What I Learned During the Jesus People Movement 

And What We Need To Do Now

Shorter Version Published in Elijah List 9-19-21: https://www.elijahlist.com/words/display_word.html?ID=26135#word-truncate

By Melissa Nordell

The Jesus People Movement was a Holy Spirit inferno that began with a spark in Orange County, California in 1965 and grew exponentially like embers blowing in the wind across America and around the world. It transformed Orange County and as it journeyed afar it rapidly brought 20 million people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ, with converts who were saved in that time still bringing the Good News and discipleship to souls even today.

The Movement caused a dramatic change in Christian music as there was no contemporary Christian music before that time, nor Christian contemporary radio. In churches, guitars and drums, keyboards, bongos and singers began to provide worship instead of just the previous organs and pianos, choirs and hymnals. Jews for Jesus began. Christian television began. We learned that church could meet outside, and baptisms could happen in the ocean.

Barriers were broken down as those who had been previously uninvited began to worship in church in unity. Many new churches and denominations started at this time, and many new missionaries went around the world (including women on their own), fervent to see the lost saved. But what sparked and progressed such a movement of God during a raging political climate like the 60’s and 70’s?

This “Age of Aquarius” was an era of great stress and trepidation, not just an era of fashion and rock bands. There were dire concerns and fears including the Vietnam War and the creeping threat of communism. Every day the nightly news reported the number of casualties that had occurred in the Vietnam war and how many were missing (thousands each day) until people were numb to its reality. The United States was divided even more than it is today with one side for the war and the other against. Youth were being drafted with many defecting to Canada and some claiming exemption as conscientious objectors. Soldiers returned from the war with some suffering from PTSD, some with limbs missing, some burned, some former POWs, and others affected by Agent Orange. And if that was not enough, many soldiers were met with disdain, and some spat upon.

Anti-war protests occurred in nearly every city, mostly in schools and colleges. During the protests, several young people were killed by police in peaceful protests. The war that had started in 1955 ended in 1975 (20 years of combat) with America in disgrace as we watched the Fall of Saigon on our televisions while knowing that the Khmer Rouge and the Viet Cong, backed by China, had been torturing and executing their own people and would continue. Communism won out. Sound familiar?

Due to the Cold War in full force, scheduled air raid sirens went off in American cities as practice for a possible future air attack after World War 2. Our parents who had served in and lived through World War 2 had reason to fear and told us their stories. Not only did we practice dropping under our desks in school monthly as drills for an atomic attack, but we had to watch films regarding terrifying nuclear blasts as well. Many people were in fear, and all wondered whether America would survive.

At this tumultuous time, young people dropped out of society, turned to drugs and rampant sex, believing they could die tomorrow. It was called The Age of Aquarius with slogans such as “Peace and Love” and “Make Love, Not War” prevailing. These youth were not accepted in the mainstream Church which had no relevance for them even though they were searching.

During the 60’s, peaceful racial inequality protests were led by leaders such as Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., while others led violent protests. Bombings, riots, lynching, death and rage occurred during the Civil Rights Movement in America. A few miles north of Orange County, the Watts riots occurred in 1965 with 34 dead. It was in this decade that Rev. King, President John F. Kennedy, and Senator and Candidate for President, Bobby Kennedy were all assassinated, one soon after another. This brought more fear and uncertainty to all.

At that time, many laws were enacted seemingly against God and His followers. Madalyn Murray O’Hair pushed the Supreme Court to rule that mandatory Bible reading would not be allowed in public schools. She founded the American Atheists group in 1963 which filed many other lawsuits against Christianity. Prayer in school was largely banned from all public schools by a series of Supreme Court decisions starting in 1962. The liberal National Organization for Women was founded in 1966 demanding feminist rights including abortion. Roe v. Wade made abortion legal in the U.S. in 1973. Christians were outraged.

People such as Angela Davis were vocal radical activists arguing for the abolishment of prisons and establishment of left-wing feminist rights. Angela joined the communist party, strongly promoting it in the 60’s and 70’s as others did as well. The Beatles were extremely popular and set the tone for secular music, espousing the need for a Maoist revolution. John Lennon wrote “Imagine” in 1971 which urged people to frame a world with “no religion, no more country, no more politics” and “no heaven or hell” which is virtually the Communist Manifesto. Sound familiar in these times we are living in?

On top of all that, fear and tensions in the Middle East erupted with the 6-Day War in 1967 as tens of thousands were killed. It started after the Straits of Tiran were closed by Egypt to Israel’s shipping. Tensions over the West Bank, the Cave of the Patriarchs and the Dome of the Rock continued after the 6-Day War. Then in 1973 the Yom Kippur War occurred with troops, tanks, jet fighters and supplies sent to Egypt and Syria from countries such as Russia, North Korea, Sudan, Libya and Cuba to fight against Israel. Because of the U.S. involvement to aid Israel, the oil embargo began against the U.S. which caused rationing of gas and very long lines at the gas pumps here.

