In the 1960’s and 1970’s the United States saw a remarkable revival that produced individuals and communities that were sold-out for Christ and impacted every nook and cranny of American culture. This revival was called the Jesus Movement (or the Jesus Revolution), and unlike most other revivals, it can’t be traced back to just one individual or church.
Looking back, the 1960’s in the United States was an extremely turbulent time. It was the era of the Cuban missile crisis, numerous violent race riots in major cities, and the assassinations of President John F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr. The Supreme Court also abolished Bible reading and prayer from the public schools, and through all this, the rising counter-cultural movement of the time surged nationwide and swept up the country’s youth.
They became immersed in the hippie culture: young people who were angry, rebellious, dropping out of the established system, and turned on to drugs. Not seeing the power of God lived out in real life, this new generation of youth quickly abandoned the traditional forms of church and turned to hedonism and Eastern religions. Churches were rapidly shrinking in attendance and viewed as irrelevant. But many believers began praying for God to recapture the lost hearts of these youth. And once again, God would step in to revive a generation...
It began in 1967 with a handful of youth on the West Coast who were burnt out on the hippie lifestyle and who had recently put their faith in Christ. They met frequently in a Christian coffeehouse in San Francisco called The Living Room, where they would hang out, listen to music, and have piercingly honest conversations about Jesus. Communal living was a key value of the hippie culture, and these young disciples were drawn to living more like the early church. So the House of Acts was formed to provide a vehicle to care for them and to foster fellowship and real-life discipleship. Later, God utilized leaders like Chuck Smith and Lonnie Frisbee to reach out to the hippies and help them grow in the Lord.
These early hippie converts were called Jesus People, or even ridiculed as Jesus Freaks, because of their radical love for and identification with Him. Most of them wore that badge proudly. And amazingly, through this coffeehouse and many other ministries later set up across the nation, hundreds and even thousands of hippies gave up their drugs and sexual immorality and occult practices. They turned to and embraced Jesus as their Savior. It was a return to a simple life that was all about Jesus. Their joy was tangible, exuberantly expressed in loving Him, drinking in His Word, and sharing Him with everyone they could find.
By the early 1970’s, the moving of the Holy Spirit, coupled with the passion and resolve of the Jesus Freaks, would capture the imaginations of young people across the nation. This new unadulterated spirituality permeated their music and movies and culture and all kinds of churches. One of the movement’s slogans was “One Way!”, accompanied by a handsign of an index finger pointing upwards, declaring that Jesus alone was the way to Heaven.
The believers wanted, most of all, an authentic relationship with Jesus. They stayed anchored in the Word of God, while also trusting in the Holy Spirit to walk out their faith without compromise. Many colleges nationwide witnessed a marked surge of Christian zeal on their campuses. The students displayed a deep hunger for more of God and an unflinching commitment to Christ. One musician of this era, Keith Green, epitomized this “sold out” mentality, producing songs that resonated with the heart-searching and compelling message of a prophet.
In 1972, more than 80,000 students gathered at the Cotton Bowl stadium in Dallas, Texas, for Explo ’72. It is considered by many as the most visible public event of the Jesus Movement. At one point, they doused the arena in darkness before a candle was passed around that ignited candles all throughout the stadium to bathe the vast sea of darkness in cascading light. Thousands rededicated their lives to God, committed themselves to full-time service, and caught a vision that their life truly mattered to their Creator. God had sparked a revolution to revive this generation!
QUESTIONS TO DISCUSS:
1. Certainly the 1960‘s were marked by historic turbulence in the United States. What are some of the signs of turbulence and widespread darkness that have taken hold of our society today? Where does the message of the Jesus’ death on a cross fit into today’s struggles?
2. The hippies were a group that was often ignored and rejected by the mainline churches in the 1960’s, yet God used the hippies to stir up a pure passion and love for Jesus across the nation. What “rejected” groups today have the potential for God to use in unexpected and powerful ways?
3. If the slogan of that Jesus generation was “One Way!”, what do you imagine might be the slogan for thenew generation that God uses to bring revival in our city?