Lonnie Frisbee was an amazing Jesus freak. Being a key figure and informal leader of the Jesus People Movement in the 60’s and 70’s, his impact on Western Christianity is huge. With his long hair and beard he tried to look like Jesus himself “because there’s no one else I want to look like”, he preached on the beaches to his hippie friends that the Holy Spirit is even better than LSD and brought thousands of them to church.
The Jesus movement spread rapidly across California, US and the world, but most churches closed the door for them – after all, they were hippies. A church that did welcome them though was Calvary Chapel led by Chuck Smith, not because he was a hippie, nor because he wanted to become one, but because he liked them.
While Chuck emphasized Bible studying and evangelical values (which Lonnie thought was awesome) Lonnie himself was a holy roller. He cast out demons, spoke in tongues, healed the sick and prophesied loudly. He proclaimed himself to be a prophet and a mystic, and the whole Jesus Movement became a radical charismatic movement.
In 1980 he visited John Wimber‘s Vineyard church and released the youth into full scale charismatic renewal, which had a huge impact on Wimber himself and the whole third wave charismatic renewal. In John Wimber: The Way it Was, John’s wife Carol Wimber shares how important Lonnie was for the Vineyard, and she has some awesome testimonies from a trip to South Africa she, John and Lonnie made where they literally saw the blind and lame being totally healed when they imparted the power of the Holy Spirit to them.
And what I find especially cool with Lonnie is that he combined this charismatic fire and zeal for evanglism with Christian community life. Together with Chuck Smith and a guy called John Higgins he started a communal house called The House of Miracles (I guess Lonnie picked the name). The House grew to 19 houses in California, and exploded into a ministry called Shiloh Youth Revival Centers, which involved 175 communal houses and – hold on – 100 000 people!
These communal houses had a common fund so that everyone involved gave their income to the community and in return they got free food, clothing, housing and health care. Suddenly there were no rich nor poor, just a bunch of happy holy roller Jesus hippies that were enjoying His presence together in fellowship and love.
Unfortunately, this apostolic movement faced a lot of hardships: John Higgins was removed from Shiloh in 1978 and the movement eventually dissolved, Lonnie died in AIDS in 1993, and many Jesus hippies became normal, boring Christians with private property and economic inequality. But it would be false to state that the Jesus Movement is dead! Jesus People USA still has a communal house, Jesus Army in the United Kingdoms has several, and here in Sweden there is a revived interest in a communal lifestyle, Jesus People style. My hope and prayer is that we will see a new Jesus revival where at least 100 000 from the new young generation will crush materialism and individualism through resurrecting biblical community. Come Holy Spirit!
By the way, check out the awesome film about Lonnie’s life: Frisbee: The Life and Death of a Hippie Preacher.