More than 30 years had passed since I last saw him, but Larry Tomczak looked like the same guy I'd seen leading a wildly successful series of youth prayer meetings in the 1970s called "Take And Give" (TAG).
Square-jawed, with black hair and a disarming smile, Mr. Tomczak, now 59, teamed up with C.J. Mahaney, a fellow young evangelist, more than three decades ago to minister to more than 3,000 young people who packed the pews every Tuesday night at Christ Church on Massachusetts Avenue.
I went there in the mid-1970s during the height of the Jesus movement.
Mr. Tomczak was especially good in explaining the Bible for the spiritually hungry crowds. His book "Clap Your Hands," about how he went from being a nominal Catholic to a born-again Christian, sold 250,000 copies -- an enormous number for someone who at the time was not known outside the Washington, D.C., area.
Those meetings morphed into a new church, now known as Covenant Life, in Gaithersburg, the mother church for a new denomination called People of Destiny International (PDI), later renamed Sovereign Grace Ministries. The big question was which of these two gifted men would end up leading the movement.
Mr. Mahaney became pastor of Covenant Life, and Mr. Tomczak took over PDI as its main church planter. Disagreements arose between them over the increasingly Calvinist direction the church was taking.
Then one of Mr. Tomczak's sons got involved in what the father terms "teenage rebellion." Mr. Tomczak's fitness as a father was called into question over his son Justin's behavior, and 12 years ago, the elder Mr. Tomczak left PDI. Church leaders later apologized to Justin, who mended his ways and went on to attend Harvard and become the political director for the re-election campaign of Sen. Saxby Chambliss, Georgia Republican.
"There was admittance as to wrongdoing as to the way he was treated," Larry Tomczak told me. "I and my wife wait for the same thing to be admitted to us."
He and his wife, Doris, have tried to move on. He founded Christ the King Church in Acworth, Ga., a congregation he just turned over to the leadership of another son, Jason. Mr. Tomczak and his wife, Doris, moved to Nashville last year to direct the International Center for Evangelism, Church-Planting and Prayer (ICECAP) to mentor young evangelicals.
"We're praying more to be used strategically in this nation," Doris Tomczak told me. "Larry is ready to exhort, preach and help the next generation."
But that generation is asleep to spiritual realities, said the Tomczaks, who were quite unhappy about how many evangelical youths supported the Barack Obama campaign despite the candidate's liberal positions on many cultural issues. This summer, Larry rushed into print "Here's the Deal," a book to educate youth on faith and politics, abortion, gay marriage, divorce and other critical issues.
"They're not asking the hard questions," Mr. Tomczak said. "Kids don't want to study or do their homework on these issues. They have no discernment."
A lot of the "major-league" churches had avoided talking about these issues, which confuses young people "who look at these megachurches and see how they have compromised in order to be successful. And this election year, we are reaping the results," he said.
Instead, churches have focused on "non-offensive and pleasant," his wife said. "We are turning out young people who are so lukewarm in their passion for God."
Contact Julia Duin at firstname.lastname@example.org.