The Jesus Revival of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s has been called one of the Ten Greatest Revivals in History. Like all revivals, it began with prayer. For example, go back to 1965.
“We saturated the air with prayers.”
In 1965, Calvary Chapel was a tiny (25 members), struggling, non-denominational church in Costa Mesa, California when Chuck Smith took over as pastor. Pastor Chuck Smith and his wife Kay looked out at a beach covered with hippies, freaks, flower children, “heads,” and trippers “as far as the eye could see.” They saw the “field ready to harvest.” It drove them to pray.
The Lord clearly impressed on our hearts, Reach out in love. Now we knew that love could never be contrived with a group as sensitive and perceptive as that one. So, to quote my wife, we saturated the air with prayers. She organized late-night prayer groups and morning prayer groups. It seemed that Kay and her friends werepraying all the time. Meanwhile, I prayed with the elders and some church members. Before too long, we both felt a quiet change in the air, an excitement just beneath the surface.
God gave Chuck and Kay a passionate willingness to minister to this forgotten segment of the population. He wrote,
Kay and I would often drive to a coffee shop in Huntington Beach and park our car. We would sit and look at those kids and pray for them. Where others seemed to be repulsed by these dirty, long-haired “freaks,” we could only see the great emptiness of their hearts that caused them to turn to drugs for the answers to life we knew only Jesus could supply.
Chuck discovered that the secret to reaching them was very simple - “All we had to do was listen to them and show them a better way.”
Many of the dirty, unconventional young adults had begun to attend his church. Some of the old guard in the church were disturbed and attempted to put up a barrier to keep them out.
“No bare feet allowed”
Later Chuck described a defining movement in the life of his church and the birth of the Jesus Revival.
“The last barrier to go in our church was the “bare feet” barrier… The pivotal incident centered on a wide expanse of brand-new carpet that we had just put in. Those who had been inwardly protesting the hippies finally found a target upon which to vent their discontent. Dirty feet soil carpets, and these carpets cost a lot of money. Besides, who wants to see dirt marks on a brand-new carpet? They took it upon themselves, early one Sunday morning, to hang up a sign reading, “No bare feet allowed.”
Chuck took the sign down and called a special meeting of the board. He wrote,
I spoke from my heart to the board: “If because of dirty jeans we have to say to one young person, ‘I am sorry, you can’t come into church tonight, your jeans are too dirty,’ then I am in favor of getting rid of the upholstered pews. Let’s get benches or steel chairs or something we can wash off. But let’s not ever, ever, close the door to anyone because of dress or the way he looks.”
The Jesus Revival
Once the barriers were removed, Calvary Chapel experienced phenomenal growth. The church was winning more than 200 to Christ each week. In a normal month, about 900 were baptized in the Pacific Ocean, with crowds of over 3,000 spectators. The highly visible occasion was used to preach the gospel and win more to Christ. Eventually, Smith’s congregation grew to fill four separate services each Sunday and became one of the largest churches in the world. Calvary Chapel became the focal point for what God was doing all over North America.
Eventually, the church acquired a Christian communal house where those converted could live and be discipled. No more drugs and free sex: The houses taught them discipline, soul-winning, and ministry. The first hours of every morning were given to Bible study, the afternoons to beach evangelism, and the evenings to rallies and evangelistic Bible studies.
News of the Jesus People Revival broke across the country when full-page photographs appeared in Time, Life, Newsweek, and Look magazine.
Calvary Chapel & Chuck Smith
By 1970, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa had become the premier outpost for the Jesus People revival in Southern California. God was doing God-sized things.
In 1971, Chuck Smith helped found Maranatha Music to provide an outlet for his church musicians. It was one of the first contemporary Christian record companies in the United States and helped fuel the growing phenomenon of “Jesus Music” (later called, Contemporary Christian Music).
Smith’s daily radio program, Walk in the Word, became popular on many Christian radio stations. In 1996, Smith and a protégé, Mike Kestler, founded the Calvary Satellite Network, which broadcasts sermons and Christian music over about 400 low-power and 50 full-power stations in 45 states.
Some of the young men Chuck discipled such as Mike McIntosh, Raul Ries, Greg Laurie, Don McClure, Joe Focht, Skip Heitzig, and others created their own successful Calvary Chapel congregations throughout Southern California and then up and down the Pacific Coast, and finally to New York, Florida, and elsewhere.
Smith oversaw this expansion of Calvary Chapel into a “non-denominational denomination” that wielded a tremendous amount of influence over the model of the emerging “mega-church”. Noted for aggressive outreach, casual dress, practical verse-by-verse Bible teaching and openness to the Holy Spirit, Calvary Chapel churches set the pace for many others hoping to reach the younger generation. By the early 21st-century there were more than 700 Calvary Chapels in the United States, and an estimated following of nearly 300,000.
On Oct. 3, 2013 Chuck Smith passed on to glory. He was 86. He left a legacy of revival.
At Grace City Church, we are praying for another revival in this century, for this generation that will surpass the Jesus Revival. Join us.