February 3, 2023 : By Jacob Couch - Office of Communications & Public Engagement
Liberty University’s Friday morning Convocation featured producers Jon Erwin and Kevin Downes as well as actor Jonathan Roumie of the new film “The Jesus Revolution,” set to release in theaters Feb. 24.
The film takes place in the 1970s when Greg Laurie (Joel Courtney) is searching for the right things in the wrong places until he meets Lonnie Frisbee (Roumie), a charismatic hippie street preacher. Together with Pastor Chuck Smith (Kelsey Grammer), they open the doors of Smith’s struggling church to an unexpected revival of radical and newfound love. Based on a true story, the film shows what TIME Magazine dubbed a “Jesus Revolution,” which was an evangelical Christian revival that began on the West Coast in the 1960s and 70s.
On Thursday evening, the three guests made an appearance at Thomas Road Baptist Church for an early showing of the movie.
Erwin and Downes visited Convocation in 2015 to talk about their film “Woodlawn,” and Erwin also visited for Convocations in 2018 and 2020 to talk about his films “I Can Only Imagine” and “I Still Believe,” respectively, with his brother and fellow producer, Andrew.
Campus Pastor Jonathan Falwell led Friday morning’s panel discussion that centered around the film and Roumie’s career.
Erwin explained that the desire to create this film began seven years ago when he purchased a copy of a June 1971 issue of TIME Magazine that featured artwork of Jesus on the cover and read “The Jesus Revolution.” Inside the magazine was a 10-page article about the movement. This began a conversation between Erwin and Downes about creating a film on this event in history.
“I studied it for years,” Erwin said. “We were just dreaming of being able to make this movie. It’s a miracle that Lionsgate let us make it.”
He said he is hopeful to see a resurgence of this type of movement in the world today.
“I just feel in my soul that God’s going to do this again, and he’s going to do it in your time and in your generation,” Erwin told the students. “I just think God’s going to show up in a big way.”
Downes reminded listeners that this event is not fiction but was an actual time in history.
“Our calling is to make true stories that showcase the power of the Gospel,” he said. “(This) movie is showcasing the power of the Gospel through real-world events.”
Falwell then asked Roumie about his career in the film industry that has included acting on TV’s “NCIS” and “Law in Order” as well as Disney projects and as Jesus in various small films before starring in “The Chosen” and “The Jesus Revolution.”
“This has been God’s commissioning on my own life to serve Him using the gifts and talents He’s given me and, whenever possible, to start bringing (biblical) values back into the culture; which often today have been drained out of the culture,” he said. “To change the culture by impacting it has now become part of my holistic mission as a human being on this planet who just happens to be an actor playing Jesus and Lonnie Frisbee.”
Roumie recognizes that his dedication to making a change in a dark culture may cause friction with Hollywood. He shared how he was nervous to write his speech for last month’s March for Life in Washington, D.C., where he was asked to address up to 100,000 marchers at the Life rally on the National Mall.
“(When I) surrendered my will to God’s will, the speech just poured out of me,” he said.
Roumie understands that his outspoken defense for life and his steadfast resolution to be a difference maker in society may cause him to one day be blacklisted by Hollywood.
“I don’t care what they think,” he said. “To be concerned or to have fear of what men think means that I entrust my destiny to the hands of men, and I do not. I entrust it to the hands of God.”
Roumie hopes that “The Jesus Revolution” will help encourage young people to rise up in their faith and be bold despite the cultural norms that combat Christianity.
“My hope is that they feel the same Spirit of God that we did making the movie and that they feel convicted to bring Jesus back into the culture in a big way,” he said in an interview after Convocation.
Roumie said that before he heard about Erwin and Downes’ desire to make the film, he himself had not heard about the Jesus Movement.
“It was an eye-opener for me and a real testament to the power of the Holy Spirit working on a huge scale collectively in our country.”
Throughout his couple of days on Liberty Mountain, Roumie said he has enjoyed meeting the student body.
“They’re on fire,” he said. “They are super stoked and excited to have us here, and I just feel so welcomed.”