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Revival for a New Generation

Hippies saved during the Jesus movement see parallels in reaching today’s millennials. on

Forty years ago, Bruce and Linda Stefanik, now both 62, came to Christ as hitchhiking hippies during the Jesus movement. Today, they lead Church on the Hill, a suburban Salem, Oregon, congregation that is reaching a new generation of young people: millennials.

“Millennials are people of vision,” Bruce says. “They care, they’re passionate about issues we need to be passionate about. They have a lot of creative, great ideas.”

A purposeless Bruce drove down Interstate 5 in northern California with Linda in 1978.

“I was spiritually hungry for something,” he says, recalling the day they stopped in the small town of Mt. Shasta for gas and food — and experienced a redirection of their lives.

A woman they had never met approached them in a gas station parking lot and spoke a word from the Lord to them: “Someone’s been praying for you,” she said. “You’re running from God. Don’t leave this place until you decide to serve Him or not. God sent me here to tell you He has a call on your life.” She handed them a New Testament and walked away.

Overcome by what they now realize was the Holy Spirit, Bruce walked to a nearby phone booth, called the first contractor in the Yellow Pages, and started working in the town the next day. Obeying the woman’s admonition, they waited to hear from God again.

Within days, they came into contact with two other Christians, one of whom invited them to a Christian rock concert in a park. That led them to Christian Life Center, an Assemblies of God church in nearby Dunsmuir, which they attended for five years. For the next 16 years, they served as full-time missionaries, mostly in Latin America.

In 2001, they moved to Oregon and Bruce joined the staff of Church on the Hill. The congregation had dwindled to 75 people on Sunday mornings. The Stefaniks began dreaming of another Jesus movement.

“Why wouldn’t God do that again?” Bruce asks. “A sovereign move of God over an entire generation. I tell my story to 20-somethings now and say we’re a generation ripe for revival.”

Church on the Hill has embraced the label of a “resurrection community” based on genuine relationships.

“The Church has tried to copy the secular business model, but that’s not what this generation is hungry for,” Bruce says. “This generation is hungry for authenticity. Life-changing truth creates resurrection people. The thing we have in common is not that I wear skinny jeans. The thing we have in common is we all have experienced a resurrection.”

The church has grown in part by drawing unreached people and those disillusioned with religious systems. The north and south campuses, 12 miles apart, attract 1,200 people, plus 300 kids, each Sunday. Half the attendees are in their 20s and 30s — as are the core of Church on the Hill’s staff. Eight universities and colleges have a campus in Salem.

Stefanik’s teaching style is distinct, as he and Executive Pastor Jason L. Treadwell sit at a coffee table on the platform and team-teach a topic in an unscripted, conversational style.

“It’s very fluid,” Bruce says. “There is no trick. We never rehearse, but we have a message.”

Nicole J. Darby, 30, came out of an unchurched background and is now the church’s young adult pastor.

“There’s a lot of loneliness in my generation and people are longing for community that is real,” Darby says. “Bruce is intentional in getting to know people.”

When millennials tell Bruce the world of today is crazier than it has ever been, he reminds them of the social and political turmoil of the 1960s and ’70s — and what God did in the midst of it.

“We thought the world was falling apart,” he says, “and God’s answer was, ‘I’m sending a revival.’”

Church on the Hill also operates a Christian school with 500 kids in kindergarten through 12th grade. Bruce and Linda have two children, both millennials. In his office, Bruce keeps the New Testament the stranger gave him that day in Mt. Shasta.

“Psalm 78 says that one generation shall tell the next of the glorious deeds of the Lord,” Bruce says. “My job is to tell the next generation. They listen to authenticity and life-changing truth.”