What I Learned From Lonnie Frisbee | by Sandy Adams

by cca

Lonnie Frisbee was the “hippie preacher” that God used powerfully in the early days of Calvary Chapel. The Jesus Movement had begun when Chuck Smith met Lonnie and allowed him to preach to the young people who were flocking to Chuck’s church in Southern California. And Lonnie’s impact was undeniable. Under his preaching hundreds of young people were saved, and believers received the baptism and gifts of the Holy Spirit. Often his laying on of hands and prayer prompted believers to speak with the gift of tongues.

Lonnie’s ministry was highlighted in the recent film, “Jesus Revolution.” The movie has stirred up questions and interest in Lonnie’s life and ministry, and it inspired me to tell my “Lonnie Frisbee Story.” I have just one. We met briefly, but God used the “hippie preacher” to teach me a lesson I have carried with me the rest of my life. My one-and-done encounter with Lonnie has proven instrumental in the growth of my faith.

Lonnie’s popularity at Calvary Chapel was strategic, but short-lived. It stretched from early 1968 to 1971 when Lonnie and his wife left California for Florida. For most of the next decade they were involved in other ministries. Lonnie returned to Calvary Chapel in the late 1970s when our paths crossed.

I came from Atlanta, Georgia to Twin Peaks, California in the spring of 1980 to enroll in the Calvary Chapel Bible College. The Jesus Movement had spread from California to places all around the world, even to the Deep South. I started listening to Pastor Chuck on the radio. It was through “The Word For Today” that I learned of Calvary Chapel and its Bible College.

Having been raised in a fundamentalist Baptist Church I knew very little about the baptism of the Holy Spirit and supernatural gifts like speaking in tongues. But when I gave my life to Jesus I wanted to be His witness, and lacked the boldness needed. One night I prayed in desperation for God to pour out His Holy Spirit on me. He did, and for a blessed moment I spoke in tongues. What happened scared me. I thought, “what’s a good Baptist doing speaking in tongues?” And my doubt shut down my praise. But there was no denying my life changed that night. I had a new boldness to share the Gospel and a strong love for people. I knew what I had experienced was real, and longed for a repeat of both the Spirit’s anointing and the ability to praise God in an unlearned and unknown language.

Shortly after my semester at the Bible College began I heard of a pastors conference that was to be held at the facility. I’m thankful the students had the opportunity to attend. I had just begun to learn that there were Calvary Chapel pastors other than Chuck Smith. And of course, I’d heard of Lonnie Frisbee. People told me he had a special gifting, that he prayed for folks and they were filled with the Holy Spirit.

Again, I was a Southern Baptist branching out. I had come all the way to California to learn from and experience what God was doing at Calvary Chapel. I thought, “I might as well have this Frisbee guy pray for me. If I’m really serious about this why not approach the guy with the reputation.” So one night at the conference I found Lonnie. Someone had to point him out to me. I introduced myself and told him my story; then I asked him if he would pray for me to be filled with the Holy Spirit and speak in tongues.

After a long pause Lonnie ordered me, “Take off your shoes.” I said, “What?” He told me again, “Take off your shoes.” Now it would not have been that difficult. All I was wearing at the time were rubber flip flops. But I was adamant, “I’m not interested in gimmicks. I want the real thing! I want the power of the Holy Spirit, not some charismatic hocus-pocus.” I’ll never forget Lonnie’s response. He was bold, “Man, your problem is pride – intellectual pride. If you can’t figure something out you won’t believe it.”

Then he recited me the story of Naaman the leper. Recall, the Syrian General had approached the Prophet Elisha for healing. Elisha told him to dip himself seven times in the Jordan River. At first Naaman was too proud to immerse himself in the muddy, murky waters of the Jordan. He said if he wanted to dip in a river there were purer rivers in Syria. That’s when his servants called him out for his pride. They ask him, “If the prophet had told you to do something great, would you not have done it? How much more then, when he says to you, ‘Wash, and be clean’?”

Just as Naaman didn’t understand what his healing had to do with dipping himself in the dirty waters of the Jordan, I didn’t see what taking off my shoes had to do with me receiving the power of the Holy Spirit. But Lonnie saw the connection perfectly. His insistence that I take off my shoes exposed my intellectual pride. If I couldn’t make sense of the instructions, I refused to believe. After a string of excuse-laden responses from me, Lonnie brought our conversation to an abrupt end, “Hey, you asked me to pray for you, and God told me not to pray unless you take off your shoes.”

Well, I was so mad I did something that’s hard to do – I stomped off in flip-flops! No way was I going to get involved in what I saw as spiritual shenanigans. But when I walked up the stairs, and sat down in the lobby of the conference center to sort out in my mind what had happened, God spoke to me, “Sandy, he is exactly right! This IS your problem. If you can’t dissect it, and decipher it, and have it all figured out you won’t believe it. You have a faith that’s limited to your own logic.” Lonnie had hit the nail on the head. My problem was my pride!

So I humbled myself, and took off my flip-flops. And almost immediately, I saw Lonnie walking out the door. He was on the back stairwell. I got his attention and waved my shoes at him. He just smiled. I told him, “Don’t smile, pray! You’re exactly right. I’m a proud man. But I’m humbling myself now, and I really want you to pray for me.”