The Watergate scandal from 1972-74 led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon for his involvement in the break-in of the Democratic Committee headquarters for his political gain. This caused a plunge in our faith in government and huge mistrust. After threat of impeachment, the world watched live television as Nixon was the first U.S. President to ever resign. All these occurrences contributed to a time of disagreement, despair, unrest and uncertainty – not much unlike today.

I was brought up in a denominational church about 25 miles north of the start of the Jesus People Movement. The fire that sparked in Costa Mesa brought such enthusiasm to local young people that they eagerly shared their new-found love of knowing Jesus as Savior to everyone around. Our youth group was eager to see what it was all about as the news spread fast. A loving and committed couple at our church decided to take a group of us down to where the movement was birthed, where church was exciting, and many lives were being saved.

There we all caught the fire. We learned that Jesus was real, alive, and that He loves us unsparingly. Church there was tremendous with concerts on the grass outside while some played volleyball and others chatted joyfully about our marvelous Savior, picnicking on blankets. There were beach baptisms in Corona Del Mar, evangelism on the piers, Sunday mornings deep in the Word of God, and wonderful worship that truly exalted God and brought us into His Presence like we never felt before.

The Movement originally began after Kay Smith, wife of Pastor Chuck Smith, while on outings to Laguna Beach, CA, saw youth who had dropped out of society sleeping on the streets and in the canyons, many on drugs especially marijuana and LSD. Her heart was moved with compassion. These youth were called “hippies” and Chuck wanted nothing to do with them – at first. Soon after Kay’s urging and prayers out of love and concern for lost and disenfranchised youth, Chuck agreed to reach out and demonstrate Jesus’ love to them – and that is how the movement began.

May 5, 1973: Hundreds of Calvary Chapel members line Corona del Mar beach for baptism ceremony.

I remember the talk in different churches from varying people across America that the “long hairs” were not invited in their churches. If a male had hair that went slightly over his collar, he was not allowed in the church and was sometimes met with mocking and anger. But Chuck and Kay Smith welcomed all people to know Jesus and His saving love no matter how they dressed or what they looked like, while other leaders were afraid. Through this Movement, the Church was made relevant to all through God’s love…so God blessed it.

“A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another.By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another.” (John 13: 34-35, KJV)

In Chuck’s own words, I heard him say that the Lord told him to “concentrate on Jesus’ love” throughout the life of his church. People tried to get him to emphasize other things, but he was obedient to the instructions from the Lord as long as he lived. Genuine love was the reason for the movement, what attracted people to the Lord, what caused it to spread like wildfire, and why more than 20 million have been saved.

I can still picture today, sitting in a pew one Sunday, a woman directly in front of me with diamonds and gold jewelry, a fancy Sunday hat and expensive suit sitting next to a young man with hair way past his shoulders wearing a shirt with flowers and no shoes; both showing agape love and unity that Jesus told us to have. Some came and sat on the grass, riding their bikes or walking to church, barefoot and listening to the sermon broadcast live outside.

This genuine love spread fast with excited converts being called “Jesus freaks,” Ichthys fish on their vans and surfboards, changing and transforming Orange County. Some street names were changed to Bible names there; Christians named their businesses with Bible names; the Christian Yellow Pages were passed everywhere; non-denominational Christian schools were established; and Christian communes were birthed. It was God’s love and peace that people were looking for and what they needed in those crazy times – and what made the movement spread across the country so fast.

“And Jesus answered him, The first of all the commandments is, Hear, O Israel; The Lord our God is one Lord: And thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind, and with all thy strength: this is the first commandment. And the second is like, namely this, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. There is none other commandment greater than these.” (Mark 12: 29-31 KJV)

In 1969, Hal Lindsey wrote The Late, Great Planet Earth which sold 28 million copies by 1990 and was the best-selling non-fiction book of the entire 1970’s per The New York Times. Hal was not a part of Calvary Chapel and end-times was not talked about much there, but his writing added to the powerful movement. The Body of Christ began to understand end-times theology since the veil was off Christians’ eyes regarding eschatological scriptures. Song writers wrote songs about the end-times, and it was talked about; but love was still the prevailing priority and what brought so many to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.

Of course, it was not about a certain group of churches or denomination after the Jesus People Movement began in the 60’s. The fire raged quickly to many churches and ministries in other areas. Countless ministries sprang up such as Hope Chapel, Harvest Fellowships and Harvest Crusades, Vineyard churches, Christian communes and Christian biker groups. Many future apostolic leaders were born-again in this movement, with some starting their own churches, including Che Ahn, Greg Laurie, Chuck Pierce, Dick Bernal, Robert Heidler, Chuck Missler, and John Wimber as well as many well-known musicians and bands bringing even more people to a saving grace throughout the years.

