The Jesus People Revival
|Chuck Smith and Lonnie Frisbee conduct a beach service and mass baptism at Corona Del Mar beach.|
Brothers, consider your calling: not many are wise from a human perspective, not many powerful, not many of noble birth. Instead, God has chosen the world's foolish things to shame the wise, and God has chosen the world's weak things to shame the strong. God has chosen the world's insignificant and despised things —the things viewed as nothing—so He might bring to nothing the things that are viewed as something, so that no one can boast in His presence.
1 Corinthians 1:26-29
You may have noticed over the
past couple years that many mainstream media outlets have been
doing reflections on the 44-year anniversary of “The
Summer of Love.” This
marked the Hippie Movement as something which had permeated
and entered into mainstream society in American culture back
Right in the middle of the cultural milieu that was the Hippie Movement, where young people were dropping out of mainstream society to seek something deeper but instead found dead ends in free love and drugs, God brought forth one of the biggest revivals in modern American history.
Most mainstream churches were just burying their heads in their hands and praying for the rapture to come soon as they lamented the slide of modern culture into all out degradation. However, God was—like so many times in history past—working behind the scenes to spring forth a powerful movement that would lead many to salvation and new life. He raised up actual missionaries right from within the Hippie Movement itself towards the wayward movement of hippies who were dropping out of society.
Enter Lonnie Frisbee, a man used by God in ways that boggle the mind. Testimony after testimony of those who knew, met, encountered, or had interaction with him tell of lives changed dramatically towards knowing and serving and being filled with God’s Spirit and becoming committed to follow Christ completely through his ministry.
So vibrant is his memory still, more than a decade after his death, that when a documentary of his life played at the Newport Film Festival a couple of years ago it was the most popular film in the whole festival, selling out with a line around the block shortly upon its opening and outselling a mainstream Hollywood movie which also debuted at that Newport Festival.
Frisbee is also an important study within the discipline and thought of missiology—the study of Christian Mission work and practice throughout the centuries. Much like the famed missionary Hudson Taylor who ventured deep into inland China and learned from the Scriptures and the study of Paul the Apostle that he must adopt the language, style, thought and dress of these Chinese to effectively reach the Chinese so Frisbee’s outreach to the hippies was made all the more effective because of his ability to identify with them by being a hippie himself and knowing the dress and language of the subculture.
And yet just as Taylor was roundly criticized and slandered by the religious community of his day for doing this, but is now seen all these years later as one of the most insightful and biblically illuminated men of his day to understand this.
Likewise Frisbee’s insistence on remaining a hippie to reach the hippies earned him nothing but the same kind of scorn and rejection as well from the religious community, never being perceived as actually a missionary to a subculture by tradition-bound holders of the status quo; this, along with his unbending stance on the need for Pentecostal power to be central in all he did, only added to the scorn heaped on him as well.
At the same time, he was a man with obvious weaknesses, flaws, and shortcomings, things that he seemed to be constantly dealing and struggling with.
God indeed does choose the weak things of the world to shame the wise. This is what the Word of God itself tells us. It is truly perplexing that we should be so surprised when we actually see it happening right before our eyes.
Here then is a story not of human might or power but of God’s Spirit moving upon and through a weak human vessel who simply said “Yes, Lord” to God's call, and consequently was used by God in ways that boggle the mind. It is not at all unlike the stories that fill the pages of Scripture: one of blessing and grace but also of failings and frailty.
Ultimately though, it is about Christ’s glorious redemptive power. It is the story of the Lord who never leaves nor forsakes His own, even in the face of bitter wrestling with their own human flaws. It is about that unconditional love of Jesus who will not abandon His own in spite of all their weakness and shortcomings.
The Scripture “He chose the foolish things to confound the wise” truly comes to life here as Frisbee, though often overlooked, actually became one of the main players in that awakening that arose seemingly out of nowhere and which later became known as the Jesus People Revival, one of modern America’s biggest revivals.
Some points of interest in
Lonnie Frisbee’s role
in the birth of the
Jesus People Revival
and the Third Wave Revival
A Biblical Grid to Aid In Understanding
A little Bible study on God’s constant use of flawed figures both in the Bible and through history helps to aid in understanding that this story of God using someone like Frisbee with obvious weaknesses is nothing new.
Throughout the Bible we find these type of themes: Abraham, though he is considered the father of Israel, of many nations and of justification by faith, has a tendency to lie when things get sticky.
Moses commits murder and ends up as a refugee, reluctantly leading Israel out of Egypt and supposedly into the promised land, and yet Moses himself never actually goes in, forbidden by God for once again transgressing against Him.
Samson, though uniquely anointed by God, can’t overcome his addiction to the wrong women in his life, including a prostitute, the very thing that later becomes his demise.
Saul is also anointed and defeats armies, bringing the little and unremarkable nation of Israel up to the kind of world status it has never known before, but in the end he disobeys God so badly he is removed from the kingship.
His successor David is a man after God’s own heart and wildly successful in his many exploits, and yet he just can’t stay out of trouble and commits adultery and murder. David’s mistress and now wife Bathsheba, becomes the mother of Israel’s next king.
Solomon, who just as his father before him, though also successful in politics and leadership, is undermined by his addiction to an astonishing amount of foreign wives and the idols they bring into the picture. Once again, this out of control problem causes great tragedy. The kingdom splits and ultimately falls apart due to these seeds planted over time. The lives of the kings of both Judah and Israel read mostly like a Shakespearean tragedy, with only a few exceptions.
Moreover, certain prophets seem quite reluctant to do their job, like Amos who clearly states he wasn’t looking to be in this line of work but was basically drafted in by God.
