By Rev. Dr. Ed and Janice Hird
The Hippie movement had brought 100,000 youth to Haight-Ashbury in San Francisco for the 1967 Summer of Love. By the end of 1969, many had died from drug overdoses. In December 1969, a young man was stabbed to death at a free rock concert in Altamont, California. Out of the ashes of the failed Hippie dream emerged the unexpected Jesus movement.
Through the Jesus movement in the late 1960s and ‘70s, two to three million young people, including ourselves, came into the Kingdom. Historians now say that the Jesus movement was a full-blown genuine revival that reached more lost people than in the previous Great Awakenings in 1730-1740 and 1790-1840.
Pastor Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel initially dismissed hippies as parasites upon society, thinking “Why don’t they cut their hair, get a bath and a job?” He wanted nothing to do with them. From his perspective, “It looked to be a sort of mass regression – as if they’d all willingly regressed to frontier days in appearance and to magical fairy tales in their thinking.” Smith said to his wife Kay, “It’s too late. They are too far gone. I think they are beyond help.” She broke down and started crying, saying “Chuck, don’t say that.” She began to think of these homeless youth who roamed the streets as lost children. With growing compassion and curiosity, they began asking, “who are they, what do they believe, what kind of relationships do they have with their parents, how did they get so lost?” One day, while visiting Huntington Beach, she said to him “We have to meet a hippie!”
Within a couple of weeks, their future son-in-law brought them a hitchhiking hippie named Lonnie Frisbee. He looked much like artistic paintings of Jesus. This young hippie had had a profound encounter with Jesus Christ. Smith said: “With his long hair, beard, and Bohemian clothes, it seemed Lonnie could have easily stepped out of the pages of the Bible. Kay and I were really taken with Lonnie. He had a charismatic presence that came across as gentle and kind, yet firm.” Frisbee helped them understand this very strange tribe called hippies. They wanted everyone at Calvary Chapel to meet Lonnie.
Smith, whom Frisbee called Daddy Chuck, became a father figure for thousands of fatherless hippies. Frisbee had come from a violent, abusive home situation with an alcoholic father who painfully rejected him. After being sexually abused at age 8 by his male babysitter, he told his parents. Refusing to believe him, they tragically sent him back to his babysitter. It took many years for him to eventually receive healing for these emotional wounds.
Like a spiritual Batman and Robin team, Chuck Smith and Lonnie Frisbee brought together the Word and the Spirit. Smith had switched from wanting to be a medical doctor to being a pastor after hearing CT Studd’s poem at a summer camp: “Only one life, ’twill soon be past, Only what’s done for Christ will last.” Before Frisbee came along, Smith was close to leaving his tiny congregation. He had a grace-filled anointing for teaching the bible verse by verse, chapter by chapter. He wanted to be remembered “as one who loves the Word of God and the people of God.” His infectious smile and delightful sense of humour transcended the deep generation gap. Although he had been through many tragedies and failures, Smith deeply believed that everything prepared us for something else. Nothing was wasted. He wanted God’s will in his life above anything else.
Frisbee was an unusually gifted evangelist who led tens of thousands of hippies into a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. As he put it, “Nobody thought that a hippie could be saved.” Tiny Calvary Chapel soon overflowed with hippies who soiled the church’s nice clean carpets and padded pews. A frustrated elder posted a sign, banning people with bare feet and dirty jeans. Smith tore the sign down, stating that he would rather rip out the carpets and pews than turn away the hippies. The word on the street was that this was a hippie church with a hippie preacher. When the older conservative-looking Smith stood up at the pulpit, the hippies initially wondered who had invited him. But he soon won them over with his big heart of love.
Both Smith and Frisbee were remarkable story-tellers, often weaving the stories of their setbacks and breakthroughs into their gospel presentations. Their humorous transparency was deeply attractive to young hippies who had rejected the plastic pretending of their parents. They both shared a deep love for God’s creation. Smith commented: “God has always used nature to awaken my heart and He has approached me through the wonder of a verdant forest, crystal clear stream, and a stellar jay’s scolding more times than I can remember.” “As an artist,” Frisbee said, “I cannot put into words how totally in awe I am of God’s incredibly beautiful and majestic landscapes. …We saw sunrises and sunsets in Africa that literally took my breath away! All creation declares His glory and reality.”
The hippies brought the best and sometimes the worst of their counter-culture with them to Calvary Chapel. With every revival comes new music. The Jesus movement birthed what we now think about as Contemporary Christian music. The most famous of the 12+ Calvary Chapel bands was LoveSong with Chuck Gerard. The Jesus Movement music was bigger than just Calvary Chapel. We brought to Vancouver not just Calvary Chapel bands like The Way, but also musicians like Larry Norman, Randy Stonehill, Tom Howard, and Daniel Amos through the LivingStone Productions concert agency.
Everything that Smith and Frisbee touched turned to spiritual gold, eventually resulting in 1,700 Calvary Chapels in North America and many others overseas. They began baptizing thousands of youth every month at Corona Del Mar Beach. Time Magazine and other media turned up, putting Jesus on their front covers. There was a mushrooming of Christian coffeehouses, communes, bumper stickers, and Christian newspapers. Lonnie became so busy in the revival that his marriage started to suffer. His wife Connie felt that she was coming a distant third after God and Church. Frisbee began doing overseas missions with amazing results in terms of young people entering the Kingdom. Sadly, his marriage collapsed, leaving him feeling wounded and rejected. Then, Smith and Frisbee had a falling out over Frisbee’s emphasis on charismatic gifts and healing.
Frisbee received a deeper anointing from his mission outreaches in Africa. Unexpectedly a second outpouring happened on Mother’s Day 1980, resulting in the birth of a new Vineyard movement with John Wimber, ultimately resulting in 2,400 Vineyard churches globally.
Frisbee left the Vineyard, trying to make it on his own. Sadly, his family wounds left him vulnerable to temptation. Many have compared Frisbee to the biblical Samson. At one point, during great isolation, he fell for a couple of years into a cocaine addiction, and ended up HIV positive.
In the last few years before Frisbee’s death in 1993, he got counselling, working on the deep childhood traumas that had haunted him. He also worked through the deep father-wound that had left him bitter and angry with other key father figures like Chuck Smith and John Wimber. Deep forgiveness and healing happened in many of those relationships, so much so that Smith ended up speaking at Frisbee’s funeral. Frisbee, while dying prematurely, finished well relationally.
We thank God for Chuck Smith, father of the Jesus Movement, and his spiritual son Lonnie Frisbee whom God used to bring so many of us to Life. May God give us today an even greater revival and awakening than what happened in the Jesus movement.
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