'Jesus Revolution' – a worldwide movement

The impact of the Bible’s message on a generation

Film review of Jesus Revolution, released in Australian cinemas on 20 April 2023 – 4 out of 5 stars

Outside of Christian circles, Greg Laurie may not be a household name. Still, his impact has been significant in Southern California and the United States over the years. As a prolific author, one of his best sellers has been his autobiographical story of the Jesus Revolution in the late 1960s and how he was swept up in this revival. This movement reached worldwide and was immortalised on Time magazine’s cover, while the seeds this movement planted are still impacting churches today.

During this time in history, protests against the Vietnam War were in full swing, the civil rights movement was churning America’s culture wars and the hippie movement was impacting the youth of a generation. Chuck Smith (Kelsey Grammer) was serving a small church in Southern California and was trying to figure out this generational shift that his daughter, Janette (Ally Ioannides), was drawn to as the traditional church members feared this free-living community. One day, she brings hippie hitchhiker, Lonnie Frisbee (Jonathan Roumie) to the Smith house to have him share with her father how they share the ministry of Jesus with this generation searching for truth.

As these divergent men of God developed a friendship and did all they could to reach the hippie community, Greg Laurie (Joel Courtney) was one of the youths seeking something more. He was motivated to meet a young woman named Cathe (Anna Grace Barlow), but eventually found himself swept up by the movement around him. All three men were in different seasons of their life and spiritual journey. They could not have anticipated how their work would go on to spur a significant change in society. Each had to adapt quickly to the fame, spiritual transformation and expectations of the followers attending church gatherings in droves.

For those who have studied modern church history, Calvary Chapel and the names of these church leaders would be well-known. Yet, the rest of the world’s population may not realise their impact on the Christian church, music and modern evangelistic efforts.

Jesus Revolution gives audiences a glimpse into a portion of history that may have been buried under all of the events of modern society.

This is where Jon Erwin and his brother Andrew have excelled in the past, as they tell historical accounts that are accessible to mainstream audiences as well as Christians. In partnership with Brent McCorkle for direction, they manage to cut a fine line within this genre to share society’s realities while conveying the gospel’s influence on a generation. Albeit, they may not take things far enough for modern audiences who desire all of the harsh details of the drug culture to be included [although the film is rated M for mature themes and drug references]. Still, the production team does stay true to the essential effects of this tragic way of life and how the offerings of the Bible provide a fulfilling alternative.

The performances of Kelsey Grammer, Jonathan Roumie and Joel Courtney complemented the storyline. They helped maintain the historical significance of this movement. Erwin and McCorkle capitalised on the talent they have in front of the camera and managed to lift the quality of films being offered within the genre. Primarily, they do not hide the flaws of those involved in the movie and show how everything does not go according to plan. It may not contain all of the foul language and sexual promiscuity associated with this time in history, but that does not diminish the significance of this story or the value of the film.

Jesus Revolution gives audiences a glimpse into a portion of history that may have been buried under all of the events of modern society. Regardless of your faith position, it offers an entertaining history lesson that shows how significant faith, the Bible and God can be in people’s lives then and now.

Reel Dialogue: Faith may look different, but it can say the same thing

The beauty of a film like Jesus Revolution is it shows how one message can be wrapped in different packages. Understandably, Christianity can be seen to be exclusive and closed to many in society; the reality is that the message of the Bible is one that is offered to all.

Humanity looks on the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart.

One interesting aspect of humanity is how we tend to judge things as we ‘see’ them. Yet, most of us would be willing to embrace the concept of ‘not judging a book by its cover.’ The church is no different; we are not meant to judge others by their outward appearances. Still, we can fall back into this habit if not reminded that God sees not as we see: humanity looks on the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart (paraphrase of 1 Samuel 16:7).

There are so many lessons to learn from this movie, but an excellent place for us to start is to see how the message of the Bible is for everyone. All are welcome to come, regardless of how you dress or look, or if you feel unworthy. The message of Jesus can transform your life. Have you ever considered how it can improve your life today?

“For this is how God loved the world: He gave his one and only Son, so that everyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. God sent his Son into the world not to judge the world, but to save the world through him.” (John 3:16-17 NLT)

Russ Matthews works for City Bible Forum as the Product Manager for The Edge and Reel Dialogue. He has a passion for film and getting conversations started on themes from these visual creations. This review first appeared on Third Space and is republished with permission.