Lonnie Frisbee (6 June 1949, Costa Mesa, California – 12 March 1993) was an American Pentecostal evangelist and self-described "seeing prophet" and mystic in the late 1960s and 1970s. Despite his hippie appearance and being a closeted gay man, Frisbee had notable success as a minister and evangelist.
Contemporary accounts attributed his accomplishments to his incredible anointing of the Holy Spirit. Frisbee was a key figure in the Jesus Movement and eyewitness accounts of his ministry documented in the 2007 Emmy-nominated film Frisbee: The Life and Death of a Hippie Preacher explain how Lonnie became the charismatic spark igniting the rise of two worldwide denominations (Chuck Smith's Calvary Chapel and the Vineyard Movement). It was said that he was not one of the hippie preachers, "there was one."
Frisbee, who functioned as an evangelical preacher also privately socialized as a gay man both before and during his evangelism career. This is held in tension with the fact that he said in interviews that he never believed homosexuality was anything other than a sin in the eyes of God and both denominations prohibited gay sexual behavior. Both churches later disowned him because of his active homosexuality removing him first from leadership positions then, ultimately, firing him. As part of his ostracism from his former churches his work was maligned but he forgave those who tried to discredit him before his death from AIDS in 1993.
Frisbee's unofficial evangelism career began as a part of a soul-searching acid-trip as part of a regular "Turn on, tune in, drop out" session of getting high. On one pilgrimage of friends to Tahquitz Canyon outside Palm Springs instead of finding meaning again in mysticism and the occult Frisbee started reading the Gospel of John to the group and eventually led the group to Tahquitz Falls and baptized them.
Later Frisbee moved to San Francisco and was a student at the San Francisco Art Academy when he met members of the Haight-Ashbury's Living Room mission. At the time, he talked about UFOs and practiced hypnotism and spoke about dabbling in occult and mysticism. When Christian missionaries first met him, they said he was talking about "Jesus and flying saucers".
Frisbee soon converted to Christianity and quit the art academy to move to the Christian community Living Room house in Novato, California, and later reconnected with his former girlfriend Connie whom he soon married. The community was soon dubbed The House of Acts (named after the community of early Christians in the Acts of the Apostles). Frisbee designed a sign to put outside the house, but was informed that if he gave it an official name, it would no longer be considered a mere guest house and would be subject to renovations. The small community could hardly afford this, so the sign came down.
Jesus movement, Calvary Chapel Edit
- See also: Jesus movement
Frisbee and his wife had left the commune of the House of Acts to go to Southern California. Chuck Smith, meanwhile, had been making plans to build a chapel out of a surplus school building in the City of Santa Ana, near Costa Mesa when he met Lonnie Frisbee. Lonnie and his wife Connie joined the fledgling Calvary Chapel congregation and Smith was struck by Lonnie's charisma, "I was not at all prepared for the love that this young man would radiate." Frisbee's attachment to the charismatic Pentecostal style caused some disagreement within the church since he seemed focused more on gaining converts and experiencing the presence of the Holy Spirit than on teaching newer converts Biblical doctrine. Chuck Smith, however, took up that job and welcomed Frisbee into his church. Frisbee's appearance helped appeal to hippies and those interested in youth culture, and he believed that the youth culture would play a prominent role in the Christian movement in the United States. He cited Joel the prophet (see Book of Joel) and remained upbeat despite what the young couple saw as unbalanced treatment as Frisbee was never paid for his work yet another person was hired full-time as Smith's assistant. Under Lonnie Frisbee's ministry his most visible convert was evangelist Greg Laurie whom he mentored and has since gone on to establish Harvest Christian Fellowship, the eighth largest church in America with over 15,000 members.
Frisbee became one the most important ministers in the church when on 17 May 1968 Smith put the young couple in charge of the Costa Mesa rehab house called "The House of Miracles" with John Higgins and his wife Jackie, within a week it had 35 new converts. Lonnie led the Wednesday night Bible study which soon became the central night for the church attracting thousands.
The House of Miracles grew into a series of nineteen communal houses that later migrated to Oregon to form Shiloh Youth Revival Centers, the largest (and one of the longest lasting) of the Jesus People communal groups which had 100,000 members and 175 communal houses spread across the USA and Canada during its lifespan. This may have been the largest Christian communal group in US history.
