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Jesus Revolution - A Movie Review


God will allow us to follow self-help, self-improvement programs until we have tried them all, until we finally come to the honest confession, ‘I can't do it. I can't be righteous in my own strength!’ It is then, when we admit our utter powerlessness, that we find hope. For it is then when the Lord intervenes to do a work that we could not do for ourselves.


-Chuck Smith


---Spoiler warnings may be ahead ---


Recently my wife and I were running errands in the city and decided to make a movie night of it. We ended up going to see the “Jesus Revolution” movie.

 

Now... I have to admit I went in with some degree of skepticism as I've seen many poorly put together and shallow "Christian" movies however... as I sat there I found myself pulled in and could feel with the characters and their flaws. I found the story was well put together and found out later with some easily obtainable research that it was a reasonably accurate depiction with some minor creative licence.


I feel the writers and cast did a fantastic job of showing how God can move radically even through substantial character flaws and brokenness. The Jesus Revolution tells the story of Greg and Kathe Laurie and the events around the Jesus Movement- which is considered to be the largest North American Revival movement of the last century.

 

I find it difficult to concentrate while watching any movie… as a matter of fact, when I watch at home I’m known to either drift divert to my phone or listen to an audio book while I watch… often I just fast forward as the the movie loses my interest. I watched this movie completely engaged the whole way through.

 

Even so... when I’m in a theatre and I can't be distracted by a phone or utilize a fast forward button… my overactive mind will continue to process applications from multiple points of view... all inspired by the screen in front of me. This movie really drove a great deal of thought process and inspiration within me!


Was the movie good? Yes!


Was it inspiring? Yes!


Do i recommend you see it? Yes!


Is it an accurate representation of what revival looks like? I believe so!


As I venture further into my thoughts on this I'd like to point out that revival is messy... because people are messy... we don't get to choose how God will move to bring people into his Kingdom. We can however be absolutely assured that when God truly moves in the hearts of men it will bring repentance... it will bring biblical focus... it will bring a move of holiness... and it will bring worship! We cannot however expect that the worship, or the cultural look and feel will be something we find comfortable. The Church needs to be uncomfortable in our pursuit of holiness... standing as a lighthouse in a dark world.

 

I made a few observations:

 

  1. Every generation seems to face a struggle to overcome dead religion and dead works

  2. Every generation seems to struggle to overcome sin.

  3. Every move of God is at first rejected by legalistic - religious communities.

  4. Every leadership group will be faced sooner or later with a sense of self importance  or sin or both and only the ones who stay focused and centered on Jesus - not their own importance to the movement will remain faithful.

 

I loved how we saw God working through everyday - broken people in The Jesus Revolution.


As an example in this movie... one of the key characters and instrumental in the launch of the revival is a young man named Lonnie Frisbee. Lonnie was an energetic, passionate follower and teacher of Christ who looked alot like the depictions of Jesus Christ. His Wednesday services were known to have bursts of spontaneous prayer, praise and healings whereas Chuck Smiths Sunday teachings were solidly based in Bible Teaching. Both of these evenings attracted many many young believers and seekers. Lonnie is shown in the movie to struggle with overemphasizing his importance to the movement... and yet God worked mightily through him. Years later would eventually leave the faith and slide into sexual promiscuity as well as struggle with bitterness. Greg states in his book and interviews that Lonny found his faith again before he passed away from complications relating to AIDS in 1993. Lonnie's character flaws were shown compassionately while continuing to tell the real story of spiritual awakening that occurred with so many young adults. Greg states in some recent interviews that during the year and a half he knew Lonnie he appeared to be living in relationship with Jesus while also struggling to heal from his abusive past.


Revival is messy… and perhaps that is why many religious leaders have a love-hate relationship with it. Accepting Christ changes one’s heart… but it does not make one live holy overnight. This of course is shown in the movie… as Lonnie leaves the Church because the Pastor wanted him to tone back focus on himself. Chuck Smith is shown in the movie as struggling with self confidence, in real life he was humble but he was also a strong teacher both before and during the revival that started at Calvary Chapel. Chuck remained faithful to his last days, preaching just months before his last breath with the same calm passion as shown in the movie.

 


On April 6, 1966 Time Magazines front cover came out with the large black background and bold red letters asking the question “Is God Dead?”. About a year earlier in 1965 Time had an investigative article about the growing Trend by some 1960s theologians to write God out of the field of theology… the 1966 article looked at the problems facing modern theologians who were becoming culturally irrelevant. Churches across America and the modern world were bleeding out as the hippie culture of love, sex and rock with its drugs and free love absorbed the kids, leaving the stale and sometimes spiritually abusive Church. These “hippies” as they were called then were seen by the older generation as “everything that is wrong with America”… sounds familiar right?

 

I could not help but parallel the cultural war today to the cultural war then… There are many similarities… just a few.

 

  • Hippies wanted to experience peace so badly… they tried everything possible to gain moments of peace. Our progressive culture is much the same this way.

  • Hippies saw the sin in the Church… they recognized the hypocrisy and the spiritual abuse in the Church and they went elsewhere in search for truth. This as well is much like todays whole culture… the vast majority of youth engaging in so called “woke ideology” are trying to find some sort of truth after not seeing it consistently lived out in their parents dead religion.

