LOS ANGELES — “Jesus Revolution” star Jonathan Roumie reflected on how God uses imperfect people to carry out His will and stressed the importance of surrendering one’s ego, as Satan targets those who boldly proclaim Jesus’ name.
The 48-year-old actor, best known for playing Jesus in “The Chosen,” stars as real-life evangelist Lonnie Frisbee in the forthcoming Lionsgate film “Jesus Revolution.” Based on a book by Harvest Pasto Greg Laurie, the film follows the Jesus Movement of the late '60s and '70s, when thousands of hippies came to know the Lord.
A charismatic preacher, Frisbee played a key role in the Jesus Movement, partnering with Chuck Smith at Calvary Chapel (Kelsey Grammer) to attract young people into the congregation. The film highlights Frisbee’s positive impact, including how he mentored and championed a young Greg Laure (Joel Courtney).
But it also depicts how, as the church grows bigger, Frisbee’s ego begins to blind him and causes conflict with Smith and eventually, ministry separation.
“First and foremost, he was driven by his love of the Lord,” Roumie told The Christian Post at the red carpet premiere of the film. “And then, as things got bigger, they just found themselves at the wrong end of a spiritual attack. And then his ego became a thing, but it didn't start out like that. He was as human as any one of us.”
“I think the more powerful you are in the spirit world, in proclaiming God and looking to promote Jesus Christ, the bigger target you are for Satan, for the enemy, for the devil, because he doesn’t want that. He wants nobody to praise Jesus and talk about God; he wants people just ignorant and ambiguous and lukewarm and unfaithful. Lonnie was the opposite of that. He was bold; he would just walk up to people on the beach and start preaching the Gospel, and he was mesmerizing. Because of the power that God gave him, he pulled people into church. He just had too many slings and arrows painted on him.”
After Frisbee and Smith parted ways, the former traveled to Florida and joined the Shepherding Movement. He would later help launch the Vineyard Movement, a neo-charismatic renewal in California. Later on in life, Frisbee “lost his way,” Roumie said, but eventually reconciled and returned to the church before he passed.
“He was an extraordinary man,” Roumie said. He pointed out that just like Frisbee, Jesus used the disciples to proclaim His name — yet Peter denied Him and Judas betrayed Him.
“They were all part of Jesus’ ministry handpicked by Jesus, but Scripture said that Satan entered into Judas and he betrayed Him and sent Him to His death,” Roumie reflected. “God uses anybody who is willing in any way that He wants. We can’t put God in a box.”
Roumie is keenly aware of the platform he has and the calling God has placed on his life. “The Chosen,” a multi-season series on the life of Christ, has seen staggering success and propelled Roumie to the limelight. He's outspoken about his faith and the role it plays in his life. In January, he spoke at the March for Life and implied that abortion is satanic in nature.
Though he sometimes gets “flak” for his boldness, Roumie told CP, “I’m not here to serve people, I’m here to serve God. And I go where He leads me, and I do what He calls me to do and where He pushes me, even when it’s uncomfortable to do so.”
“God called me to be at the March for Life, and I was like, ‘Really God? You want me to put my hat in this ring?’ I’d never done that before,” he continued. “And He said, ‘Just trust me. A lot of people need to hear the things I’m going to have you say.’ I said, ‘OK,’ and I did, and I couldn't have had a better experience and I wouldn’t take it back. I’d do it all over again. Any time I’ve committed myself to following God’s voice as best I can hear it, my expectations have been more than surpassed.”
And playing Frisbee in “Jesus Revolution," Roumie said, made him even more aware of the power of the Holy Spirit. The film shows how Frisbee carried out acts of healing and could sense when others were struggling, both physically and mentally.
"To me, like, having that kind of charism and studying this movement and ... the kinds of congregations that really put this priority on the fact that everyone has this potential to have this within them as a Christian and called to witness to it, it wasn't anything that I had known about previously," Roumie said. "I wasn't aware of the movement until I got the script and started studying and thought, ‘wow, this is, this is hugely impactful.’ So it got me more curious about this kind of testimony, this kind of expression of faith.”
Through his work, Roumie said he hopes to encourage others to put God at the center of their lives, especially in a society that would have people “believe otherwise for all sorts of reasons.”
“I think finding examples of faith and inspiration in their lives, and then modeling themselves after a life akin to a disciple of Christ, this is something that it's only going to improve your life,” he said.
The actor revealed that when he personally surrendered his ego and the things he thought were important in his life and put God front and center, “everything changed.”
“My career changed, my life changed, the things that were important to me changed only for the better. Everything's only gotten better,” he said. “I haven't been spared from struggle and trial and suffering, like anyone else. That's just part of the human condition. But now I have a sense of trust that I didn't have before; just implicit trust that it's going to be OK. And inevitably, it always is. And that's what you get from making God the center of your life.”
“Jesus Revolution” is directed by Jon Erwin and Brent McCorkle, and scripted by Erwin and Jon Gunn. Producers are Kevin Downes, Jon Erwin, Andrew Erwin, Daryl Lefever, Joshua Walsh and Jerilyn Esquibel. Lionsgate opens it Friday only in theaters.
Leah M. Klett is a reporter for The Christian Post. She can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org