The Jesus Movement

The Jesus Movement

The Jesus movement was an Evangelical Christian movement beginning on the West Coast of the United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s and spreading primarily throughout North America, Europe, and Central America, before subsiding by the late 1980s. Members of the movement were called Jesus people, or Jesus freaks.

Its predecessor, the Charismatic Movement, had already been in full swing for about a decade. It involved mainline Protestants and Roman Catholics who testified to supernatural experiences similar to those recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, especially speaking in tongues. Both of these movements were calling the church back to a closer Biblical picture of Christianity in which the gifts of the Spirit would be restored to the Church.

The Jesus movement left a legacy of various denominations and other Christian organizations, and influenced both the development of the contemporary Christian right and the Christian left. Jesus music, which grew out of the movement helped influence and create various musical subgenres under the late 20th and early 21st century contemporary Christian music such as Jesus Culture and Hillsong in America and the UK.This also led to new instruments such as the guitar and drums to be included throughout churches all over the world in addition to the traditional pianos and organs.

Music in other parts of the world were also greatly influenced by the Jesus Movement, such as Central America and the UK. In Central America, Pentecostal churches under the Charismatic Movement began to compose spiritual music called “coros” which is normally accompanied by dancing in the Spirit.

The Jesus movement was restorationist in theology, seeking to return to the original life of the early Christians. As a result, Jesus people often viewed churches, especially those in the United States, as apostate, and took a decidedly countercultural political stance in general. The theology of the Jesus movement also called for a return to simple living and asceticism in some cases. The Jesus people had a strong belief in miracles, signs and wonders, faith, healing, prayer, The Bible, and powerful works of the Holy Spirit. For example, a revival at Asbury College in 1970 grabbed the attention of the mainstream news media and became known nationwide.

The movement tended towards strong evangelism and millennialism. Some of the most read books by those within the movement included Ron Sider’s Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger and Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth.

Perhaps the most illustrative aspect of the Jesus movement was its communal aspect. Many Jesus People lived in communes. Though there were some groups, such as the Calvary Chapel movement, which did not live in communes, these remained more on the fringes of the Jesus movement.

Within the commune, the group became more important than the individual and communal sharing of possessions was the norm. One example would be Graham Pulkingham’s community described in his book They Left Their Nets. Some of the communes became highly authoritarian.