Chapter 1

The First Meeting
On April 16, 1977 in the basement of Bob and Barbara Patton’ home, fifty-five men and
women gathered together to take part in a new experiment. 1 They were gathering as
believers to create a local expression of the body of Jesus Christ. This little group would
eventually grow to encompass over twenty-five hundred adult members by the end of
2012, just thirty-five years later. These original members were not sent out by any church
or supported by a larger denomination. They were coming together to build a community
that would seek to emulate the New Testament Church as found in The Book of Acts.
The name they took, “Gathering of Believers.” To better understand the significance and
importance of the founding of GOB, a quick reference to the weekly Bible study group
known as “Take and Give” (TAG), which took place on Tuesday nights in Washington
D.C., and the much wider Jesus Movement, which was spreading across the nation, is

Take and Give
TAG, as ‘Take and Give’ was more commonly known, grew to number over two thousand
attendees weekly in just under a decade.2 Most of the attendees came from the
metropolitan D.C. area, with some coming from cities over four hours away.3 Originally
started in 1970 by Lydia Little, who had been in California since the beginning of the Jesus
Movement, which was sweeping the west coast in the late 1960s. Returning to Maryland,
she wanted to bring what she had experienced in California to those around her. She had
attended a meeting in California also called “Take and Give,” where attendees were
encouraged to “take God’s Word in and give it out to others.”4 Drawing upon her
experience as a Sunday school teacher at Calvary Chapel, she started a small Bible study
some of the girls from the Sunday school. As time went by, the group grew and by 1973 it
had around 75 members.5 TAG would eventually explode in attendance with the addition
of Larry Tomczak (1970) and CJ Mahaney’s (1971) teachings. In its Tuesday night

C.J. Mahaney, “A Testimony,” The Church: The Dearest Place on Earth, Covenant Life Church (2002; Sovereign
Ministries, September 2012 Online Download), 37:00.
2“Our History,” Embassy Church, accessed October 26, 2012).
3Mahaney, “A Testimony,” 30:40.
4Lydia Little Interview.
5 Mahaney, “A Testimony,” 30:25.


meetings, TAG sought to share the good news of Jesus Christ to anyone who would listen.6
However, TAG was not just operating in a vacuum. It was an outgrowth of a much larger
movement known as the Jesus Movement.

The Jesus Movement
The Jesus Movement started in the late 1960s and came to symbolize a new revival among
the youth of America and to the world. The 1960s had been an era filled with free love,
drugs, and yes – very badly mismatched clothing. The pinnacle of the Hippie Movement
had been 1967’s ‘Summer of Love’ in the Haight-Ashbury in California. By the latter
portion of that decade, many young hippies, who thought they had found their freedom
in the hippy movement, realized just how empty their lives were and began turning their
lives over to Christ en-mass. In the 1960s, church attendance had steadily fallen and by
1971, roughly two-thirds of college students said that they disliked organized region.7
The Jesus Movement changed all that and soon the name of Jesus was being proclaimed
just as much as drugs and other eastern religions had been in the prior decade. Noted
American Sociologist Robert Ellwood wrote of the Jesus People in One Way: The Jesus
Movement and its Meaning, where he makes mention of the radical changes brought
about. Where discussions of eastern religions could be heard on every street corner in
Hollywood, the Jesus Movement spurred a vigorous discussion of Christianity. 8 Young,
long haired, hippies could be seen on street corners with wooden crosses around their
necks telling others about the freedom and powerful change that could only come from
accepting Jesus Christ. One Jesus Movement individual share how she “used to go out to
the field and smoke a joint with my friends, one day they were reading their Bibles
One such outgrowth of the Jesus Movement was a blended Christian-hippy culture that
resulted in a desire to create what they thought was a more Biblical type of church one that
resembled the New Testament church as found in Acts 2:42-47.
And they devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and the fellowship, to the
breaking of bread and the prayers. And awe came upon every soul, and many
wonders and signs were being done through the apostles. And all who believed
were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their

