By Dan Wooding | Founder of ASSIST Ministries
Jesus has never stopped moving!!! The Jesus Movement is still happening today. Every time someone’s life is revolutionized by surrendering completely to Jesus, the Jesus Movement has a fresh start in their heart. Keep the Jesus Movement alive by sharing God’s love and the message of the gospel with someone who needs Jesus… Holland Davis
SANTA ANA, CA (ANS) — Chuck Smith, the father of the Jesus Movement, a revival born out of the late 1960s counterculture that stands as a watershed of evangelical history, has told the extraordinary story of what took place under his ministry that brought a generation of hippies to Christ. In an interview for my Front Page Radio program broadcast on KWVE 107.9 in Southern California, he re-lived those dramatic days which he said began with a plea from his wife, Kay.
“Actually it is true the thought I had concerning hippies at that time was, ‘Why don’t you get a bath, get a job and get a life,” he began. “But she [Kay] was totally fascinated by them and one day she told me, ‘You know, they are so desperately in need of Jesus.’ One day, she’d observed this pretty young girl who was just high on drugs; so high that she really didn’t know where she was or what she was doing as she attempted to cross the street in heavy traffic. Her heart just went out to this young girl. She said, ‘We’ve got to reach them. They’ve got to know a different life. They’ve got to know Jesus.’
“So she would have me drive her over to Huntington Beach and down to Laguna Beach just to observe these kids. I’d be sitting there watching them staggering down the street and be thinking, ‘What a shame’ and; ‘why don’t you get a job’ and I’d look over and she’d be weeping as she had just such a tremendous burden for them. So it was through her burden that we actually became involved in reaching out to the young people.”
Chuck Smith went on to say that a girl was attending the University of California, Irvine, and she was dating a young man she had met. “He had a really very powerful personal witness for Jesus Christ,” he said. “He’d come over to pick her up and we’d be talking to him. They would then drive down to Laguna Beach and he later told us that they had seen a group of four kids who came walking by who were stoned, so he shared the Gospel with them and they all ended up kneeling there on the sidewalk and accepting the Lord.
“He had these stories almost every day about the way God was using him. So my wife said, ‘John, we want to meet a hippie. You know, a real honest to goodness hippie.’ Kay was curious as to what made them tick and how they had got so far off base. So then John showed us his driver’s license and we were shocked because he was a normal looking young man, but his on his driver’s license he had long hair and we discovered that he had been in the hippie life himself.”
Chuck Smith said that shortly afterwards, John arrived on their doorstep with a genuine long-haired hippie. “He had flowers in his hair and bells on his cuffs and so forth and he looked a lot like some of the pictures of Jesus with a beard and all. He said, ‘Chuck, I want you to meet Lonnie [Frisbie] and he was so engaging and so warm. We found out that what had happened was that John was driving by Orange Coast College and he had a habit of always picking up hippies so he could witness to them. So he saw this hippie hitch hiking and so he stopped to pick him up and so he said to him, ‘Where are you going?’ and the kid said, ‘Well, I’m not going anywhere special. I just hitch hike in order that I can witness to the people that pick me up.’ And John said, ‘Well, that’s why I picked you up so I could witness to you.’ And he said, ‘You’ve gotta come over and meet some people.’ So he brought him over the house and that’s where we got acquainted with the hippie culture.”
At the time Pastor Chuck’s congregation was meeting in a Lutheran church in Newport Beach and said they were planning to move into it full-time when they had built their new church. He said soon a lot of hippies began attending the church. “I do remember the first night they came in.” he said. “It was a Wednesday night and the service had already begun and about twenty of these hippies that Lonnie had brought, came in and some just sat in the aisle while others came down towards the front of the church. I can remember the shocked expression of the people. The interesting thing is that their hearts were so filled with the love of Jesus Christ and everybody just immediately fell in love with them, and it wasn’t really a hard thing to accept them.
We had been teaching the people First John and that the real proof of the Christian life is loving. So the people did love them and embrace them and so it was an exciting experience.” Space soon became a major problem at the church and so he built a church on Sunflower Avenue, Santa Ana, to accommodate 300 people.
