The Jesus Movement wants to keep the music playing


IRVINE, Calif. — When rock icon Barry McGuire finished his gig at the Whiskey A Go Go, he walked outside and noticed a man chained to a cross. Though it was 40 years ago, McGuire hasn't forgotten the moment that dramatically impacted his life.

"I looked him in the eyes and said, 'Hey, what's happening?' His eyes poured love into me. His eyes said, 'Are you OK?' I saw concern, compassion for my well-being. I saw no judgment, no condemnation, no self-righteousness in this man. He was just a guy sitting there. His lips spoke one name, 'Jesus.'"

That incident melted McGuire's "armor plating."

"I ran around the corner, but He (Jesus) got me," he said.

In 1971, McGuire asked Christ to be his Savior.

Ron Strand, founder of the Upper Room ministries, which organized a recent Jesus Movement reunion at Concordia University, said McGuire was one of the "first musical legends who came to Christ during the Jesus Movement." Because McGuire was a "noted icon in the folk rock community, for him to become a Christian was a big deal."

Soon after McGuire's protest song "Eve of Destruction" became a hit, the Jesus Movement began to spread from the West Coast across the United States and beyond. Mike MacIntosh, senior pastor of Horizon Christian Fellowship in San Diego, described the '60s culture that led to revival among the hippies:

"We had a national crisis," the pastor said. "Universities were on fire. There was a lot of bad coming down. ... God sovereignly answered the prayers of our parents and grandparents. ... Music was the bridge."

For McGuire becoming a Christian meant leaving Hollywood for good.

"I didn't know what I was supposed to do," he said. "I just knew what I'd been doing wasn't it. We were looking for freedom, so we threw all the rules away."

Consequences brought pain
That same lifestyle McGuire chose to leave led to the death of 16 of his friends through drug overdose, suicide and sexually transmitted diseases. Those tragic events deepened his quest for truth. 

"Freedom is good, but freedom without rules will kill you," McGuire said, comparing life to the vehicle code. "If you throw the rules away, you're going to kill yourself and somebody else. There's a road code for life, and it's basically the 10 commandments. The two greatest commands, to love God and others, sum up all the rest."

This understanding gave McGuire the answer to the "Eve of Destruction," and he began singing about new life. Among his most memorable songs is "Bullfrogs and Butterflies."

For Tom Stipe, the self-described "bushy-haired preacher at the Saturday night Maranatha concerts," the Jesus Movement was all about the music. Now pastor of Crossroads Church of Denver, Stipe explained how "the Baby Boom generation (an estimated 77 million teenagers) was saturated in rock music because our generation invented it. There was this undercurrent philosophy that kind of gave birth to everybody writing their own songs."

A special venue
When Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, under the leadership of Chuck Smith, gave music a special place, more than a dozen bands and soloists found a church home, Stipe said. These pioneers of contemporary Christian music, like Chuck Girard and Love Song, drew crowds so large they packed a circus tent with nearly 3,000 people every Saturday night.

"The influence spread worldwide because there were so many of us."

Girard's contemporary worship style impacted many performers including Karen Lafferty, who said she joined the fellowship of musicians after struggling with an identity crisis. While playing in nightclubs, she couldn't reconcile the bar scene with her Christian faith. A friend introduced her to Campus Crusade resources, and Lafferty said she got "ego off the throne" and decided to live for Jesus.

Bible studies at the Costa Mesa church took place almost every night of the week, said Lafferty, helping her to live by faith even when she couldn't pay her rent.

"You don't run away from God during difficult times, you run to Him," she said.

One night after studying Matthew chapter 6, the passage about how God provides for the lilies of the field and the birds of the air, Lafferty said she went home and began plucking at her guitar. Then she started singing—words "straight out of the King James Bible." Later she realized other Bible verses fit with that tune.

"We wrote a lot of Scripture songs in those days," Lafferty said. "It made the words easy to remember."

Those words penetrated hearts and changed lives.

The August on-stage reminiscing gathering included powerful renditions of some of the original Christian rock songs—songs that exalted God among the nearly 600 attendees. The audience even sang along when seven-time Grammy award-winner Andraé Crouch made a rare appearance with his twin sister, Sandra, and several of their friends.

A song of the times
Transitioning to the future, Strand asked his guests what they see on the horizon. Girard spoke about how evangelism drove the Jesus Movement.

"We were out there every opportunity we had to share our faith, play our music, witness to people, share our stories and a lot of that is really gone. ... (Now) we produce a McDonald's fast-food experience where people can come in and get out real fast to feel that they got fed."

To express his concerns, Girard wrote a new song, "The Heart of America," which is available for download on

McGuire said, "The tragedy is that so few people realize they are forgiven. How are they going to know they are forgiven if all they see is condemnation streaming from Christian eyes and judgment screaming from Christian lips?" To reconnect with those who need to hear the truth about Christ's love, he's taken his show on the road with "Trippin' the 60s" tour. For more information see

MacIntosh issued a challenge by replacing the saying that "what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" with "What happens here tonight should not stay here."

Strand said the Upper Room is doing its part by putting out a DVD of the Jesus Movement reunion.

For more information, or to find out about upcoming events, visit

addthis_pub="christianexaminer"; addthis_logo = ? logos/CElogo_222.jpg ?; addthis_header_color = "#33569b"; addthis_header_background = "#e4e4e5" addthis_brand = "ChristianExaminer"; addthis_options = ?email, favorites, digg, delicious, myspace, google, facebook, reddit, live, more'; addthis_language = "en";