The Jesus People movement (1967–1979)

The Jesus People movement of the late 1960s and 1970s was a turbulent and creative time for the U.S. church. In those days, whether you were with the Jesus people or against them, you couldn’t stop hearing about them.

Time magazine and major city newspapers regularly ran feature stories about what Jesus people were doing in California and across the country.

Maybe you’ve heard of the term Jesus freaks? That term was coined in the 1960s and widely used by newspapers in the Berkeley area to describe the burgeoning masses of street Christians and hippie Christians who were evangelizing all over Bay Area sidewalks. Berkeley was no stranger to political demonstrations and antiwar protests, but these Jesus freaks took freakery to a whole new level.

Or how about someone shouting “One way!” and pointing one finger up toward the sky? That’s a holdover from the Jesus people days too.

Maybe you’ve heard the term afterglow? That’s a low-key prayer meeting after a big worship service or evangelism event. It can also mean a testimony-sharing time around a campfire at Bible camp.

These and other catchphrases and slogans have survived in Christianese to this day. So I’ve been reading a variety of books about this time period in order to study what other words and phrases the Jesus people used and what those sayings meant. Here are the books I’ve read so far this year. Most of these books were written by Christians who were also sociologists or journalists and who lived with and interviewed Jesus people in order to get the full story of what they were doing and why.

  • Pederson Duane. Jesus People. 1971.
  • Palms, Roger. The Jesus Kids. 1971.
  • Streiker, Lowell. The Jesus Trip: Advent of the Jesus Freaks. 1971.
  • Blessitt, Arthur. Turned on to Jesus. 1971.
  • Enroth, Ronald and Edward Ericson and C. Breckinridge Peters. The Jesus People: Old-Time Religion in the Age of Aquarius. 1972.
  • Jacob, Micheal. Pop Goes Jesus. 1972
  • Ellwood, Robert. One Way: The Jesus Movement and Its Meaning. 1973.
  • Baker, Paul. Why Should the Devil Have All the Good Music? 1979.

I recommend picking up one or more of these books if you’d like to gain a historical perspective on what the Jesus people believed and how they articulated their beliefs.

  • John the Blabtist

    Here are a few more, all from right around 1972 or so. Almost all of them are available on amazon.com for very little. Good stuff, mostly: great covers and pics in many of ’em. Enjoyed your site. Have a good one :)

    Tell the world;: A Jesus people manual
    Blessitt, Arthur

    Berkeley journal; Jesus and the street people–a firsthand report
    Clay Ford (1972)

    The Jesus revolution (Harrow books)
    McFadden, Michael

    The Jesus Kids and Their Leaders
    Glenn d. Kittler

    Jesus is Alive and Well
    Bob Owen; Duane Pederson

    The reproducers; new life for thousands
    Smith, Chuck

    Jesus people come alive
    Knight, Walker L

    That new-time religion;: The Jesus revival in America
    Jorstad, Erling

    The Jesus People Speak Out!
    Ortega, Ruben

    The far-out saints of the Jesus communes;: A firsthand report and interpretation of the Jesus people movement,
    Ward, Hiley H

    Jesus People Are Coming, The
    King, Pat

    The Jesus Generation
    Graham, Billy

    The Jesus Movement in America
    Plowman, Edward E.

    • timoteostewart

      Thank you! Adding most of these to my reading list now…