Tuesday, November 28, 2017

Mother's Day Part 1

I would like to present here John Wimber's own account of the famous Mother's Day revival which happened on May 11, 1980. I will also comment on some of the reasons why these two accounts differ from each other, and how they compare with Lonnie Frisbee's own recollections which he presented in the second book of his autobiography.

Account #1


Here is John Wimber's recollection as it appeared on pages 23 through 26 of his book "Power Evangelism" (1986, Harper & Row).
The first time I experienced a power encounter similar to the one described at Pentecost, I became extremely irritated and angry at God. It was Mother's Day 1979 [sic], and I had invited a young man to speak at the evening service of the church at which I had only recently become pastor, what would later become the Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Anaheim, California. His background was the California "Jesus People" movement of the late sixties and early seventies and, so I heard, he was unpredictable when he spoke. I was apprehensive about him, but I sensed God wanted him to speak nevertheless. He had been used by God to lead Christians into a refreshing experience of the Holy Spirit, and it was obvious to me that the congregation needed spiritual renewal. I hasten to point out that asking this young man to speak went contrary to my normal instincts as a pastor. I take seriously the admonition that pastors are to protect their flocks, but in this instance I sensed it was what God wanted. Regardless, I was to stand by the decision, whatever the cost.

When he eagerly agreed to speak, I became even more apprehensive. What will he say? What will he do to my church? The Lord gently reminded me, "Whose church is this?"

That evening he gave his testimony, a powerful story of God's grace. As he spoke, I relaxed. Nothing strange here, I thought. Then he did something that I had never seen done in a church gathering. He finished his talk and said, "Well, that's my testimony. Now the church has been offending the Holy Spirit a long time and it is quenched. So we are going to invite it to come and minister." We all waited. The air became thick with anticipation — and anxiety.

Then he said, "Holy Spirit, come." And he did!

(I must remind you that we were not a "Pentecostal" church with experience or understanding of the sorts of things that began to happen. What happened could not have been learned behavior.)

People fell to the floor. Others, who did not believe in tongues, loudly spoke in tongues. The speaker roamed among the crowd, praying for people, who then immediately fell over with the Holy Spirit resting on them.

I was aghast! All I could think throughout the experience was "Oh, God, get me out of here." In the aftermath, we lost church members and my staff was extremely upset. That night I could not sleep. Instead, I spent the evening reading Scripture, looking for the verse, "Holy spirit, come." I never found it.

By 4:30 that morning I was more upset than I was earlier at the meeting. Then I remembered that I had read in The Journal of John Wesley about something like this happening. I went out to my garage and found a box of books about revivals and revivalists and began to read them. What I discovered was that our experience at the church service was not unique; people like John and Charles Wesley, George Whitefield, Charles Finney, and Jonathan Edwards all had similar experiences in their ministries. By 6:00 I had found at least ten examples of similar phenomena in church history. [John quotes an example from Wesley's journal regarding a gathering that occurred on May 24, 1738 at "Fetter Lane with about 60 of our brethren."]

Then I asked God for assurance that this was from him, that this was something he — not humans or Satan — was doing. Just after praying this prayer, the phone rang. Tom Stipe, a Denver, Colorado, pastor and good friend, called. I told him what had happened that night before, and he responded that it was from God. "That's exactly what happened in the early days of the Jesus People revival. Many people were saved." That conversation was significant, because Tom was a credible witness. I had only heard about these things; Tom had lived through them.

Over the next few months, supernatural phenomena continued to occur, frequently uninvited and without and any encouragement, spontaneously. New life came into our church. All who were touched by and who yielded to the Holy Spirit — whether they fell over, started shaking, became very quiet and still, or spoke in tongues — accepted the experience and thought it was wonderful, drawing them closer to God. More importantly, prayer, Scripture reading, caring for others, and the love of God all increased.

Our young people went out into the community, looking for people to evangelize and pray over. An event that I heard about is a good illustration of what often happened. One day a group of our young people approached a stranger in a parking lot. Soon they were praying over him, and he fell to the ground. By the time he got up, the stranger was converted. He is now a member of our church.

