Together with my wife, I was reading the book ‘Jesus Revolution,’ a Christmas gift from my wife. It caused me to look again at the Jesus Revolution. I say look again because back in early 2016, I wrote about the Jesus Movement as a result of reading ‘God’s Forever Family’ by Larry Eskridge of Wheaton College. Although not a very easy read, that book had been fascinating. It was very detailed as it told the story of the Jesus People Movement in America in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
This later book ‘Jesus Revolution’ by Greg Laurie was not so detailed but rather weaves the story around one converted hippie Greg Laurie and the people at Calvary Chapel, where Chuck Smith was the pastor. It also involved a converted hippie by the name of Lonnie Frisbee. Lonnie had been alone in a canyon when he had got saved. It is described this way, ‘He took off all his clothes, turned his face to the sky and screamed toward heaven, ‘Jesus, if you’re really real, reveal yourself to me.’ Well, Jesus did and ‘he felt the atmosphere around him begin to tingle, shimmer and glow.’ He was terrified. He felt the presence of God. He saw visions. He felt God’s calling on his life.
GREG LAURIE AND CALVARY CHAPEL
Greg was a teenager at the time. He heard Lonnie speaking to a group of about thirty students at a school. As they sat on the grass Lonnie spoke a revolutionary word, ‘You were either for Jesus or against Him.’ Greg looked at the Jesus freak kids sitting there with their Bibles in their laps. They clearly made a decision. They were for Jesus.’ Lonnie goes on, ‘Anyone who wanted to decide for Jesus could come forward . . . Greg prayed to tell Jesus he was for Him and that he wanted Jesus to forgive his sins.’ That is how it all started for Greg.
The book also contains the place of Calvary Chapel Church in the Jesus Revolution. Actually, it was Chuck Smith’s wife Kay who first persuaded her husband to drive over to Huntington Beach to observe what was happening with zoned out kids on the beach. Chuck thought practical manly thoughts like, ‘Why don’t you get a job and cut your hair and take a bath.’ Kay, however, with tears in her eyes, said, ‘They’re so lost. We’ve got to reach out to them.’ That is how it started in Calvary Chapel with a woman’s tears and a heart for the lost.
Many of the established church leaders did not embrace what God was doing amongst this new generation of young people. One major leader however did – Billy Graham and as a result, he wrote a book about ‘The Jesus Revolution.’ Graham hoped readers who hadn’t yet joined the revolution would come to faith in Christ and join it as well.
Of course, it was not a perfect revolution. ‘There are pitfalls,’ Graham noted, but as he said, ‘The early church in the book of Acts had such weaknesses as well.’ In his analysis, the new Jesus Revolution also had some intriguing strengths.
INTRIGUING STRENGTHS OF THE JESUS REVOLUTION
- It was spontaneous, without a human figurehead or leader. It was centered around Jesus himself. Graham quoted Look, a national bi-weekly magazine with a circulation of about six million. Its reporters had written of the Jesus People, ‘All the Christians agree Christ is the great common denominator of the movement. He brings everyone together.’
- It was Bible-based. The majority of the Jesus People were not simply drawn to a vague appreciation of Jesus but dug into well-worn Bibles for their understanding of Christ, His teaching, and His death and resurrection.
- It was about an experience with Jesus Christ, not head knowledge. The Jesus People emphasized that people must be born again, experiencing the transforming power of the Holy Spirit.
- It emphasized the Holy Spirit. Years earlier, Graham said he had asked distinguished theologian Karl Barth what the new emphasis in theology would be in the next twenty years. Dr. Barth had responded immediately, ‘The Holy Spirit!’ ‘Little did I dream,’ Dr. Graham wrote in The Jesus Generation, ‘that (this) would come through a youth revival in America.’
- It dramatically transformed lives. Young people who came to Christ in this time period were finding a cure from drugs, other addictions, and ingrained patterns of sin.
- It emphasized Christian discipleship. It wasn’t just about wearing crosses and other Jesus gear or slapping One Way stickers on Volkswagen vans. The Jesus People understood, because of their focus on the Bible and the Holy Spirit, that salvation was in fact followed by a lifetime of sanctification, or becoming more like Jesus over the long run.
- It was interracial and multiethnic. The Jesus People had come of age in a society reeling from segregation and social partitions. They saw in their Bibles that in Jesus, there were no racial divisions. They believed it.
- It showed a great zeal for evangelism. Billy Graham noted that Jesus Christ’s last words on earth were, “Go forth to every part of the world and proclaim the Good News,” and in the book of Acts, that’s exactly what the “original Jesus people, most of them young,” went out and did in the first century. The same was true of the new, young believers about 1,970 years later.
- It emphasized the second coming of Jesus Christ. Reflecting the times that the Jesus People grew up in, Graham wrote that ‘these young people don’t put much stock in the old slogans of the New Deal, the Fair Deal, the New Frontier, and the Great Society. They believe that utopia will arrive only when Jesus returns. Thus these young people are on sound biblical ground.’
Like many of the revivals of past history, the Jesus Revolution did not last for a long period of time, but it did leave a lasting deposit in the church that impacted many people into future generations and created growing churches.
Greg Laurie himself eventually became the Senior Pastor at Harvest Christian Fellowship, one of the largest churches in America. More than 5.6 million people have attended Harvest Crusades since 1990, and more than 500,000 people have registered professions of faith through these outreaches.
GREG LAURIE’S BOOK
The book finishes with a story of Greg baptizing a young man named Steve, who was converted at an earlier evangelistic event in Angel Stadium.
Greg Laurie smiles at Steven, ‘I asked to be able to baptize you because I was seventeen when I received Christ and got baptized right here in this same spot. God has brought me through all kinds of things, good and bad, over the years, and He’ll do the same for you.’
‘Thanks,’ says Steven, ‘I’m just done with the old stuff. I want to live for Jesus now.’
They talked a bit more, then Greg carefully dunks the young man down in the cold water for a long moment. It’s as if he’s been buried.
Then Greg raises Steven up, and he bursts out of the sea, water streaming down his face and hair and shoulders. His heart is on his face, and he is weeping. Joy. Release, Freedom.
Greg is weeping too. Maybe God will bring revival for a new generation. And maybe, just maybe, he’ll get to see another Jesus Revolution before he dies.
A FINAL WORD
That is my prayer too. That I would get to see another Jesus revolution before I die. That is what we need. A revolution – it is time for another revolution. Let us pray for that to happen.