Pastor Greg Laurie on Why There’s Hope for Another Great Revival
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The Jesus Movement of the 1960s and early 1970s was the largest public movement of the Holy Spirit in the United States since the celebrated revivals of the 19th Century.
Sadly, the nation seems to be falling back into 1960s mode as civil, racial, and political unrest is bubbling up more than ever. But as we have seen through many generations before us, history often repeats itself.
Like their long-haired hippie counterparts of the 1960s, Millennials say they want something that is different from previous generations. They are looking for a deeper sense of authenticity and a religious fervency that has less to do with church but everything to due with a one on one relationship with Jesus Christ.*
I recently spoke with well-known evangelist Greg Laurie, who has written a new book called Jesus Revolution. He believes strongly that God can once again bring powerful revival to His church and it very well could be Millennials leading the effort.
For those who don’t know, could you share a little historical background on the Jesus Revolution of the late 1960s into the early 1970s that was essentially a revival among young people of that era?
Basically what happened, it was just a very dark time culturally with all the psychedelic and Day-Glo colors of the mid-60s turned to gray when everything just went off the rails – Martin Luther King was assassinated, Robert F. Kennedy, who was running for president was assassinated, this on the heels of President Kennedy being assassinated a few years earlier, young men were coming home from Vietnam in body bags, there were riots in the street, the whole drug experimentation was turning into drug addictions, and pretty much everyone was seeing the underbelly, the dark side of all of this experimentation. So, it was a very dark time in American history. God intervened and it was sort of like little brush fires starting in different parts of the country and even the world. Young people just started coming to Christ. And because hippie culture was popular a lot of them had long hair but not all of them. The interesting thing about the Jesus Movement was that it was largely a youth revival. I think that is one of the distinctives about it. It was primarily a youth revival. People of all ages came to faith.
For you, what was the catalyst for writing Jesus Revolution? Is this a nostalgia book or is it a call to action book?
That’s a great question. For those who were there, there will be some nostalgic moments. But I didn’t write it for someone my age. I wrote it really to a Millennial. I wrote it to a young person to say this is what happened in the last great American revival and this can happen in your generation. Let’s pray that it does. So, it’s almost as though I was sitting down with a cup of coffee across from somebody and just saying here’s what God did. It is a call to action because I think there is a place for praying for revival. I think there is a place for calling in God to send this to us. But I think there are practical steps we can take as well. We just did a baptism down at Pirates Cove Beach here in Newport Beach, California. That’s the site of the great baptisms of the Jesus Movement in the early 1970s. It just occurred to me, well, if you want to see revival do revival type things. In other words, lets just go out and do some of the things we used to do. And we used to do mass baptisms. So, we baptized 550 people. While I was there a young man came up to me. His name was Isaiah. His hair was long and parted in the middle. He kind of looked like a kid of my generation. He was holding a copy of this book. He said, ‘I just read this book. It has changed my life and I am reading it for the second time. This book is telling me how to do this for my generation.’ And I thought, I couldn’t have said it any better myself. That’s exactly why I wrote it. Here is someone young saying this can happen for his generation as well.
You write about how some of the “church people” of the 1960s didn’t want barefoot, wild-haired hippies in their worship services. Do Christians do the same thing today?
Of course it is and it probably always will be happening. It happened to Jesus. When He began His ministry He went against the religious status quo. And what is sometimes alive in the beginning can turn to status quo before you know it. And the very thing that should be helping people come to God can ultimately keep people from God. Here is what it came down to. For the churches that open their doors to the Jesus People, they experienced revival. For the churches that did not open their doors they did not. So it is really a choice. Do you want revival in your church? It’s not always tidy. Sometimes it’s messy. Some pretty unsavory characters might come walking in but you can see God at work. And today, it’s not hippies. We have hippies today – kids that grow their hair out long – but it’s not like the hippie culture back then. Now, there are so many expressions in design and hair but I think it would just be letting people into your church that may not seem to fit into the culture you already have. They might have tattoos. They might be pierced. They might be living an alternate lifestyle. But whatever they are … everybody needs Jesus. The church should be a hospital for sinners not a museum for saints. We need to always have our doors open to those who are searching for God.