A revival began that May, and by September we had baptized over seven hundred new converts. There may have been as many as seventeen hundred new coverts during a three-and-a-half-month period. I was an expert on church growth, but I had never seen evangelism like that.

Power encounters in the church, in this case without regard for "civilized propriety," catapulted us into all-out revival. What I had thought of as "order" in the twentieth-century church evidently was not the same as what Christian experienced in the New Testament church.

Account #2


Here is John Wimber's account that he gave in a lecture at the 1984 Signs & Wonders Conference, which took place in Anaheim, California. I have transcribed it from a video recording that is still available on YouTube, and in the process I have discovered that transcribing a lecture is pretty difficult to do, even when the audio quality is fairly good. Given the fact that John was often talking very rapidly, there were a few spots where I haven't been able to completely make out what he said. These places are marked below by the word "unclear" in brackets. Also, the reader will note that John uses the interjection "you know" quite frequently. I think this is because he was speaking very excitedly and was rather caught up in his recollection of what happened that day.
There's an antagonism today against the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. More importantly, there's an antagonism against His personhood, against His presence. And when the presence of God comes into your sanctuary and into your life, you'll find that you have antagonism, that you're frightened and put off, bewildered and upset, perplexed and vexed, against the very God you've been inviting to come for years to move among you.

The first time the Lord Jesus Christ sent His Spirit in great power among us, I was fit to be tied for days. I was so angry. I was so upset. I wanted to get out of the ministry. I said, "No way am I going to put up … Why that's absurd! — what God did."

Of course, I wasn't absolutely sure it was God, but even after I was convinced it was God, I had difficulty with it, but I want you to know that.

When God began moving among us on this particular night, we were having a church service. And in fact, on that Sunday afternoon, I was coming out of a church service … and it was Mother's Day, of all things, Mother's Day! You'd think it would be safe at church on Mother's Day. I am walking out of the church, and God says to me, "Tell that young man to preach tonight." Well, I am not in the habit of just telling any old young man to preach in my church, and particularly that young man, because I heard he was a little strange. And I said, "Lord, do you want me to have him preach?" And the Lord said very clearly to me, "Yes!"

So I went up to him and I say, "Lonnie — would you like to preach tonight at my church." And he says, "Oh, yeah! I have been waiting for this chance." And I go, "Oh, no." I'm telling you, I died a thousand deaths all afternoon. All afternoon, I'm agonizing, you know. "God, you got me into it again. You got me into a mess. He's going to mess my church up." And the Lord said, "When did it become your church?". I said, "Oh, that's right, that's right, ah huh, ah huh."

So I went to church that night, and I, ah, ha … we worshiped extra long. I found a lot of announcements that needed to be made. But I … As long as I stress it was still time, because he's sitting there all bright and looked like a kid at his birthday party. And I'm thinking, ah, you know, he looks harmless enough. "All right, come on up." So he comes up, and he starts speaking, and I sit down over at the side.

And I am listening to him, and he's great! You know, what was I worried about? Lonnie was giving his testimony. [unclear] … Time to weep a little bit, He'd salute a couple of times, and he'd tell you some great verses. And you're laughing. We're having a wonderful time. And I think, "Wow! what was I worried about? This is great!" You know, God did so good. And then he did the weirdest thing I've ever even heard of. He's going good and then he stops. "Well, that's it," he says, "You know the Church has been offending the Holy Spirit a long time, I tell you. He's quenched, but He's getting over it. And we're going to invite Him to come and minister now. Come, Holy Spirit."

And whammo! The Spirit of God comes! And people start falling … but first of all, he says, "everybody 25 years and under come forward." Well, in our church that's everybody, you know! You know, they're all coming up there. There's hundreds up there all crowded around the stage. And he says "Come, Holy Spirit," and the next thing I know, people are falling and bouncing. And they're laying on the floor, and they're talking like turkeys now, yoola-yoola-yoola-yoola. The one kid he falls, ha … the one kid he falls, and the microphone falls with him. It's laying right by his face. And he's speaking in tongues, you know, yoola-yoola-yoola-yoola. I am not talking about two minutes. I am talking about forty-five minutes he's talking to that microphone. And we're wading through bodies trying to get a hold of him. And we can't get the microphone off. And we can't get to him.

