The new Jesus Freaks Movement in Europe

We have noticed many encouraging similarities and connections between the new Jesus Freaks movement in Europe and the Jesus People movement in the U.S. in the 1970s. These signs are encouraging to us because we believe they may be evidence that the same Spirit of God was and is behind both movements.

The new Jesus Freaks movement in Europe started around 1991 in Hamburg, and its early visible leader was Martin Dreyer, then a 26 year old Free Church minister. Some say Dreyer started the new movement. Some say I started the 1970s Jesus People movement in the U.S., but I did NOT start it.

In fact, no one human being could have started it, because it appeared spontaneously in several places up and down the west coast of the U.S. at the same time, among groups of people who did not know each other at first and were surprised to learn that others were experiencing the same things they were. (For more thoughts on this topic, see my article "Reflections on the Jesus Movement" also on this website.)

The same thing is happening among the Jesus Freaks in Europe. I believe both movements, ours and the new one in Europe, were spontaneous youth revivals inspired by the Holy Spirit. God did something new, and it was all about His Son.

Since the nonprofit organization Jesus Freaks International was officially started in Berlin in 1994, over 100 local groups have started in Germany, Switzerland, Austria and the Netherlands, and some say it has spread even further. They have an annual Freakstock music festival where more than 8,000 Jesus Freaks "meet together and party with Jesus," which would be a good description of our Jesus Festivals of Music back in the 1970s as well. Freakstock began in Weisbaden in 1995 and moved in Gotha in 1997. There is a record label, Jesus Rock Records, and for a while there was even an online Jesus Freaks Radio, from autumn 2006 to spring 2008.

The new Jesus Freaks movement in Europe began with young people from the punk culture who believed in Jesus but were not being accepted as they were. Similarly, the Jesus People movement here began with young people in the hippie culture who began to discover Jesus but were not accepted by traditional churches.

The young people in the new JF movement question whether it is possible "to be as we are (in the punk music culture) and still live radically for Jesus," and how to design new ways of teaching, preaching and worship that will work for them. These questions echo those from nearly 40 years ago as the JP movement of the 1970s struggled to form a Christian lifestyle and worship style that would "work" for hippies and street people.

One of the publications from the new JF movement in Europe said "all of a sudden we got mail from freaks all over Germany who had the same idea but never dared to make it happen." This is exactly what happened back in the 1970s. Frequently we did not know the JP movement had spread to a particular city or country until we started getting mail from the Jesus People there telling us that the hippies and street people in their community were getting turned on to Jesus.

As we have said many times, we weren't making it happen, it was happening by itself, we were just trying to keep track of it all and get the word out. One of the messages the new JF movement is trying to communicate to young Jesus freaks across Europe is a message we tried to communicate to young Jesus People here in the 1970s: You are not alone! There are others! Many others!

Websites and other publications of the new movement have said their intent is to shake things up loudly, directly and provocatively, to be pioneers in expressing Jesus through music and art. They say that the life of the movement belongs to the youth street culture and should be an integral part of it, speaking "the language of those around us" and being a "bridge for people to meet God where they are at." All of these were important aspects of the early JP movement in the U.S. as well. The new JF movement in Europe looks and sounds so much like the 1970s JP movement here that one begins to wonder if the similarities are perhaps the handprints of God, of how He works when He begins to move among the young "outsiders" of a generation.

The new JF movement is reaching out to European youth subcultures in a big way, at gatherings like the Peacedog festival in the Netherlands and the Euro Rainbow Gathering. In the 1970s, the JP movement here was constantly reaching out to subcultures like the surfing culture, the biker (motorcycle) culture, etc.

The new "folk Bible" or "volksbibel" is a German New Testament in "modern youth language," similar to the "Good News for Modern Man" and "Living Bible" versions in modern English that were so popular during the 1970s JP movement.

There is a recent 15-minute documentary (in German, of course) on the new JF movement called "Stoned by Jesus" showing on ZDF, the German second television network. The phrase "stoned on Jesus" was very common in the 1970s JP movement and in the Hollywood Free Paper.

I find it very significant that in both movements, God chose to move among the outsiders of a generation, the young people who were not being accepted by society in general and the church in particular. It's as if He said (in both cases), "If you won't accept them, I will. They're My people now. You call them freaks? Fine, then they'll be freaks for Me, and they'll even be proud of that label and call themselves Jesus Freaks."

In these and probably countless other ways that we have yet to discover, the new Jesus Freaks movement in Europe and our 1970s Jesus People movement here in the United States share a "family resemblance" that we believe marks both as coming from the same source: Jesus. Does this mean the new movement is perfect and without problems and flaws? Of course not, no more than our own movement was. We had our problems. But to paraphrase Gamaliel in Acts chapter 5, if God is behind this movement, it will be unstoppable.

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