Filmmakers explore 'Jesus Movement' through eyes of Calvary founder


COSTA MESA, Calif. — Having missed the action of the Jesus Movement—an anointed era where hippies-turned-Christians changed the culture through the Word and music—filmmakers Jurgen and Stacey Peretzki wanted to capture the real story on film.

The result is "What God Has Wrought," a 105-minute documentary that took home honors in its division at the San Diego Christian Film Festival.

"This is not our era at all, but we thought it was really super interesting to tell," Jurgen said. "It's a story that needed to be told, even for this generation, because it's very inspirational and very motivational for people."

The documentary centers on the musical journey that, decades later, has impacted the worship style of most Christian denominations in the United States.

"We talk a lot about the bands because modern-day contemporary Christian music came out of this," Jurgen said. "A lot of things that people like us, the younger generation, take for granted now all came out of that hippie 'Jesus Movement.' The way people dress in church, contemporary Christian music, the way people worship in church. They didn't have guitars and rock bands back then, and now it's kind of the norm.

"Back then it was revolutionary. That's why I think it's so interesting for the generation now to know where did this all come from and get inspired by it."

The common thread throughout the story is Chuck Smith, founder of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, Costa Mesa, Calif. which helped to birth more than 1,500 churches in the United States and abroad.

"He has so much wisdom," Jurgen said of Smith who is now 85 and still in full-time ministry at his church. "We learn about the whole movement through him telling his life's story. It's pretty comprehensive."

The Peretzkis took three years to produce the documentary, interviewing more than 45 people including Smith and his wife, Kay, Franklin Graham, Tim LaHaye, Raul Ries, Greg Laurie, Brian Broderson, Jeff Johnson, Mike MacIntosh, Don Stewart, Ricky Ryan, Bob Coy, Steve Mays, Skip Heitzig, Joe Focht, Oden Fong and David Rosales.

"Whenever we had time and money do an interview, we would do an interview," Jurgen said.

Nearly three-fourths of the interviews are featured in the documentary, which includes 1960s and '70s B-roll clips of concerts and baptisms in Pirate's Cove.

"Documentaries can be a little boring, but this subject is about as good as it gets when you are talking about Pastor Chuck and how God moved through him and how the Calvary Chapel movement came about," Stacey said. "Not only birthing contemporary Christian music, which is huge, but it also has all these big churches coming out of it. God really used that movement to change the world for Christianity."

Seeing God's hands
The Peretzkis, who have produced numerous other films through their Christian-based Screen Savers Entertainment, said they came up with the idea after contemplating the music history of Calvary Chapel. They approached Smith with the idea, and he encouraged them to run with it.

"We really feel honored to do it," Stacey said. "We are just vessels being used, but we really liked being used for it because it was such a wonderful experience."

Both said they were surprised to discover the breadth and width of the movement beyond the music aspects.

"We didn't know that there was that many churches and that God used that church to spawn so many other great churches," she said.

From the beginning, they said, the project was anointed with all sorts of people coming forward to help.

"We learned to trust in God because He made things very obvious in terms of who to interview," Jurgen said. "He would literally put people in front of us. People we hadn't seen in years, He would put in front of us to interview. We were awed in how God was in it, in so many ways. (It was) like wow, He is really guiding us, hand holding us in so many ways."

Stacey agreed, saying their confidence and faith were strengthened through the process.

"Once you realized that God builds the church or God makes the documentary, then you really … it just builds your faith," she said. "That's what we learned, to be more trusting and listening to Him and seeing how it really can work. And He really can put people in our lives if we are really seeking Him."

That realization, Jurgen said, "takes the pressure off."

God's timing
In keeping with the authenticity of the movement, the documentary records Smith's thoughts on his extended struggle early on in his ministry, when nothing he tried seemed to work.

"It wasn't handed to him on a silver platter," Jurgen said. "He was struggling, so that inspires people not to give up; to do what they feel they are called to do and not give up on their calling because we don't know God's timing. It could happen to anybody. It keeps us on the edge of our seat waiting for God."

By doing so, churches, Jurgen said, need to avoid the temptation to try to replicate Smith's success as the formula for how to do church.

"It's nothing that Chuck did," the filmmaker said. "It's just that God did it all."

Through Smith's teaching and the church's outreach to the hippies and the homeless, the outer trappings of church tradition were challenged.

"It was turned to God's looking at your heart, who you are," Stacey said. "He's not caring how you dress and if you have a drum or a guitar. It's just about the music and the Word to Him."

Jurgen said the couple is hopeful the fruit of the movement will be emboldened by the film.

"It's a great witnessing tool," Jurgen said. "It has a lot of wisdom on life. It's history. We can always learn from history."

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