History of the Jesus
Bethel Tabernacle | Arthur Blessitt | Christian World Liberation Front | Chuck Smith/Calvary Chapel
The Children of God | Explo '72 | Lonnie Frisbee | Gospel Outreach Lighthouse Ranch
House of Acts Community | David Hoyt | Jesus People Army | Glenn Kaiser | Greg Laurie | Hal Lindsey
Lighthouse Ranch | Love Inn | Mario Murillo | Milwaukee Jesus People | Larry Norman | Duane Pederson
Kent Philpott | Edward E. Plowman | David Rose | Martin Meyer 'Moishe' Rosen | Salt Company Coffeehouse
Shiloh Youth Revival Centers Organization | Toronto Catacombs | Victor Paul Wierwille
By most accounts, the Jesus People Movement began in 1967 with
the opening of a small storefront evangelical mission called the
Living Room in San Francisco's Haight Ashbury district. Though
other missionary type organizations had preceded them in the
area, this was the first one run solely by street Christians.
Another development was Jesus Music, the controversial
combination of rock music and the gospel as one of the most
effective (and subsequently lasting) institutions of the
revival. Artists and groups such as
Agape, and the
Freak Band are just a few of the performers that felt the need
to communicate spiritual truths through a popular medium.
Christian coffeehouses and Jesus rock festivals emerged as the
music gained momentum as a popular alternative to the mainstream
industry. Contemporary Christian radio shows sprang up as did
magazines devoted solely to monitoring the fledgling Jesus Music
scene. While many conservative church-goers lamented that Jesus
Music was a spiritual compromise, these pioneers maintained that
they were combating the negative influence of mainstream rock
music. In an attempt to develop an apologetic for their
evangelistic efforts they echoed the sentiments of reformer
Martin Luther when he asked "why should the devil have all the
Two men walking up a hill
and one's left standing still
I wish we'd all been ready
The revival also spawned a number of extremist groups such as the Children of God, The Alamo Foundation, and the Way International. Although at first accepted and welcomed as more militant and committed street Christian groups, as apologetic ministries such as the CWLF's Spiritual Counterfeits Project rose to expose doctrinal deviations, these groups were branded as heretical.
Though the revival had progressed for four years, the mainstream
media did not really focus on the story until 1971. Though
Christianity Today and Christian Life had followed the story
from its beginnings in the Haight Ashbury, it wasn't until 1970
when articles about 'street Christians' and 'Jesus freaks'
appeared in Time and Commonweal. The major breakthrough came in
February 1971 when Look magazine printed a story that anyone had
described it as anything more than a local California event.
This article spawned a virtual cottage industry of press
articles, denominational ruminations, television exposes, and
films all detailing various facets of what was now being called
a "movement." Ocean baptismal services, exuberant prayer
meetings, long-haired evangelists, and Jesus rock musicians were
portrayed throughout national magazines like Time, Newsweek,
Life, Rolling Stone, and U.S. News & World Report. In 1971 the
Jesus People were the religious event of the year while ranking
third in Time's story of the year poll. Alongside the emergence
of Black Panthers, hippies, Yippies, Diggers, student activists,
Weathermen, and women's liberationists, the 'Jesus freak' was
certainly the most curious social phenomena of the late 1960's
and early 1970's.
With Watergate and President Nixon's promises to end the war in
Vietnam dominating the front pages, the counterculture receded
thus removing the mission field that the revival had targeted.
Where previous efforts of evangelism had been as simple as
playing a guitar on a street corner for a group of spiritually
interested hippies, the cynicism born of societal fears towards
"cults" and their "brainwashing" techniques made evangelism a
less fruitful endeavor than it once had been. As the
counterculture came to an end, Jesus People groups either
disbanded, institutionalized as churches, or stubbornly clung to
their countercultural roots. Though the Jesus People Movement
had effectively ended by the mid-1970s, there were still a host
of churches, parachurch organizations, apologetics ministries,
converts, Jesus musicians, independent evangelists, and
missionary workers that had been funneled into Protestant and
Catholic denominations of all theological skews.
