Greg Laurie and Ellen Vaughn: The 60s and 70s Jesus Movement Then and Now

Hundreds gather to be baptized at Pirates Cove Beach in Newport Beach, California on Sept. 8, 2018. The mass baptism was organized by Greg Laurie’s Harvest Christian Fellowship. | (Photo: Harvest)

It’s 1970.

Google Earth doesn’t yet exist, but imagine that it does. You are in outer space. The earth is a round, blue marble. Then you zoom in on the map of the United States, the West Coast, Southern California. You see the dark blue waters of the Pacific Ocean, and as you get closer, you see the long ribbon of the Pacific Coast Highway, the beach towns south of Los Angeles, the furrows of the waves. You see the slender strip of land called the Balboa Peninsula, and you draw close to Corona del Mar. There is the beach, dotted with fire pits. There is an outcropping of cliffs that form a natural amphitheater near the mouth of the harbor. The rocks look wrinkled at this height. The sun is setting. 

As you get closer, you see that there is a huge crowd massing the area. At first the people look like ants. They’re perched on the rocks, sitting on the sand, standing in the shallows of the rolling water. They have their arms around each other. They seem to be singing. 

Now you are close enough to the beach to hear the music. There are simple choruses and haunting, melodic harmonies. Something about “one in the Spirit, one in the Lord.” The setting looks like a baptismal scene from the New Testament except for the cutoff shorts of slender teenagers, most with long hair parted in the middle; some are shivering, sharing a striped towel. A bearded pastor in a flowing tunic, sopping wet, dunks a young man down in the cold water for a long moment. It’s as if he’s been buried. 

Then the hippie pastor raises the kid up, and the teenager bursts out of the sea, water streaming from his face and hair and shoulders. The first thing he gasps, though, is strange: “I’m alive!” 

The hippies who plunged into the Pacific Ocean during that summer sunset in 1970 didn’t know they were in a revival. They didn’t know even what a revival was. But thanks to the Beatles, Jim Morrison, and other countercultural icons of the day, the hippies did know about words like revolution. It swelled among young people—the baby boomer generation—in the US from the late 1960s into the early 1970s and it was called the Jesus Revolution or Jesus Movement by national magazines which featured stories about this mass spiritual phenomenon, as did newspapers like the New York Times. More people were baptized during the Jesus Revolution than in any time since people started keeping records. The churches that welcomed the hippies grew in grace and vigor; the ones that didn’t miss both the boat and the blessing. 

Today there’s a growing sense that history has run one of its cycles, and we’re back in ’60s mode. Like the hippies, millennials—people born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s—say they are hungry for authenticity, a sense of community, and real care for people who are needy and marginalized. 

Like the hippies, they’re a bit cynical about big business, big institutions, or organized religion. Bombarded by competing content online for most of their lives, they shy away from advertising, causes, or techniques that feel superficially targeted toward them. They gravitate toward “user-generated content” that feels like it came from a real person, not a brand. 

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Source: Christian Post