Saturday, March 12, 2016

The Book That Never Was

A Book Review
Title: Not by Might Nor by Power – The Great Commission
Author: Lonnie Frisbee, with Roger Sachs

This is a book review, written out of frustration, about a book that was never published.

Over three years ago, I wrote out a book review regarding an autobiography by Lonnie Frisbee, entitled Not By Might Nor By Power – The Jesus Revolution. The co-author, Roger Sachs, published it, using the materials that Lonnie had put together during the last few years of his life. But there is supposed to be more to the story. In fact, in the postscript at the ending, Roger Sachs promised to everybody that another book would soon be forthcoming:
It is very exciting to finally get even a portion of Lonnie's story out there to the highways and byways. Lord willing, it will not take another twenty years to share the rest of his radical ongoing story. Lonnie's life actually accelerated after his part in the Jesus People Movement. Some very, very good seasons lie ahead, and some very low points. We have most of the next powerful season of Lonnie's life transcribed, and almost ready to share. It is sub-titled "The Great Commission."
CC beach baptism back then
Indeed, such a book would be an interesting book to read. The first book, where Lonnie talked about his role in the Jesus People Movement and Calvary Chapel, was fascinating. Despite its rough edges, I think it conveyed a picture of what Lonnie's character was like, and how he might have sounded if you heard him preach. A follow-up book could possibly answer many questions that still remain unanswered. But it has now been over three years since Roger Sachs promised us that a second book was coming, and there is still no clear sign that it will be published.

Roger Sachs has never explained what is holding things up. Where is the second book? What's the big problem?

There are many unanswered questions. For example, What exactly happened during those years when he joined up with the Fort Lauderdale Five? What was Lonnie's viewpoint regarding his time with Vineyard and John Wimber? What did he think about John Wimber? Lonnie played a pivotal role in Vineyard. What about the famous "Mother's Day service"? Also, it would be good if Lonnie were to elaborate about his being a "seeing prophet," a claim he made about himself during a sermon he gave in Denver. Does Lonnie say anything about the times when he lapsed into homosexual behavior? What was his viewpoint on this matter? In the first book, Lonnie didn't hesitate to talk honestly about how he was sexually molested as a child by a teenage babysitter on repeated occasions, but he only vaguely hinted at how that horrible experience effected the rest of his life. It would be interesting to find out what Lonnie, using his own words, has to say about this issue. It could clear up a lot of misunderstandings. This is especially the case when you consider that there are people out there who want to turn Lonnie into a kind of gay poster boy. There is not much that can be done about this, but I suspect that Lonnie himself would not have agreed with such an interpretation of his life, as seen through the prism of identity politics.

But we really don't know for sure what Lonnie would say. The promised second book has never been published.

How did he come to grips with fact that his life would be cut short at age 44? He died in 1993 from complications due to AIDS. I think this is a good question, and I wonder if Lonnie would have anything to say about his illness in a second book.

We may never know. It doesn't look like a second book will ever be published. Did Roger Sachs just plain old run out of money and couldn't finish the project?

I sure don't know.

Beach baptism as CC remembers it today
The truth is that Lonnie Frisbee helped to launch the Calvary Chapel movement. It is sad but if you look now you would find that they have relegated him to being just a minor historical footnote, if he is ever mentioned at all. It is as if he had been airbrushed out of their history.* I am convinced that if Lonnie turned up today on their doorsteps, the present leadership would completely reject him, at least from preaching. He would be considered too "problematic" or "erratic." So it is easy enough for parts of history to disappear. We can hope that indeed everything has been transcribed from the materials that Lonnie donated to Roger Sachs's safekeeping, because over time, video and audio tapes do oxidize and will eventually become unusable. It would be very sad indeed if we ended up with just half an autobiography and if part of Lonnie's testimony were completely lost. If Roger Sachs can't finish the project, perhaps he can donate the materials to someone who can.