““The first Sunday, it was so packed that the kids were sitting on the floor and I thought this was because this was the grand opening and the following week it would be down to the 300 that the building would accommodate,” said Chuck Smith. “But, the following Sunday there was really no room even on the floor, so we went to double services and triple services. Then we doubled the size of the auditorium and we had people sitting in the patio and in two years we had a phenomenal growth and that’s when we knew we had to build again but we didn’t have time to build anything big enough. So we bought the property where we presently are but we put up a tent in order to accommodate the crowd that was coming and so we were two years in the tent while we were building our new sanctuary.”
Chuck Smith recalled that in the early days of the Santa Ana church, not everyone in his congregation approved of the bare-foot hippies. “I came to church on one Sunday morning and I saw a sign on the front that said, ‘No bare feet allowed.’ It was signed by the board. I was fortunate to be there early and I took the sign down and I called a board meeting and I told them, ‘Do you mean to say because we have this beautiful new carpet, we’ve got to say to one kid that he can’t come in because you’ve got bare feet? Let’s rip up the carpet and have concrete floors.’ I also said, ‘If you have to say to them that they can’t come because they have dirty clothes and we don’t want you to soil our upholstered pews, then let’s get benches and let’s never, you know, turn a kid away from the church.’”
The police helicopter and the baptism
Chuck Smith smiled when he recalled a baptism service that brought out a police helicopter. “This was when we were in the little sanctuary on Sunflower and I had a Monday night study with the young people every Monday night,” he said. “We had this girl who was from France. She was a foreign exchange students and she was going back to France. But before she left, she accepted the Lord and expressed a desire to be baptized. So I announced that on that Monday night, after the service, we were going to go down to the Nineteenth Street beach in Newport and have a baptismal service and those who would like to come along could come on down. At the close of the service, there were about 50 people along with the girl from France who wanted to be baptized, and so we drove down there.
“As I was baptizing this girl from France there were all of these hippies that were there on the beach and the neighbors there didn’t know what was going on so I guess they called the police. As I was bringing her out of the water the police helicopter came over and turned their bright spotlight on the whole beach and, of course, to the young people it was just a sign from heaven illuminating the whole beach. It was just one of those wonderful experiences.”
First Sunday in the tent
Chuck Smith then recalled his trepidation about the first Sunday in the tent that was constructed while the present sanctuary for Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa was being built. “Actually, we had a men’s prayer meeting every Saturday night so we were at the little chapel on Sunflower and they were putting up the lights and in the tent and laying out sixteen-hundred chairs,” he said. “So after the prayer meeting, a group of us went over to the tent to see how they were coming along with the preparations because we were due to open the next morning. I was standing on the platform with one of the board members from the prayer meeting. I said as we looked out at this vast sea of chairs, ‘Well Duane, how long do you suppose it will take the Lord to fill this tent?’ And he looked at his watch and he said, ‘I would say in about ten hours you know,’ and I laughed.
“We had decided that we would have double services – one at eight o’clock and the other at ten. By eight o’clock, the tent was so crowded that there was standing room only and I thought that this was going to be just for the first service and the second would surely be empty. So when the second service came around, it was the same story the tent was packed and it standing room only. It was then that we realized that God was doing a miraculous thing here. It was just a beautiful experience.
“We had to redesign the sanctuary three times before we even got to build it but of course it was a lot cheaper to enlarge it on the architect’s drawing board rather than trying to build and then enlarge it. So we again saw God doing just a beautiful work.”
The birth of modern-day worship and praise music
I told Chuck Smith that a lot of people will not realize how what we call modern day worship music came out of those hippie days and I understood that quite a few people who have received the Lord became Christians and then they would come and ask if they could sing their songs and you would have to audition them before the service.
