America in 1967, the same year as Israel’s miraculous triumph in the Six Day War. Randall Buth, today, Jerusalem Cornerstone’s director of biblical education, began following Jesus in 1969 and God’s plan for him involving Bible translation. He studied in Jerusalem in 1974-5 during the outbreak of God’s Spirit which initiated unity among many Christians in Israel. Narkis Street Baptist Congregation under the leadership of Bob Lindsey played a key part in the renewal in the Land. With this move of God, multiple incendiary attacks were aimed at a number of Christian properties, among them Zion House on 33 Prophets Street and the Narkis Street Baptist Congregation on 4 Narkis Street.

Long-haired Jesus Freak

During the same year that Israel won the Six Day War of ‘67, a spiritual awakening was occurring among the disenchanted youth of America, called the Jesus People Movement.

February, 1969 Randy Buth became a follower of Jesus. At the time he was an eighteen year-old, second year student at UC Irvine. He was in the Pacific Ocean at Newport Beach in May of that year and attended Calvary Chapel meetings into the summer months. Randy knew one thing—he wanted to serve God and study His Word, so he began biblical studies at California Lutheran College. There Randy met Margret Guldseth, who had also had her life touched by the recent movement of God’s Spirit. Both Randy and Margret felt called to Bible translation work and began additional studies with Wycliffe Bible Translators. They wed in summer of 1971. Randy, with a keen interest in linguistics and the biblical languages, was encouraged to study at the American Institute of Holy Land Studies in Jerusalem, Israel, which he did from 1974-5. During that time the Buths began to frequent a little Baptist church in Jerusalem on Narkis Street.

The Wooden-legged Baptist from Oklahoma

Around the same time that the Jesus People Movement was growing among the American youth, meetings were being held with the local Jerusalem young people at the Zion Messianic House on 33 Prophets Street. Chuck and Elizabeth Kopp, directors of this ministry, also started a coffee shop at the house to reach out and communicate with the youth culture of the early 70’s. In 1971, the ministry of the Kopps and Zion Messianic House came into fellowship with West Jerusalem’s lone Baptist Church at 4 Narkis Street.

The Narkis Street Baptist Congregation was than pastored by Robert “Bob” Lindsey, a Southern Baptist minister from Oklahoma, who first visited the British Mandate of Palestine from 1939-41 to learn Hebrew. He had participated in the work of the Baptist Convention in Israel since 1945. Bob was known equally as an astute scholar and as a shepherding pastor. In the 1960’s, he began making significant contributions within the field of Synoptic research (the study of the first three gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke) while translating the book of Mark into modern Hebrew. In 1962, Lindsey started a unique relationship with David Flusser, an orthodox Jewish professor at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem as they both studied the Synoptic Gospels. Both Flusser and Lindsey would share this common love for studying the words of Jesus over the following decades and would pass it on to their students.

Bob was also known for his passion and call to action. In 1961, Bob traversed through no-man’s land that separated Jordanian East and Israeli West Jerusalem to rescue Edward Salim Zoumout, an Arab boy who had been orphaned during the Israeli War of Independence and was now stranded in Trans-Jordan. Bob who was familiar with the minefield, crossed safely into Jordan, located Edward and together they began their journey back. Spotted by the Jordanian border guards, Bob and Edward were forced to quickly rush and Bob stepped on a mine which blew up his left leg. His left foot was amputated in a Jordanian hospital. Meanwhile his case gained national exposure in the press. Lindsey was repatriated to Israel the following month, and Edward was brought home to Israel the following year. Later, Lindsey enjoyed shocking children by jabbing a knife into his left pants leg and watching their looks of horror as the knife reverberated in his wooden stump.

The Yom Kippur War and the World Conference on the Holy Spirit

Before the 1970’s, Israel was considered by many to be a dry and closed area with regard to the gospel. There were only a handful of congregations in the Land and probably only a few hundred Israelis who called Jesus their messiah. Then one major event shook the nation of Israel’s identity to its mortal core—the 1973 Yom Kippur War, while months later, another event encouraged the Body of Christ in Israel—the 1974 Holy Spirit Conference.

In October 1973, Israel was ambushed by an invasion of Egyptian and Syrian forces on the holiest day of the Jewish calendar—Yom Kippur, or “the Day of Atonement.” Israel eventually repelled the invaders, but 2,688 Israeli soldiers fell in the two and a half week battle. Israel’s psyche that flew high with the euphoria of the 1967 Six Day War came crashing down with the brutal mortality of the Yom Kippur War. More Israelis sought meaning in life. The Body of Christ in Israel had been prepared by God for such a time as this: to offer hope and healing, and compassion to the lost.

The March 1974 World Conference on the Holy Spirit Conference which followed six months later in Jerusalem touched a wide spectrum of different Christian workers in the Land, spanning Catholics and other high churches to Baptists, Mennonites, and Pentecostals. More than 4,000 attended from abroad and around 500 local believers help lead the gathering. This conference helped spawn the “Thursday Night Meeting” where over the next couple of years, different churches and congregations would unite in Jerusalem for prayer and testimony.

Dueling Fires: Growth and Opposition

The Messianic Movement—Jews who follow Jesus as messiah, would never be the same after the mid 70’s, as dozens upon dozens of congregations popped up all over Israel, from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, from Eilat on the Red Sea to the foothills of the Golan Heights. At the same time, existing congregations grew and matured. One example was Narkis Street Baptist Congregation, bursting forth from its structural cocoon. In the early 70’s, its congregants numbered a few dozen, but by the early 80’s, its members were more than three hundred. Chuck Kopp, with sledgehammer in hand, helped Bob Lindsey knock down the side walls of the little chapel in 1976 to expand the congregation.

Yet with the expansion of God’s kingdom, opposition arose, especially from the extreme orthodox Jewish groups. In 1974, the Zion House on 33 Prophets Street was gutted and ravaged by fire, along with the Swedish center and the Baptist Bookstore. Over the following decade, extremist attacks were carried out on various Christian buildings. Graffiti was commonly painted on the walls and doors proclaiming Christians to be bloodthirsty and Nazis. In 1978, a nail bomb was detonated on Baptist House property. In 1980, the Zion House was set on fire on two separate occasions.

Finally, these ferocious attacks claimed national and international headlines when the Narkis Street Baptist chapel was burnt to the ground by arsonists after midnight on October 8th, 1982. Two days later on Shabbat (Saturday) with only a burnt-out shell of the building remaining, a thousand people, both Jews from local synagogues and Christians from around the country, gathered at Narkis Street to stand in solidarity with the congregation. Instead of incinerating the crescendoing work of the Lord in the Land, the devastating inferno branded and sealed the power of the gospel as a life-changing force, which the darkness would not overcome.