Jesus Freaks—Hippie Preacher

By February 14, 2015Christianity

Someday, one of the questions I’ll ask God when we meet face-to-face will be how in the world he chose to anoint certain of his servants? Even a quick glance at scripture finds us scratching our heads at the kind of people God chooses and uses. From a shepherd boy[1] to an insecure, mentally unstable farmer;[2] from a reluctant complaining runaway[3] to an angry burned out leader.[4] From a harlot[5] to a body building serial adulterer,[6] God chooses the most broken people to accomplish some of his greatest works.

And so it was in the Jesus People Movement of the late 1960’s. One of the most fascinating people during this time period was a bearded, longhaired hippie named Lonnie Frisbee. Speaking in the vernacular of the street, with no theological education, and scant biblical knowledge, God’s Spirit used Frisbee in ways that were spectacular. From saving the worst of the worst to dramatic healings. Kent Philpott, one of the early leaders of the Jesus People Movement explains,

It was amazing to see Lonnie Frisbee in action, you just have no idea, he attracted hundreds if not thousands of kids…he looked like a picture of Jesus, he had the hair, the beard…here was an authentic hippie kid, when he got up to talk, I don’t know to use the word mesmerizing, or hypnotic, or whether it was just the Holy Spirit. I don’t think I’ve seen that kind of power…it was incredible.[7]

Greg Laurie, radio Bible teacher and evangelist of the Harvest Crusades, relates a similar story of Frisbee. Once while hanging out before a meeting, Frisbee asked Laurie to read and reread out loud the passage he was teaching that night. In this case the story of Jonah. This was all the study Frisbee gave to his message. When he got up to speak, Laurie recounts, “his facts weren’t quite right. Parts of the story weren’t exactly like it was in the Bible.” But then Laurie adds, “when Lonnie finished his message and gave an invitation for people to receive Christ, dozens of kids came forward.” The experience convinced Laurie, “Lonnie Frisbee might be the human instrument, but it was God [emphasis his] who was at work here.”[8]

Many would argue that the key figure in the early movement of the Holy Spirit’s power in Calvary Chapel and among the southern California counterculture revival was the influence of Calvary’s “hippie evangelist.” Frisbee’s freewheeling; easygoing style was most at home in the “afterglow” services in a side room after the main service at Calvary Chapel. Before he came, Calvary only had about two hundred people. But in just a two-year span, the hippie preacher was instrumental in the growth of the church to over two thousand.

Once while an assistant to John Wimber, the leader of the Vineyard movement, he told me that he had never met a person “more anointed than Lonnie Frisbee.” Chuck Smith Jr. has said that Wimber once told him, “It was Frisbee that led the Vineyard into the Holy Spirit and the Holy Spirit into the Vineyard.”

So, why is it that few have heard of Lonnie Frisbee? Frisbee’s meteoric rise was followed by a deep dive that cost him everything—his ministry, his marriage, and eventually his life. In the midst of his conversion and his ministry, Frisbee struggled continually with homosexuality. In 1993, Lonnie Frisbee died of AIDS.

So, what can be said of a hippie preacher, or anyone for that matter, with a powerful anointing but a deeply broken character? That’s the subject of my next blog…

On the Road,

[1] King David

[2] King Saul

[3] Jonah

[4] Moses

[5] Rahab

[6] Samson

[7] quoted from God’s Forever Family, p. 73.

[8] Ibid, p. 74.