It is certainly not that we want to go back to those times; however, it is biblical to “re-dig” the old wells and that which made them so successful. We always need to evaluate what was good in a movement and expound on what made the outpouring work.

As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love. If ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father’s commandments, and abide in his love. These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full. This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. Ye are my friends, if ye do whatsoever I command you. These things I command you, that ye love one another.” (John 15: 9-14, 17, KJV)

Jesus tells us that love is an actual commandment and a primary concern on which we should concentrate as believers, not just a suggestion. The Jesus People Movement was the first time that the world began to hear that God is love. We must remember in these times that Jesus continually directs us to act in love – for He is love.

Beloved, let us love one another: for love is of God; and every one that loveth is born of God, and knoweth God. He that loveth not knoweth not God; for God is love. In this was manifested the love of God toward us, because that God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him. Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that he loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. No man hath seen God at any time. If we love one another, God dwelleth in us, and his love is perfected in us. Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit. And we have seen and do testify that the Father sent the Son to be theSaviour of the world. Whosoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwelleth in him, and he in God. And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.” (1 John 4:7-16, KJV)

These are strong words from our Lord that we need to remember. Love changes everything and breaks down barriers. Remember that prophet Bob Jones died and went to heaven, returning with a mandate from the Lord to tell us: “There is only one question the Lord will ask you when you stand before Him in death, ‘Did you learn to love?”’ Have we as the Body of Christ demonstrated that love lately to the world and those who oppose us?

If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.”(1 John 4: 19-21, KJV)

Bob Jones also stated: “All the foundations of God are built on love. If you’ve learned to love, then you have obeyed everything God wants you to do. Love, He is our greatest pleasure. When you are in love with Jesus, He becomes your greatest pleasure.”

In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake. For God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ.” (2 Cor 4:4-6, KJV)

The unregenerate (unsaved) mind cannot possibly comprehend the gospel and cannot understand that certain sins are wrong. How can they when their eyes and minds are blinded? The gospel is veiled to those who are perishing (2 Cor 4:3) but they can see our love. When we love, barriers and walls are broken down and eyes are opened. It never means compromise, but we must show love in any situation. How can they see Jesus in us if we do not let our light shine in the darkness by loving them?  We must look inwardly and be perfectly honest: why would the unsaved want to be a Christ follower right now?

When there is conflict or disagreement, as Greg Laurie says, “The objective is not to win the argument – it’s to win the soul.” The biggest threat shown to the devil is when we love. Love is the best warfare.

“If I speak in the tonguesof men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain nothing.” (1 Cor 13:1-3, NIV)

Prophetically speaking, I can see that the greatest reformation in history, with that billion-soul harvest as many prophets have foretold, will only happen when the Church returns to love as its priority. The First Church in the book of Acts knew and practiced this well in an even worse age of adversity, disagreement and persecution.

The “Bride” should be absolutely infatuated with her “Groom” with contagious love and joy that cascades unabashedly to everyone around. We should be so thoroughly in love with Jesus that nothing steals our joy and smiles are on our faces. We should be so excited about the truth of our soon-coming King that no adversity bothers us. This is what the world is looking for.

Love conquers all fears, depletes all anger, brings hope and mends souls. While the world has lost hope, Christians should be there bringing hope and love. Without love, no one will listen to the gospel. Love conquers the biggest obstacles. There is hope for America and the world. Reformation, Transformation, and the billion-soul harvest will come…. when we love.

1 Cor 13:13 (NIV) says: “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” The GREATEST of these is love.

And the Lord says to His Church: “Have you lost your first love? Do you think that I cannot take care of the present political situation? Am I not bigger than a virus and the surrounding issues concerning that? Can I not change people who sit in office? For My Word says, ‘I remove kings and set up kings.’  Am I not your shield and buckler? Am I not your refuge and fortress? For when you do what I have called you to do, act like I have commanded you to act, in obedience, in love, then I will take care of the rest. Trust in me, act in obedience to Me and act in love. Some of you have not acted in obedience. For how can I bless my Church when it is out of sync with Me? Do not get overburdened by things that can only be changed through prayer and obedience to Me,” says the Lord. “Rejoice in Me. Put the burden on Me and believe. Some of you have not even asked Me for help in that which concerns you. Stop doing things in the flesh for the flesh stinks. Am I not your victor and defender? Yes, you will see justice. I am the one capable of enacting perfect justice, but you must be obedient and show forth My love. Bring it to Me. Have faith in Me.”

“Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works…” Rev 2:3-5a (KJV)

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s