That’s when Lonnie once more did the unexpected. When I look back on the situation, it’s surefire evidence he was listening to God. He said to me, “God just told me not to pray for you. I’ve done my part.” And with that he gave me a big hug and walked off into the night… And thus ended the only experience or conversation I ever had with the man… almost. For the lesson God taught me that night has shaped my life ever since.

The very next day a group of friends and I went to the baptism at Pirates’ Cove (Corona Del Mar), and after being baptized, as I was walking over the rocks that surrounded the Cove, the Spirit of God moved on me again with power and love, and once more I started speaking praises to God in an unknown language. But this time, even though it baffled and humbled my understanding I went with what was happening. Rather than quench the Spirit as I had done before, I rejoiced! I was grateful! I was experiencing what Peter called “joy unspeakable and full of glory.” It was amazing, a former Southern Baptist was speaking in an unknown tongue! I experienced a wonderful filling of the Holy Spirit that I have never forgotten and continue to walk in to this very day.

And since that day, I have come to realize how vital it is to take God at His word even when I don’t have it all figured out. Prior to my encounter with Lonnie I lived my life with a faith limited by my own logic. If I couldn’t understand the ins and outs of a thing I remained skeptical. I never considered that God was bigger than my understanding. His ways are beyond our ways. His thoughts are higher than our thoughts. God is all-knowing, and I am still growing!

And now whether it’s a truth clearly revealed in the Bible that I can’t yet reconcile logically – or a physical tragedy with no apparent explanation – just because I don’t understand it doesn’t mean I can’t trust God. Today, when I comfort a couple whose baby just died, or talk to a man whose spouse has a cancer, or walk through a hard passage with a skeptical student, or encourage a sojourner at a confusing crossroads… I can assure that person that real faith doesn’t need to know why, when it is certain of WHO. You and I can trust God even when we can’t trace Him. I love the saying, “What’s over my head is still under God’s feet.”

I have heard the stories of what became of Lonnie Frisbee. He failed to finish well. But his life affirms the lesson God taught me through our encounter. Just as God works in unusual ways that baffle our reasoning, God uses unlikely people to do His work. God knows the great hindrance to building His Kingdom isn’t foolish men or weak men, but prideful men. God’s plan is to use the foolish to confound the wise, and the weak to shame the strong. He uses humble people who aren’t deluded into thinking the power and wisdom is of them. Often I recall the lesson I learned from Lonnie, and I thank the Lord for “the hippie preacher.”

Pastor Sandy Adams

2011 Mount Hermon Q&A

by ccdsmin

In 2011 I was honored to participate on a Q&A panel at a pastors conference in Mount Hermon, Northern California. My pastor Chuck Smith, a good friend David Guzik, and myself fielded questions through the moderator, John Snoderly. Recently, I listened to the Q&A ten years later, and it struck me that the questions are as relevant today as they were then. I’m posting the audio in hopes that it might help a pastor or two. At the close of the Q&A, David and I were able to pray for our pastor and his wife. An opportunity I’ll always cherish. – Sandy Adams

Women and Church Leadership

by cca

This week, Saddleback Church announced the appointment of three female pastors. This was applauded by many evangelicals. Yet I believe this breaks the heart of the God who made us male and female. Both genders and the roles assigned to each are designed by God to teach spiritual truths. The Bible says that Christian men are to lead and Christian women should follow. This doesn’t apply in the secular arenas of government, business, society-at-large, but in God’s living room – in the church and in the home – this is how He wants Christians to order their relationship with the opposite sex. These roles paint a picture to the world of God’s relationship with His people. Throughout the Bible God speaks of Himself in the masculine and His people in the feminine. Jesus is the groom and the Church is His bride. God leads and Christians follow. And it’s God’s will that every church and marriage serve as a reminder.

This is why a woman’s role in the church is such a watershed issue. It’s not that women are incapable of offering spiritual leadership and biblical instruction. To the contrary, women may be the more suited for service. But giftedness is not the issue. There are times when God’s purpose is spiritual and emblematic, more so than practical and utilitarian. When a woman yields leadership to a Spirit-anointed man she fulfills a higher, holier purpose, than simply the task at hand. The Apostle Paul said her actions intrigue the angels. In the eyes of God any of the pastoral duties she might perform pales in comparison to the beauty and significance of her submission. God wants us all to see and serve the big picture.

And yet Saddleback is not the only church that has allowed the pressure of culture to obscure the purpose of God. Giving women the authority to teach men and pastor the flock is spreading. Even some Calvary Chapels are compromising the biblical ideal.

I want to remind the Calvary Chapels that might be influenced by the example of Saddleback and those likeminded, that our pastor was clear about what the Bible taught. Recently, I ran across a personal letter I received in the early 80s from Pastor Chuck. I was struck by its relevance to today. At the time I was a young pastor prayerfully sorting these matters out for myself. I sought Chuck’s counsel. His reply was simple and gracious as always, but it was also biblical and clear. And as I share it these many years later, I pray its clarity speaks to you!

Pastor Sandy Adams

Calvary Chapel in the Deep South

by cca

Listen to a podcast featuring Pastor Sandy regarding Calvary Chapel in the Deep South with Pastor Anthony Rea of Living Water Christian Fellowship in Dothan, AL.

Listen to a podcast featuring Pastor Sandy regarding Calvary Chapel in the Deep South with Pastor Anthony Rea of Living Water Christian Fellowship in Dothan, AL.