The Problem Of Charismatic Hypocrisy
“We have seen it so many times: AA Allen drunk and stupefied in a hotel room the night before he preaches in a ‘revival’. Paul Cain, a practising homosexual and alcoholic during the height of his fame in the Signs and Wonders Movement heyday. Bob Jones guilty of sexual abuse and fornication at the height of the Kansas City Prophets fiasco. Todd Bentley, guilty of adultery and violence at the height of the ‘Lakeland Revival’.
Yet all these were (and, by many, still are) admired as great prophets in Charismatic / Pentecostal circles. Lonnie Frisbee is the archetypical example of this kind of charade but he was more powerful than all of them. Though unknown to most evangelicals, he was a founding ‘prophet’ of the early Charismatic Movement, the face of the Jesus Movement revival, the instigator of the Signs and Wonders Movement and the catalyst for the initial growth of both Chuck Smith’s Calvary Chapel and Wimber’s Vineyard churches.
‘Partied on Saturday night and preached on Sunday morning’
As such he deserves some attention. Despite being highly significant in the development of so many Charismatic institutions, he has been carefully edited out of Charismatic history and the records of both Calvary Chapel churches and the Vineyard Movement. My edition (1988) of the Dictionary of Pentecostal and Charismatic Movements has no dedicated article on him, neither is Frisbee mentioned in the articles on ‘Calvary Chapel’ or ‘Vineyard Churches’. The great problem with Frisbee was that, despite his massive success in evangelism and church planting, and despite his dramatic power in Charismatic gifts, Frisbee was not only a practising homosexual at the time, but he was also very influenced by the occult. It was said that he, ‘partied on Saturday night and preached on Sunday morning’.1
He became part of the 60’s drug culture as a teenager aged 16, though he was too busy to do drugs while working on Shebang. At 15, witnesses say that he entered the local gay scene. Frisbee simply affirms that in the early 60’s he dropped out of church attendance and started taking drugs. He was involved in the drug scene at Laguna Beach and mixed with a drug cult called ‘Mystic Arts’.9 He was evangelical regarding LSD and gave much away to turn hundreds of people on. It was at this point that he also became a nudist vegetarian and participated in orgies. Later he also partook of Marijuana, hash, magic mushrooms and Peyote. He does note in his autobiography that drugs ruined the lives of many people
After several years, his blatant existence as a homosexual forced churches to expel him so that he went into semi-obscurity until he died of AIDS. Yet even those who expelled him applauded his great power in evangelism and healing and continued to affirm that his gifts were from God, despite the obvious sin present at the time. As with other sinning Charismatic prophets, he was likened to Samson as having power from God despite his iniquity. This raises the question: can a genuine man of God exercise gifts of the Spirit, or power in evangelism, and at the same time be guilty of gross public sin? Put starkly like that most would deny that it is possible; and yet very many Charismatic apologists continually defend a sinning ‘prophet’ as being a man of God.
He immersed himself in the drug and occult scene, taking LSD regularly and often reading the Bible whilst tripping. He occasionally hitch-hiked back to Southern California and led friends to get naked and stoned at Tahquitz Canyon near Palm Springs; he says that they would seek God.12 On one journey at Tahquitz Canyon he led a group of friends to be baptised in a waterfall whilst the whole group was stoned.13 In a later LSD trip in 1967, aged 18, in the same Tahquitz Canyon, Frisbee saw a vision of himself preaching in front of thousands of people who were then baptised in the ocean.14 He felt the power of the Holy Spirit coming upon him and heard God’s voice call him into evangelistic ministry. He says that he came back from that trip a changed person.15 His new visionary Christianity separated him from family and friends, who considered him mad. Frisbee immediately began preaching the Gospel on beaches and wherever young people were. He states that a hundred people would be converted every night. Soon he oversaw thousands on the beach at Corona Del Mar in mass baptisms (there is some film of some of these).
