The Revolution that Brought Revival: A Movie Review

Photo by Tyler Nix on Unsplash

Have you seen the new movie recently out in theaters? it opened February 24th. Jesus Revolution has broken all expectations. This faith-based movie was forecast to earn around $6-7 million dollars in ticket sales but walked away in 3rd place at $15 million on its opening weekend alone. Despite mixed reviews by some, this movie has received an A+ status — a rare honor for any director.

So, what is all the hype about? “Jesus Revolution” is a true story that details the conflict between a generation fatigued by war and establishment mentality, the Christian Church’s struggle to connect with them, and the God that intervened to unite and transform them both. Set in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the film tells the story by primarily tracing the footsteps of three men: a young hippie (Greg Laurie) who was searching for meaning in all the wrong places; a somewhat older hippie (Lonnie Frisbee) whose search led him to Jesus and a new calling of sharing the gospel; and a middle-aged pastor (Chuck Smith) who was struggling to connect with either of these men or anyone like them. When the lives of these three men intersected, each of them was awakened in a whole new way, and so was Christianity in America. The Church finally was able to see the masses who were looking, searching and wanting to belong. And the masses found real life and belonging in Jesus Christ.

Four scenes from the movie really stood out to us, and they almost capture the story’s full essence completely. First, there was the angst of a pastor (Smith) witnessing the degradation of morals all around him. National news was filled with reports of a generation seemingly sold out to sex, drugs and rock and roll. The clanging of it all was deafening and frustrating. How does the Church reach these souls? Then, his wife reminded him, “The truth is quiet and the truth is simple.”  The simple Truth was put to the test when Frisbee, a hippie who traded the wiles of the world for the true life he found in Jesus Christ, showed up on Smith’s doorstep.

“If you want to reach my people,” Frisbee told Smith, “You have to speak to them in a language they understand.” Soft-spoken Frisbee continued with a simple truth: “We can only walk through doors open to us, and your door is closed.”

Frisbee was passionate about his faith and even looked a little like Jesus (or what we would think he might look like), and he burned with a desire to bring others to Jesus. As Smith, spends time with Frisbee his heart starts to break and tender toward him as he sees Frisbee reach out and love the unlovely, the broken and the addicted. Frisbee’s words and actions were the motivation Smith needed to also reach this generation right where they were, and in order to do that he had to fight against the establishment himself, the one inside his own church. For instance, when Smith opened the church doors to the hippies, some members complained that they were soiling the new carpet with their dirty bare feet. Smith’s solution? Greet every hippie at the church’s front door on bent knee, in the Spirit of Jesus Himself, and wash their feet. His and Frisbee’s submission to God and service to these outcasts of the day displayed God’s love and His gospel message to a people desperate for truth. And as they partnered, Smith’s local church outgrew its walls. Hundreds, if not thousands were baptized, the church needed to move into a tent, and this Jesus Revolution even garnered the attention of national media.

Meanwhile, another young man, Laurie, was on his own quest for life’s meaning. His search took him from the military school his mom insisted he attend, to the public school of his love interest, Cathe, and her hippie friends. Together they all joined the movement of their day – attending rock concerts, experimenting with sex and drugs, and making up their own truth. It all seemed to be so freeing until Cathe’s sister nearly died from a drug overdose. That event rocked Cathe to her core, and she took her quest in a different direction – straight to the doorstep of Smith’s church. Laurie hesitantly followed her, and slowly their lives were transformed. They joined the throng of people being baptized, and a new course of life was set for the young couple.

At one point, Laurie tells Cathe, “I just want my name to mean something.” Honestly, isn’t that the cry within all of us? We want our lives to mean something. We want to contribute to the world in a special way. Chuck Smith, Lonnie Frisbee, Greg Laurie and now his wife of nearly 50 years, Cathe, discovered that — to God — all of our names mean something. The Creator of the universe called us by name and designed each of us uniquely to contribute to this world in a one-of-a-kind way. And we come to know ourselves fully when we closely and deeply know the One who created us. The One who already deeply knows us, warts and all. Which brings us to our final, stand-out scene.

At some point within this revolution, Frisbee begins to falter. He puts ministry ahead of his marriage, he allows his pride to get in the way of his calling, and he begins to put his name ahead of God and others. That’s when Smith steps in and tells Frisbee that he needs to go take care of his marriage. Before Frisbee leaves, he shares with Laurie a vision he had of Laurie someday sharing the Gospel with thousands. And after he leaves, Smith struggles with his decision to send Frisbee away, and he wrestles with imposter syndrome. And that’s when his wife steps in with another powerful word.

“Don’t be so arrogant to think that God can’t work through your failures.”

The truth is that Frisbee, Smith and the Lauries all had weaknesses and have made mistakes throughout their ministries. We all do. But God lovingly invites us into His work and accomplishes His plans even through our failures. This movie touches upon many issues within the Church today. It talks about drug abuse, alcoholism, and infidelity. It touches upon division in the church. But, at the end, it shows us that God’s grace is for everyone. He uses the messes of our lives as a message. It drives home the Biblical truth that the Gospel is for everyone.

The real-life Jesus Revolution was one of the most important events of the 20th century. It ushered in modern Christian music, and revived a dying, seemingly irrelevant church with a fresh approach to evangelism. This movie is encouraging to us because it messes with our concept of the Church and it highlights how God utilizes broken, imperfect people to fulfill His perfect plan. In this case, He caused a revival to break out and transformed the lives of many people — first in California and eventually all over the world.

If you have not seen this movie, we strongly recommend that you do. It will bring tears to your eyes because the gospel is beautiful and good news.

— Sue Lindsey and Linda Maynard © March 10, 2023



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