Jesus Revolution, Starring Kelsey Grammer and Jonathan Roumie, Hits Theaters Feb. 24

Jesus Revolution is based on the true story of how Greg Laurie, pastor and evangelist, became a Christian and began his ministry.

By Nancy Flory Published on January 30, 2023

“Our country’s in a really dark time,” said Brent McCorkle, co-director of the new Erwin Brothers film called Jesus Revolution. “We’re in a real divided time. We’re in a time of extreme hatred and judgment and cancel culture and all this bad stuff. And so we’re seeing another pattern similar to the ’60s, where everybody’s really discouraged and depressed and questioning even the direction of the world, also the direction of our country.”

So what did McCorkle do? He and the Erwin Brothers (Woodlawn, I Can Only Imagine) made Jesus Revolution, the true story of pastor and evangelist Greg Laurie. The film is set in the late ’60s to early ’70s — a time of unrest in America, but also the time when Laurie made a decision for Christ and began his ministry, helping to spark the Jesus Movement. 

“Our hope is that we can point back to a time where you did see people come together and you saw hope and love and inclusion and compassion and empathy rise up. And it really did make a big difference in the time.”

A Place of Love

The revival in the ’70s ignited when a hyper-conservative pastor [Chuck Smith, played by Kelsey Grammer] opened his church to hippies. He “opened up his door to something he completely didn’t understand, but he did it anyway out of love and had peril of even losing his own job and losing his house. He had a lot of struggles with his board of deacons, the church leadership. He had a lot of struggles and fights with them over it. … But he really stood up and advocated for not only hippies coming to church, but for a place of love for everyone.”

The film also stars Joel Courtney (Greg Laurie) and The Chosen actor Jonathan Roumie (Lonnie Frisbee). 

Not All Roses

It was important to tell the darker parts of Laurie’s story — the drinking and drug use prior to his becoming a Christian — but it was equally important to show how Chuck Smith and Lonnie Frisbee also had histories that weren’t all roses.

There were a lot of conversations about that. Not just in Greg’s life, but I think in Chuck’s life and Lonnie’s life, too. So, I think we show that Chuck is probably working a little to much, trying to control things. We definitely see Lonnie has some ego issues and some pride issues. … Lonnie definitely came from a very heavy drug use background and the free love scene in … San Francisco. And so, my larger theme was love, acceptance and belonging for everyone. You know, that there’s room in the Christian faith, for everyone to be loved.

He continued: 

I think we had a high value target to bring some brutal honesty and vulnerability to these characters and really show how it happened. But also show how this movement occurred in spite of all of these moral failings or proclivities towards things that maybe aren’t God honoring always in these guys’ lives. But everybody fits in that category.

God Uses Broken People

For Jon Erwin — co-director of the not yet rated film — the theme was about how God uses broken people. McCorkle explained: “If you’re trying to fix yourself or be perfect, or pretend like you’re perfect because you’re not, like that’s a form of darkness and blindness, you know? … Like we had the first Christians to hit the deck. Here were Puritans and Quakers, and unfortunately, their idea of Christianity was that you really did need to have kind of a perfect façade to show everyone that you were going to heaven. So you carried yourself perfectly. You had no vice. You quoted Scripture all the time. And I think it’s still, I think there’s still vestiges of that in our culture — and it’s not biblical.”

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McCorkle pointed out that the heroes of the Bible were “messed up.” As Kelsey Grammer’s character, Smith, says in the movie, “Fortunately for us, God has a wonderful history of using flawed people.” As filmmakers, that’s important. “Jon and I have no interest in Christian propaganda and, not throwing anyone under the bus, but I generally don’t care for Christian films where everything gets tied up with a bow and everybody’s happy and the woman who’s infertile is pregnant at the end. … Life’s not like that.”

A Message for Everyone

The film’s message is geared toward everyone. “I think it has a lot of very, very important things to say to the church right now. … it shows for a brief moment what a Jesus culture could look like. Unfortunately, I think we find ourselves in a time where like the loudest Christian voices aren’t really on this wavelength of this frequency that was occurring in 1970.” He hopes people in the church watch the movie and want to get back to a revival like what was seen in the Jesus Movement.

But Jesus Revolution has a lot to say to unbelievers, too. “I hope they can see that there is a … place and a time, maybe again in the future or maybe now, where they could find themselves invited into a church and feel welcomed and accepted and loved. … To me, you know, again, our mandate is to love. And if the church at large puts love forward, puts love at the front, then I think a lot of beautiful things can happen.”

“This movie has so much heart, like, you will laugh your head off. I promise you it’s going to be a hundred times funnier than you think it is. But it also brings a pain sometimes, like, there’s some hard moments. There’s hard hitting emotional moments, but in the end, the light overtakes everything. And it’s gonna warm your heart.”

Jesus Revolution will release to theaters everywhere February 24 with a pre-release date of February 22. Parents may wish to view before their kids as drinking and drug use is shown.



Nancy Flory, Ph.D., is a senior editor at The Stream. You can follow her @NancyFlory3, and follow The Stream @Streamdotorg.

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