Could we see another Jesus Revolution?
By. Dr. Bob Hunter
The documentary film, Jesus Revolution, is the true story of a revival that bears resemblance to the early days of the Church of the Nazarene. Some parallels exist and they are worth considering as we ponder revival movements like Asbury’s awakening and their impact.
1) God uses unconventional leaders and methods. Bresee was forced out of Methodism after rising to prominence as one of its leaders. He then ministered briefly and unconventionally at Peniel Mission in L.A. After his ouster there, he started the Church of the Nazarene promoting values of simplicity, holiness, and concern for the poor. Instead of an ornate house of worship, Bresee’s outside-of-the-box approach to ministry launched the Glory Barn. The Glory Barn's vision of welcoming those forgotten by conventional religion was a huge success. It was a place the poor felt welcomed and accepted. Nazarene worship in the Glory Barn was lively and boisterous unlike the ritualistic deadness found in Methodist circles. In the Jesus Revolution, pastor Chuck Smith's ministry emerges with a similar vision. He welcomes hippies to his church and allows some to take up residence in his home. He sacrifices convention for the sake of others. As the movement experiences growth, meetings are held outside of the church in tents with baptisms performed at a nearby beach. Much to the dismay of longstanding church members, Smith embraces newer forms of worship including what later became contemporary Christian music. Under Smith’s leadership, Calvary Chapel churches of America came into existence. Pastor Chuck discarded old wineskins for new ones, much like Bresee seven decades earlier. They were both innovators.
2) God stirs people to action in conjunction with the spirit’s movement. Missional objectives accompany great moves of the spirit. Bresee’s revivalistic holiness preaching stressed active evangelism in addition to concern for the poor. The term “Nazarene” was chosen to better identify with Jesus’ mission to preach the gospel to the poor. Bresee envisioned his new church, First Church of the Nazarene, as the epicenter of holiness activity on the West coast and perhaps beyond. Pastor Chuck Smith similarly conceived the spread of the Jesus movement. Under pastor Chuck, converted hippies embraced street evangelism and nightly gatherings were publicized using gospel tracts aimed at reaching the lost. These meetings overflowed into larger venues and spread geographically across the nation. In both cases, leaders emerged on whom God could depend to advance the gospel. They were missional catalysts. In the spirit of evangelism, Church Smith’s mentee, Greg Laurie, formed Harvest Crusades, an effort aimed at reaching the lost through crusade evangelism which continues to this day. Authentic moves of the spirit are verified by missional activity.
3) God uses leaders that overcome opposition and division. Bresee was ousted from the Methodist circuit, but that was not the end of his trials. Controversies followed Bresee to the Peniel Mission where he stood firm against Calvinistic theology. Bresee also weathered storms from within his own congregation at L.A. First Church. His desire to unite like-minded holiness groups prevailed, however. Bresee conceived of a broader movement embracing entire sanctification and holiness which eventually prevailed at Pilot Point, TX in 1908. His vision, despite its many challenges, resulted in the formation of the Church of the Nazarene. Chuck Smith endured his own difficulties. Lonnie Frisbee, a prominent hippie convert working under Smith’s leadership, introduced signs, wonders, visions, and miracles to their meetings. Smith grew uncomfortable with Frisbee’s charismatic activities and asked him to stop ministering that way. The riff resulted in Frisbee’s hardship departure from the fragile movement. Frisbee later helped form the Vineyard Church where those ministry methods were embraced. Upon Frisbee’s departure, Smith turned to Greg Laurie, someone with whom he shared spiritual kinship. Great leaders boldly face opposition and potential division while striving for unity. Both Bresee and Smith achieved the goal of promoting a broader sense of unity in their respective movements despite the challenges they faced.
It should be noted that both movements were instrumental in setting people free from addictive behaviors. The holiness fervor of Bresee’s message resonated with people struggling to overcome problematic alcohol consumption and his church was influential in the temperance movement taking shape in Los Angeles. Chuck Smith’s gospel preaching resonated with hippie culture as they struggled to break free from the use of psychedelic drugs and marijuana. Deliverance from drugs were a testimonial centerpiece of the movement. Abandoning sinful vices such as gambling and illicit substances like alcohol & drugs are reoccurring themes in modern revival movements. Seen as a part of the spirit’s work of regeneration and sanctification, could we again see the spirit move this way? May it be so Lord Jesus! During the recent Asbury awakening, I received firsthand reports of young men surrendering their lives to God out of desperation to find power over the sin of pornography.
In conclusion, no two spiritual movements are alike, but there are parallels and consistent themes that prove helpful to our understanding. We should note the consistencies and strive to align ourselves with how the spirit might once again move. Our prayer, should be “Yes Lord, let it begin with me.”