Many others affirm that he was converted in 1967 while tripping on LSD. Frisbee’s own story is confusing as his description of his ‘calling’ in Tahquitz Canyon includes calling on God to see if he was real,17 which implies that he did not know God at that time; he also said that he was seeking for God on LSD trips before that time. Furthermore, he admitted to someone else that he could cause mystical manifestations before he became a believer. (see section on occultism)
Drug Induced Salvation?
While in San Francisco he centred upon UFOs and practised hypnotism and spoke generally about the occult and mysticism. Since he admittedly became a nudist, occultist, and drug taker at this time, while others affirm that he was also homosexual, it appears unlikely that his earlier conversion was genuine. Some sources say that at some point he became a Christian convert through the witnessing of ‘some brothers from “The House of Acts”’ mission. However Frisbee also states that his conversion was the result of ‘an inspired acid [LSD] trip’ while naked in Tahquitz Canyon;19 the history is somewhat confused at this point.
Drug Induced Exp. With Jesus As Salvation – Or Simply Drug Induced Salvation?
It seems pretty clear that getting stoned on LSD and Marijuana played a significant part in Frisbee’s conversion and subsequent activities. Filmmaker David Di Sabatino says, One of the ironic twists of the 60s was than many openly stated that drugs, LSD in particular, played a large part of their experience in Christian salvation.61 Early Hippie Christians Steve and Sandy Heefner exemplify this: I took my LSD, laid down on the floor a couple of hours and when I could get up, I got up as a Christian. It’s just that simple.62
One question that we cannot answer is, how much occultism had Lonnie absorbed by the heathen traditions of his Native American Indian father? These tribesmen were steeped in the Shamanism and witch-doctor religious occultism that began to creep into evangelical churches with people like Lonnie. Was there a connection? We cannot say.
Mysticism Frisbee’s power experiences are frequently averred to be proof of the power of the Holy Spirit in a believer. Yet on one occasion Frisbee admitted to someone that he had been able to do mystical things (such as make people fall over) before he ever became a Christian when he was into the occult and flying saucers.72 In fact, he used to say that he thought that Jesus came to earth from a UFO.
His chief ability to be considered as spiritual power was the typical Pentecostal sign of making people fall over. (being ‘slain in the Spirit’) When ‘the power’ was on Frisbee he could do this randomly without prayer or action; people walking past him would simply fall over. This phenomenon is typical of occult and mystical groups, as we have explained many times. It has nothing to do with Biblical ministry and is not a Scriptural sign of charisma. 73
It is also said by his friends that when he was normal he was goofy, silly, and could do nothing powerful; but when the power came upon him he was bold, authoritative and dispensed power and even healing. This also is typical of many occultists, shaman types and mystics. William Branham could also do no miracles unless his ‘angel’ (i.e. demon) was with him. Benny Hinn has explained that when the power comes upon him at home his children become frightened of him (what a foul thing to boast about!). Hinn then can do the sorts of things that Frisbee did years before him.
With Frisbee people did not just fall backwards. I have personally heard Wimber talk about the early days (though he did not mention Frisbee) and explained how people would be thrown many yards in the air to be slammed against a wall. This sort of violent action has nothing to do with genuine Christian ministry, to say nothing of the implication of throwing the Spirit around to hit a person some distance away.
Frisbee believed that a deer-skinned coat on which he’d painted an image of Jesus’ face (itself unbiblical) could summon the Holy Spirit and heal and convert people. He’d drape it over teenagers to bring down the Spirit’s power.75 This is pure witchcraft.
I got a deerskin to be my mantle and I painted a picture of Jesus on it and wore it like a cape. So when I would pray for people and the Spirit of God would come on ‘em, I’d take off my cape and throw the mantle over the top of them.76
He began to use this in Vineyard meetings: John would speak and Lonnie would minister. They were the dynamic duo. Lonnie got up there and he’d wave his leather coat and the power of God would come and people would be falling over these old pews in Baptist churches. And Lonnie would start climbing over the pews and start laying hands on people saying, ‘Speak in tongues! Speak in tongues.’ And he’d hit them in the forehead and they’d instantly begin to speak in tongues.77
One of the problems with this sort of power is that it touches non-Christians as well as Christians. How can the grace of God affect scoffing unbelievers? The Foreword in Frisbee’s autobiography demonstrates one such occurrence where mocking teenagers began to shake and then prayed in tongues on Frisbee’s command without any repentance or faith (p5). This sort of power is simply age-old occultism.
