The Hippie Preacher

My wife and I recently watched Lonnie Frisbee: The Life And Death Of A Hippie Preacher a few days ago and I highly recommend it!  Netflix has it here

Maybe because I live in southern California, maybe because I spent some time in the Calvary Chapel movement, or maybe because I saw the early church in Frisbee, whatever the reason I was drawn to the film.

As I continue to reflect on this film, I realize there are some themes and issues that the church today desperately needs to wrestle with. 

First, and probably most related to this blog, I found it surprising how fast and how fatally religion can quell the work of the Spirit in the church.  Frisbee was definitely a charismatic man who was very much in tune with the Spirit of God.  Yet, his story is all too familiar.  As I interpreted the film, organized churches sought to “tap into” Frisbee’s life and gifting for their benefit, only to throw him by the wayside when they were finished with him.  I hope Frisbee saw that for what it was and ultimately perceived a deeper connection with Jesus in his rejection and condemnation among his own people – a bittersweet union. 

Second, how fast we can either forget our history or how easily it can get spun to the benefit of another.  For years, I heard that Chuck Smith embraced the hippies and brought them into the church.  Yet, this film reveals that Pastor Smith never did so until after he met Frisbee and it was Frisbee’s ministry that brought the hippies to the meetings in Costa Mesa.  Indeed, Calvary Chapel pastors and historians will tell of Chuck Smith baptizing hundreds in Corona Del Mar, yet original video footage shows Frisbee doing so.  So, the question must be asked,

“Why re-write history?” 

Well, as the opening lines of another of my favorite movies (Braveheart) state:

“History is written by those who have hanged heroes.”

Those who are left standing tell the tale, and in this case it can be identified as organized religion.  That enticing call that says, “The show must go on.”  In this case, the churches involved essentially excommunicated Frisbee when he needed them most.  I have to ask, “Is there anything too embarrasing or too uncouth that cannot be touched by the love of Christ?  But it seems, these churchmen sought to tame Frisbee and in the end put him out.  As you can probably tell, this deeply saddens and angers me.  But that matters not, “the show must go on.”

Third, it is about time that the church accept people as they are changed by Christ and not change people to be accepted by Christ.  We have misrepresented the gospel in the name of Christ by manipulating and controlling people to fit into preconceived molds that are quite simply not scriptural.  In fact, they reveal our struggle with the gospel – as if to say, “It can’t really be that good!”

This film raises several issues that fit into this category.  Culturally it engages hippies, drugs and homosexuality in the church.  Theologically it engages ministry, the role of the Spirit, and the gospel.  In short, perhaps it is time to realize that the answers to these questions need to be reevaluated in light of scripture. 

Essentially, this film is about an all too familiar topic.  That of the church shooting it’s wounded. 

I believe that if we take our eyes off of the religious system long enough, we will once again see that what Jesus was all about was bringing people to the Father. 

It is, truly, much more simple than we make it out to be.

So, get the movie and let me know what you think!


8 thoughts on “The Hippie Preacher

  1. ‘Third, it is about time that the church accept people as they are changed by Christ and not change people to be accepted by Christ. We have misrepresented the gospel in the name of Christ by manipulating and controlling people to fit into preconceived molds that are quite simply not scriptural. In fact, they reveal our struggle with the gospel – as if to say, “It can’t really be that good!”’

    You go, John. Awesome post.