And Lonnie is going like a banshee, running through the crowd and raising his hands. And I am thinking, he's pushing people over; he's knocking them down. But he's not even touching them. He's walking by them, and they're going wham, wham, you know. They're falling everywhere. And I am thinking, "Oh, God, oh, God, oh, God, oh, God. Get me out of here!" And people are grabbing their bibles — "Not me." And they're going out the door. Some of them I never have seen. That was four years ago, you know. And they went out the door.

I want to tell you something. When it finally stopped … Whew, when it finally stopped, then did I get it, you know. I tell you all the staff was upset. I didn't tell you the half of it. [unclear] He can tell you the whole story. Everybody was pretty upset.

I went home. I tried to be civilized and polite — "Thank you very much." So I get home, you know, and I try to go to sleep, and I can't sleep, and I get up. [Opening Bible] I go Genesis through Revelation, you know. And I am looking for "Holy Spirit, come," You know. Wham! Wham! you know. yoola-yoola-yoola-yoola. It's not in the book, man! It's not … I'm obsessed, man! And you know, it's now 4:30 in the morning! And I … I did find a few verses where people fell down. That helped a little bit. Whew. But I couldn't find any standard verse just like that, and so I am just sitting there and thinking, "Oh, God, you gotta do something for me. You know, ah, this is terrible what's happened to me. You gotta do something for me."

Then suddenly, it connected that I remember reading something in the Journal of Wesley where something like this had happened. And so I went out in my garage, and I had a big box of books on revivalists in different times — you know, revival history as well as revivalists. And I got them out and brought them in the house, and I started. And sure enough, some things like that happened with Whitefield. Some things like that happened with Wesley. I found it in the Cane Ridge revival. Then I began going back and forth through church history. And about six o'clock in the morning, I found at least ten different times when this kind of phenomena had occurred, not exactly — not "Holy Spirit, come," wham, but things like that, you know. Things were people showed up and people fell. This sort of thing. So I was feeling a little bit better.

Now it's six o'clock in the morning, and I'm saying, "God, if this is you, I gotta have some assurance. I gotta know, is this you? Is this something you're doing or not?" Just then, the phone rings. And it's my friend Tommy Stipes from Denver. Now Tommy just wasn't in the habit of calling me all that often in those days. But he would call me every couple of months, or I would call him.
[Tommy] "Hey, hey, what's going on, man? What's happening? Did you have a good day at the church?"

[John] "Oh Tom, let me tell you about it, man. You know. This guy Lonnie …"

[Tommy] "Oh, Lonnie! I know Lonnie. Yeah, he used to be … Oh, yeah, I remember him. Wham! right?"

[John] "Yeah, ah huh."
I go, "look, man, this is what he did to me. He gave his talk a little while and said 'Holy Spirit, come,' and people fell down. And people left my church. My staff is mad at me. I'm not sure what's going on. My wife is happy as anything. She likes it all."

And he says, "It's the Lord."

I said, "It's the Lord?"

[Tommy] "Yes, it's the Lord. That's exactly what happened in the early days of the Jesus Movement" — the same kind of power, the same kind of manifestations.

In fact, as we talked, the Spirit of God began gripping his heart, and he began repenting of some hardness that he had toward just this kind of phenomena, because he had sort of grown away from it and become too sophisticated.

And so I got a great deal of assurance because God had given me a witness. A credible witness had called, someone who had been there, someone who had seen it from the inside out. I had only heard about it. I lived there in the community, but I wasn't aware of the totality of the Jesus People movement until much stuff of the movement had already been declining. I'll cover the movement in another study. Ah, the Jesus People movement is over. It's a new day now. And God has given us some new things.