“That’s true,” he said. “Well this began at the Monday night service with the young people and there were many talented young people that were coming in and I remember I was there in the church on a Monday and these fellows came by and introduced themselves. They said that they were musicians they had a rock group and that they’d accepted the Lord a couple of weeks prior on a Monday night study and they said hat the Lord had been giving them some Christian songs and they’d like to share them. And so I asked them if they would ‘play one for me.’ So they went out to their van and got their guitars and all and they came in and they began to play. It was the song ’Welcome Back.’ It was so anointed that I just started weeping and I said, ‘How about sharing tonight. The kids will love it.’ That was Love Song.
“They were so good and so anointed that they inspired other young people to get together and form bands and at one time we had over ten different bands that had formed all doing their own original music. People would come and say, ‘The Lord’s given me a new chorus this afternoon when I was in school and I’d like to share it tonight.’ So we were learning the new worship choruses and it became a whole new style of music that was born there in that move of the Spirit.”
I asked him to name some of the new singers and groups that began in those days. “There was Oden Fong who had been with Timothy Leary down in Laguna Beach and he of course formed a group called Mustard Seed Faith. And then we had Country Faith, Gentle Faith, the Children Of The Day, The Way, and also Isaac Airfreight, who did more of a talking type of thing. There was Karen Lafferty who was a soloist Debby Kerner.”
Catholic priests and nuns would attend the tent services
Besides the hippies, Chuck Smith said he had many Catholic priests and nuns who would attend the services in the tent. “Most of the time, the priests would come in street clothes so that they wouldn’t be identified,” he chuckled. “But yes; they loved the study of the Word of God.”
It wasn’t long before the national media were turning up at the meetings and covering the Jesus Movement. They included Life magazine, Time, Look, Reader’s Digest and a host of national and local newspapers.
He recalled one event where he was planning to have a mass baptism of about 1,000 young people at Pirate’s Cove at Corona de Mar. “I had seen in Time Magazine an article about Black Beach in San Diego and it was about how some 35 hippies down there had taken off their clothes to go swimming in the buff. So I was thinking that I really ought to call the religion editor of Time and let him know that there are hippies that are doing more than stripping nude and swimming in the ocean. There were those that were coming down and being baptized and identified with Christ.
“As I was driving home I was thinking about calling the religion editor so he could write a good follow up on that article and the Lord spoke to my heart and said, ‘Who’s been your public relations agent up till now? I said, ‘Well, You have Lord.’ And He said, ‘Well, aren’t you satisfied I’ve got you in Time Magazine. I’ve got you in Look and Readers Digest. I said, ‘Oh yes Lord. Forgive me for even thinking of trying to promote what you are doing.’ And when I got home there was a man in the living room and he was a writer from Time Magazine and he said, ‘We want to do an article on the Jesus People. Are you going to have a baptism or anything? So the Lord had been ahead of us actually and then Time had quite an article on the Jesus Movement.”
I then asked Chuck Smith if he was astonished with all that had occurred since those hippie days with Calvary Chapels all over the world and hundreds of missionaries serving the Lord in many different lands.
“Totally,” he said. “In fact, it’s still hard to realize the reality of it. ‘We’re sort of like those who are just dreaming as we watch what God has done what God is doing. It doesn’t really sink in completely. You can’t really comprehend it fully. You walk around with constant rejoicing in the Lord and in what He’s done in His goodness.”
I concluded by asking him who were some of the hippies that had found Christ in those early days and now pastor huge churches. “Well of course there was Greg Laurie and he’s got a very large church out in Riverside. There are so many of the pastors like Skip Heitzig in Albuquerque, Bill Gallatin back in New York, David Rosales in Chino, Joe Focht in Philadelphia and Mike MacIntosh in San Diego. Mike was really a tremendous conversion. I never thought Mike would be normal. When he first came his brain had been so fried by drugs that there wasn’t much hope for him. He thought there was a hole in the back of his head and that part of his brains were blown out and he thought you could look in and see his brains from the back, you know. But God healed him completely and of course has used him so mightily.
“There is also Jeff Johnson who pastors the large church in Downey. He was one of the major drug dealers in Downey. When he accepted the Lord he wanted to start teaching the Bible to the guys that he was dealing drugs to and so he started the Calvary chapel there in Downey. So there are just hundreds of them across the country pastoring major churches today who were once a part of that hippie movement.”