Lonnie Frisbee: The Life and Death of a Hippie Preacher

Researcher David Di Sabatino is the author of The Jesus People Movement: An Annotated Bibliography and General Resource – the standard work on the movement.

He is also the director of a documentary about Lonnie Frisbee:

Thirty-eight-year-old Di Sabatino never met the hippie preacher but kept hearing Lonnie Frisbee’s name while doing research on the Jesus People movement for a planned book. As the author dug deeper into the many complex layers of Frisbee’s life, he realized his story deserved something bigger than just another religious book “that’d be read by 100 to 200 people, including my parents.” After 10 years of “sitting on the story” to make sure he’d nailed it, Di Sabatino recently unveiled an excellent new documentary, Frisbee: The Life and Death of a Hippie Preacher.

Now comes Di Sabatino’s one-hour, 45-minute documentary—filled with rare footage, an amazing soundtrack and more revelations than you can fit in, well, the Book of Revelations—to set the record straight. Frisbee should be remembered not as the ultimate sinner, the filmmaker believes, but rather the modern-day equivalent of flawed biblical figures such as Samson, King David or John the Baptist. Or Robert Duvall’s preacher in The Apostle.

Frisbee: The Life and Death of a Hippie Preacher shows a nationally recognized theologian admitting that—without a doubt—Frisbee was at the root of the mammoth growth of two of the largest evangelical Christian denominations to emerge in the past 30 years. Gulliksen, the Vineyard co-founder, and other insiders appear onscreen to confirm that Frisbee has been unjustly written out of Calvary’s and Vineyard’s church histories.

“I think when we go to heaven, Lonnie won’t be the one who was held to account,” says David Owen, pastor of Malibu Christian Center. “We are going to be held to account for the way we treated a brother.”

But the unlikeliest hero to emerge in the film is Chuck Smith Jr.

“Lonnie’s misfortune is he got caught,” says Junior, Capo Beach Calvary Church’s pastor, “because there are a lot of charismatic homosexual ministers—right now. We need to find a way in the body of Christ to find and love these people and minister.”

And on Frisbee’s bitterness: “I think he was entitled to it. I think my dad and John [Wimber] were like father figures, but fathers who rejected him. That had to be very painful for him, and I think it is part of the tragedy of his life. . . . My dad says these hippies had nowhere to go. You can say that about drug-dealing, free-sex, rock-&-roll hippies but not say that about homosexuals? If the church says to anyone, ‘You can’t come here,’ where are they supposed to go to find Jesus?”

Smith Jr.’s frankness did not surprise Di Sabatino. “He is one of the bright lights of that movement,” he said. “He knows his dad is a good man who has done a lot of good things. In this instance, he knows his dad has to come to the fore and say, ‘I failed Lonnie in some respects.’ So does Greg Laurie. So do they all.”

Source: The First Jesus Freak Orange County Weekly, Mar. 4-10, 2005
This post was last updated: Jan. 4, 2006