A very large part of the Jesus Revolution era was the music. Many people fondly remember the music of Larry Norman, Phil Keaggy, Keith Green, and the 2nd Chapter of Acts. Fast forward to today, in this generation we are seeing a whole rebirth or a musical culture of sorts with praise and worship bands like Hillsong, Jesus Culture, and Elevation Worship just to name a few. How did music influence the Jesus Revolution and how does it influence people of faith today?
That’s a great question. I would say the founding father of contemporary Christian music hands down was Larry Norman. Larry was very innovative and creative. When I first became a Christian I pretty much thought that I had to give up all my music. I was a huge music fan. I figured I would just listen to dopey Christian songs now I suppose. But that’s ok. I will give it all up to follow Jesus! Then I found a record called “Upon This Rock” by Larry Norman. I put it on the turntable, I listened to it, and I thought this is actually good music. And even better, it’s music about my faith. I loved that. Contemporary Christian music as we know it was really born then (during the Jesus Movement) because at that point Christian music was either hymns or sort of what I would describe as camp songs -- sing along music that were sort of like folk songs. And then some new choruses were being sung. That was a whole new way to worship God that had not been around before. And it has since spread across the church like wildfire. Fast-forward to the modern culture, there are amazing songs being written. I think some of the best of all time, of my lifetime. And we have seen many of those songs in the Church. So, now let me say something. I acknowledge it. I complement it and I love it. But just let me throw a little caveat in there. Hopefully, you will put in those nice things I just said so people won’t think I am being negative. Because I am not negative. But here is my challenge to musicians today. I think it’s wonderful that we want to use our music to honor and glorify God. That’s really why He gave us music. But having said that, when the music started during the Jesus Movement I don’t think any of the musicians were saying, ‘Let’s start a new kind of music.’ Oh, like we have rock music. We have classical music. We have country music. Now, lets have Christian music. It was more the idea of lets take our message and use music as a way to convey it. So, a lot of music of the late 1960s and early 1970s was message oriented. They were talking about the culture of the day. I would challenge and encourage Christian musicians today who are so talented to write more songs that speak to the culture about our faith. In other words, songs that talk to people about their need for Jesus and how Jesus loves them. He is the answer. He is what they are searching for. We have so many songs from the Church for the Church but I would like to see more songs from the Church for the people who don’t know the Lord yet, inviting them to Christ. That was a distinctive of the early Christian music that I don’t know is as much of a distinctive today.
Culture has changed greatly since the Jesus Revolution. However, in so many ways it is very similar to today. Civil, racial, and political unrest seem to be taking center stage again. Can the same spiritual fervor of the Jesus Revolution of the late 1960 and early 1970s take over the nation again today?
Oh, I think that it absolutely can. People will always want to say it will never happen again. And then it happens again. You need to look at this in regard to evangelists. When D.L. Moody ended his great preaching ministry people said we would never see anyone like him again. Then, along came Billy Sunday. And then when Billy Sunday ended his ministry people said that was the end of that. And then along came Billy Graham. I don’t claim to be a successor to any of those people but we are doing large-scale evangelistic events. We just had over 100,000 people over three nights at Angels Stadium here in California. We had 10,000 make a profession of their faith. So, my point is, the days of saying crusade evangelism is over are not over. We should never say it could not happen again. Of course it could happen again. I think it must happen again. And we should pray that it does happen again. God wants to pour His spirit out. God wants to save people. Scripture says that God believes that no one should perish but that all should come to repentance. This is God’s heart – to reach this culture and this generation. There are differences between the late 1960s and today, but there also many similarities as you pointed out. We have upheaval in our culture. We have riots in our streets. And there is a desperation. In many ways, we are reaping the consequences of a lot of bad decisions we made in the late 1960s today. The redefinition of the family in the late 1960s has become the breakdown of the family today in 2018. The drug experimentation of the late 1960s has become the opioid epidemic of today. Now it is on a grander scale. It serves as a reminder that we need God. And I think that if we call out to the Lord and ask for a spiritual awakening we can see one. I once asked Chuck Smith, who is often called the father of the Jesus Movement, if he thought we would ever see another one. His answer was, ‘I don’t know if we are desperate enough.’ So, I think we need to get desperate in prayer and ask God to send it again. Then, it’s a matter of going out and doing revival-like things.
* Courtesy of Baker Books
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