We see this very clearly in Pentecostalism and Charismania; it is just pagan occultism warmed up and this began to cross over into evangelical churches in the early Charismatic Movement around the time of Frisbee’s early ministry. Kathryn Kuhlman was one key, widely accepted proponent and she laid hands on Frisbee for power. In fact Frisbee was completely enamoured by Kuhlman and dedicated his autobiography to her.
He believed that God told him that sin did not impact his ministry. He describes a conversation with God where the Lord is supposed to say, if he sins, it doesn’t matter; if he is in rebellion to God his ministry will continue ‘no matter what’.
Failure To Heal People & Hear From God
After describing how he forcibly tried to heal a man in a café and hurt the man’s head, failing to bring any healing, leading Frisbee to run
away, he says, ‘You fail your way into God. You fail your way into the Kingdom of God’.
He is really describing mistakes. Frisbee’s early attempts to heal met with many failures. He also had many wrong visions, such as the time he was certain that he would take over Oral Robert’s ministry when he died; which is a failure to hear from God correctly.
Bad testimonies by followers of Frisbee
See the video at YouTube, ‘The Lonnie Frisbee mantle by Jeff Jansen’.
Larsen describes being in a meeting with Wimber and Frisbee in New York. He explains how Frisbee was able to minister Toronto Blessing-type mystical experiences even then;78 in fact, these are typical oriental mystical and occult phenomena.
For example Jansen explains that a group of drug-addicted men on the platform were jumping in synchronised piston-like movements about eight inches in the air. However, they were not bending their knees at all. This is physically impossible and typical of occult phenomena. Jansen then explains how, on Frisbee’s instruction, he raised his hands and felt like he had plugged into a thousand volts of electricity. He affirmed that he shook for months afterwards.
These are not a Biblical experience but are common in the occult.
A number of people witness about receiving the mantle of Lonnie Frisbee so that they can move in power. See for example: YouTube ‘SHATTER! – Lonnie Frisbee Mantle Part 1 – Keith Luker’. Luker explains that he shook with the ‘power of the Holy Spirit’ whenever he walked past a wooden easel made by Frisbee. This is pure sacramentalism and / or suggestibility and no different from the people that fainted in the Middle Ages when they touched a Roman Catholic relic.
The bad sources of Wimber’s Third Wave
It is worth considering that John Wimber’s Signs and Wonders Movement falls roughly into two halves before his death. The first part was definitely instigated and developed by the power that Lonnie Frisbee manifested. This is what got the Vineyard Movement off the ground in a big way. Frisbee at that time was a homosexual drug abuser deeply influenced by Latter Rain Pentecostal doctrines.
After waning somewhat in the late 80s, Wimber’s movement was given a shot in the arm by his meeting with Paul Cain. This propelled the movement in a prophetic, revivalist direction. At the time Cain was a practising homosexual and alcoholic and also a proponent of Latter Rain and manifest Sons of God theology.
Thus the two instigators of the prime direction of the Signs and Winders Movement under Wimber were homosexual addicts and the underlying theology was Latter Rain and worse.
What we don’t see
Apart from the many troubling things about the life of Frisbee, what we constantly fail to see is any conviction of sin about homosexuality, drug taking, mysticism, ignoring his wife, nudism and so on. Where is the repentance from sin?
Neither do we see, in the many homages to Frisbee by Charismatics, a centring upon Christ; rather we see a centring upon the supposed power of the Holy Spirit. Conversion for Frisbee, is an experience to be sought rather then the truth to be believed and a person to submit to as Lord.
Nor do we see any kind of mature thinking, sound doctrine, or clear theological understanding. Frisbee’s preaching was intellectually immature. There was little that was edifying in his messages. His attraction was in his manifestations of power.