"Jesus Freaks" as they were often called, were documented in media including the Kathryn Kuhlman show where Lonnie Frisbee was a featured guest talking about Jesus, prophets and quoting scripture. By 1971, the Jesus Movement had broken in the media with major media outlets such as Life Magazine, Newsweek and Rolling Stone Magazine covering it. Frisbee, due to his prominence in the movement, was frequently photographed and interviewed.
It was also in 1971 that Frisbee and Smith parted ways because their ideological differences had become too great. Smith discounted Pentecostalism, maintaining that love was the greatest manifestation of the Holy Spirit while Frisbee was strongly involved in theology centering on spiritual gifts and "new testament" occurrences. Frisbee announced that he would leave California altogether and go to a movement in Florida led by Derek Prince and Bob Mumford which taught a pyramid shepherding style of leadership and was later coined as the "Shepherding Movement".
In 1973, the Frisbees divorced because Lonnie's Pastor had an affair with his wife. Frisbee mentions this in a sermon he gave at the Vineyard Church in Denver, Colorado a few years before he died. Connie later re-married. Lonnie left the organization.
Vineyard Movement Edit
Meanwhile, in May of 1977 John Wimber was laying the groundwork for what would become the Association of Vineyard Churches, also known as the Vineyard Movement, he had witnessed the explosive growth of Calvary Chapel and sought to build a church that embraced the healings and miracles that he had previously been taught were no longer a part of Christian life. He began teaching and preaching about spiritual gifts and healings which did occur but it wasn't until May of 1980 when Lonnie testified that the charismatic gifts of the Holy Spirit took hold of the church.
Lonnie was invited by John Wimber to go to what was then a Yorba Linda branch of the Calvary Chapel movement, to preach. Since his early days at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, Lonnie had made a shift in his emphasis from evangelism to the dramatic and demonstrative manifestation of the power of the Holy Spirit. After speaking Lonnie invited all the young people 25 and under to come forward and invited the Holy Spirit to bring God's power into their lives. Witnesses say it looked like a battlefield as young people fell and began to shake and speak in tongues. The young kids, many in Junior High and High School, were so "filled with the Spirit" that they soon started baptizing friends in Jacuzzis and swimming pools around town. The church catapulted in growth over the next few months and the event is credited with launching the Vineyard Movement.
After this time, Frisbee and Wimber began traveling the world, going to such places as South Africa and Europe; Frisbee being a much sought-after preacher with his "Jesus-like" look getting him instant recognition from South Africa to Denmark. While there, they claimed to have performed many healings and miracles for people. As reported by many who were there, Frisbee was integral to the development of what would become Wimber's "Signs and Wonders theology".
Although Lonnie's homosexuality was documented as a "bit of an open secret in the church community" and he would "party" on Saturday night then preach Sunday morning many in the church were unaware. However, as time went on, certain church officials felt that his inability to overcome what the church considers sexual immorality became too big of a hindrance to his ability to minister.
In The Orange County Weekly article "The First Jesus Freak," which chronicles Frisbee's life, Matt Coker writes, "Chuck Smith Jr. says he was having lunch with Wimber one day when he asked how the pastor reconciled working with a known homosexual like Frisbee. Wimber asked how the younger Smith knew this. Smith said he’d received a call from a pastor who’d just heard a young man confess to having been in a six-month relationship with Frisbee. Wimber called Smith the next day to say he’d confronted Frisbee, who openly admitted to the affair and agreed to leave."
In a 2005 interview by Christianity Today film reviewer Peter Chattaway with David Di Sabatino, the documentary director of Frisbee: The Life and Death of a Hippie Preacher, the two spoke about addressing Lonnie's homosexuality with his family. Said Sabatino, "I brought to light some things that not a lot of people knew. I've been in rooms with his family where I've had to tell them that he defined himself as gay, way back. Nobody knew that. There's a lot of hubris in that, to come to people who loved him and prayed for him, and to stand there and say, "You didn't really know this, but..."
In the same interview Di Sabatino also stated, "His early testimony at Calvary Chapel was that he had come out of the homosexual lifestyle, but he felt like a leper because a lot of people turned away from him after that, so he took it out of his testimony—and I think that's an indictment of the church."
Di Sabatino also commented on Frisbee's homosexuality as a flaw and stated that Frisbee's brother claimed Frisbee was raped at the age of 8 years old and postulated that an incident of that nature "fragments your identity, and now I can't say that I'm surprised at all." In other research Di Sabatino revealed that Frisbee had come from a broken home and entered into Laguna Beach's gay underground scene with a friend when he was 15.