Or Jeremiah, who is so unenamored at what God calls him to do that he says he wishes he had never been born.
Or Jonah, who goes even further with the same attitude by running away from the Lord and his work, and having to be detained by a whale until he is redirected back towards his commission.
Even more so in the New Testament is there a strong display of not only God using the weak things to shame the wise but also a rebuke of those from the religious community that think somehow they are above the frailties that plague common man with his inherited sinful feet of clay. We are after-all all fallen sinners:
We see in the New Testament Jesus coming to the aid and helping a woman caught in adultery while rebuking the religious leaders for their hypocrisy (1). Christ invites Himself over for lunch to the house of a tax collector—the most hated people in Israel, seen as absolute traitors—named Zacchaeus to the shock of the religious establishment (2). He warmly receives oil poured upon His feet by a prostitute while a Pharisee, a religious leader of the day, looks on in astonished horror, thinking that if Jesus were indeed a prophet He would certainly know what kind of woman was touching Him, and consequently would put a stop to it. The scenario ends with Jesus letting it be known in no uncertain terms that her sins are forgiven and she has received salvation, to the shock of those looking on (3).
On another occasion, He mocks a proud Pharisee who boastfully prays about his own righteousness, as one who is standing on the faulty ground of his own merits, while He upholds a tax collector as one who is actually justified before God for seeking His mercy (4). Christ’s story of the prodigal son shows the backslidden son restored and renewed in the end, while the older brother who stayed at home is portrayed as the one in error because of his arrogant misguided anger at his younger brother while he stands on his own merits (5).
A Roman Centurion is lauded for his great faith while Israel is rebuked for its lack of the same (6). Children are welcomed and we are told we must become like them to see the Kingdom (7). And on and on it goes in the Gospels as the lowly and weak are lifted up (8) while the proud and self-sufficient are cast down as arrogant hypocrites and fools (9).
Likewise, Christ’s choice of disciples to the human eye is far from a recipe for a success-driven way to win friends and influence people, as He puts together a ragtag motley crew to do His bidding upon His departure: A tax collector named Matthew; a couple of fishermen named Peter and Andrew, who belonged to the lower rung on the social totem pole; John and James who were constantly trying to push themselves forward as preeminent and first—the very opposite thing Christ is seeking to teach them; a treasurer named Judas who steals from the ministry fund and later betrays Him.
Peter denies His Lord to a little slave girl, this after seeing the dead raised and Jesus walk on water and everything else he witnessed Christ do.
John Mark, the author of the Gospel of Mark, abandons Paul and Barnabas on the mission field, which results in the split between Paul and Barnabas as they argue over the situation and can’t find resolution.
The rest of the cast of Apostles and their careers are obviously so unremarkable you never hear their names again, except on occasion, like with Thomas who needs much further convincing to believe in the resurrection. Thus, it is men with flaws and weaknesses God uses, and dramatically at that in spite of their shortcomings, to display His power. The apostle Paul says we have this treasure in jars of clay (weak human vessels) so that this all-surpassing power may be evident that it is from God and not us.
Hopefully we can see here that God is not in the business and never has been of using perfect people.
Though our eyes may be clouded by the deceptive religiosity all around us these days, the Living Word of God can clear out our vision and disabuse us of such grossly inaccurate ideas. There are no plaster saints, they only exist in museums as statues whose flaws have been removed. The reality in Scripture is much different. Nor are there perfect disciples, for all have sinned. A Christian, as Martin Luther puts it, is nothing more than a sinner who has received Christ and His forgiveness. Thus, the Bible never exempts us from the ongoing struggles of people who have been saved by God’s mercy, or from the ongoing battles that those who serve Him must overcome.
The Bible doesn’t try and “protect” us from people God chose and used who had issues and problems in their lives. There is no fear in its pages that our faith will be crushed and ruined if we see someone who, though powerfully used by God, turns out to be a mere mortal, a human being with feet of clay. In fact that is the resounding message we hear throughout its pages.
Human beings, on the other hand are another story altogether. They constantly think they have to defend and protect the Almighty, Most High, Sovereign Lord’s reputation and will even eliminate from the real history people who might be less than presentable in their own skewed view of things.
Once again, to reiterate the point, here then is a story not of human might or power but of God’s Spirit moving upon and through a weak human vessel who simply said “Yes, Lord” to God's call, and consequently was used by God in ways that boggle the mind. It is not at all unlike the stories we see in the pages of Scripture: one of blessing and grace but also of failings and frailty. Ultimately though, it is about Christ’s glorious redemptive power. It is the story of the Lord who never leaves nor forsakes His own, even in the face of bitter wrestling with their own human flaws. It is about that unconditional love of Jesus who will not abandon His own in spite of all their weakness and shortcomings.
This video is just a short, feeble attempt to tell a little bit of that story and could hardly be considered comprehensive. It is, however, another small piece in the puzzle to help fill in a story that has been omitted from the pages of recent history for far too long.
Footnotes 1. John 8:1-11 2. Luke 19:1-10 3. Luke 7:36-50 4. Luke 18:9-14 5. Luke 15: 11-32 6.Matt.8:5-13 7.Mark 10:13-16 8.Matt.11:25-30 9.Matt.23:5-39
Clockwise, from top left: Lonnie baptizing a young girl at Corona Del Mar beach. Preaching at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa -Photo from Life Magazine. Calvary Chapel Yorba Linda meeting at Canyon High School Gym which later became known as the Anaheim Vineyard. Lonnie meeting Billy Graham. Chuck Smith praying over Lonnie. Mass Baptism at Corona Del Mar Beach with Lonnie and Chuck leading the service.