Duin, “Americans leaving churches in droves,” Washington Times, Sunday, September 21, 2008, online. .
7Robert S. Ellwood, Jr., One Way: The Jesus Movement and it’s Meaning (Englewood Cliff, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc.,
1973), page 7.
8 Ibid, page x.
9Larry, Eskridge,God’s Forever Family: The Jesus People Movement in America,(New York: Oxford University Press, 2013),


possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had
need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their
homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God
and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by
day those who were being saved.
One way this desire was evident within in the movement was the creation of Christian
communal colonies. There had been other communal societies that had formed during the
hippy movement; however, these Christian societies sought to honor Christ in their lives
in a different way.10 Some communes decided to set themselves apart from society in order
to limit their interaction with the outside world. Others were established in cities and
sought to interact with and serve the poor and underprivileged. Even though the Jesus
Movement did help to point many people towards Christ and changed many people’s lives,
it had some serious theological flaws. The Jesus movement sought to return the church to
a better orthodoxy, but its orthopraxy11 was questionable. Some of these flaws came from
the psychedelic culture held over from the 1960s hippy movement.
The psychedelic culture as expressed through the Jesus Movement stressed one’s
experience of Jesus as key. Instead of a drug-induced high, converts were encouraged to
get high on God and to desire “that old time religion”.1213Eskridge in God’s Forever Family
makes mention of three characteristic of the Jesus People; a literal interpretation of the
Bible, a strong belief in the supranational.14 These three points separated the Jesus
Movement from what was already happening in the evangelical churches.
The last point regarding a strong belief in the supernatural helped to drive a strong feeling
that the End Days were near. This was cemented by the fact that Hal Lindsey and Carole
Carlson’s The Late Great Planet Earth was easily one of the most popular books of the Jesus
Movement. The book claimed that the end of time was on the horizon and that, most
likely, only one more generation would be born before Christ returned.
The Jesus Movement differed in degree depending on where you were. Eskridge describes
much of the early mission groups that took place in the late 1960s that became the Jesus
Movement. What was similar between many of the outreaches was the hostility that these
psychedelic preachers received from many of the straight, clean cut churches that were
already established. Many of them wanted nothing to do with the hippies initially, but over
Topical Readings in American History, Ed. Gerald R. Baydo (Englewood Cliff, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, Inc.,
1974), 44-45.
11 “Practice”
12 Ellwood, 18-20.
13 Arthur Blessitt, Life’s Greatest Trip (Waco, TX: Word, 1970), 25.
14 Eskridge, 54-55.


time, more and more churches would provide support to oversight boards for missions in
hippie areas and eventually began to embrace the new converts.
There were other churches that openly embraced their mission to the counterculture
youths, such as First Presbyterian Church of Hollywood (which was the largest
Presbyterian Church at that time).15
It was standard for ex-Hippies to undergo a radical change after their conversion. One
conservative preacher in California remarked, “Why don’t they cut their hair and get a job
and live a decent life.”16
While men might have been expected to be a bit more clean-shaven and sports shorter
hair, one thing they were not forced to give up was their hippie-es clothing. Hippies are
known for their unique style of clothing and when they were converted some were
encouraged to wear more standard clothing but for many within the movement, getting a
new wardrobe was not practical since money was in short supply. The difference this made
within the Christian Church is that it helped move many evangelical churches away from
the practice of wearing one’s best for Sunday, to encouraging congregants to come as they
Eskridge again makes his point as such:
Barb Link, a South Dakota teen, recalled how the atmosphere in the Aldrich
House group contrasted favorably to her “stuffy, formal and totally irrelevant”
church. “I could wear my long granny dress and waffle-stompers and odd jeans
with patches and embroidery and not feel out of place or looked down on. It was
an incredibly liberating experience,” … [Another teen from Michigan said,] “[m]y
best friend and I were interested in going there because we wanted to be Jesus
followers, and they said we could wear blue jeans to church!”18
Why, you might ask, have we looked at the Jesus Movement? The reason is that the Jesus
Movement helped to shape the thinking and attitude of the initial members of TAG and
later GOB, along with helping to bring to prominence CJ and Larry. It helped to solidify
a perception that tradition was oppressive, and liberation from tradition was “required for
authentic existence.”19 Thankfully there were many preachers, who sought to correct these