Frisbee contracted AIDS and he died on 12 March 1993 from complications. At his funeral, Calvary Chapel's Chuck Smith eulogized Frisbee as a Samson-like figure; that being a man through whom God did many great works, but was the victim of his own struggles and temptations. Some saw this as further maligning Frisbee's work and inappropriate characterization for a funeral service.
Frisbee: The Life and Death of a Hippie PreacherEdit
Jim Palosaari narrated "Frisbee: The Life and Death of a Hippie Preacher" and the documentary received an Emmy Award nomination from the National Television Academy of Arts and Sciences (San Francisco/NorCal chapter).
Finished in March 2005, Frisbee was first accepted to the Newport Beach Film Festival where it sold out the historic Lido Theater not far from where in the late 1960s Lonnie and Connie Frisbee ran the Blue Top commune, a Christian community of young hippie believers. The documentary was also accepted to the Mill Valley (2005), Reel Heart (2005), Ragamuffin (2005), San Francisco International Independent (2006), New York Underground (2006) and Philadelphia Gay & Lesbian (2006) film festivals. The edited movie showed on San Francisco's KQED November 19th-23rd, 2006, and was released in DVD form in January, 2007.
A soundtrack featuring the music of The All Saved Freak Band, Agape, Joy and Gentle Faith was released in May 2007.
- ↑ Frisbee, Lonnie. Lonnie Frisbee ministering at Vineyard Church in Denver, CO; Senior Pastor Tom Stipe. Retrieved on 2007-05-18.
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 Jansson, Erik. Lonnie Frisbee ministering at Vineyard Church in Denver, CO. Retrieved on 2007-10-18.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 Template:Cite video
- ↑ 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 4.7 4.8 Coker, Matt. "The First Jesus Freak". OC Weekly, March 3, 2005. Retrieved on May 17, 2007.
- ↑ Barkonsty. teaser for the documentary FRISBEE: The Life & Death of a Hippie Preacher. Retrieved on 2007-05-18.
- ↑ 6.0 6.1 6.2 Coker, Matt (April 14, 2005). Ears on Their Heads, But They Don’t Hear: Spreading the real message of Frisbee. Orange County Weekly. Retrieved on 2007-10-21.
- ↑ Bill (Wam957). The Son Worshipers, 30 minute documentary on the Jesus Movement circa 1971. Edited by Bob Cording and Weldon Hardenbrook.. Retrieved on 2007-05-18.
- ↑ Balmer, Randall. The Encyclopedia of Evangelism, page 227. Retrieved on 2007-05-18.
- ↑ Balmer, Randall. The Encyclopedia of Evangelism, page 227. Retrieved on 2007-05-18.
- ↑ 10.0 10.1 Richardson, James T.. Regulating Religion: Case Studies from Around the Globe, (2004) Springer, ISBN 0306478870. Retrieved on 2008-01-09.
- ↑ Bill (Wam957). Jesus Freaks 4 (part of my collection of rad videos of early 70's Jesus freaks on the Kathryn Kuhlman show). Retrieved on 2007-05-17.
- ↑ David A. Roozen, James R. NiemanBalmer. Church, Identity, and Change: Theology and Denominational Structures in Unsettled Times - Page 134. Retrieved on 2007-05-18.
- ↑ Jackson, Bill. A Short History of the Association of Vineyard Churches. Retrieved on 2007-05-18.
- ↑ Barkonsty. trailer for documentary FRISBEE. Retrieved on 2007-05-18.
- ↑ 15.0 15.1 15.2 Chattaway, Peter. Documentary of a Hippie Preacher. Retrieved on 2007-05-17.
- ↑ Video of Lonnie Frisbee Memorial Service at Crystal Cathedral, Chuck Smith, Phil Aguilar and guests.... Retrieved on 2007-05-18.
- ↑ Documentary on Hippie Preacher Receives Emmy Award Nomination. Retrieved on 2007-05-17.
- Frisbee: The Life and Death of a Hippie Preacher, official site
- Frisbee: The Life and Death of a Hippie Preacher at the Internet Movie Database
- Lonnie Frisbee's testimony (preaching) on Mother's Day at Pastor John Wimber's Church, May 11, 1988, part 2; audio only with extensive photo slideshow. It is believed by some that this very meeting inspired the Vineyard Church movement (trailer on video gives date of 5-11-88, however vineyardusa.org states that this occurred in 1980).
- Lonnie Frisbee ministering at Tom Stipe’s Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Denver, Colorado
- Lonnie Frisbee related videos on YouTube
- photo of Frisbee