    1. Why is the church so afraid of the TRUTH? The truyh will set them free! I was there from the begining. I had heard about Lonnie while I was living in The Detroit area where I led a bunch of hippies in Bible studies in the park. I traveled from Detroit in a van filled with “Good News” Bibles stopping along the way finding the hippie groups and leading them to the Lord. I had never heard of Chuck (who I love) or Calvary. It was Lonnie that led me and Most of the Hippies (thoussands) to Chuck. Who by his own testamony in his vidio ( “Fathe”r of the Jesus Movement) had failed to add any followers to his several churches and was ready to give up! Had it not been for Lonnie, he probably would not even be a minister at this time based on the facts! Yet Chuck has accepted all of the credit for the hippies flocking from accross the country to witness Lonnie “The Hippie Preacher. Just Google hippie preacher, and you will learn the truth! Yet Lonnie is barely mentioned by Chuck and has no place but a token mention in the history of Calvary. I lived in the “Blue Top” Commune right below Lonnie and Connie, and although he had his battle with sin I witnessed his coming and going, and his friday and saterday nights were mostly spent minersting and then he would go upstairs to his wife Connie! Not that he NEVER sinned, he did and confessed it! I also lived at the Mansion Massiah for a while until I started a house ministry in Silverado Canyon. I Got married (by Chuck at the little C.Chapel) and moved back to Michigan and started “Our Fathers House” Jesus is and was the “Father” of the Jesus Movement, and Lonnie deserves at least as much credit in the history of the Jesus Movement as Chuck.(With all due respect) There are huge mineristries in Africa, Sweden and all over the world (not just Calvery, and the Vinyard churches) wherever Lonnie went during his short amazing life!….Martin

      1. Thank you for the response and the added history, Martin! I fully agree with you and found the story quite interesting – despite how quickly it was covered up and/or forgotten by Lonnie’s “successors.”

      2. Thank you for the response and the added history, Martin! I fully agree with you and found the story quite interesting – despite how quickly it was covered up and/or forgotten by Lonnie’s “successors.”

  2. Thank you John.I could write a book on the Jesus movement. As a matter of fact The author David (who put the documentery together) is working to make a full on film that with real professional actors Which I am considering helping with, as I have friends and resourses. As I said I was there and can testify the work that God did through Lonnie has been way understated. Lonnie was SO humble that he was able to get out of the way so that Jesus was able to come through and work miracles all of the time. I have met few people so humble. The hard part would be finding the right actor to play Lonnie. Jesus was able to work his will Lonnie would spend much time with hopless people on the street with as much. Lonnie became famous, but it was as if he did not even know it or care in the least. He cared nothing about money, and although Calvary was growing by leaps and bounds and the hippies would give thier last few dollars to the church, and it is my understanding that he was living on $500. a mo, Yet after he left Calvary God provided for him to travel around the world and there a re ministries all over the world. God Provided! …….We will see what happens…….Martin.

  3. John I would like to see you get this blog out where it will ge more exposure. There are many issues involved. such as the question of What was Chucks stand on the Vietnam war. Thinking back I do not remember him ever commenting about it.I remember him being suspiciously silent about it, and as I said I was there night after night and probably am responsable for at least a thousand people attending. It seems that he is Quite the hawk now from what I hear, and the furthest thing from a Hippie or Jesus Freak that there could be. I heard that he commented that Isrial should send 10 bombs for every one. Does that sound like the Jesus of the Jesus Movement, which he calls himself the “Father of” Although I re state my love for chuck, I am beginning to feel decieved. Chuck is the Father of Calvary chappel, and Calvary has become just another political denomination and ChuckI now am inclined to think that he never understood the real Jesus movement or the peace movement that was at the heart of it! We were just a bunch og dirty hippies that were FLOCKING in by the thousands to see and hear the work of God through Lonnie Frisbee, because Lonnie had almost no ego, whereas Chuck was almost all intillect..I don’t think Chuck really Chuck really understand the differance from the old and new testament. I remember him teaching both with equal ferver as if Jesus hadn’t changed a thing.Like go ahead and continue the wars of the old testament. I look at the money spent that could be saving lives and feeding dying children and it makes me sick. WE Hippies really did help stop a war. I wonder if chuck was even against it. I would love to know. What happened to LOVE your enemies. I guess Jesus was just kidding…a little upset….Martin ..I hope that I am somehow wrong about all this, bu I see what I see, and chuck finally got his big church. I know that he loves God , but he is not without sin although some people think he is.

    1. Thanks, Martin, but the purpose of this blog is not to expose Calvary Chapel or Chuck Smith. I did think the movie was well done and rose some very good questions, though!

      1. That is not my goal, although i have been upset with him, since i have recently learned a few things about his views on war and such. I care and pray for him. Also i think people should know the TRUTH about Lonnie Frisbee!!!…Thanks and blessings to you!!!…Martin

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