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Rumours of revival: Might there be another Jesus People Movement in 2020?

The last great American revival took place in the 1960s. It saw 250,000 hippies come to Christ, and spread to many other nations, including Britain. Could it happen again? Jesus People researcher Andrew Whitman investigates

It's coffee time at GodFirst church in Christchurch, Dorset. I’ve engaged 20 year old university student Josh in conversation. When he asks me what I do work-wise, I nonchalantly mention writing about the Jesus People Movement, knowing he would never have heard of it in a million years! Josh’s eyes, however, visibly light up…He is well aware of the Jesus People, and fascinated to hear more about it. 

The Jesus People Movement spanned the years 1967-1974. At least a quarter of a million hippy-types came to faith in Jesus, many subsequently joining Christian communes where they were discipled 24/7. The Jesus Revolution made it onto the front cover of Time magazine in June 1971, and revival contagion spread to other nations, including here in the UK, plus Germany, Scandanavia and Australia. 

Now, some are daring to believe another revival is around the corner. Could it be started by 42-year-old rapper Kanye West? His latest album, Jesus is King, has overtly Christian lyrics. The tangible fruit of Kanye’s apparent conversion is evident in his 'Sunday Service', which involves West and his extended family enjoying home-based church services, streamed live to others. Some think this a possible prelude to widespread revival; others have qualms about it fostering an exclusive club for high-profile people. It's important to remember the Jesus People Movement was a spontaneous grassroots revival and although Bob Dylan converted during this period, celebrity “big names” weren't responsible for kick-starting it. 

The Send

Lou Engle is a well known voice in the new movement of Christians who are longing and praying for another revival. Engle initiated a series of events called 'TheCall' at the turn of the millennium, to "turn America back to God". A dream before the first gathering in September 2000, prompted Engle’s claim, “If TheCall is truly a John-the-Baptist movement, you can bet there’s a Jesus Movement coming.” TheCall was succeeded by The Send in February 2019: “It is a mantle that is a burden for evangelism – for a new era of Jesus the Evangelist – to manifest a new Jesus People movement harvest to take place.” Accordingly, it is hoped Billy Graham’s mantle will fall on a new generation of evangelists, touching stadiums with God’s salvation.

Fast forward to just a year ago, and the first The Send event took place in Orlando. Appearing at this 10-hour event were evangelists Todd White (pictured, above) and Michael Koulianos. The Christian Post described The Send as the “Jesus Movement of this generation”. White was a drug addict and avowed atheist who came to know Jesus in 2005. He claims that The Send’s 60,000 Christians meeting together is “God waking up a sleeping giant”. For him believers should continually recognise Jesus with them everywhere they go. His schools’ work kicked off twelve years ago, gathering about 40 students. Now thousands of spiritually hungry students are gathering. Meanwhile, Koulianos describes The Send as “ultimately a war on inaction…an ascending movement from the presence to the world, unto the glory of Jesus.” Asked about another Great Awakening occurring he responds, “I feel like the Lord is birthing this Jesus movement and a Jesus people on and off the platform, in their homes. It what he burns for.” Like White, for Koulianos revival is an everyday lifestyle reality.

Not all those expecting another Jesus People Movement are explicitly charismatic though. The more cautious Greg Laurie, an evangelist to millions, clearly hopes for a similar movement today. Laurie’s story features in his book Jesus Revolution: How God transformed an Unlikely Generation and How He Can Do It Again Today. It recounts how Lonnie Frisbee came to know Jesus in 1967, later working alongside Chuck Smith at Calvary Chapel. In March 1970 Greg Laurie heard Lonnie preach Jesus at a lunchtime Bible study at Harbor High School. Students were challenged not to sit on the fence, and Greg openly chose to heed that! Decades later, before his mentor Chuck Smith died in 2013, Laurie asked him about another Jesus People Movement: “I don’t know. Back in the 60s, people were desperate…So I guess the question for today is, ‘Are we desperate enough?’”

A Third Great Awakening?

If there is to be another revival, might we assume God will make that clear to multiple leaders, rather than just one church movement or leader? If so, then the sheer variety of ministries who are using the same language of revival is a promising sign.   

James Goll, 67, a prominent prophetic voice in the USA asserted during an interview with Charisma: “It’s time for a New Jesus People Movement to Emerge”. More recently, in his blog entitled '20 prophetic pointers for 2020' Goll claimed: “We will see the beginning of the Third Great Awakening”.

Steve Backlund, is part of the senior team at Bethel Church in Redding, California who is on record as saying: “I am in agreement with the word about another Jesus People Movement.”

Baptist pastor Kent Philpott who helped evangelize hippies in Haight-Ashbury during 1967’s “Summer of Love” is now 78-years-old and is still pastoring Miller Avenue Baptist Church in Mill Valley. Although somewhat ambivalent regarding a potential future revival - his Reformed theology viewing revival as being God-sent and not humanly engineered - he concedes: “Yes, I would love to see this once more in my lifetime.”

Our response

So, what do we do with these rumours of revival? I believe the following pointers are worth bearing in mind:

  • Get a firm handle on God’s mission in the world, and how it might involve you
  • Think more deeply, without being too cerebral, about how we define revival and its marks
  • Be expectant and urgent in praying for such an awakening, while not dispensing with weighing prophecies
  • Foster the yearning for Jesus to be famous across the nations of the world, prior to every knee ultimately bowing to him
  • Realise that successive God-sent revivals are far from bland and monochrome!
  • Be radical enough to consistently flesh out and speak out Jesus in everyday life
  • Have your faith stirred by reading stories of past revivals, including the Jesus People Movement

Andrew Whitman is currently engaged in researching the Jesus People Movement. To contribute your first hand stories please go to jesuspeopleukstudy.wordpress.com/contact

Click here to read Premier Christianity's major feature on the Jesus People Movement

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