From the moment Jesus commanded His followers to love their enemies, Christians were destined to swim against the world’s current. Throughout the years, Christianity has proven itself to be a constant rock amidst the changing tides of culture. One such instance was the Jesus Movement rising above anti-War and Civil Rights protests in the 1970s. Biola University recounts how “the beliefs and practices of the [Jesus Movement] defined a generation of disenfranchised youth” and that many forms of worship and evangelism toward the unchurched emerged during this time to further the body of Christ.
In honor of this powerful movement, Lionsgate released Jesus Revolution on February 24, 2023, to bring the true story to the cinema screens. Regent University sponsored a free screening this past Wednesday evening, which I and a few Connect Group Leaders attended. The movie was filled with relevant messages and helped us find inspiration and hope for our own culture!
The film began in the middle of a baptism scene, with warm color grading and a swelling, reverberating soundtrack. The protagonist, Greg Laurie (played by The Kissing Booth’s Joel Courtney), is introduced as he draws the joyous scene before him. A year before the opening scene, Pastor Chuck Smith (played by Frasier’s Kelsey Grammer) watched with dismay at the news covering the hippies’ takeover culture. His church had dwindled in size, and he was concerned for the lost generation. Janette, his daughter, wary of her father’s disdain toward that demographic, taunted him to pray for a hippie to walk through his door.
The Lord answered and sent Lonnie Frisbee, a former hippie and now believer (played by The Chosen’s Jonathan Roumie). Lonnie’s warm embrace and tender voice brought smiles to our faces as he lovingly described how there is a generation desperately searching for God. He urged Pastor Chuck to “look with love” and to open his church’s doors to anyone who wanted to attend, not just the stereotypical “Christians.” The following Sunday revealed a crowd of barefoot hippies adorned with halter tops and colorful pants sitting opposite to the judgmental boomer generation. The rest of the movie follows Greg and Lonnie’s adventures of learning to love more like Christ.
Overall, the movie is lighthearted as the hippies convert, take communion, receive the Word so openly, and worship so freely. However, there were also darker elements to the movie as well. The audience saw Greg as he searched for meaning through psychedelics and when he dealt with his mother’s car accident, and how he handled such heavy situations. Conflict arose as Greg feared Christianity letting him down, Lonnie’s sincerity and ego being called out, and the difficulties of pamphlet evangelism.
Through everything, the Holy Spirit was present throughout the movie, whether through Lonnie preaching, Lonnie delivering people from their maladies, or the crowd gathering to pray. While I thought the movie had a surface-level nature and inconsistent pacing, Jesus Revolution, thankfully, ended on a positive note with Greg starting his own church and watching the sun set below the horizon, reflecting on all he had learned.
Ultimately, the movie was rather enjoyable and had memorable lines. Whether it was Lonnie stating how the movement was “an encounter, not a spectacle,” attesting to the power of the Holy Spirit or Kay Smith chiding her husband: “You think you’re important to get in the way [of the Spirit]; don’t be so arrogant to think that God can’t work through your failures,” I found myself convicted over my own heart posture.
Others shared similar thoughts. Regent student, Amy Holton, said, “it wasn’t just showing the beautiful moments of Christianity but it showed how God works through the failures of imperfect people to do his perfect will.”
Connect Group Leader, Mike Pimpo, revealed how the movie shifted his perspective on his goals in life, saying “I want to take every opportunity to witness as the Lord leads, because of how much an impact it can have on someone’s life and lead to more salvation.”
Finally, Dr. Jeff Gossman, Regent’s Campus Ministries Director, found the movie’s release to have been divinely timed. He remarks, “it was really interesting that this movie came out during this season after everything at Asbury and Lee. It seems like a divine coincidence. I hope that all of us who have watched this movie will be encouraged to share the gospel more often, and encouraged to be receptive to people that are around us. It depends on who you identify with in that movie.” In his final remarks, Dr. Gossman encouraged students to embrace the people in their lives, in the hopes that they might come to know Jesus.
Upon seeing the Holy Spirit move from the 1970s to our modern day, it is up to us to lean into Him or miss out on what the Spirit is doing. With the influence of social media and television, we must not let the hype nor experiential components of these movements be the primary motivation in sharing the Gospel. Following the Asbury Revival and Regent’s worship nights, we must reflect on what it means to take such revolutionary moments beyond the four walls of our churches and Chapel and into the world.
Even though there will be skeptics questioning the authenticity and power of these movements, I encourage you to remember Paul’s words in Romans 1:16 when he writes: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, first to the Jew, and also to the Greek.” We must consider the balance between the simplicity of the Gospel and maintaining its sanctity. At all costs, we should avoid operating from our own strength and ego. Ultimately, it is about the Lord’s glorification and salvation of others, so I encourage you to join in what the Lord is doing and strive to interact with the world in revolutionary ways.