There had been talk by some people about turning the story of Lonnie's life "into a movie". If this is what is causing Roger Sachs to delay things, then I would say, please, don't turn Lonnie Frisbee into movie. His life was not the sort that would make for a good movie. He was a Gospel preacher. Yes, he was very charismatic. But a movie is not the best vehicle for communicating those qualities. You can't make a movie just out of someone preaching. And how would such a movie depict the rest of Lonnie's Life? That his personal life was sometimes a wreck? That his marriage fell apart and his wife was having an affair with some other minister? That church leadership sometimes didn't know how to handle him? That he danced on Shebang? Besides, good movies are insanely expensive to make, and the people who have the big money needed to make movies would only find a way to subvert the story for their own purposes, usually by creating villains where they didn't really exist or by spinning the story to be more lurid than the actual humdrum reality. And please, Roger, we don't need another "A Bible Story" documentary, just another round of people being interviewed, giving their opinions while second-tier CCM plays in the audio background. We have seen that before. Everybody has an opinion. And too many people have axes to grind and want to get in on the act. The Internet is already full of opinions. We don't need any more.

Today is the twenty-third anniversary of Lonnie's death. I think we have waited long enough. So if there is more to the story, Roger, then go and publish the second book if there really is one, and please let Lonnie speak in his own terms. If Lonnie really was a friend of yours, you owe it to him to complete the project that he entrusted to you. Either that or, at the very least, explain to us why you are unable to finish what you have started.


[Update, 2016 July 3] *See my article "Blurred History" for an example of historical revisionism that can happen.

[Update, 2016 Jul 27] I have made repeated attempts to contact Roger Sachs regarding the status of the supposedly forthcoming book. So far, there has been no response. However, I do know that someone with access to his Facebook account has read my messages there. The lack of any response has me wondering that the promised second book will not be coming, for reasons that I can only guess at. It is sad that we will probably never have the entire autobiography that Lonnie Frisbee intended to be published. Along the way, though, I discovered that Mr. Sachs is billed as one of the ministers at Pearl Chapel by the Sea in beautiful Pismo Beach, California. The building, formerly a United Methodist church, is in the Shell Beach suburb at 205 Windward Ave. The place apparently doubles as a wedding chapel, under the name of La Perla Del Mar. As I said, I can only guess. Perhaps, the project had to be discontinued for reasons of failing health. It's even possible that Roger Sachs is deceased — although I haven't yet found any obituary to that effect — and subsequently his heirs have had no inclination to pursue the project any further.

[Update, 2016 Aug 20] Roger Sachs left this comment on his Facebook page back on May 25th:
"Yes we are almost ready to release the second book on Lonnie's life. It will be soon, probably in a month or two. We have also been working on a documentary but no release date on that project yet. Thanks and pray for Lonnie's story to reach as many people as possible. Blessings RS."
This is a hopeful sign that the missing second book might be published sometime soon, and it does suggest that Roger was still alive, at least up until that date.

[Update, 2016 Oct 01] This is another hopeful sign. Roger Sach's website is now advertising the second book as "coming soon". Apparently, the book cover will show a picture taken of Lonnie baptizing someone at one of the beach baptisms at Pirates Cove.

[Update, 2016 Oct 08] Sometime with the last week, the book finally went up for sale. It took long enough, but better late than never. That doesn't mean I am in luck, however. It appears that the book, with the subtitle "The Great Commission", sold out almost immediately. So I have to wait until another batch is printed up before I can get my own copy. When I do, I plan on writing a book review about it.

[Update, 2016 Oct 09] The book was still in stock on amazon.com. I will be getting it soon.

[Update, 2016 Oct 14] The book finally arrived today, and I have started reading through it. I might write up a book review later. I should note that in the postscript at the end of the book, Roger Sachs has promised everyone that there is yet a third book still to be published, subtitled "Set Free". I very, very much hope that this book will be published in a timely manner. Because if things keep going at this rate, Mr. Sachs may not live long enough to finish this project, and I may not live long enough to get to read the third book. I am not all that young and neither is Mr. Sachs. Time is short, Roger. Please hurry.

[Update, 2016 Nov 29] I have started the process of writing a book review.

[Update, 2016 Dec 31] I have finished the book review.