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Ministry to street people and hippies

15 February 2010

Archpriest Jack Sparks

Father Jack Sparks, who died last week, was one of ministry to street people and hippies in California in the 1970s, and was also one of the pioneers of the movement of Evangelical Christians in the USA towards Orthodoxy.

He began his career with Campus Crusade for Christ, an evangelistic ministry among students.

He then founded the Christian World Liberation Front (CWLF), a ministry to hippies, students and street people in Berkeley, California. In that period (early 1970s) there were many underground and alternative newspapers, and Jack Sparks published a Christian one, called “Right On”. The CWLF was part of the “Jesus Movement” of Jesus freaks.

Jack Sparks, like some of his erstwhile colleagues in Campus Crusade for Christ, began to question their method of evangelism. They were telling people about Jesus, but not leading them to the Church, so they soon fell away. The problem was that there were so many denominations they didn’t know which to recommend. The obvious answer, it seemed to them, was that they must point people to the New Testament Church, or the nearest modern equivalent. But every denomination claimed to represent the New Testament Church. So they began a study of church history to see where the New Testament Church had gone, and the trail led them to Orthodoxy.

Here is an extract from an obituary:

Archpriest Jack Sparks, 81, of St. John Orthodox Cathedral in Eagle River, died Feb. 8, 2010, in Eagle River.

Father Jack Sparks was born Dec. 3, 1928, to Oakley and Geraldine Sparks in Lebanon, Ind. After receiving his Ph.D. in 1960 he taught at the University of Northern Colorado and Penn State University.

Father Jack began his ministry as a director coordinator with Campus Crusade for Christ in San Bernardino, Calif., in 1968 and continued his ministry as director of the Christian World Liberation Front, a ministry to students and street people, in Berkeley, Calif.

In 1977, he was one of the founders and dean of St. Athanasius Academy of Orthodox Theology in both Santa Barbara and Elk Grove, Calif. He was ordained into the Orthodox priesthood in 1987.

He also wrote a number of books published between 1971 and 2003 and served for the better part of a decade as the project director of the Orthodox Study Bible. Father Jack and his wife, Esther, moved to Eagle River in 2004.

He was preceded in death by his brother, Ted Sparks.

He is survived by his beloved wife of 56 years, Esther; his son and daughter- in-law, Stephen and Valorie Sparks of Eagle River; his daughter and son-in- law, Ruth and Steve Templeton of Eagle River; sons, Robert and Jonathan, both of Elk Grove; sisters, Alberta Broyles of Pittsboro, Ind., and Mary Frye of Spencer, Ind.; and many grandchildren.

Read the whole thing at

May his memory be eternal!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. 15 February 2010 11:02 am

    ‘They were telling people about Jesus, but not leading them to the Church, so they soon fell away’ – sort of sums up the challenges we face where we don’t have the history and security that an apostolic and worldwide church can provide. Would be interesting if there were any researched figures for ‘backsliding’ for new christians entering the different denominations.

    Indeed, may Fr Jack’s memory be eternal!


  1. The Church is crucial to evangelistic efforts (6 witnesses) | Impelled by the Scriptures into the Orthodox Church

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