Wednesday, December 06, 2017

Mother's Day Part 2

Here I would like to make several comments about the two accounts that John Wimber gave regarding the famous Mother's Day revival.

The Date

What is very odd about Account #1 is that John Wimber (or his ghost writer) uses 1979 as the date when the event took place. This date is almost certainly wrong. The Mother's Day revival took place in the auditorium of Canyon High School on the evening of May 11th in the year 1980. This high school is located just south of Yorba Linda.

The sermon that Lonnie Frisbee preached on that evening is still available on YouTube. Also, the bulk of it was transcribed and recorded in the second book of his autobiography.

At one point in the sermon, Lonnie states that he is age 31. He apparently was thinking ahead to his 31st birthday that would have been coming up shortly in June, which is a very reasonable assumption to make. Since Lonnie was born in June of 1949, this sets the year to be 1980.

Another item that corroborates this is that Lonnie also alludes to a massive gathering that he had attended a few days earlier in Washington D.C. This was very probably the Washington for Jesus rally that was held on April 29th and 30th in 1980. The second book in Lonnie's autobiography specifically mentions this as well.

Why did John Wimber get the date wrong? We can only guess why. Since account #1 was published years later after the event, it is possible that John simply didn't remember the date correctly. Another possibility is that the ghostwriter who assisted him in writing the book, probably from the notes that John had, somehow had garbled the date. We don't really know that answer, but it is almost certain that 1980 is the correct date.

What Was Said

John Wimber gives two somewhat different accounts of what Lonnie Frisbee said.

In account #1, John has it this way:
"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!
In account #2, John has this, which is slightly different:
"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."
I have listened multiple times to the recording of the Lonnie's Mother's Day sermon. The big problem here is that Lonnie did not say either of these things as John remembered them. Lonnie especially doesn't say anything about the church "offending the Holy Spirit" or that He is "quenched."

At one point Lonnie did say and very excitedly:
Let the power of the Holy Spirit, come!
And in another place he said:
Let the power of the Holy Spirit come on your whole body right now!
This is somewhat close to "Holy Spirit, come" or "Come, Holy Spirit" that John Wimber later recollected and which has been memorialized ever since. But it is odd that John didn't double check with the recording, which certainly must have been available to him, unless the recording was temporarily lost at the time and then recovered afterwards. John must have been going just by his memory of what he heard, but it is easy to see how John remembered it the way he does.

What Was Not Said

Both accounts record John Wimber's acute apprehensiveness and great reluctance about having Lonnie preach. Account #2 probably highlights more of John's emotions at the time about the matter. What is particularly interesting to me here is what was not mentioned by John, which was an earlier dinner meeting between John and Carol Wimber, Lonnie, John Ruttkay, and several other people. This is what Lonnie records about this dinner in the second book of his autobiography (page 126):
When we arrived at the Wimber residence, John was so warm and gracious, and his wife Carol was totally sweet and hospitable. Immediately, I felt very comfortable and, most importantly, I felt the presence of God. I definitely felt a sense of destiny in the air, which heightens all the senses, if you know what I mean. … Several of John Wimber's leaders were also there, including Bob Fulton and Sam Thompson. We joked around with each other, and then they served up some incredible food. It was so much fun hanging out with these guys. They definitely threw the welcome mat, and John Ruttkay enjoyed it as much as I did.

They collectively told me, "Lonnie, we know you've been coming around, and so if you feel led, we want to cut you loose! God is going to open some doors for you here. Let's pick a time for you to share your testimony and see where God takes us."
This presents a much bigger problem in my opinion. In his two accounts, John Wimber completely left out any mention that a very friendly "welcome mat" had earlier been extended to Lonnie. It seems clear, going by the reception that Lonnie received, that John Wimber initially had a very positive attitude about Lonnie ministering at his church, although an exact date had not yet been set when Lonnie would preach.

However, when the morning of Mother's Day arrived, John very reluctantly, and with much worry and agonizing, finally gave the okay for Lonnie to come and preach later that evening. And so it appears that by this time John's attitude towards Lonnie must have undergone a drastic change. The question here is what would have caused John Wimber to become so reluctant?

I would like to propose here a possible explanation for the John's shift in attitude. Sometime after that initial, friendly dinner meeting, John started to have second thoughts and decided he needed to do more research and to ask around. In other words, he needed to do a "background check" on Lonnie Frisbee before letting him preach at Calvary Chapel of Yorba Linda. John probably decided to contact unknown persons at Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa and ask for their opinion about Lonnie. This seems very likely and reasonable to me because John would have known that Lonnie Frisbee had been actively employed there for a number of years, with two separate tenures. My guess here is that somebody at Costa Mesa didn't particularly like Lonnie and had given John a very negative opinion about him, particularly in regard to Lonnie's charismatic tendencies. As John describes it, he had heard that Lonnie was "strange" and "unpredictable." My guess is that John heard much worse than this, especially given the way that John describes his deep misgivings in account #2 and his shock afterwards. Furthermore, it should also be remembered that there was an ongoing dispute between Costa Mesa and Lonnie regarding the ownership of a sizable amount of money that Lonnie had raised for his 1978 overseas missionary work. Another possibility is that John also may have contacted someone in the Fort Lauderdale Five because Lonnie had been with them for several years before returning for a second tenure at Costa Mesa. Lonnie doesn't provide much information in his autobiography regarding his time in Florida. But several things there do suggest to me that his departure from Florida was probably not on entirely good terms. Therefore, because of the bad report he had received from these possible sources, John developed grave doubts about whether his inviting Lonnie to preach was such a good idea after all, hence the change in John's attitude. But as John explains in his accounts, he nonetheless felt compelled by God to let Lonnie preach that Mother's Day evening.

The Styles

Finally, why are the narrative styles of the two accounts so different? Account #1 is much more toned down. Account #2 is more vivid and emotional in comparison. I think the reason for this is obvious. Account #1 was published in book form and was intended to reach a wide evangelical audience. Therefore, John needed to present things as blandly as possible so as to reduce the shock for his readers. Account #2 was given to a comparatively more sympathetic audience and probably reflects more closely John's emotional reaction to the events that he experienced, and therefore it is more frank compared with account #1. The Mother's Day revival was a severe shock for John in more ways than one, but it was a very pivotal event — his church was hit with "Whammo!"