Thinking Out Loud

February 28, 2022

You Say You Want a Revolution

Review: The Jesus Revolution: How God Transformed an Unlikely Generation and How He Can Do It Again Today by Greg Laurie and Ellen Vaughn (Baker Books, 2018)

You know you’re getting older when the people, places and events which were part of your spiritual formation become the object of historical retrospectives. Having watched The Jesus Music movie before Christmas, and then recently completed Jesus and John Wayne, it seemed fitting that the next book in my stack was The Jesus Revolution which actually isn’t a new book, but was released four years ago before inspiring a curriculum study exactly one year ago. I guess it completed a trilogy of reminiscence.

I spent a few blocks of time in southern California between 1979 and 1988 and was privileged to have access to some of the major creators of what, by that time, was becoming less known as Jesus Music and more known as Contemporary Christian Music or CCM. (I was once interviewed for the job of Assistant Editor for the magazine of the same name. When you’re from Canada in the early 1980s, you should never agree to a lunch interview in a Mexican restaurant.)

This book is really three things. First it’s the story of what was going on the world, especially the United States, in the 1960s and ’70s. There is much detail provided, and at times I wondered how much was truly necessary to the two other elements of the book named below, but for those who didn’t live it, it does provide a broad picture of the cultural and political climate that shaped teens and twenty-somethings growing up in those years.

Second, and more importantly, it’s the story of The Jesus People, albeit the American, Southern California version as similar cultural forces were transpiring in the UK as well as other parts of the U.S. Orange County, California was indeed the epicenter; ground zero of a movement that the author places in a line of revivals in American church history going back to the 1800s,

Finally, it is the story of Greg Laurie, the evangelist and founder of Harvest Church in Riverside, California, which begat the Harvest Crusades. With two authors carrying this story, I wondered if it would work, but the two voices speaking this story seem to weave in and out seamlessly. If the book’s subtitle implies that God used “an unlikely generation,” then certainly he used “an unlikely candidate” to reach a literally untold number of people with a straight forward evangelistic challenge.

The story is set in the past, but with the perspective of today’s developments and hindsight. The current spiritual and cultural climate break in to the story at odd times to wake the reader to the impact today of what happened then. To that end, the book is somewhat didactic when appropriate such as in this instance toward the end of the book,

God grants revival. He grants it to those who are humble enough to know they need it, those who have a certain desperate hunger for Him. Only out of self-despair — a helpless understanding of the reality of sin and one’s absolute inability to cure it — does anyone ever turn wholeheartedly to God. That desperation is sometimes hard to come by in American, because it is the opposite of self-sufficiency. In the U.S., many of live under the illusion that our needs are already met, that maybe God is an add-on to our already comfortable existence… People don’t seek God when they are comfortable. (pp 232-3)

I love that analysis and the observation that those long-haired hippies were desperate for God. This is key to the book’s short epilogue, which questions as to whether we will see a youth movement like the Jesus Revolution again.

One can surely hope.


Harvest Church continues to this day and is in no way related to Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago.

 

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