Ellwood, 60.
Eskridge, 69.
17 Eskridge, 90.
18 Ibid, 90.
19 “Hartford Appeal,” The Annals of America (Chicago: Encyclopedia Britannica, Inc., 1977), p. 242-243.


inaccurate beliefs, but many Christians fell prey to them, and it is obvious that GOB was
heavily influenced by this thinking.
The effect upon GOB, and eventually CLC, by the Jesus Movement has been felt but the
effect upon America and the American Christian Church. Several other churches, such as
Willow Creek Community Church (South Barrington, Illinois) and Calvary Chapel (Costa
Mesa, California) point to the Jesus Movement as affecting their ministries greatly.20
Calvary Chapel’s experience of the Jesus Movement was so significant that thousands of
young people attended services in an old circus tent. Ellwood notes that when he attended
a service there, he noticed that on stage, there were no crosses or even a Bible to be seen
(though most of the young people did).21 The very charismatic service then played out with
a slew of different worship songs and individuals telling stories of how God had met them
or answered a prayer.
Outside of traditional church services and revival meetings, there were many conferences
hosted by national Christian ministries such as Campus Crusade for Christ, Full Gospel
Businessman’s Ministry, and the Billy Graham Evangelical Association. Through these
large outdoor ministries, the Jesus People got an introduction to established Christian
leaders such as Billy Graham but also provided the platform for new up and coming
speakers such as CJ and Larry.

Jesus Conferences
Another part of the Jesus Movement was the many conferences held across the nation.
One such conference was Campus Crusade for Christ’s Explo conferences, held in 1972
which featured a multitude of speakers from a variety backgrounds speaking to a crowd
that could have easily numbered 80,000.22 Later events, like Jesus ’77 were able to bring
together massive crowds held at various locations around the nation.23 One particular Jesus
conference held Easter Weekend of 1977 and featured CJ and Larry as speakers. Allen
Wallace, of New Wine Magazine, noted that:
CJ Mahaney shared his concern to see the people of God enter into committed
relationships with one another … [h]e pointed out instances of wrong thinking
among members of the Church who would rather think of the Church as a
building on ‘34th and Main’ than as a body of committed believers.

Eskridge, 8.
Ellwood, 74
22 David Di Sabatino, The Jesus People Movement: An Annotated Bibliography and General Resource (Westport,
Greenwood Press, 1999), p. 16-17.
23Alan Wallace, “Echoes of the Spirit”, New Wine Magazine, June 1977, p. 11.


What makes this statement interesting is that this is right around the time that GOB began
and emphasized the change in CJ’s heart regarding the local church? These conferences,
along with church revival meetings helped establish the foundations for which meetings
like TAG would be able to grow out of.

Growth within TAG
After Larry and CJ had joined TAG in 1970 and 71 (respectively), TAG started growing
exponentially, due in part to the duo’s dynamic charismatic, preaching style. TAG soon
moved from Lydia’s house to the Homewood Rec Center and then to Blair High School’s
girl’s gym by1974, because the number of attendees easily amounted to a thousand people
While TAG had several teachers for their meetings, Larry and CJ were the two main
speakers. Their teaching skills were evident, and they quickly became good friends. Those
who heard them speak remember the force and conviction they felt concerning the work
of the gospel working in their lives. It quickly became apparent that their preaching was
affecting thousands through TAG and through the many Christian festivals they attended.
It was not long before TAG was meeting at Christ Church of Washington.25 At Christ
Church, attendance reached around 2,200 individuals weekly.26 The attendance was so
great that the downstairs classrooms27were used to accommodate the surge, and the
speakers were used to pipe in the message.
Since the beginning of TAG, there was a core team that helped to lead the group. It was
made up of the regular speakers (CJ, Gary Riccuci, Robin Boisvert, CheAhn, and Larry)
several of the female leaders (Lydia Little), and a select few of the weekly attendees who
were welcomed into the core group.28 While CJ and Larry were not the main leaders of the
Core Team, they were the spiritual leaders and the other team members took their
considerations with great weight.

