Birth of the Children of God

During the mid-1960s, David began traveling with his wife and four teenage children in evangelistic work. They started a small witnessing outreach that went by the name “Teens for Christ.”

In early 1968 at the invitation of his elderly mother, David and his family journeyed to Huntington Beach, California, a seaside town that had become a gathering place for thousands of dropped-out hippies and surfers. It was here, among the counterculture youth of the ’60s, that he found his calling and the Children of God came into being, as a radical part of the “Jesus Revolution” that was to sweep through Southern California and the rest of the United States. (A few years later, in a June 1971 cover story, Time magazine hailed the Jesus Revolution as the fastest-growing religious movement of its time.)

David, his wife and children, and others they had led to the Lord, reached out to the radical youth at Huntington Beach and were soon welcoming large numbers of them at a Christian coffee shop they were given the use of, called the Light Club. The message of Jesus without organized religion appealed to the radical hippies who were rebelling against the Establishment. Scores of them experienced dramatic changes as they came to believe in Jesus, and many forsook lives centered on drugs and alcohol. Of these, many chose to join David and his family in their evangelistic efforts.

David began teaching Bible classes at the Light Club in a nonconformist language and way that the counterculture youth of that time period could relate to. This was to become his trademark. He particularly sparked their interest as he taught them the biblical prophecies describing the events directly preceding Jesus’ Second Coming. The message that we are now living in the Time of the End according to the Bible was to become a central theme of the movement’s witness to the world.

In 1969, as the original group expanded and began traveling in a large convoy of vehicles and campers across the U.S., witnessing to young people throughout the country, a Camden, New Jersey, newspaper reporter in a local article dubbed them “Moses and the Children of God.” The terms were popularized by the press and soon adopted by the group. Another reporter from NBC’s program First Tuesday, after attending a rally, described the Children of God (COG) movement as “wandering, passionate, bearers of the Word.” A Newsweek reporter wrote, “I realized that the COG were doing something for these kids that money just couldn’t buy.”