Directed by Jon Erwin and Brent McCorkle, ‘Jesus Revolution’ is a Christian film based on the autobiographical book of the same name co-written by Greg Laurie. The plot mainly revolves around three individuals — Lonnie Frisbee (Jonathan Roumie), Greg Laurie (Joel Courtney), and Chuck Smith (Kelsey Grammer) — and the roles they play in the Jesus Movement in California during the late 1960s.
Lonnie is introduced as an enigmatic figure in the movie. Smith’s daughter introduces him to Lonnie, and together they start a spiritual revolution that draws the interests of hippies through their inclusive and uncomplicated teachings. If you are wondering whether Lonnie is based on a real person, we got you covered.
Is Lonnie Frisbee a Real Person?
Yes, Lonnie Frisbee was a real person. Born on June 6, 1949, in Costa Mesa, California, Lonnie Ray Frisbee reportedly had a troubled childhood and developed a deep interest in the arts and cooking. Frisbee started venturing into unofficial evangelism while attempting to soul search during acid trips, which often involved reading Bible. Before meeting Smith, Frisbee got involved with The Living Room, the first street Christian community. This is when he also converted to Christianity.
In the film, Smith’s daughter, Janette, meets Lonnie, and as her father had expressed interest in meeting hippies, introduces the men to each other. In real life, it was Janette’s boyfriend, John, who made the introduction. Moreover, Roumie is in his late 40s now. When the meeting happened in real-life, Lonnie was about 18-years-old. However, the film gets some of the other aspects right, including the fact that he was married to a woman named Connie at the time. The Frisbees’ inclusion in Smith’s Calvary Chapel congregation most probably changed its trajectory, with Lonnie emerging as of the most important ministers in the church in a short time.
During this period, the hippie counterculture was sweeping the nation, and California was the ground zero. Lonnie’s flowing hair, beard, mannerism, and message helped him find massive followers among the hippies, which led to Lonnie becoming one of the leaders of the Jesus movement. Between 1961 and 1971, he converted thousands of people and impacted the theological education of future pastors such as Mike MacIntosh and Greg Laurie.
Lonnie was the quintessential “Jesus Freak,” a term used as a pejorative for people who were part of the Jesus movement and became a nationally known figure. However, during this period, the theological differences between him and Smith became too significant to ignore. In 1971, the two went separate ways, with Lonnie going to Florida and becoming involved in the Shepherding Movement. Two years later, he and Connie divorced, reportedly because of the latter’s infidelity.
While he was still part of the Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, Lonnie heavily advocated for the theology revolving around spiritual gifts and New Testament experiences. In fact, this was one of the major points of contention between him and Smith, who held the belief that love was the greatest manifestation of the Holy Spirit. In the late 1970s, Lonnie became involved with the Vineyard movement, where his beliefs in healing and miracles were celebrated.
Lonnie’s early life was difficult. According to his brother, he was raped when he was eight. His father cheated on his mother and eloped with a married woman, prompting his mother to find the abandoned husband and marry him. Lonnie himself spoke about an incident in which he was a victim of rape as an adult. There were speculations about his sexuality within the church, but Lonnie maintained that he never considered himself “homosexual.”
Is Lonnie Frisbee Still Alive?
No, Lonnie Frisbee isn’t alive. He passed away on March 12, 1993, in Orange County, California. He was 43 years old at the time. Although initially it was stated that he died of a brain tumor, it was later reported that his death occurred due to AIDS-related complications. His funeral took place at Christ Cathedral (known as Crystal Cathedral at the time) in Garden Grove, California. He is reportedly buried there.
Before his death, Lonnie asked his longtime friend, Roger Sachs, to help him write the story of his life. ‘Not By Might Nor By Power: The Jesus Revolution’ was the result of the collaboration. Besides ‘Jesus Revolution,’ Lonnie’s life has been the subject of the 2005 documentary ‘Frisbee: The Life and Death of a Hippie Preacher.’