By James Wilson
Many American Christian leaders eagerly anticipate the next great move of God. Prophetic types believe they hear of it directly from the Holy Spirit; others are astute observers of history with a sharp eye for how God sees things as opposed to how man sees. They call it the Third Great Awakening and they are half right. There is indeed a Great Awakening bearing down on us; I happen to believe it already underway, albeit in its infancy. But this is not the Third; it is rather the Fourth.
The Jesus People Movement was Number Three, and the Lord has made clear that – although He is forever doing a new thing instead of replicating an old – we will fail to recognize what is coming if we fail to recognize and appreciate what has already come. Yet it is remarkable how few leaders see the Jesus People for what they were; this includes many who came to faith in the midst of that movement.
What was so unique about the Jesus People? They were unlikely ambassadors of Our Lord to an extent not known since the time of the Apostles, or even the time of the Hebrew conquest of ancient Canaan. The most magnetic driver of the Jesus People was an acid head named Lonnie Frisbee.
A sometime television dancer and fledgling artist, Frisbee was high on LSD out in the California desert when Jesus introduced Himself, brought him down, and went on to fill him with His Holy Spirit. Raped repeatedly molested by a babysitter and constantly ridiculed about his so-called unmanliness by a stepfather, he struggled with sexuality all his life, was not healed like so many I know, and eventually died of AIDS contracted via homosexual behavior. He fought for freedom from his addiction all his life, ultimately failing in this life, and yet brought many thousands to know Christ in all His healing and liberating glory. Because he was an embarrassment to the institutional churches he helped found and flourish he has been largely written out of their history. That is making a long story short, but readers can glean the general idea.
Lonnie Frisbee would be the last to declare some sort of revisionist teaching about homosexuality or anything else; the Word is what it is. But he would be the first to speak of God’s unlimited mercy and love for those who need Him the most. He would be unswerving that Jesus came to heal the sick and the lost, and He chooses whom He chooses to go before Him into the towns and villages where the ragged people live, per Paul Simon’s lyric. He would say he was chosen in spite of his dysfunction – because the Lord is that loving – not because of it. In this he is in the mainstream of salvation history.
Can we imagine the conquest of Canaan without Rahab the Prostitute? How about the gospels without Mary Magdalene – whether the prostitute of tradition or just the demonized nutcase depicted in the synoptics – and what about the prostitute in Luke 7 who washes the Lord’s feet with her tears and is promised eternal remembrance? What about King David, adulterer and murderer, or Levi the tax collector whom Jesus called away from his counting table to follow Him into martyrdom? Consider the ordinary fishermen with dirty faces and unwashed hands who turned the world upside down in Jesus’ Name. How many of these repented before the Lord called and sent them?
No serious person contends any of these people – from Bible times to our own season of Awakening-on-the-way – is not in need of serious repentance; their deeds are not in sync with the Lord they serve. None of us can legitimately claim we do not share that need. But the Lord is not accountable to Church authorities. He expects all His people to struggle for freedom from bondage – free gift though it is – and especially if their bondage is to judgment and unforgiveness – but whether He uses them before or after complete liberation is His business alone. He does require surrender and commitment as the offering of repentance – re-focus – on Him instead of His competitors.
There are consequences for choosing our values over His grace. Calvary Chapel, which was a church plant in Chuck Smith’s living room when Frisbee began pouring gasoline on its small fire, has so written him out of its history they even eschew the signs and wonders that were so plentiful when he ministered. The Vineyard, which was just as blessed by Frisbee sometime after John Wimber lit its fires, rejected him and failed likewise to see what God was doing through its Airport Christian Fellowship in Toronto. Both denominations are so bogged down in doctrinal hairsplitting today they often miss the Presence, and they are not unique.
Don’t get me wrong. God is not soft on sin; the pages of scripture trumpet this reality. Yet He chose Martin Luther King – a man who loved Him and served Him unto his own martyr’s death despite his sexual issues, in this case hetero – and never thought of himself more highly than he ought. God has no use for people who glory in their inadequacies, as revisionist types tend to do, but He can do all things through those who acknowledge their shortcomings and permit Him to perfect His strength in their weaknesses.
Paul of Tarsus referred to himself as an abortion, the unlikeliest ambassador of them all. Lonnie Frisbee and Martin Luther King could relate to him. So should we. The coming Awakening is going to feature the unlikely. Let us give thanks and wake up to smell the coffee the Lord Himself is brewing.
It is Number Four coming. Praise the Lord.
James A. Wilson is the author of Living As Ambassadors of Relationships, The Holy Spirit and the End Times, Kingdom in Pursuit, and his first novel, Generation – available at Bounty Books or at firstname.lastname@example.org