Can there be a new Jesus Revolution? Can we hope for revival among the millennials and Gen Z, as well as Generation Alpha, which is emerging after them?
IFA contributing writer Keith Guinta has written a compelling article that bridges the Asbury outpouring to the movie The Jesus Revolution. My wife and I went to see the film, hungry for a move of the Spirit in our own day, and eager for any clues about why its release coincided with the Asbury revival.
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For her, this was a nostalgic trip down memory lane, since she had come to Christ during that Jesus People era. For me, it was not, because I came to faith in the mid-1970s, on the other side of the world, where the hippie phenomenon was relatively unknown.
I did not know what to expect from the movie, but I was surprised by what spoke to me and how relevant that is for where we find ourselves today, nearly 50 years later.
What hit me like a ton of bricks and kept me busy praying for days afterward was that first encounter between pastor Chuck Smith (played by Kelsey Grammar) and hippie evangelist Lonnie Frisbee (played by Jonathan Roumie — who is difficult to “unsee” as Jesus in The Chosen!). Pastor Chuck was pastoring a stodgy, aging, and dwindling congregation at that time. He railed against the hippie movement, denouncing their ways and predicting gloom on the future of America. His daughter, dismayed by her father’s judgmental attitude, encountered a hitchhiking Lonnie and brought him home. As they share some refreshments in the kitchen, Lonnie explains to a shocked Chuck and his wife that the generation he is denouncing is hungry for truth and searching for God, though looking for answers in all the wrong places. “The lies they hear speak louder than the truth,” Lonnie says. Then, with unveiled rebuke, he says that they are listening to those lies — mostly through drugs, psychedelic rock, and New Age spirituality — because the Church has closed its doors to them. Deeply convicted, Chuck begins to open his Calvary Chapel to those hippie seekers, and the rest is history.
This part of the movie spoke to me because I am the “pastor Chuck” of not understanding and therefore fearing these emerging generations. I have two millennial daughters, and I, too, have sometimes lamented to my wife that I don’t understand them.
Of course, the truth-and-identity-seeking expressions of their generation and of the younger Generation Z differ from those of the hippie culture of 50 years ago. Both Gen-Z and the millennials are “digital natives” — meaning that they have grown up with technology and the internet. Their sense of identity is, to a large degree, shaped by their online presence and interactions on social media. Many of the younger millennials and the older Gen Z-ers have embraced an array of mental and emotional disorders — and the medications to manage them — as part of their sense of identity. They also harbor a sense of “existential dread,” a hopelessness about the future, which causes them anxiety but also spurs them to social action and climate activism in hopes that they can keep the world from becoming unlivable for them and their children. Both generations have a “you do you” mindset, by which doing the outrageous to express oneself is celebrated as positive and heroic. They veer towards inclusivism, social activism, and politically liberal ideology, and they have embraced piercings, tattoos, bright hair colors, and unconventional clothing as expressions of their individuality. For a good look at both generations, I encourage you to read this in-depth analysis here, from the Pew Research Center.
A Hunger for Christ, a Distrust Toward the Church
Even though these generations look and act very different from the hippie generation, the underlying hunger is the same. And so is their reaction to the Church. I’ve asked several of them why they have so adamantly sworn off what they call “organized religion” and vowed never to darken the door of any church again. The ones I have spoken with, including my two daughters, say they have experienced the Church as a place of harsh judgment, personal rejection, stifling rules, and restrictive codes for dress and conduct. Like Chuck Smith’s daughter, they bear a certain level of resentment towards me because I have pastored such churches and harbored discomfort at “outsiders” who broke the cultural mold of the congregation. Even the seeker-sensitive churches that have dressed up the worship experience with multimedia, catchy music, and fun programs hold little appeal for them.
I asked them what they would want in a church. They told me they want to sit in small circles with people who won’t judge them and to be able to discuss and worship God in a place of emotional safety. I thought of that when I looked up Lonnie Frisbee’s biography and saw that he moved to Florida after a falling out with Chuck Smith. There he joined the budding Shepherding movement pioneered by, among others, Derek Prince. That movement later became controversial, causing men of integrity like Prince to distance themselves from it. Still, in the beginning, it met a desperate need among young people to gather in a place safe from judgment and rejection. Today’s emerging Micro-Church movement is similarly attractive to many because it mirrors the trend among young people to pursue relationship with Christ within smaller settings, away from anything like “organized religion.”
