Jesus Movement

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The Jesus Movement or "Jesus Freaks" was a movement in the late 1960s and 1970s of former hippies, drug addicts, occult and eastern religion practitioners, rock and roll musicians, etc. becoming born-again Christians. The movement stressed personal conversion to Jesus and outreach ministries in places the conventional churches paid little attention to at the time, such as coffee houses in inner cities. One of the important churches of the movement was the Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, California founded by Chuck Smith, which later grew into a major Christian denomination.[1] The new young Christian converts were often disparaged as "Jesus freaks" by non-Christian hippies and supporters of the New Left.

Excerpts from an article in The Endeavour [2] (April 1995):

The appearance of the Jesus People can be traced to California where in 1967 the Living Room coffeehouse was opened as a mission to the Haight-Ashbury district’s inhabitants... Linda Meissner, member of evangelist David Wilkerson's Teen Challenge group in New York City, shared of her vision for an army of believers to the churches in Seattle. The overwhelming response resulted in the Jesus People Army, a networking of coffeehouses and Christian communes all geared towards the common goal of evangelization. Though spontaneously beginning on the West coast, the Jesus Movement, as it was later dubbed, quickly spread to other parts of North America. The biblical book of Acts provided solid proof that Christianity implied community. Thus, over 800 Jesus communal houses were established between 1967 and 1972. The underground paper, a staple of countercultural communication, was utilized as a tool of evangelism. The Hollywood Free Paper and Right On! had publication runs of over 200,000 copies per issue. The innate tension between spirit and tradition added another chapter to its long history.

Christian Rock started in the Jesus Movement in the early 1970s, with Larry Norman and his 1972 album Only Visiting This Planet, often cited as the most influential and important Christian Rock artist of the Jesus Movement era. Cornerstone magazine had its origins in the Jesus Movement. While not part of the Jesus Movement himself, the tracts from Jack Chick became popular outreach tools. Also popular among the Jesus Movement were the book The Late Great Planet Earth by Hal Lindsey; and the 1972 film about the end times and the rapture by Russell S. Doughten, A Thief in the Night, which was followed by three sequels.

While members of the Jesus Movement became, for the most part, conventional conservative Christians in their theology after conversion to Christ, they kept the external trappings of their hippie and counterculture backgrounds, including long hair and rock and roll music. In a few cases some of the early Jesus Movement groups tried living communally, much as some secular hippies had tried. In place of the two-fingered peace sign the Jesus Movement used a raised index finger, signifying "One Way". Two songs very popular within the movement were "I Wish We'd All Been Ready", by Larry Norman about the rapture, and "Pass It On", a hymn sung in many Jesus Movement churches.

The movement was not without its pitfalls. Two of the major evangelists in the movement, Lonnie Frisbee and Mike Warnke, are controversial. Frisbee (abused and sexually molested as a child), fell into homosexuality, and died of AIDS in 1993,[3] while Warnke was charged with (among other things) deception over claims he made regarding him being a former Satanic high priest.[4] [5] made Two well-known cults, the Children of God and The Way International, recruited their members among converts within the Jesus Movement. But most of the Jesus Movement converts held rather conventional Christian beliefs but merely did not feel at home in the conventional churches and identified with a counterculture style.

In 1971, Time magazine overall described the growing Jesus Movement positively, reporting (in part):

There is an uncommon morning freshness to this movement, a buoyant atmosphere of hope and love along with the usual rebel zeal. Some converts seem to enjoy translating their new faith into everyday life, like those who answer the phone with "Jesus loves you" instead of "hello." But their love seems more sincere than a slogan, deeper than the fast-fading sentiments of the flower children; what startles the outsider is the extraordinary sense of joy that they are able to communicate.

If any one mark clearly identifies them it is their total belief in an awesome, supernatural Jesus Christ, not just a marvelous man who lived 2,000 years ago but a living God who is both Saviour and Judge, the ruler of their destinies. Their lives revolve around the necessity for an intense personal relationship with that Jesus, and the belief that such a relationship should condition every human life. They act as if divine intervention guides their every movement and can be counted on to solve every problem.[6][7]

The Jesus Movement ended, as a special phenomenon, by about 1980 as styles such as long hair and Christian rock music became more accepted in the mainstream churches, and the Jesus Movement churches in turn had evolved into something more closely resembling today's megachurches.

See also


  2. Jesus People Caught Many By Surprise - Part I
  6. Religion: The New Rebel Cry: Jesus Is Coming!, Monday, Jun. 21, 1971
  • Baker, Paul. Contemporary Christian Music: Where It Came From, Where It's Going. Crossway Books, 1985.
  • Graham, Billy. The Jesus Generation. World Wide Publications, 1971.
  • One Way, Remembering the Jesus Movement