People and faces of the Jesus Movement
Arthur Blessitt and His Place - The minister of the Sunset Strip and founder of the His Place nightclub, the psychedelic evangelist came to prominence in the late 1960s after preaching at a local strip club. Blessitt was responsible for Christianizing some of the counterculture's sayings, including "turn on to Jesus," and comparing salvation to an "eternal rush." The local businessmen were successful in getting His place shut down in the summer of 1969 but Arthur chained himself the 12 foot cross in front of the building and fasted for 28 days,--- until they got another building just down the Strip that was kept open for two more years. It was open even as Arthur carried the cross across America and felt called of God to go overseas in the summer of 1971. He has continued to do so until the present.
Lonnie Frisbee - After a short stint with the original street Christian community in San Francisco, Lonnie was recruited by Chuck Smith, then pastor of a fledgling congregation in Costa Mesa, California, to be one of his evangelical liaisons to the counterculture. Frisbee was successful in drawing many to come to Calvary Chapel. During his tenure (1968-1971) as unofficial youth pastor, the church grew from 200 to several thousand members. He was also involved in the Shepherding movement before coming into contact with John Wimber in 1980 where he was integral to the development of the "signs and wonders" theology. In 1993 Frisbee passed away resulting from AIDS. At his funeral he was best eulogized as a Samson figure.
One of the most popular Jesus music performers, his 1969 release
Upon This Rock contributed some of the most lasting anthems of
the Jesus People Movement. Songs like "I Wish We'd All Been
Ready," with its theme of expectation for the second coming, and
"Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music," with its
apologetic for using rock music as a tool of evangelism, did
much to bolster Norman as the premier Jesus rock performer of
the revival. His trilogy of albums (Only Visiting This Planet,
So Long Ago the Garden, and In Another Land, were extremely
influential. Though controversy has continued to follow him,
Norman has continued to tour and perform his songs throughout
and The Children of God
- After taking over responsibility of a Huntington Beach
coffeehouse ministry, formerly operated by David Wilkerson's
Teen Challenge Organization, evangelist David Berg and his
musically-inclined family by 1968 had recruited a modest number
of hippie followers. Berg's message centered on compelling
listeners to make a radical break with society (the "systemites")
by making an "one-hundred percent commitment" to his "Teens for
Christ" ministry. Recruits were assured that by this action they
would be joining the one true remnant of Christian faith in the
last days before the return of Christ.
Scott Ross and Love Inn - Seeing the powerful but destructive force rock music could generate from his vantage as a former celebrity disc-jockey, Scott Ross desired to impact teenagers by combining the attractive elements of rock music with positive spiritual messages. In 1968 Ross approached CBN owner Pat Robertson with his vision from which the first Christian rock radio program, Tell It Like It Is, was born. In 1969 Ross opened a community called Love Inn in Freeville, New York where they established a Jesus paper (Free Love) and a record label (New Song) around the talents of guitarist Phil Keaggy. By 1979 Ross left the community to become more involved in the Discipleship movement. By the mid-1980s he returned to CBN where he continues to work.
Smith and Calvary Chapel
- Frustrated by church growth contests and recruitment
techniques, in 1965 Smith took over as pastor of a tiny
congregation in Costa Mesa, California. While watching hippies
gather at Huntington Beach he and his wife were moved to find
some way to reach these lost youth with the gospel. In 1968
Smith recruited Lonnie Frisbee and John Higgins to start a drug
rehabilitation and commune called The House of Miracles. Smith's
openness to the hippie culture sparked thousands of hippies to
come to the church where he functioned as their father figure.
Heavily influenced by premillennial interpretation of the Bible,
Smith has become one of the leading figures of prophecy books
and end-times publications selling thousands of copies of his
various texts. Under his leadership, Calvary Chapel has spawned
hundreds of similar churches and is cited as one of this half
century's church growth phenomenons.
Outreach Lighthouse Ranch, Table Bluff Road in Loleta, CA -
Dubbed the Lighthouse Ranch,
by 1972 the group had grown to almost 300 active members. Under Durkin's oversight the group
began to send out church planting teams all over the world
eventually calling their growing organization Gospel Outreach.