You know, I recognized in that communication that I was in for an interesting time. But over the next few weeks and months, the phenomena continued to occur, often unrehearsed, often without any kind of leading from us. It just happened that way. Our young people began roaming the community in packs. We would see them sometimes in parking lots, and in front of houses, raising their hands and praying for people, and wham they would go. That was in May. By September, we had baptized over seven hundred new converts. Evangelism was occurring everywhere. Those were the ones we baptized. The best we can figure there may have been as many as seventeen hundred new converts in that three-and-a-half month period. But the ones that we baptized, the ones that came to us, that became involved in our fellowship, was approximately seven hundred. God was on the move. I have never seen evangelism like that. I have never known there was that kind of power. The problem was I didn't have any grid to sort it with. Nothing I've ever been taught in my educational background helped me to understand "Holy Spirit, come, Whammo!" and how that related to evangelism — how power and power signs and power activities could bring about conversion in the lives of individuals.

But as I, ah, began dialoguing with people — now keep in mind I grew up in training as a sociologist and so I am used to measuring phenomena, and, ah, looking at things from that perspective — and as I began dialoguing with various people that were visiting, and, ah, that had been ministered during that period of time, I found that there was a commonality: That regardless of what the phenomena was — whether they were slain in the Spirit, or resting in the Spirit, or fell and shook, or stood and shook, or sat and shook, or whether they shook violently or mildly, or whether they had an experience that was somewhat catatonic, or whether they had some other kind of experience — there was a commonality without exception in the experience. No one I ever talked to that had had an experience was sorry. They all uniformly responded with: "It was wonderful," "I feel closer to God as a result of it," "I love the Lord more as a result of it," "I am reading the Bible more now," "I'm praying more now," "I'm sharing more now," "I'm more involved with the church and I'm more in love with the Lord than I have ever been as a result of that experience."

Now I don't know how those experiences brings that kind of results. All I know is recorded from the reverse out. That's what they all said. And so I have difficulty at this point in my life resisting that kind of phenomena, when I see the results in the lives of individuals.

Since the above quotations are fairly lengthy, I will hold off until Part 2 to give my comment about some of the variation between these two accounts given about the Mother's Day revival. Also, I will comment on how the above accounts compare with Lonnie's recollection of the same even as given in the second book of his autobiography. But for now, the accounts are here, side by side, so they can be compared.

Monday, November 27, 2017

Epistles to Lonnie Frisbee

Letter #4


Seraph Postal - Forever
Dear Lonnie,

My flock is growing and is doing quite well. Now I have gotten as far as buying an Australian shepherd from a professional dog trainer to help me in managing the herd. Though it cost a lot, this dog is truly a canine genius, I tell you, and he likes me very much. His name is Bimbo. He was named after a character in the old Betty Boop cartoons. The county government also has signed a new contract with me, and so I take my flock of sheep to do weed control in various places in the county. Sheep gobble up weeds very efficiently, and my services saves the country government money. Furthermore, a big pharmaceutical company has signed a contract to buy the lanolin that I produce from the wool I shear, mainly because my flock is a very special breed that produces a high-quality hypoallergenic type of lanolin used in dermatological ointments. So the sheep business has been pretty good to me.

Now that I have another batch of lambskin vellum, I am able to write you and address more of the questions you asked me earlier. It amazes me that you are asking for my perspective on things. I would think that you, John Wimber, and Chuck Smith are much more knowledgeable than me, especially since you all are having a great time there in Glory Land. I feel like anything I can say is just so much gibberish in comparison. Oh, by the way, as a special request, Lonnie, please take time to say hello to my dear mother, who recently arrived there, although I don't think she is acquainted with your earthly ministry. Just tell her that you are an epistolary friend of mine (or pen pal), and I wanted you to say hello for me. Tell her that I miss her.

The most recent news concerns your old friend pastor Greg Laurie of Harvest. He announced he is writing a new book. Here is what Greg said:
I’m writing a new book about the last great American Revival.
The title of the book is "Jesus Revolution."

