My wife and I took a stroll down memory lane on Saturday evening, headed down the street to the Carmike to watch the movie, “Jesus Revolution.” I would encourage each of you to go see it, though if you didn’t grow up in the 60s as we did, it might not have quite the nostalgic impact it did for us. It was a well-made movie, with good acting. It tells the story of Greg Laurie’s conversion, and also the beginnings of the Jesus Movement of the late 1960s, in which many hippies, who had “turned on, tuned in, and dropped out” but found the promises of the flower child lifestyle failing began to turn to Jesus.
The Jesus Movement was perhaps the most stunning spiritual awakening of the 20th Century, and many of the leaders of the American church in the last 50 years came to Christ during that time. My friend Dr. Paul Smith, a professor at Gateway, told me, when we were serving together for the Pastors Conference in 2017, that the conservative, evangelical churches were guilty of quenching the Holy Spirit by telling those whom God was saving that they were not welcome in our churches. They didn’t dress right. They weren’t clean enough. They didn’t fit in with our culture. God loved them and was saving them by the hundreds and thousands, but far too many churches slammed their doors in their faces. “Take a bath and get a shower and put on some decent clothes,” before you come to our church!
This sad truth was illustrated at Chuck Smith’s church in the movie. Lonnie Frisbee, an early leader among the Jesus People, showed up in his church (and at his home) and shook things up. Chuck was convinced and convicted that this was of God and opened the doors of “Calvary Chapel” to Lonnie and his friends, who came in trickles at first, but later in floods. Many of the members of the church were upset. The bare feet of the hippies were dirtying the carpets! These people God was saving were making the good people of the church who paid the bills uncomfortable and a contingent of leaders demanded that Chuck kick the hippies out.
Revival followed because Chuck Smith obeyed Christ and not the leaders of his church. It was a powerful move of God that changed the lives of thousands upon thousands of truly lost souls. I remember the daughter of a member of our church in Cedar Rapids who’d been lost to the Haight-Ashbury district in San Francisco. Her parents were brokenhearted about her until she showed up one day to share her testimony in our church. This hippie girl had been saved. I remember, though I was only a boy, how she shared that all her life there had been an emptiness in her that she’d sought to fill in so many ways, and finally, Christ had filled that void.
Fair warning, like the Jesus Movement and Calvary Chapels, this movie may give plenty of reason to quibble to those who prize theological precision and correctness. It deals with lost sinners getting saved, and not with systematic theology or hermeneutical concerns. It moved me deeply to watch hundreds of people being baptized in the ocean at Pirates Cove – whether they understood the finer points of theology or not.
How to Quench Revival
There is so much to digest from this movie, but before I make this another one of my book-length missives, I would simply point out two “enemies of revival” that were clearly and effectively identified in the movie, both of which are biblical and which I have seen amply illustrated in my own life and ministry.
Choosing Culture over Christ Quenches Revival
Jesus’ greatest enemy was not evil men, but the religious, those who valued their culture, their power, their status above the things of God. They had a form of godliness but denied the power thereof. The spirit of the Pharisees still lives among us. This is clearly seen when Chuck Smith, after a long struggle, stands before his congregation and says that the doors to the church were open to anyone that God brought to them. “Come unto me, all you who are weary.” He also said that the door was open for anyone who wanted to restrict the church to one type of people – they were free to leave. Several of his key members and leaders got up and walked out. Revival followed.
I fear we are prone to valuing Americanism above Christ, politics above Christ, tribalism above Christ, or our own comfort and pleasure above Christ. Would hippies be any more welcome today in our culturally conservative churches than they were in the churches of the 60s?
We wonder why our churches are failing, why we are losing ground. Could it be that we have put culture, politics, and many other human things ahead of Christ in our churches? Have we made the gospel a side issue to maintaining our lifestyles and our “values?”
I don’t have the answers, but I left the theater with a heavy heart. This is not to condemn, but to ask you the questions I asked myself. Are we the church we were created to be, the church we were called to be? Or have we morphed into something else?
Ego Quenches Revival
Lonnie Frisbee is a tragic figure. He was greatly used by God to establish Calvary Chapel and later, the Vineyard Movement. When he first appears in “Jesus Revolution” he is a humble man who had been radically saved and wants only one thing in life – to tell others the good news. Slowly, he becomes a celebrity among the Jesus People and we see something dark begin to grow in him.
God can use people with faults and failings – he does it throughout Scripture. Almost every great character in the Bible is shown with a significant flaw. It seems though, that God will not use those who are filled with pride. Ego quenchess the work of God’s Spirit in us.
I remember talking to a family member who browsed some Baptist social media. She made this observation. “I cannot believe the arrogance and ego I saw.” I wish I could have argued with her, but too often I’ve sensed the Spirit convicting me of precisely that sin.
As Lonnie Frisbee was lifted up in pride, his life shipwrecked. Others have written about the dark turns in his life that followed, and about his eventual repentance and restoration, but he lived out the truth of the proverb. “Pride goes before destruction and a haughty spirit before a fall.”
The SBC has, during my lifetime, become a celebrity-driven convention, and that is fertile ground for ego. Social media has opened the door for many of us to have a voice, and with that voice often comes a haughty spirit. This ego is no small issue if we wish to be used by God.
We have seen hints of a new movement of God in recent days. May it happen, Lord. Revival is a sovereign work of God but there are two ways that we can quench his Spirit when revival comes. When we prize cultural, human things over the kingdom of God, we quench the Spirit of God. When we allow our egos to get out of control, we quench the Spirit of God.
I have been guilty of both. I pray to be free of ego and to serve the Kingdom – only!