Photo: Hank Erwin (Facebook)
By Tom Campisi
Hank Erwin, a former television newscaster and State Senator from Alabama, recently travelled to North Jersey to speak about “Jesus Revolution” with the New Canaan Society’s Bergen County Chapter.
Erwin’s sons, Jon and Andy Erwin, are the producers of the popular film, a period piece which documents the Jesus Movement of the late sixties and early seventies; The brothers are the principals of Kingdom Story Company, which has an exclusive partnership with Lionsgate Films. Previously, the Erwin brothers produced acclaimed films such as “I Still Believe,” “American Underdog,” and “Woodlawn,” among others.
In “Woodlawn,” based on the true story of an Alabama high school team during the racial strife of the early seventies, one of the lead characters is Hank Erwin (played by Sean Austin, “Rudy,” “Lord of the Rings”). Erwin’s bold faith and service as the chaplain helped spark a revival on the team that spread into the community.
In March at the New Canaan Society, Erwin, like he did at Woodlawn High School, was once again a motivational preacher who sought to light a fire under a group of men. The Bergen County Chapter of the New Canaan Society meets on Friday mornings at the Brick House in Wyckoff. Erwin noted the impact of “Jesus Revolution,” which played in 2,500 theaters across the United States in March and will soon be released internationally.
“You wouldn’t believe the stories that are coming out because people are watching that film,” he said. “Some people are crying all the way through it. It’s having that kind of effect. They are coming out of the theater ready to serve the Lord with greater excitement than before.”
The proud father also said that “Jesus Revolution” is helping to foster conversations about faith with seekers and non-Christians.
“The public is ready. They are asking questions. They are coming out of the movie and wanting to talk. They want to deal with the deep issues of faith because they found that this life doesn’t really answer all their questions.”
‘It’s Time to Be Bold‘
To the men of the New Canaan Society, Erwin said, “Guys, it’s time to be bold in our faith,” and recalled the pivotal baptism scene from the movie; In the shallows of Pirates Cove in Southern California, Lonnie Frisbee (played by Jonathan Roumie) asks a young Greg Laurie (Joel Courtney) a poignant question, “Are you ready to decide right now?”
“That’s exactly what we should be asking our friends,” said Erwin. “Have you made your decision yet for Jesus? Every man has to make a decision…We [serve] a sovereign God who loves us. Jesus died for us. We owe him everything. Nobody comes across your path by accident.”
Erwin shared the how God’s sovereignty led to the making of “Jesus Revolution” nearly a decade ago. During the production of Woodlawn, one of the props was the famous TIME Magazine “Jesus Revolution” cover from 1971.
“My son Jon saw that magazine covered and was intrigued. ‘How does Jesus make the front cover of Time Magazine? He picked it up and he read it and said, I’ve got to make a movie about this.”
The project began in 2014 with research. The film was released nine years later in the wake of Asbury University revival.
“It’s one of the most phenomenal movies that has ever come out of Hollywood. It has touched America,” Hank Erwin said.
“Not only was [the Jesus Movement] last great American awakening, It may have been the most significant of all. [The movie] is a beautiful fusion of Greg Laurie’s coming of age story, this hippie street preacher Lonnie Frisbee, and a down-and-out pastor (Chuck Smith), who has pretty much lost everything. To see him open up his doors to these hippies. That completely changed everything. The theme is loving each other. That’s what our world needs.”
Like the Jesus Movement of the 1970s impacted the United States and the world, Hank Erwin is praying that the movie will bring hope to a new generation, especially in light of the Asbury revival.
“This story changed our nation, and, in many ways, changed the world. If a Jesus revolution happened before, it could happen again,” he said.
Likewise, Erwin exhorted the men of the Bergen New Canaan Society to seek revival at a Thursday night dinner with leaders and to the NCS Bergen group on Friday morning.
“I wanted to say a few things that might encourage you and light a fire,” he said. “Whether you know it or not, the rest of country looks to this area (Metro New York City) for leadership. Whatever happens here can affect the rest of the country.”
“I wanted to encourage you to dream big about what you can do here in Bergen county to help people come to Jesus Christ and start the next wave of a massive revival.”