God’s Spirit was poured out on a crazy generation and it changed the course of history, including mine.
I don't have any other details yet about what Greg's upcoming book will cover. I assume that he is referring to the "Jesus People Movement" that happened back around 1967 to 1972. People have attempted in the past to write general histories about the Jesus People. The most recent book I can think of is God's Forever Family by Larry Eskridge. I read it and this book had a lot of information and a gazillion footnotes and also included plenty about what was happening elsewhere, outside of what was going on in Orange County, California — it even mentioned one of my evangelistic cousins. Of course, you were given some space as well, although I found it a bit odd that Eskridge didn't make more use of what was available in your autobiography. Eskridge's book had an "sociology oriented" style, so he wrote from the vantage point of a high up place of "exalted neutrality," which makes the book more scholarly and acceptable, I suppose, for people in the Areopagus (ask Paul). But as you well know, Lonnie, the Lord Jesus Christ said very insistent and divisive stuff like "whoever is not with me is against me, and whoever does not gather with me scatters." This blows away any hope academe might have of continuing to hide out safely in the crevice of neutrality and avoiding the question of where one's loyalty will reside. Ultimately "you gotta serve somebody" as the poet once said, and calling on the mountains and the rocks to "fall on us and hide us" won't help.

Anyhow, getting back to Greg's upcoming book, I am guessing that he will focus pretty much on the territory that he is more familiar with, which is what was happening in Costa Mesa and Riverside way back then. I shall be very interested in reading it once it's published. And since Greg is now a Southern Baptist, it will be revealing to find out what he includes and what he leaves out in his book. Are there things that will be too uncomfortably "charismatic" for him to mention? What will he say about you? How sanitized will Greg's book be, given that he would want to appeal to as wide an audience as possible, Baptists and all? Well, I don't know. I shall have to wait and find out.

By the way, Lonnie, I have included with this letter a small snapshot of what Greg Laurie looked like back in those days, when he still had hair. I am sure it will bring back pleasant memories for you and Chuck. Long ago, as I remember, someone told me that I resembled Greg and that some people had confused me for him. That might have been, but I can testify that now I don't resemble Greg in the slightest. Greg is much more ruggedly handsome now than I am, rather like how Sean Connery or Harrison Ford or Tom Selleck have maintained their masculine good looks while aging like fine wine. I have aged more like sour and curdled milk — the uses for moldy cheese notwithstanding.

Since Greg seems to imply the Jesus Movement was the "last great American Revival", I am guessing that he doesn't think any genuine revivals have happened since that time, which apparently excludes everything that resulted from the Mother's Day event or what John Wimber and you and others accomplished in the aftermath, both in this country and overseas. This might be expected because I remember when I was still at Harvest that not even the name "John Wimber" was mentioned. For a long time, I didn't even know John Wimber existed. Your name wasn't mentioned either as far as I can recollect.

And while I am on the subject of revival, you asked me if a revival could happen today. Hey, Lonnie, that's a trick question, because "all things are possible," as you well know. The real question is does the Church here in America really want a revival? That's much harder to answer, but my guess would be "mostly no" with a few localized exceptions. The actual problem here is that when church leaderhip asks for a "revival," they might get what they're not expecting, because one of the main ingredients of a revival is people and people are vexatious and messy. Therefore, when the Holy Ghost sends a genuine revival, it can get very messy very fast. There's a lot of warfare. Strange things can happen. Tables get overturned. Paradigms get busted. People might hoot and holler and get hurled up or down or sideways. Revival is explosive. And once the glory really gets storming, all the surprises can get a little terrifying, and this can cause a big, raging controversy. You know this, Lonnie, from being in the middle of one yourself.

Therefore, when God sends a revival, fierce opposition arises — many people in the Church are offended by what's happening and start bad-mouthing it, and next they publish long, angry books and blogs talking about "counterfeit revivals" and "strange fire" and "charismania," where they attribute everything to mass hysteria, hypnosis, kundalini, the occult, or the work of the Devil. And if the truth be told, most pastors worry about their reputations, and they do not like the ensuing controversy — and you know by painful experience, Lonnie, that controversy can taint your reputation. Pastors instead prefer smooth sailing, maintaining control, predictability, and things functioning according to plan. I am sure that John and Chuck can testify to this as well.