Throughout the 1970s and 80s, Gospel Outreach continued
to send out missionary teams including successful campaigns in
Mendocino (California), Germany, Nicaragua, and Hawaii. With 100
affiliated churches worldwide the Gospel Outreach network is one
of three denominational legacies of the Jesus People Movement.
Greg Laurie - In 1970 Greg Laurie was profoundly influenced by an encounter with hippie evangelist Lonnie Frisbee who was preaching on the lawn of Laurie's Newport Harbor High School. After this experience, Laurie was invited back to Calvary Chapel where in 1972 he was offered oversight over a congregation that had been nurtured by Frisbee at All Saints Episcopal Church in Riverside, California. Under Laurie's leadership the Harvest Christian Fellowship has blossomed into one of the flagships of the Calvary Chapel denomination. In 1990 Smith took his protege and began billing Laurie as the featured speaker for what has become the annual Harvest Crusade meetings. He is noted by some as being the "evangelist of the MTV generation."
Duane Pederson and the Hollywood Free Paper - Originally a ventriloquist from Minnesota, Pederson moved to California and founded what became the most widely distributed underground Jesus newspaper of the movement called the Hollywood Free Paper. Used as a tool of evangelistic communication the paper's editors boasted that their largest circulated copy had a printing of 500,000 copies. Pederson wrote a number of books in the early 1970s while serving as pastor of a California congregation. In the mid-1980s he tried unsuccessfully to resurrect the Hollywood Free Paper and eventually followed former Jesus People associate Jack Sparks into the Eastern Orthodox Church.
In 1970 Lindsey left Campus Crusade to begin the Jesus Christ
Light and Power Company, a youth oriented ministry on the Los
Angeles campus of the University of California (UCLA). Previous
to this he had begun to compile a number of eschatologically
based sermons publishing them under the title The Late Great
Planet Earth later that year. The book became an overnight best
seller hitting on a raw nerve of excitement concerning the close
proximation of the second coming of Christ. With one eye on the
Bible and one towards the daily news, Lindsey's book enchanted
Christians into a wave of expectational end-times frenzy.
Launched by the success of his first book, Lindsey was
commissioned to begin writing others. In 1972 he published Satan
Is Alive and Well on Planet Earth, a book based on the theme of
worldwide satanic conspiracies. Lindsey has continued to be one
of the leading experts of Biblical prophecy traveling throughout
the world and continuing to be a popular conference speaker.
as the "Spiritual Woodstock" or "Godstock," the Campus Crusade
sponsored event featured a number of evangelical leaders and
Jesus Music performers in a week long campaign (May 12-17).
Featured artists were Love Song, Larry Norman, Randy Matthews,
Children of the Day, Johnny Cash, and Kris Kristofferson. The
week was closed with a sermon by Billy Graham who had recently
penned a book affirming his allegiance with "The Jesus
- As a young pastor and student at Golden Gate Baptist Seminary
in 1967, Philpott felt compelled to begin evangelizing in the
Haight Ashbury after hearing Scott McKenzie's song "San
Francisco." Along with his wife he opened a number of communal
houses and was a member of a Baptist organization called
Evangelical Concerns which funded some of the street Christian
activities in the area. Philpott is presently a pastor in the
San Francisco Bay area.
A charismatic healing evangelist who briefly embraced the Jesus
People as they became front page news. Kuhlman befriended a
number of converted hippies from Calvary Chapel and was
convinced to do a number of her "I Believe in Miracles"
television shows with them as the main guests.
Was a young hippie blues guitarist in Milwaukee when he made
contact and subsequently joined a community of Jesus People
while they were holding revival meetings in the early 1970s. Was
the focal musician in one of the community's two rock bands
(named Charity) which eventually was renamed Resurrection Band.
After two custom cassette projects the band released their first
album entitled Awaiting Your Reply in 1978. Beyond his duties as
lead guitarist, songwriter, and vocalist for the band, Kaiser
has been an uncompromising voice within the CCM industry and
larger evangelical movement. Still serves as a pastor to the
Jesus People USA community in downtown Chicago, Illinois where
the Jesus People Movement continues.