Though there is film of him quoting Scripture with Kathryn Kuhlman, there seems to be a distinct lack of Bible teaching in his life and ministry. Bible verses are points on which to hang preaching for an experience for him. There is no doctrinal understanding, no wisdom and no growth in sanctification.
Then where is the new life? Frisbee appears to have continued to the end as he was at the beginning, a homosexual sinner. Where is the evidence of a new life with the old cast away and dead?
It is impossible to come to any other conclusion. Bad roots produce bad fruit. Frisbee’s gifting and power in mystical things cannot be the fruit of the Holy Spirit but are the occult deviations of someone very confused, even if he claims to have loved Jesus.
Frisbee is not the first person in history to possess power to manipulate people, even to good effects, and yet be in the throes of deep deception and a false work. He will not be the last.
Lessons to learn
The biggest lesson is not to centre upon experiences but upon the person of Christ. Experiences can be fake, hysteria, suggestibility or have occult roots. Many non-Christians can get people to fall over: stage illusionists, hypnotists, shamans, witch-doctors, Indian gurus, and so on.
Derren Brown got one person out of nowhere and taught him how to become a Pentecostal healer who could perform to strangers on the street and to church audiences, making them shake, fall over, have burning sensations and gain pain relief. Such things are no proof of godly ministry.
There is no proof that making a person fall over is a gift from God and Scripture never shows godly men acting this way. Falling backwards is, however, a common feature of occult religions and hypnotism.
Mysticism is not Christianity.
A person can be very sincere and yet be sincerely wrong.
Test a man before putting him into some kind of church leadership.
Do not pressurise a man with his ministry responsibilities to the extent that he damages his marriage.
In conclusion, all we can say about Lonnie Frisbee is that his life is a sad and tragic tale. Whether he was truly a believer is impossible to say; God is merciful and patient with all of our sins. Who are we to say that Frisbee was a worse sinner than us?
What we can say is that Frisbee’s character was deeply flawed. His teaching was abysmal and unbiblical. He was unqualified to be a pastor (indeed, he would agree with that). His claim to fame is his gifting in evangelism, but that was chiefly being in the right place at the right time; God was reaching out to thousands in a genuine work; Frisbee’s Gospel was not Scriptural, being based upon will power. Frisbee was not noteworthy for bringing thousands to Christ after he left Wimber.
Frisbee is mainly famous today for his ability to manifest Pentecostal power; however, there are serious problems with this as we have discussed.
It is a disgrace that huge church organisations that developed as a result of Frisbee’s work have edited him out of their histories due to embarrassment. They need to come clean and acknowledge Frisbee’s ministry; but they also need to acknowledge the problems that this entails.
It is interesting that Frisbee’s autobiography is called, ‘Not by might, nor by power’ when the whole book is about Frisbee moving in Pentecostal power. The sad thing is that the basis of a good work is truth above all else. Only that which is based on God’s word will stand the divine test. Frisbee’s ministry was not based on truth.” Paul Fay
In re-reading Lonnie’s story, my take away was this:
Lonnie, clearly by demonic powers, (he was knocking people over, and causing unusual manifestations before he was supposedly saved), was doing what he was doing, his salvation questionable, as he was drug induced, practicing occultism and homosexuality. There was no acknowledged repentance, and renouncing of sin, and surrender of his life to Jesus Christ, as the propitiation (atonement, appeasement) for his sin, only a spiritual exp. while high on LSD.
Others, such as Kathryn Kulman, whom he idolized, prayed and laid hands on him, she herself, causing the same manifestations in others. This was 10 years before Benny Hinn began practicing the same things.
If Lonnie did these things by demonic, occult powers, these phenomena must be re-evaluated. The question posed above by the author must be absolutely, soberingly considered.
