The Jesus Revolution: Revival Roots and Fruits

The Jesus Revolution: Revival Roots and Fruits June 11, 2024

Jesus Revolution Promotional Image
Just Revolution Movie Promotional Image

The Jesus People Movement was the largest ever religious awakening in the USA. It saw many thousands of countercultural “hippies” turning to Jesus in the 1960s and 1970s, The movement profoundly influenced both charismatic and non-charismatic churches and ministries, and is a good example of the enduring impact of historical revivals.

The Jesus Movement seemed to spring out of nowhere and some look back at it as though it was something entirely unique.  There is no doubt that it was a special time in church history in the USA and other countries. It was a mass movement in which hippies turned to Jesus. We will look a the massive influence it had on other movements in future articles. It truly was remarkable and is generally described as the biggest religious revival movement ever in the USA. The Jesus Revolution movie really is a great introduction to this remarkable event and inspires us to seek God for him to move in our day too.

“A 1974 study suggested that at its apex, the movement comprised 30,000 to 3 million people, depending on how one defined a “Jesus Person.” But one common factor was a testimony of a personal, revolutionary encounter with living Truth:

“When I was in the peace movement,” said one young convert, “I was always looking for peace and joy and love, and there never seemed to be any. I’d come home at night and it just didn’t seem real, it just didn’t last. You know, it says in the Bible that if you build a house on sand that, when the wind and water come, it will blow away. But if you build a house on rock, when the wind and the water come, it will stand firm.

“When I heard about Jesus, it just blew my mind that something came before and then just went on into eternity. It blew my mind that I could be grounded into that rock … I had always believed that there was a truth, a rock, that you could grab hold of and that wouldn’t change, but I was never able to find it until I found Jesus.”

 Trott, J. (1995) “History in the Making—Longhairs for Jesus,” Christian History Magazine-Issue 48: Thomas Cranmer & the English Reformation.

The Jesus Movement was an offshoot of the countercultural revolution of the hippie movement. It was what happened when cultural revolutionaries became Christians:

“The Jesus movement declared that sin, and not technocracy, is the root of all evil, and disputed the countercultural assumption that man is basically sound and needs only to be liberated. It proclaimed unapologetically that “Christ is the answer.” It boldly emphasized that the Christian gospel carries in it a divine revelation and redemption absent from the counterculture no less than from the technocratic society it assailed. It was aware that historic Christianity is by nature both counterculture and counter-counterculture, indeed has less the character of a protest movement than of a witness movement that affirms Jesus Christ and his kingdom . . . Detractors of the Jesus people first referred to them as “Jesus freaks” who, having earlier freaked out on drugs, were now thought to be freaking out on religion.”

 Henry, C.F.H. (1999) God, revelation, and authority. Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, pp. 123–124.

Often when you look at dramatic movements like the Jesus Revolution  they appear to spring up entirely out of the blue, and that is often how a valid way of looking at what happened.  What is interesting, however, is that often there is some kind of connection to other movements, and individuals involved may be in some way primed to expect God to work in these remarkable ways.

The movie Jesus Revolution introduces Chuck Smith as a struggling pastor of a traditional church who was taken by surprise by the sudden way God began to work when he connected with converted hippie Lonnie Frisbee.  This account is historically accurate, but it is important to note that Chuck Smith was actually a pentecostal minister.  He would be very familiar with the stories of remarkable outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the 1900s that birthed the pentecostal movement.  This would likely  have made him more willing to accept the remarkable move of the Holy Spirit. Chuck also had worked with well known charismatic prophetic minister Paul Cain in the 1950s prior to ever meeting Lonnie. Chuck is shown in the movie as having reservations about some of the more dramatic elements of Lonnie’s ministry.  He was clearly able to recognise that there was a genuine work of the Spirit even if he did not want to promote a full charismatic message and practice. We will explore this more in other articles.

The charismatic renewal had started about a decade before the Jesus Movement began, and some see the Jesus Movement as being simply an expression or outgrowth of the wider charismatic movement.  As we will see, however, the Jesus Movement’s influence itself was broader than that of the charismatic movement as it affected and even birthed both charismatic and non charismatic churches and ministries, many of which remain today.

Lonnie Frisbee also had some contact with charismatic spiritual gifts ministry even in his childhood, prior to becoming a hippie and then having a dramatic encounter with Jesus.

