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Series: Characteristics of the Jesus Movement for Today
9. It shook Christianity to its roots (which is the meaning of “radical”).
At the beginning of the 1970s, a small group of musicians shook Christianity to its roots. They burst on the scene seemingly unknown to each other yet all with the same message. The message was about Jesus and how His gospel related to the deep, unresolved needs of their generation for love, meaning, community, peace and justice. These “Jesus Freaks” melded the freedom of the 60s and the Jesus of the Gospels into a new way of looking at Christianity.
It wasn’t long, however, until the people who rallied around their message became embroiled a new cultural Christianity that soon gained cultural significance as a moral and political force in society supporting an issue-oriented message that overshadowed the gospel message that had previously rallied the Jesus Freaks around Christ. What has happened to their voices? Are they forgotten remnants of a long lost spiritual renewal or are they speaking with new relevance as older, wiser pioneers peering into a new frontier?
To our surprise and delight, we have found that all the musicians we have spoken to from that era are still voicing the same message about Jesus — the gospel of His life, death, and resurrection — and His example of caring for the poor, the oppressed, the sick, and those in prison. This is the message they are carrying forward from their early beginnings, and the message we are championing here at the Catch.
Every “reformation” comes as a surprise to the institutionalized church and faces great opposition — that’s the pattern of history as found in the Reformation or the Great Awakening or the Jesus Movement. Understanding the emergence of the Jesus Movement from the counterculture of the 60s and 70s will help us understand the likely emergence of a new Jesus movement from Millennials (possibly even inspired by today’s Boomers).
Herein lies the problem with all the time, effort and money Christians have poured into politics in the last 40 years: it has all gone into trying to create a culture (in some cases, a country) more in keeping with Christian values than it has gone into introducing people to Christ. Christian values are fine, but they won’t get anybody into heaven. What good is a “Christian” nation full of people who don’t know Jesus, or don’t even know what He has done for them?
The Jesus Movement was just that — a movement that was all about Jesus and the good news of the gospel, and today, we need this message more than ever. Let’s join those musicians like Randy Stonehill, Barry McGuire, Paul Clark and Nancy Honeytree, who are singing a new song about an old message — the message of Jesus and His gospel that is as relevant today as it always will be — and let’s link up with Millennials and GenZ who are asking the same questions and finding the same answer the Jesus Freaks found in Jesus.