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large jesus revolution movie poster 2023Jesus Revolution
Starring: Joel Courtney, Jonathan Roumie, Kimberly Williams-Paisley, Kelsey Grammer
Directors: Jon Erwin and Brent McCorkle
Production Company: Kingdom Story Company

One way. Jesus Freaks. Jesus People. Cross and the Switchblade. Jesus Revolution.

Do these words and phrases bring back memories of the late sixties and early seventies? They do to me. Those days seem like centuries ago.

Those phrases and so much more came flooding back into my mind as I attended a recent screening of the new motion picture, Jesus Revolution. I had a slight inkling of what the movie was about (the beginning and growth of the Calvary Chapel network of churches that was started by the late Pastor Chuck Smith). It was that and so much more.

When I mentioned on social media that I was attending the movie, the reaction was mixed. Most wanted to know how it was. Some (publicly or privately) let their displeasure of the subject matter be known (mainly, their opinion that Chuck Smith was a fraud). I suppose they expected me to get up and walk out of the theater based on their opinion.

Once again, I disappointed some of my fellow humans. I stayed and I’m glad that I did.

I attended the movie alone with about twenty strangers in the theater. I wanted to see the movie because I’m quite familiar with the Calvary Chapel movement. However, my prime motivations were, a) it was Saturday night, I was alone and bored; and b) I thought there was going to be a lot more about the birthing of Contemporary Christian Music than it actually showed.

In a nutshell, Jesus Revolution is an excellent “warts and all” (as far as I could tell) depiction of the beginning of a very simple religious movement headed by flawed human beings.

Imagine that for just a moment: A faith for the flawed, headed by the flawed, beckoning more of the flawed.

See, Virginia, back before big box churches dotted the fruited plain; before scandals with names like Bakker and Swaggart attached to them; before sexual abuse allegations and convictions against the biggest denominations in the world; before what now presents itself as a sick representation of “church,” there was a very simple movement that looked past looks, flaws, race, wealth (or lack of it), and even the music one preferred – and just wanted to love God, serve Him as best as they could, and allow that faith to change lives.

I’m getting ahead of myself.

The movie is great, and all the above-named actors/actresses (and others) did an amazing job portraying the real-life people in the film. Obviously, the movie couldn’t go too terribly in depth, but it got what it covered well.

What I was quite surprised to see is that the movie refreshingly portrayed the rise – and clash – of personalities and egos among the characters. Yet, the movement continued to grow.

Who woulda thunk it: God using the flawed . . . well, you know what I’m thinking.

Yes, the movie is great and, if you’re a person of faith – especially if you were around back then – then I think this movie is must-see.

For me, the movie brought tears to my eyes – not because of the acting, etc. But because of the beautiful reminder of a simple faith. No pretense. No anything. Just God, His love, and His people genuinely showing it to one another.

No. Seriously. They really did it. They exhibited what is referenced in the Scriptures (“By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another.” – John 13:35).

The tears were also because, as a horribly flawed believer – one who was raised as a fourth-generation member of “the church” – I saw just how far off base the majority of churchdom – “Church, Inc.”, if you will – has strayed from what the Scriptures originally spawned.

I don’t attend a Calvary Chapel or any of its off shoots. In fact, I don’t attend church any longer (my mom and ancestors must be spinning in their graves). That’s in spite of the fact that I attended two Bible colleges/universities with two degrees (I use one as a whisk broom and the other as a dustpan).

As my former pastor, Gerald Johnson, often said from the pulpit, “The world is sighing, crying, and dying for a people who live as a reflection of God’s love.”

I hope that many people of churchdom see this movie. I hope they’re saddened to see what is no longer happening in the church world. I hope they see that it is truly possible to set aside politics and other divisive topics and just allow the love of God to flow in and through them.

Until that happens, the “church” will continue to be a sad caricature of what was once actually happening just a few decades ago.