What We Do

What really happened at Explo ‘72

October 15, 2015

A dark football stadium starts to fill with light. Students holding candles pass their flames from one person to another.

This scene comes near the end of Woodlawn (2015), a film about a high school football team that experienced spiritual revival in the 1970s. The scene and others in the movie reference Explo ’72, a Campus Crusade for Christ (now Cru) conference that drew more than 80,000 college and high school students to the Cotton Bowl stadium in Dallas, Texas in 1972.

The massive event marked the height of the Jesus Movement. Young people started a new wave of passion for sharing the gospel, one person at a time.

“When you find out you’re not alone, it gives you that much more confidence,” says Bob Horner, a Cru staff member who emceed the event. “You pray different, you act different, you lead different. It was intended to have momentum and it did.”

During the day the students attended training sessions and scattered out to the city to share their faith. At night the crowd gathered to hear teaching from Bill Bright and Billy Graham on topics such as walking with God and sharing Christ in the power of the Holy Spirit.

The event was also a pivotal moment for its music. It has been referred to in the press as the Christian Woodstock. Christian music was just breaking the scene at the time. Famous musicians performed, including Johnny Cash, Kris Kristofferson, Love Song and Andre Crouch and the Disciples.

“It seemed just so loud and so upbeat and the response of the crowd was just amazing. They were really emotionally involved in the music,” says Dean Anderson, a Cru staff member at the time who helped plan the event a year in advance.

Although the rain drenched people’s tents, it didn’t keep them from worshipping. The high energy level continued until the close of the event that Saturday.

The mobilizing effect of Explo ’72 lasted years after the conference. Attendees devoted themselves to full time Christian service, dedicated their lives to Christ and returned home with renewed vision. The time in history gives a picture for future revival.

“As thousands of people came, they became a community of believers that were encouraging each other, lifting each other up in prayer and going out together to share Christ,” says Dean. “That is such a testimony to what the church, the body of Christ can be doing today.”

Were you at Explo ‘72? What do you remember? Comment below.

Learn more about Woodlawn.

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