There’s a new Christian film that’s been making waves of late – Jesus Revolution – and I got to watch it this week.
Directed by Jon Erwin and Brent McCorkle, Jesus Revolution (like the book the movie is based on) tells the stories of Americans Pastor Chuck Smith, evangelist Lonnie Frisbee and Pastor Greg Laurie, all of whom took part in the Jesus Movement of the 1960s.
In the movie, the hippies are presented as a new generation of youngsters who, in a period of great uncertainty and turmoil (the backdrop of the era is the Vietnam War), chase after notions like free love and follow movements that promise peace.
At the heart of it, the hippies, having been profoundly unsettled by the chaos of the world, were on a deep spiritual search for purpose and meaning.
Yet, adults everywhere (including church leaders like Pastor Chuck) judged them for what they appeared to be – rebellious, substance-abusing, and immoral.
So, Jesus Revolution tells the story of how the greatest spiritual awakening in American history began when a pastor took the first step of welcoming hippies to church.
Young and desperate
Lonnie Frisbee was a youth who aimed to share the Good News with whoever wanted to hear it.
As a hippie himself, he was not oblivious to the negative perspective that the world had of them.
Lonnie urges Pastor Chuck to “Look with love [and] see a bunch of kids who are searching for all the right things, just in all the wrong places.”
Young people are taking drugs, Lonnie explains, because they are involved in a quest for purpose.
Drugs were used for a spiritual experience, to detach themselves from a world that was raging with hatred and war.
“There is an entire generation now searching for God,” Lonnie tells Pastor Chuck. “We thought acid was going to save the world. That was a lie.”
At the end of the day, amidst of chaos and lies, the youth wanted purpose and truth. In Lonnie’s words, they were like “sheep without a Shepherd”.
They wanted freedom from things that they had wrongfully made their god – they just didn’t know that true freedom only comes from Jesus Christ.
As I watched the movie and reflected on this exchange between Lonnie and Pastor Chuck, I was reminded of my own generation’s desperation for something to fill their spiritual hunger.
As someone from Gen Z, I can tell you that many in my generation are pretty into crystals.
Young people who prize crystals do so, not so much for beauty, but because they hold to the false belief that these crystals would bring benefits like healing or financial success.
Another thing many Gen Zs are into? Manifestation.
That’s believing in the “power” of the universe to give them what they want.
At its heart, manifestation resembles religion without the altruism and is actually not too different from other philosophies of the world older generations have already encountered such as the power of positive thinking.
In my view, both of these trends gained traction shortly after the COVID-19 lockdown took place, which sent many spiralling into loneliness and depressive thoughts.
It is only natural that those who were unsettled like this, would turn to such things so as to “ground” themselves.
Trends like crystals and manifestation give us a glimpse of what my generation is looking for.
Ultimately, we want the same thing the youth in Jesus Revolution wanted back in the 1960s: peace, joy and love.
Many of us are just looking for them in all the wrong places.
“Every generation goes through this search for identity and meaning and purpose, and it usually is the youth—they’re looking for identity, they’re trying to figure out who they are in relation to the world and the people around them. But it’s not limited to them. Anybody who feels like they’re missing something, they’re trying to fill a void with everything other than a relationship with God—whether it’s money, sex, drugs, celebrity. Whatever it is, the things that are trying to replace God need to be replaced with God.”
What happened at Asbury may not be as prevalent today as the Jesus Movement was, but it should show us that young people today are as desperate as ever for God.
The Church, a family for young people
After receiving complaints about the hippies’ bare feet that dirtied the carpet of the church, Pastor Chuck took on the posture of a servant, individually washing each youth’s feet before they stepped into the church.
He then shares to the people, “That’s Christianity, isn’t it? An invitation to the broken.”
Quoting Revelations 22:17, Pastor Chuck then says: “This place… It is yours. If you feel like you’re misunderstood and judged, this is where you belong.
“If you feel ashamed or trapped … you will find forgiveness and freedom right here.”
Young people need family. Greg found a father-like figure in Lonnie, who found him and comforted him when he was at his lowest point on drugs.
He found a partner in Cathe, who encouraged him to turn away from his doubt and fears, and pursue God.
God never meant for people to journey through life alone. We were made to be in a community (Ecclesiastes 4:12), to spur one another on in our walks (Hebrews 10:24).
So, in most cases, young people first access God’s love through the Church (1 John 4:12). The Church must be the family for the youth of every generation.
Young people may bring along novel ideas and unfamiliar ways of doing things that may even seem immature and a handful, but we should never despise young hearts that burn for God.
In the movie, I was heartened to see the older members of the church eventually warming to the hippies who were coming into the church.
For instance, the older believers learnt to embrace a new, more upbeat form of worship than they were used to, which was dubbed “Jesus music”.
Fun fact: this actually played a big role in inspiring contemporary Christian music.
At the end of the day, young people are looking for authentic relationships and a community that they can call a family.
The language they understand will hence be one of love, one that mimics the Father’s own (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).
It’s a cliche, but they really don’t care how much we know – until they know how much we care.
One key takeaway I had from the movie, is the danger in thinking that young people don’t care about God.
We might be surprised at how many of them are unknowingly seeking reasons to live.
Amidst the academic grind and hustle, many will grapple with questions like, “what am I even doing this for?”
Instead of judging youth harshly, and being put off by the unfamiliar, we should look closely – and with love.
When we do so, we’ll see that they are often just sheep without a Shepherd. We all are at same point.
Young people are looking for all the right things. Love, truth, peace and purpose – but they’re looking in the wrong places.
Let us be the ones to usher the next generation towards the right direction in their search for truth.
- Have you watched Jesus Revolution? What are your thoughts about the movie?
- What was one thing about the movie that stirred, challenged or inspired you?
- How about the article?
- What is one practical thing you can do to be a loving and guiding force for the youth around you today?