  • Hippies denied themselves very little… they were open to any experience they felt would bring them lasting peace… we see this as well in todays culture. Drugs, even psychedelics were widely promoted… sexual experiences were rarely denied… in essence anything but the dead religion they saw in Church was on the table… much like today.

 

This was the culture of the time… not everywhere to the same degree… but overall this Hippie influence was spreading and changing the world at the time.

 

Then, something changed… just when religion was pronounced dead... Jesus met this searching generation where they were at. While most Churches were afraid of them… Pastor Chuck engaged them as equals. Perhaps he even served them as above himself… seeing himself as beneath them. The foot washing event shown happened at some point in real at Calvary Chapel... though I don't think it was to save the carpet as depicted in the movie.

 

Many young adults in the era of drugs, alcohol, psychedelics and free sex tried it all and found nothing in that life that produced stability and lasting peace… until they started turning to a living relationship with Jesus. This spontaneous movement sparked a fire that we still see today... even in our stale, once again dead works Church experience in North America. It is not lost on me that many current Church deacons, Pastors and leaders were either involved in or offspring of the believers who accepted Christ during those heady years of the Jesus Movement.

 

Out of this messy, struggling, inspiring, crazy move of God we saw  Christian music burst out of its shackles as flawed but sincere individuals and groups sought Jesus. The names of Larry Norman, Randy Stonehill, Love Song, Second chapter of Acts, Barry McGuire, Petra, Resurrection Band, Phil Keaggy and many many more come to mind.

 


The Jesus Movement deeply impacted both the left and the right in North America. In 1971 Time published an entirely different Cover page story… this time the cover featured a psychedelic rendering of Jesus with the title “The Jesus Revolution”. The story now spoke of the wave of new believers moving across the land… Jesus was back!

 

One of the biggest changes in my own heart the last 5 years has been coming to the deep understanding that we are all messed up. I don’t have a leg up on anyone else in living sold out for Jesus… I have to rely on Christ for HIS holiness for I have none to brag about! I’ve realized that many believers who try to share their faith first try to clean up the seeker before they accept them into their circle to disciple them. Those who accepted Christ during the renewal at Calvary Chapel did so because other followers of Christ had a relationship with them and just helped point them towards God. They walked in that journey together with them in much the same fashion that Jesus taught his disciples. I’ve realized that my own walk towards holiness played out more like a path through the wilderness… winding, with various obstacles, some steep climbs and muddy slippery sections… it’s not a straight shot. Living out faith is messy and difficult at times... and impossible without relationship with Christ and in community.

 

Nabeel Karesh, a devout Muslim who accepted Christ after a number of years of friendship and friendly debate with his dear friend David Cook said of evangelism


“Effective evangelism requires relationships. There are very few exceptions.”


Yet many believers when trying to reach a lost and dying world move into debate and persuasion before actually sitting with and developing a real and authentic relationship with the person they want to win over…

 

Nabeel further states that


“On the rare occasion that someone does invite a Muslim to his or her home, differences in culture and hospitality may make the Muslim feel uncomfortable, and the host must be willing to ask, learn, and adapt to overcome this. There are simply too many barriers for Muslim immigrants to understand Christians and the West by sheer circumstance. Only the exceptional blend of love, humility, hospitality, and persistence can overcome these barriers, and not enough people make the effort.”

 

Nabeel was right… his words echo through this movie. Evangelism must be relational, not based in debate but rather in a discussion about truth.

 

I am not saying that the Church needs to approve sinful lifestyles and ideas into their Churches. On the contrary we can see in past renewals and revivals there was always an accompanying focus on holiness and repentance. We see in the movie and in the book that Pastor Smith keeps his foot on both the accelerator and the gas pedal in reaching the people that need to be reached. Staying anchored carefully and continuously in the word of God. I admire Pastor Chuck Smiths engagement of a broken generation by removing the shackles that the Church had placed on the Holy Spirit through uptight religious dogma and fear controlled reaction to things they did not understand.

 

The Church must wrestle with this… those who claim to follow Christ must learn to sit with the broken, to hear their stories. Truth needs not fear a lie… a lie however will fear truth. If our faith can’t handle tough questions is it really faith?

 

I can sense something in the air… in much the same way as in 1966, the media today states “god is dead”… but dead He is not. I believe the spirit of God is moving, stirring and soon we will see a new revolution for our times. How will it look?

 

I can sense the spirit moving… I see events like what’s happening in Asbury… and I believe that those events are only brush fires at this point… my prayer is that this generation will birth a renewal that will again shift the world on its side.


Are we ready to engage the mess? Are we ready to nail our dead works, our preconceived ideas about how God moves and our fears to the Cross? Are we ready to stop trying to contain God in our religious box? Are we ready to engage others where they are at now instead of where we think they should be?

 

I’m not sure if I’m ready… but I’m willing…

 

Those of us who follow Christ should be praying:


"God… take my tired, broken, abused, sin-soaked heart and show me where you need me!"

 

We can be the change!

 

 


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