“Can a genuine man of God exercise gifts of the Spirit, or power in evangelism, and at the same time be guilty of gross public sin? Put starkly like that most would deny that it is possible; and yet very many Charismatic apologists continually defend a sinning ‘prophet’ as being a man of God.“
Again, I emphatically point out that Lonnie Frisbee released into the Vineyard movement demonic elements that have been incorporated into the charismatic movement and beyond. If he was under occult influence while acting as an evangelist all those years, admittedly exercising those powers even prior to his supposed salvation, I can see no other conclusion, as hard as it may be to acknowledge. What else could be assumed?
I believe Lonnie is a perfect, demonstrative case in point. There is no question as to his drug induced spiritual encounters, practicing homosexuality, and occult activity while claiming, or imagining he was ‘born again.’ He read Edward Cayce, talk of alien UFO’s and believed Jesus entered earth in a space ship, all the while leading many (for sometime at least) in LSD induced pursuits of God.
“Filmmaker David Di Sabatino says, One of the ironic twists of the 60s was than many openly stated that drugs, LSD in particular, played a large part of their experience in Christian salvation.“
Honest seekers of the truth must grapple with this conundrum!
Lonnie’s powers came not from God.
The same demonstrations and manifestations exercised by many others, popularized by Kathryn Kulman, Benny Hinn, John Wimber in the Vineyard movement, and many in the charismatic movement as well, echo of the same source. If so with Lonnie Frisbee, then sadly, but certainly with the Vineyard, charismatic movements and beyond.
Honest seekers of the truth must grapple with this conundrum!
Testing Genuine Ministry
“It is very difficult when you examine people like Frisbee. On paper you can write him off as an unrepentant sinner steeped in mysticism; yet when you listen to him and watch him speak, one warms to him and appreciates his concern for young people. His passion for Jesus may not be spiritual but it is heart-felt and sincere. He speaks more warmly, and with great affection, about Jesus than many dour evangelicals.
When you see people who claim to love Jesus as much as Frisbee seems to, it is very hard to be forced to dismiss them as heretics. Such love, such passion, such self-sacrifice, is hardto ignore.
Yet throughout history there have been many leaders who have shown a love for God, have cried in worship, have given up their lives for Jesus, have sacrificed everything – and yet history shows that they were deceived heretics. What then is the test of truth?
It is not emotionalism. Crying as one worships God is insufficient, whether sincere or false. Showing a great passion for God is also not a suitable test; even the heathen can demonstrate that. Sacrificing everything and even becoming an ascetic is no proof either; many of the great historical heretics did that. Serving the church and having a heart for the lost is no proof either; many heretics have done this.
The only sure test of a man’s ministry is the Bible; only God’s word can be used to test whether a person is true or not. To test a ministry we must have an absolute; something sure and certain. We cannot trust our feelings or even our mental faculties; we must have an absolute rule to judge people by. That rule is Scripture. Only the Bible is secure enough
for us to measure a man.
Is this testing acceptable? It is not only acceptable it is demanded by God.”
To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. Isa 8:20
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Matt 7:15-23
Yes, and why, even of yourselves, do you not judge what is right? Lk 12:57
These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with alreadiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. Acts 17:11
Prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God. Rm 12:2
He who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. 1 Cor 2:15
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 1 Jn 4:1
You have tested those who say they are apostles and are not, and have found them liars. Rev 2:2
We Must Judge Biblical Fruit Not Appearances
“Thus all leaders, preacher, teachers, counselors etc. must be tested against God’s word to see if they are of the truth or not. Ministry that does not stand the test must be dismissed and the sheep warned of false ministry.
In the case of Frisbee, there is no doubt that he does not meet the test of God’s word. His character is at fault and he remained in sin, or at least he lapsed grossly. His doctrines are at fault and contain many errors. His practices were at fault, being mysticism and occult works based upon hypnotism and suggestibility and not the work of God’s Spirit. His church associations fail Scriptural tests. His mentors also fail the test of God’s word.
No matter how much we may warm to his passion for Christ and his desire to evangelize, it is not possible to endorse Frisbee’s ministry, as everything about him is so unbiblical. The flock must be warned about this man, and the false works that he helped to build up.
The fact that Frisbee initiated the Signs and Wonders Movement is just one reason for us to identify that movement as false.”