So now, 50 years on, we have come full circle. Emerging generations are turning their back to the Church in growing numbers. Many now define themselves as “nones,” meaning that they have no belief in a spiritual reality or no particular religious affiliation. So they are trying to redefine truth and their identity, just like the hippies. Their reaction against the “establishment” is to buck social norms, embrace gender fluidity, and reject anything that hinders progressive thinking. Wokeism and liberal politics are finding fertile soil in this search for a new, safer reality. But because of the digital age, the plight of these recent generations has become more complicated than that of the hippie movement.
Can there be a new Jesus Revolution? Can we hope for revival among the millennials and Gen Z, as well as Generation Alpha, which is emerging after them? I have struggled to know how to pray for this in precise terms. I think that might be for the same reasons pastor Chuck initially rejected the hippie movement. I am inhibited by FEAR — False Evidence Appearing Real, in this case, the notion that the emerging generations have drifted further away from the Christian faith than even the hippies had. That post-Christian thinking is making them impervious to the gospel.
Two words in the Bible restore my hope and fuel my prayers. They are found in Ephesians 2:4: “But God.” The context of those two words describes the spiritual process that takes place in a revival:
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience — among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind. But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ — by grace you have been saved — and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus (Ephesians 2:1–7).
No Generation Is ‘Too Lost’
Nothing is impossible for God. So, the hippies were not “too lost,” even though many in the Church at that time may have thought so. Likewise, millennials, GenZs, and GenAlphas are not too lost either, even though I may have feared they were. Like Pastor Chuck, I may still not understand them. But I put my faith in God. He does understand them. He loves them more than I can, and He invites them to the cross without judgment. He can reach them, free them from the lies that speak louder than the truth, and become the Source of their healing, peace, joy, purpose, and hope. He can supernaturally break into their culture and thinking without our having to reinvent “church” and compromise worship, teaching, or congregational life just to be relevant. Today’s generations hunger more for a deep spiritual connection to God than for a fun environment in which to practice their faith.
The Asbury outpouring continues to give me hope that the Holy Spirit is moving among us to prepare His Church for a great harvest among the emerging generations. We need His powerful renewing work if we are to return to living lives full of passion for His kingdom of glory, with greater devotion to prayer, the word, and missions, so that we can welcome and disciple the throngs He intends to bring in. Above all, we need a fresh outpouring of His love into our hearts so that we can connect new believers to God and to each other in a safe place without fleshly judgment.
All these things have begun to dominate my daily prayers and given them fresh direction and impetus. I pray that you feel compelled by the Holy Spirit to join me as we entreat Him for another Great Awakening. Here are a few pointers:
- Pray for the Asbury outpouring to spread throughout His Church and to fill us with renewed love and devotion for Him, His kingdom, and His people.
- Pray 1 John 4:18 — that His perfect love, poured out in our hearts, will drive out any fear of generations we don’t understand.
- Pray that we may share His broken heart for the lost (John 3:16) and express that heartbreak in prayerful evangelism.
- Pray Ephesians 4:15–16 — that the Lord, in His multicolored wisdom, would empower us to make church a place of safety, love, and training for Christian life and ministry.
- Pray for a mighty awakening among the emerging generations — that the Holy Spirit will open their hearts and eyes to the truth in Christ Jesus (John 16:8).
- Pray that their search for true identity will lead them to God, Who created the human identity and wants to restore it through a relationship with Him (Psalm 139 and 1 Peter 2:9).
- Pray Ephesians 6:19 — that God will raise up bold evangelists who will speak the truth of the gospel more loudly than the lies our emerging generations are believing.
Father in heaven, You are the Ancient of Days, the God of every generation that has ever lived, the God Who is alive today and Who is still to come. We pray that You will ready us for a great awakening among the emerging generations that need Christ now as desperately as the hippies did 50 years ago. Move among them in power. Open their hearts and eyes to the truth in Christ Jesus and to the true identity that awaits them in a relationship with You. Dispel any fear we carry in our hearts toward a generation whose culture we don’t understand, and replace it with Your perfect love. Lord, You understand and love them. Help us to understand and love them as well, and to persist in prayer until revival comes. In Jesus’ name. Amen.
What are you believing God to do among younger people? Share your thoughts and prayers here.
Remco Brommet is a pastor, spiritual-growth teacher, and prayer leader with over 40 years of experience in Europe, Southeast Asia, Africa, and the U.S. He was born and raised in the Netherlands and pastored his first church in Amsterdam. He moved to the U.S. in 1986. He and his wife, Jennifer, live north of Atlanta. When not writing books, he blogs at www.deeperlifeblog.com and assists his wife as a content developer and prayer coordinator for True Identity Ministries. Jennifer and Remco are passionate about bringing people into a deeper relationship with Christ. Photo Credit: Simon Maage on Unsplash.