The pentecostal and charismatic movements are often seen as two entirely separate movements, because of the time difference between them, with the pentecostal movement being birthed in the early 1900s and the charismatic movement forming in a subsequent wave the 1960s.  Some talk about a third wave that begun in the 1980s as Vineyard flourished (more of that in another article, too).  Often people assume there was no connection at all between the charismatic and pentecostals, but that is not really true. Some of the leading charismatic figures received their Holy Spirit experience through the prayers of pentecostals.  Even the pentecostal movement was not entirely original and had roots in the Wesleyan inspired holiness movement which looked for a second blessing of the Holy Spirit, which was itself inspired by the evangelical revivals of Wesley and Whitefield.

Movements of the Holy Spirit do seem to spark up at strange times and often the people in them are unaware of any connection to other historical revivals.  But in many ways the Spirit does the same thing time and again, and we do well to understand that the revival phenomena is something that happens often in history.

Often when the dramatic encounter and powerful move of the Spirit seen in revival begins to die away, it is almost forgotten and churches left behind become almost devoid of the tangible sense of the Spirit being at work. But some continue to cry out to God to work in the same remarkable way again.

Spurgeon was eager for revival and experienced someting of it in his ministry:

“We need a work of the Holy Spirit of a supernatural kind, putting power into the preaching of the Word, inspiring all believers with heavenly energy, and solemnly affecting the hearts of the careless, so that they turn to God and live. We would not be drunk with the wine of carnal excitement, but we would be filled with the Spirit. We would behold the fire descending from heaven in answer to the effectual fervent prayers of righteous men. Can we not entreat the Lord our God to make bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the people in this day of declension and vanity?” Read the rest

Lloyd-Jones also explains:

It comes nearer to being the rule in revival that certain phenomena begin to manifest themselves — phenomena such as these: men and women are not only convicted of sin, but they are convicted by an agony with respect to sin. It is not merely that they see that they are sinners and that they must believe in the Saviour, it comes to them with such overwhelming force that they become even physically ill. They are in a literal agony of soul.” Read the rest

The movie Jesus Revolution has spurred a desire to understand what happened in that movement and the subsequent impact of it. I hope it also spurs a desire to seek God to do once again his remarkable work of causing revivals.  I fear that sometimes we so dramatise the large scale works of God that we risk failing to recognise when he is working right in front of our noses.

I have previously written about revival and will end with an excerpt from that article:

History teaches us that the greatest need of the church today is a revival. Yet there is great confusion about what revival actually is. Revival is nothing more than a wide-scale outworking of Jesus’ resurrection power . . .

Too often people misunderstand revival as something totally different in its very nature from anything we normally experience. We might ask God to send a revival and expect that the experience will be totally new to us. Actually, a revival is something that is only quantitatively different from what we can experience normally rather than something qualitatively unique. It is an escalation of the usual work of the Spirit to connect us directly with the life-giving power of the resurrected Jesus. In other words, the Spirit of revival is always available to us. Thus, when a revival comes, we should recognize it as a greater manifestation of normal Christianity.

Throughout history many times it was thought that the church would die out, but suddenly God intervened. The church has always grown in fits and starts, with special times of blessing on both a local and more widespread scale. The history of the church shows that the fires of revival are often lit when one person connects with God’s reviving power and this power then spreads to others . . .

When we hear stories like these, we need not fall into the temptation of feeling nostalgic or becoming discouraged. Today, from a global perspective, we are seeing the largest revival the world has ever seen. The growth of the church in Africa, South America, and across Asia has been phenomenal. God has done great works in the past, and he is continuing to do great works now. If we understand that revival is directly related to our own personal experience, albeit with a greater intensity, such accounts will thrill us and make us long to experience more revival ourselves. As we read about what God has done in the past, we can recognize some similarities with our current Christian experience.”  READ MORE 



The Jesus Revolution: A Review of the Hippies for Jesus Film

Send a Resurrection: Revival in History and Today

What does sweetest frame mean?

Worship: Are Physical Expressions and Emotions Essential?

The Toronto Blessing

Revival Interview

Ten Things Jesus Did NOT Say

A Relationship with the Risen Jesus: Christian Experience

What is the Baptism in the Holy Spirit? Receiving Assurance

Reformed and charismatic belong together

About Adrian Warnock
Adrian Warnock is a medical doctor. He worked as a psychiatrist and in the pharmaceutical industry on clinical trials. He has been a Christian writer since 2003 and is a published author. Alongside his career Adrian also served on a church leadership team. He was diagnosed with blood cancer in May 2017 and is the founder of Blood Cancer Uncensored an online patient support group. Adrian is passionate about helping people learn to approach suffering with hope and compassion. Adrian qualified in 1995 with an MB BS medical degree from London University (in the USA this would be called an MD). Adrian also has post graduate qualifications in both Psychiatry (MRCPsych) and Pharmaceutical Medicine (MFFM and DipPharmMed). He studied theology through courses organised by Newfrontiers. You can read more about the author here.
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