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 Laurie's 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 therefore 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