In other words, God's idea about what constitutes a big revival doesn't always match up with what people were shopping for on Amazon. Furthermore, as a friend of mine once explained to me, if a church has managed to become pretty big and successful, if the people are showing up, then most pastors will say "we're already in revival" and just let it go at that, which is a safe way to avoid explosions and other surprises. Simply redefine the term "revival" so it becomes just another synonym for "success."

Am I getting anything here right, Lonnie? It's not like I am some kind of expert revivalist. You know more about this stuff than I do. But how about this thought? The Lord Jesus Christ came full of surprises, which is maybe one reason why He said "blessed is the one who is not offended by me," because many people have a hard time with surprises and are offended by them. I think the same thing holds true about revivals, especially here in America. Because the people here are so easily offended by the surprises revivals bring, God has chosen to send big revivals overseas instead. And so we get to hear about the blind seeing, the deaf hearing, the lame walking, the demons being cast out, the dead being raised, and multitudes turning to Christ all over the world, in places like Latin America and Africa.

We just don't get to do this kind of Kingdom stuff here — or maybe not yet. I am being hopeful, because I can look back and see that you were an example of God doing unexpected things in the least likely places. I say this, Lonnie, because I reside in North Idaho, which is probably the most unlikely and frozen up place in the whole country.

Lonnie, I don't want to be too critical and hard on pastors. You have been around pastors. You know how they are. Since my sheep raising business has expanded, I have been doing more shepherding work. I have been around sheep a lot now, taking care of them and watching over and managing them, and therefore I think I can understand the pastoral mentality a little better now. Keeping my flock "safe" and keeping things running smoothly are my general preferences. I try to avoid too much excitement. I suspect that this may be a possible reason why the church is supposed to have a "five-fold ministry" — you know, the apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers — because pastors by themselves don't really have the orientation, psychology, or "gifting" that is needed for handling big revivals. Their tendency is to be risk-adverse and managerial, keeping things more "locked down" or under control (like running a business), which makes it more difficult for them to adjust when big shifts need to happen. This may be the area where the apostles, prophets, and evangelists are equipped to operate. The Church isn't just a flock of dumb sheep needing to be managed; it's also an elaborate, holy temple that's in the middle of being constructed. People with different skills are needed in the building process. Heavy stones get shifted around. The plumbing is very complicated. Unfortunately, most people here don't believe that the five-fold ministry is supposed to exist nowadays, or else they think it's just means "pastor, pastor, pastor, pastor, and pastor."

Much to their credit, however, pastors Chuck and John did recognize, in some degree or at least subconsciously, the catalytic and much needed evangelistic gifting that you had, and they gladly made use of it, although it took John a bit longer to come around after the initial shock of watching you in action on Mother's Day — hey, he was pretty flabbergasted, wasn't he? You were definitely not a pastor, Lonnie, as you always insisted. Instead, you were the catalyst, which God provided back then, the small but essential ingredient that was needed to finally trigger the reaction and tip over the equilibrium, causing it to proceed rapidly with a big release of energy and a high yield. The rest is chemistry or history, as the saying goes. Whether Greg Laurie will mention any of this in his upcoming, new book remains to be seen. Once Greg's book does come out, I will read it and let you know in a letter as soon as I can. I am sure you will be interested to know.

Oops. I just looked and checked my calendar. It seems I have an appointment this afternoon to haul my flock over to do some weed abatement for the county on the fenced-in land surrounding a large water tower. Fortunately, the work has gotten much easier, herding the sheep and so forth, since I have an additional Australian shepherd to help me, Bimbo the wonder dog. I need to go now, Lonnie, and break off this letter, which has gotten pretty long anyhow. As for your other questions, I will try to answer them later.

Keep up the celebrations.

Sincerely yours,
Long Exiled on Earth