"Jesus Revolution" Movie Review by Mason Goodknight
by Bryan Carver
The "Jesus Revolution" is a recently released movie retelling the true story of the "Jesus Movement"
that was birthed out of a little church pastored by Chuck Smith. That little church became Calvary
Chapel and was the beginning of the family of over 1000 Calvary Chapel churches all over the world today.
The movie follows three main storylines: Chuck Smith, Greg Laurie, and Lonnie Frisbee. Each of
these men’s stories is intertwined at the root of this movement. Chuck was a pastor of a local
small congregation with a dutiful loving wife. Their college-age daughter was growing disinterested
in church yet she saw value in the hippies that her dad especially wanted nothing to do with. Chuck
told her if God wants him to minister to hippies, He'll send one to him.
Enter Lonnie Frisbee. Chuck's daughter, Janette, was driving down the road and pulled over to
pick up a walking hippie wearing a cape with something about Jesus painted on the back. So, of course,
she brings Lonnie home.
And the last of the three characters, Greg Laurie, was a high school student living in a trailer
off the beach with his largely disinterested and selfish mother. He was an aspiring artist attending a
strict military academy until he met his soon-to-be hippie girlfriend, Cathe.
Now before I get into my review, I will say up front that I really liked this movie. I was heavily
involved in ministry at a Calvary Chapel church for about fifteen years. I did leave eventually, but I
still cherish much of what God did in me there and the people He blessed me to minister to and with.
Because of this, I was already familiar with much of the history of the movement.
As with all movies, creative license was used, but the heart of the people and much of what was
covered was accurate. More than accurate, I believe the movie itself was well done. That isn't
something that can be said often of Christian movies. There was good acting, great music, and it
was visually appealing. Best of all it was totally family-friendly. There was no foul language, no
nudity, and no brutality. But it did address issues related to sex, drug, and war. I am happy to say
you can go watch this movie and enjoy yourself as a Christian risk-free. I laughed and cried a
lot—happy and sad tears.
Regarding a theological critique, where I have disagreements with the movie is also where I have
disagreements with Calvary Chapel in general. I disagree with using a "Sinner's Prayers" and have
instructed against this at Wellspring. But in this movie it fits and the scene where it is placed
is well done and not forced as some Christian films would force it. I suspect it took place much
as it was portrayed in the movie.
My biggest concern was the forced sensationalism of Lonnie Frisbee with a focus on signs and
wonders. Though some were portrayed as true, the movie also clearly portrayed some as fleshly hype.
I do think it was authentic to history in regard to both the good and bad.
While some of the preaching scenes convey an unlimited atonement gospel presentation (that we
differ with at Wellspring), the gospel messages in the film are rightly focused on Jesus as the only
way of salvation. They included the reality of sin and the need of repentance. Several times the
characters declared “one way” as they pointed to the sky like you see athletes do today.
My favorite takeaway was something sadly most people today will not appreciate, as I hope you
will. The movie accurately portrays that the way Calvary Chapel exploded was through evangelism! We
see Lonnie open-air preaching on a high school grassy lawn and others open-air preaching at the end
of the film! You even see there were a bunch of signs with Jesus and gospel-themed messages being
used! In fact, a big part of the movie shows how they went out evangelizing and passing out tracts.
They show how many of the older tracts were refused and then how Greg uses his artistic talents to
make comic-based ones that hippies and others snatched up. It is made clear that untold thousands of
these were being distributed by all the new converts. I praise God for that positive portrayal of
street evangelism and hope it moves to obedience many complacent evangelicals today.
Due to theological differences, I wouldn't use Greg Laurie’s tracts today, but they did
have the true word of God and they did call for sinners to repent and believe. Oh that the Church would
be sparked to loving obedience with the zeal that some of those hippie kids had!
So, it's not a perfect movie but it's an accurate movie, created primarily by Greg Laurie who lived
it. It isn't a theological blueprint for revival. It has its flaws just like the people and the movement
whose story it tells. Just like us! The Bible is the only flawless blueprint for life and godliness.
Always view any movie or show or revival through the lens of scripture. It's the only way to be discerning
Jesus Revolution is a clean and well-made Christian movie that you and your family will likely enjoy.
May you enjoy it with discernment and rejoice in God's grace to save wretches like hippies, and you and I!
For the glory of Christ,