When Lionsgate announced last summer that a film about the hippie-led revival of the 60s and 70s would be released on Feb. 24, no one knew that a real-life revival would be sweeping Asbury University and college campus at the exact same time.
Some are calling it divine timing.
Andy Erwin, the producer of that film, Jesus Revolution (PG-13), told Christian Headlines that he got "chills" when he learned of the Asbury revival.
"It's very similar," Erwin said. "... I think the underlying hunger for revival is there [in America]."
Jesus Revolution tells the story of a major revival that also swept college campuses in the early 70s and sparked the ministries of countless individuals, including Greg Laurie, Lonnie Frisbee and Chuck Smith. That revival was such a big deal that it landed on the cover of Time Magazine on June 21, 1971, under the headline, "The Jesus Revolution." The cover artwork included a painting of Jesus. Historians dubbed it the "Jesus Movement."
Jesus Revolution stars Jonathan Roumie (The Chosen) as Frisbee, Kelsey Grammer (Cheers, Frasier) as Smith, Joel Courtney as Laurie, Kimberly Williams-Paisley (Father of the Bride) as Laurie's mother and Anna Grace Barlow as Laurie's girlfriend and future wife Cathe. It was made by the same filmmakers who produced I Can Only Imagine, I Still Believe and American Underdog.
The revival in the film took place in California. Even so, a college-led revival at Asbury University broke out around the same time – in February 1970 – and lasted 144 hours.
Revival "swept the country" in the early 1970s, Erwin said. He sees similarities to 2023. The 60s and 70s were engulfed with social unrest and polarization, similar to today. Young people, Erwin said, were searching for purpose and truth but reaching dead ends until they encountered the gospel.
"These weren't the bad kids," Erwin said. "These were kids that were searching for the right thing. They wanted to belong. They wanted truth, they wanted justice. … But they were sold a bill of goods that LSD was going to be what unlocked their potential. And when the bottom dropped out, it got ugly. And I think in society today, the same kind of generational gap exists. The younger generation that are often portrayed by the church as bad kids, these are kids that are searching for those same things of belonging, of justice, of identity, all those things. They're just looking for things that can't satisfy that. And I think we're primed for another Jesus movement and another Jesus revival."
The film is the most evangelistic movie yet released by Erwin and his team at Kingdom Story Company, he said. Kingdom Story previously released I Can Only Imagine, I Still Believe, Woodlawn and American Underdog.
"I think this one more specifically than anything we have done, is an opportunity for evangelism. It's 'take your lost friends,'" Erwin said.
It's important that Christians support Jesus Revolution if they want to see other films like it in the future, he added.
"By nature of coming out of COVID, studios are making a lot of snap decisions right now on what's viable and what's not," Erwin said. "And so, if this works, there is a massive door for the gospel that could last years. If it doesn't, they probably will begin to say, 'Hey, this audience isn't viable anymore. Let's move on to other kinds of products.' So it's important for people to vote with their ticket and show up. And it's important to take your friends that don't know the Word. … It's a great conversation starter."
Photo courtesy: ©Lionsgate, used with permission.
Video courtesy: ©Lionsgate
Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chronicle, the Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.