Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Frisbee: Time to Toss it Back

This is supposed to be a SynchroBlog on the subject of Christianity and Film. (For info on SynchroBlogs see The Original SynchroBlog Post from back in December.) I know the original idea of this SynchroBlog probably was to discover places where heaven met the secular silver screen, or to challenge the idea that it does, but I thought that I would write something about a good Christian flick, because finding one is a miracle in itself.

The movie is Frisbee: The Life and Death of a Hippie Preacher. Our church owns the film. Of course, we also own Marjoe, which I believe every preacher ought to see.

Okay I've spent two paragraphs saying nothing about Frisbee, so here we finally go.

It is a documentary about Lonnie Frisbee. Most people today have never heard of Lonnie. I saw him preach in 1981, and he was quite a celebrity in certain circles. Those circles were Calvary Chapel, and Vineyard Churches. He was a little hippie dude, who by 1981 looked less the hippie, and held services in which people experienced lots of radical charismatic God things - you know, speaking in tongues, healings etc.

I did not know at that time that he was responsible for the early miraculous growth of both the Calvary Chapel and Vineyard movements. Later the historical connection between the church movements and Lonnie would be kept quite silent in most circles. Why? Because Lonnie contracted AIDS through homosexual relationships which he had over the same years he was in ministry, and died in 1993.

Two movements had their genesis, and thrived under his passion, and his impetus. Yet today few people in those movements know his name. He has been tossed out as an unclean leper, and his legacy is forgotten. Perhaps it is time to toss his name back into the discussion, and work through the questions his life challenges us with.

At our recent church conference God: For People Who Hate Church we showed the movie, and followed it up for a discussion. Perhaps you should consider buying the DVD, and creating a discussion group around it as well. Thanks to David Di Sabatino for putting this postmodern Bible story together for us.


John W. Morehead said...

Phil, I discovered this DVD on the web while doing research on the Jesus People Movement as part of the historical research for my graduate thesis on Burning Man as an alternative cultural event and movement. Di Sabatino has compiled a good bibliography and written an interesting chapter that preceeds it on this topic, and Frisbee is one of the leading figures. I haven't seen the film yet, but I hope to. For what it's worth, your readers may like to know that it has also been picked up by PBS and should be broadcast in the near future.

Marieke said...

Wow, that is interesting. I've never heard his name or story either (granted, I'm not directly connected to either denomination, but I have been somewhat connected in the past).

I'll have to see if I can find the movie to borrow sometime (too bad they don't have it on Netflix!)

Agent B said...

I really enjoyed watching that movie.

If I remember correctly, it seemed like it was tossing back and forth "was he from god" or "was he from satan". Not literally, but listening to the interviews, it was like a tennis match of trying to figure out if he was "one of us" or not.

And towards the end, one guy interviewed wrapped up the whole flick: "god always uses the foolish to confound the wise. And not one sin is greater than another. We're all sinners".


Steve Hayes said...

I am reminded of the story of the man born blind, who was told that Jesus could not be of God, because he was a sinner. And the man born blind said "I don't know about that, but what I do know is that one i was blind and now I see."

And during Lent we pray the prayer of St Ephraim the Syrian:

Yea, O Lord and King! Grant me to see my own transgressions and not to judge my brother, for blessed art Thou, unto ages of ages.

Anonymous said...

This was a great movie, and a must see as far as I'm concerned. Glad you blogged on it.

Jenelle said...

I remember reading about this film in December! And I'm kicking myself that I still haven't seen it. I've always read and heard that Wimber pretty much single-handedly started the Vineyard movement. I'm really intrigued to watch this film.

The Euro Church Planting mission I've just joined (Christian Associates) has its roots in the Jesus People movement. Maybe I need to order a few copies for the whole office.

Sally said...

Interesting film Phil- thanks for this post- I'd never heard of it before.... wonder if it is available over here??

Pastor Phil said...


Thanks for the heads up on the PBS release. This is a story which will be intriguing to people of many walks of faith, and even non-faith. I found it interesting that David Di Sabatino calls it "a Bible Story."

Pastor Phil said...

Hey Marieke,

It's not easy to come by. Perhaps hint that your church needs a copy. ;-)

Pastor Phil said...

Agent of Austin,

There were some great wrap up lines, yet also a nice little hanging ending, which causes viewers to pauses and reflect. It's a great film for dialogue.

Pastor Phil said...