Ending TAG
By early 1976, CJ felt that massive changes needed to be made regarding TAG. Many of
the new believers who were being saved at TAG were not being taught the importance of
commitment and were not being directed back to the local church. One afternoon, over
lunch, CJ told Larry about a question that he felt God was asking him, “Are you leading
people to [a] pasture – or to the slaughter? ... Are we diminishing Christianity to a weekly

Clap Your Hands, 2nd Edition, 167.
Larry worked there and was able to help make it available.
26“Our History,” Embassy Church, accessed 10/26/2012,
27 Verify ##
28Truesdale Interview


meeting?”29 One evening after the alter call, CJ noted that he “truly didn’t know … where
those people were going to be a week later.”30 As Larry and CJ sought out God’s direction
for TAG, it became clear that they needed to be building something as opposed to just
converting people. Larry and CJ then sought to share this conviction with the Core Group.
It was around this time, the leadership of TAG was reading through the book of Acts and
realized that their meeting had grown to a size that rivaled many churches and yet they
were not a church. They felt that they needed to be building a local church rather than just
assembling a large of people. CJ at one point said that meetings and groups like TAG were
starting to fall out of favor with some Christian leaders because “many were being blessed,
but nothing was being built.”31 As mentioned before, the Jesus Movement grew out of the
hippie movement that was characterized by a disaffection with organized groups.
Organized religion, as it had been seemed dull and too focused on denominational issues
rather than the gospel of Jesus Groups like TAG allowed new followers to be immersed
in the Word and the Gospel, but not under the direction of a church. The leaders of TAG
suspected that this was happening with some of the attendees, and they conducted a survey
to verify this perception. That survey showed that about 70% of the attendees said that
they considered TAG as their church, and many saw CJ and Larry as their pastors.32
One long-time member said that this was his experience at TAG as well and that he had
not noticed that he had forsaken his local church.33 Because the leadership of TAG was
becoming more convinced of the importance of the local church, ending TAG was not
only inevitable but also the right thing to do. There were some who did not agree with the
direction. Among those who did agree, there was a question of how should this was to be
worked out.
Because TAG was so large, it could easily have become its own church, but that would
have been unwise since many attendees would have left their churches to join a church
formed by CJ or Larry. Accusations of sheep stealing would have been leveled at TAG if
they proceeded down that path.Thus, the leadership of TAG decided that the best way to
solve this problem be to begin meeting quietly in early 1977. They would not announce
the meetings from the pulpit or spread the word through leaflets but pass invitations to a
select few. Meetings were to be held on Saturdays for a while to allow members to continue
to attend their former churches and to leave eventually at a later time. Thus fifty-five men
and women, many coming from the leadership team of TAG, began to meet Saturday

Clap Your Hands, 2nd Edition, 177.
News, November 1978.
31Mahaney, “A Testimony,” 36:00.
32Tomzcak, Clap Your Hands, 2nd Edition, 182.
33Member Interview


evenings to begin building a new church, based on the example in the book of Acts.
Gathering of Believers began.
With Gathering of Believers (GOB) operating quietly, the TAG leadership team were left
with the task of closing down the weekly meetings. While CJ and Larry were both in faith
about the change, there were some others in the group who were not as supportive such
as Lydia Little. She would not be part of GOB and wanted to continue TAG, but it was
clear that the main draws to the weekly study were CJ and Larry, and since they were
stepping down, TAG would not survive. Thus after over a year from CJ’s initial thoughts
about the future of TAG, the leaders began to plan the last meeting of TAG to take place
by the end of 1979.

The Last Meeting
On December 18, 1979, CJ, and Larry announced before a packed audience that TAG was
ending and that each of the attendees should seek to rediscover their local churches and
to build into them. The following passage is Larry’s recollection of that night:
“Tonight is our last TAG meeting.” My voice echoed back at me from the large,
open sanctuary of Christ Church. … Here it was, a chilly evening in December
1979, and more than 1,400 people had come out – 1,400 faces staring at me, with
an unusual somberness.34
As individuals walked out that evening, there were a range of opinions and thoughts being
processed by the masses.Though TAG had ended, the effect that it had had on the
Washington, D.C. area was significant. To this day, Christ Church of Washington still has
a short blurb on its website that references its connection to TAG.35 Additionally many
current and former church members can look back at their time at TAG with great

Clap Your Hands, 2nd Edition, 179.
History,” Embassy Church, accessed 10/26/2012,