BodEquip Ministries - Equipping the Body of Christ to Live Abundantly.

Movie Review: Jesus Revolution

Quick Plot Summary: A dramatized version of the birth of the Jesus People movement in Southern California in the late 1960's and early 1970's.

Rating: Great
Suggested Ages: 10+

This well-made and well-acted film is a loosely dramatized version of the beginnings of the Jesus People movement/revival in Southern California and principally deals with 3 main characters: Lonnie Frisbee, Chuck Smith, and Greg Laurie. The movie is largely portrayed through a Greg Laurie centric lens, which I guess considering he is the only one of the 3 that is still currently alive on this planet I guess makes a degree of sense. I was not alive when the events described in the film took place, however I am pretty familiar with Calvary Chapel and the players involved as I lived in the area and spent much time at several Calvary Chapels (including Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa), Vineyards (which were a later split-off from Calvary Chapel), and I have studied the history of Calvary Chapel and the Vineyard before. I've seen and listened to countless teachings from both Chuck Smith and Greg Laurie and I've been to the beach baptism location many times.

I say all that to say that this film does play fast and loose with some facts and on certain points completely contradicts others' descriptions of the way certain things happened. By the film's own admission in its disclaimer in the credits, it takes certain liberties and time-compresses certain events. For instance, in the film Greg Laurie is seen as taking over the group at the church in Riverside which was struggling and that he did so direct from the church. In reality, according to several sources, it was Lonnie Frisbee that first took it over and that it was thriving when Greg Laurie then took it over from Lonnie. They cut out the whole Lonnie part in that in the film. This is just one example of such instances in the film. In addition, there are even completely fabricated items to help further along the plot of the film.

Anyone that has studied either Lonnie Frisbee or Chuck Smith (or perhaps even Greg Laurie in some respect) knows that there is more to each of them than simply the positive things they might wish to put forward. This is not a knock on them - they are all humans just like you and me. There are things about both Lonnie Frisbee and Chuck Smith you may well not know about them and that this film did not get into. Suffice it to say, as humans, they were flawed and could exhibit flawed (even VERY flawed behavior) just like any of the rest of us can.

With that said, without going into some of those side-rabbit trails (which really probably wouldn't have been appropriate for this film anyway), the film did get across the point that God was using imperfect people in mighty ways. I actually found it much more even-handed than I feared it might be. I was most concerned that the film would downplay Lonnie but overall I didn't leave the film feeling like that was majorly the case. Lonnie was prone to operating and flowing in the Spirit with the gifts and Chuck Smith wasn't comfortable with a lot of that due to abuses he had seen in that area earlier in his life. For anyone that knows their Calvary Chapel and Vineyard history, you know that this whole Holy Spirit experiential/gifts issue in church is eventually a large part of why the Vineyard ever became a thing with a split-off from Calvary Chapel. As one that definitely believes the gifts are for today and that Holy Spirit is our power source and should absolutely be welcomed in our churches with people flowing in the Spirit, I was pleased to see that the movie didn't really offer any grand commentary on the rightness or wrongness of Lonnie's approach - it just showed Chuck's uncomfortableness.

Overall, for what this film is, with both its strengths and weaknesses, the best thing about this film is that it shows that God used imperfect people in mighty ways to change many. The hunger that the movie portrayed of the hippie kids looking for love and fulfillment in all the wrong places is very much similar to what is going on today, and the answer today is the same as it was then: Jesus. This film helps stir the watcher to want to see such things again, and that's a good thing. I would just say that those that think the Jesus Movement happened solely because of the sovereign hand of God doing a revival don't understand revival. It's not all just up to God - and in fact, I'd go so far as to say that it's largely NOT - it's largely up to Jesus' followers to do what they are supposed to do. If Chuck Smith had never let Jesus' LOVE rule the day and welcome the hippies into church, you can be sure much of the Jesus People movement wouldn't have been a thing and that there probably wouldn't be the many Calvary Chapels and Vineyard churches there are today (and all the many other churches that have roots in that movement). If the Church today wants to see such things again, the Church today needs to do the stuff Jesus would do and these days especially that probably largely means getting outside the four walls of the Church and flowing in and operating in the power of the Holy Spirit.

This film does contain some scenes of drug use and implied sleeping around, but there's nothing overly graphic in this film and the overall message of the film outweighs any such things. I'd say a good suggested age for kids is 10 and up. Overall, this is an encouraging and inspiring film with decent acting and beautiful cinematography and I recommend a watch through. Just don't let this be something to glorify the past - but ask God what YOU can do NOW to be a change-agent in OUR generation! :) That's what's needed today more than ever.

Reviewed by Christopher Long,
BodEquip Ministries

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