By Michael Ashcraft and Mark Ellis
How was he supposed to know that you shouldn’t witness about Jesus while you’re naked?
But there he was on a nude beach in Australia, newly saved after reading the Late Great Planet Earth, and he hadn’t learned all the norms of Christianity yet. Yes, God showed abundant grace, mercy, and patience with Bruce Callahan in his early steps of faith.
Raised in Boston, Callahan fell into drugs before many of his friends. He smoked marijuana and abused psychedelic drugs like LSD. When he was 18, his girlfriend became pregnant.
“I was on the cutting edge of sin,” Callahan says. “Back then nobody got their girlfriend pregnant, but I did. Religion didn’t work for me. My religion was the streets.”
His later girlfriends got pregnant too but chose abortion. “I became a murderer just like that,” he laments. “I never meant to hurt anybody in life, but I wound up hurting a lot of people.”
After getting his AA, he married the girlfriend who bore their son and became a teacher. But even as he started his teaching career and seemed to thrive academically, he found he couldn’t kick his drug habit.
Astonishingly, he declined tenure at a school in Boston to travel to California to pursue a newfound interest in surfing. “Pop culture was taking control of my life – the whole hippie, surfing, drug culture of the early ’70s,” he says.
In 1975, he traveled to Australia, hoping a new start would help him straighten out his life. Within two weeks, he was smoking dope in a psychedelic bus with the mayor’s son, a drug dealer. “My desire to make it right went wrong quick,” he says. “The big lie of America is that we can live wrong, and it’s going to turn out right when we die.”
His wife divorced him in 1978 and returned to America. The pain of divorce was the beginning of a spiritual awakening for him.
Then he met Dale, whom he initially thought might be a one-night stand, but they continued to meet. “I really wanted to know how to have a relationship with a woman that was real, but I didn’t know how because the world only taught me how to be phony,” he says.
He told Dale about his desires to know more about God, so she called her mother and asked her to send a Bible she was given as a teenager but never read. When it arrived, Bruce and Dale found it full of pressed marijuana leaves (the only use Dale gave it years before), so they lit up and started reading.
At 32, Callahan had considered going into the wild somewhere to escape from a world that was “destroying itself” and wasn’t as “enlightened” as he was.
That’s when Dale gave him the book, Cosmic Conspiracy. He’d always liked conspiracy theories, so he read avidly about political and economic conspiracies supposedly behind the mechanics of society. As he got deeper into the book, it segued into spiritual conspiracy, and he learned he needed to be born again.
Then he read Hal Lindsey’s classic, The Late Great Planet Earth, which he consumed on a nude beach while he smoked a bong.
God extended his amazing grace to Callahan, whose heart opened to faith and belief in Jesus as his Lord and Savior, and Callahan prayed the prayer for salvation at the end of the book.
“I didn’t see the sky open. I didn’t hear anything audible,” he recalls. “But I knew from that moment on that something had happened to me because I had a voracious appetite to read the Bible. I didn’t immediately stop smoking marijuana. God looked past all of our sins and He saw two people who really wanted Him.”
Thrilled by the reality of Jesus, he began telling everyone. But he didn’t start going to church yet – nor did he start wearing clothes. “I didn’t put clothes on for hardly anything in those days,” he says.
Little by little, God prodded him more into the Way. He hit the verse in Corinthians that says your body is temple for the Holy Spirit – and he stopped using drugs. He married Dale.
Callahan didn’t care much for the churches nearby and started praying for one that had evangelistic fervor, used Christian rock as an outreach, and preached about Bible prophecy.
When a Potter’s House Church opened up with rock-oriented worship and teaching about prophecy, he settled in. It was a Christian Fellowship Ministries church, which focused church plants and raising up unpolished disciples through street ministry to plant new churches quickly.
Two-and-a-half years later, Callahan was ordained as a pastor and planted a church in Port Hedland. Then he pastored in Lismore, New South Wales, Australia, before taking over a church in Geraldton.
In 1997, he moved to Tucson, Arizona, and visited many churches in an evangelistic capacity. In 2002, Callahan started a church in Gardena in Southern California.
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