Unfortunately we judge our brother more harshly after death sometimes, and I find that tendency to a sick dishonoring of the dead. Jerry Falwell's passing is giving us a chance to show grace as it should be exhibited.

Pastor Phil said...


I'm with you on it being a must see - that and Marjoe.

Pastor Phil said...


If you get a copy watch it and discuss it. I really feel the power of the movie is in the thoughtfulness it provokes.

Pastor Phil said...


I only found it by purshasing the DVD. I suppose if you have capabilities to show American DVDs someone could buy the film online and show it there.

David said...

Something I definately want to see as a gathering!
Funny how we hide behind religion when things don't fit in our theological box.
What a great testimony that should encourage us all...

Pastor Phil said...


When we hide behind rligion it tends to look like the law, doesn't it?

Anonymous said...

Care to hear the thoughts of one who is not curious about what Frisbee accomplished?

Josh Rivera said...

Ya, I really don't know what to do with stories like that. Do we take him as a scandelous con or as a man of God victim to sin and the Church? I don't know. Either way God worked some incredible things through him and which of us has not been victim to sin or our piers? (Especially in Christendom). Hopefully I don't get forgotten when people find that out. :-)

Jenelle said...

Yes, we care to hear your thoughts!

Anonymous said...

this documentary reminded me of the movie "the apostle"

Anonymous said...

I guess I asked that because I suspect I will be a minority opinion here, but that is not a bad thing. I walked out of homosexuality because of Christ. Lonnie Frisbee aparently did not so succeed. Yet, he also apparently moved in spiritual power.

It is kind of like recognizing Martin Luther. He stood up against an entrenched, religious elite, altering the course of church history; but he walked in hate toward the Jews.

What's up with that?

On the one hand possibly, we shouldn't reject what Lonnie accomplished because his human failure is so evident...and aren't we all there? Yet, ought he to be lifted up as model of anything?

He and Martin Luther beg the question, "What did Jesus' words mean when He said 'I came to set the captive free'? Was Martin Luther free from the hate of this world? Was Frisbee free from lust? Is homosexuality lust or love?

I cast no stones at Frisbee. I have walked in his sin. I know his struggle for it is mine. Charisma and signs and wonders follow all sorts of people. Such, however, are not necessarily the mark of the presence of Jesus.

The freedom of this site to offer grace to all is much more of a wonder to me and evidence of the spirit of Christ than the life of someone who spoke of one kingdom while feasting in another.

Pastor Phil said...


I am not sure that knowing what to do with stories like this is really the answer. Learning to struggle through them with grace, and not hardline written solutions seems to be the answer to me.

Pastor Phil said...


Yes - both good films, and both disconcerting.

Pastor Phil said...

ded bro,

Thanks for sticking your thoughts out there. I am not sure they are minority thoughts. Obviously you have processed this more than most of us, and your considerations are well thought out. I identify with much of what you say. I would hope that all Christians would have the ability to process this issue. It is films like Frisbee which can make the processing happen I believe.

Anonymous said...

True enough. Thinking and feeling
through is a process, and stories that shake our senses force us to recognize how narrow our thinking is sometimes.

I have admired your willingness, Pastor Phil, to live beyond narrowness. I think I had to speak because I know we can walk in freedom in Jesus. When folks fail that, we forgive 7 x 70. How long it takes someone to learn is not a concern--other than anyone might risk considerable consequences in that process! That is the great heart-ache of guiding teenagers into adulthood.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for highlighting this remarkable story. Unfortunately, the DVD doesn't seem to be available for our region (UK). I hope we now live in more enlightened times and this story can at last be heard without judgement.

Pastor Phil said...

Hey ded,

Your own story is one that helps us live beyond the narrowness. If you are ever near Salem please be sure to ket us know. Your story is one we would love to hear.

Pastor Phil said...

Hi Tim,

This will always be a part of the Gospel we have to navigate with grace. I am not necessarily convinced that society has evolved to a non-judgmental state about any one thing, and Christianity will navigate to and away from grace from season to season and local to local. Perhaps only when heaven envelopes earth will we have moved past the need for enlightenment.

I only fear that we gain one thing, to lose another in some sort of nasty pendulum swinging event.

Anonymous said...

My wife and I actually would like to take several trips to the NE. We've thought of NY, Ithaca and the coast of Maine.

It may happen some day. Have to pay for this last set of braces first!

Pastor Phil said...

Anytime you come ded we'd love to have you.