Jesus Revolution is a big-screen examination and celebration of the passionate movement that gained national attention and spawned Calvary Chapel and even the birth of contemporary Christian music. The histories of Christian pastors Chuck Smith and Greg Laurie, long esteemed leaders of the West Coast-based Jesus Movement, are featured, along with charismatic and controversial hippie preacher Lonnie Frisbee.
Chuck’s daughter, Janette, first becomes fascinated with Frisbee’s “Good News” and quickly brings him home to meet her skeptical father. After initial hesitation, Chuck’s heart is captured as Lonnie explains what he sees in the “flower children” generation who are spiritually hungry. The two begin to target that generation, and Chuck openly welcomes them into fellowship, drawing the ire of long-time members. Elsewhere, Laurie leaves his military school for the community of Cathe and her hippie friends.
Through the power of the Holy Spirit, the character’s lives become intertwined, with Greg coming to faith in Jesus as he pursues a relationship with Cathe, and Lonnie and Chuck discipling Greg and holding services for larger and larger crowds. There are relational ups and downs, but the Spirit continues to work, drawing people in for one of the most significant spiritual awakenings in history.
What is so remarkable about Jesus Revolution is that it’s a well-produced, beautiful, big-budget Hollywood production that places Jesus Christ front and center. He’s the hero and the star. Even the major and minor players, whose imperfections are on display, only serve to highlight the dramatic transformations that the Holy Spirit accomplishes. Frisbee, who starts off strong but then faces personal challenges, is a lesson to believers watching that God can use anyone, but the Spirit can depart when ego gets in the way.
Longtime believers could identify with Chuck, who faces personal burnout and the chance to be a part of a fresh, new movement. Young adults may see themselves in the searching hearts of Greg and Cathe, trying to start a life together and honor God at the same time. Others may feel the check in their spirit when the enemy tries to derail the growing church, placing divisions between its leaders who are puffed up with pride.
The movie portrays the “flower children” with offscreen drug use and onscreen “highs” as well as a mention of sexual promiscuity, however the film thankfully doesn’t include profanity. Parents of younger children should be cautioned simply because of the characters who are under the influence, even dangerously behind the steering wheel of a car.
“When you open your heart, there’s room for everyone,” the film’s tagline, is a good reminder to set aside judgments when speaking to people about the “Good News” of the gospel. As Lonnie tells Chuck, the church casts disappointment and shame toward the hippies and its only through the open arms of Christians that God begins to move. In one pivotal scene, after church elders complained about the new coverts’ dirty feet, Smith plants himself at the door of the church, demonstrating Christ’s love through washing the feet of those entering.
Jesus Revolution is an amazing representation of what God can do through ordinary, flawed people. God wants to reach the world and hopefully this film will inspire many that they in turn can impact their own circles and communities. The visuals, the performances, the story, and the score all come together in a perfect blend to portray this part of American and Christian history in a memorable way.