Tuesday, October 15, 2019

Prophet with Honor

A Book Review
Title: A Prophet with Honor
Subtitle: The Billy Graham Story (Updated Edition)
Author: William Martin

I don't feel like writing a full blown book review, so this will be just a very brief mini-review. I will give a few of my impressions.

On the plus side, I do recommend A Prophet with Honor, updated edition. William Martin has done a huge amount of work researching the life of the world famous evangelist Billy Graham, as the reader can see by looking at the voluminous amount of footnotes that William Martin has appended at the end of his book. Anyone doing serious research about Billy Graham would find this biography invaluable. The book covered a huge amount of territory: everything from Billy Graham's early life, his family, and ministry; the growth of his evangelical association; and his various exploits across the United States and the world, all the way up to shortly before Billy Graham passed away in February of 2018.

On the other hand, a perceptive reader will have no problem discerning those places in the text where William Martin engaged in editorializing about the events of Billy Graham's life. Any good biographer does a certain amount of "interpretation" when elucidating the life of his subject. And I think it would be pretty clear to the reader, among other things, that William Martin himself does not subscribe to most of the evangelical beliefs that Billy Graham held. However, I don't recollect anywhere in the book where William Martin engaged in heavy-handed derision or outright ridicule. Instead, I would describe the general tone of his editorializing as mildly ironic, as if he were speaking with a saucy little smile on his face, combined with a knowing wink of the eye. Overall, I would say that William Martin regarded Billy Graham as a very sincere man, but naive and intellectually unsophisticated. I could give dozens of examples of this, but for sake of brevity, I will just give one from page 481 in which William Martin compared Billy Graham with Ronald Reagan:
Both reached the pinnacle of their professions by dint of a gift for articulating, in terms easily grasped by masses of people, a large but essentially simple vision. Neither demonstrated any notable talent for critical analysis or practical detail. They understood intuitively how to inspire and how to lead, and how to assemble teams to implement their visions. They trusted fully in a small number of firmly held principles, and as long their friends and associates pledged allegiance to those principles, they assumed they had no reason to be wary of anything else those friends or associates might believe or do. And when that assumption proved faulty and expectations went awry, they possessed a remarkable ability to dismiss the troublesome evidence as a blip, a momentary aberration — certainly not a fundamental weakness in their vision or judgment.
In other words, to put it more bluntly, Ronald Reagan and Billy Graham were simpletons, who lacked the kind of worldly sophistication and Progressive outlook that William Martin would applaud.

Yet, somehow, Ronald Reagan and Billy Graham managed to accomplish a lot.

The only places that I recollect when William Martin was a little more steamy were those where he dealt with Billy Graham's friendship with Richard Nixon. And what other dead horses beside Richard Nixon are there that enlightened and Progressive-minded individuals, such as William Martin, never cease beating, and beating, even though this dead horse had long ago decayed into a pulpy, maggot-eaten carcass? In William Martin's view, Billy Graham's greatest peccadillo was his having been friendly with Richard Nixon. And as every self-respecting Progressive knows, we must never stop hating on the nefarious Richard Nixon.

Be that as it may, I still recommend William Martin's biography of Billy Graham. I did note various places in the book where typos occurred. I would award William Martin's book three stars out of five, an average book.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

I, Lonnie

A Book Review
Title: Not by Might, Nor by Power
Subtitle: Set Free
Author: Lonnie Frisbee, with Roger Sachs

This book review concerns the third book of a three book series that is Lonnie Frisbee's posthumous autobiography, which is titled Not by Might Nor by Power. I have already reviewed the first and second books in the series. I strongly suggest that these two reviews should be read first.

Published back in March of this year, the book Set Free consists of twenty-six chapters. The book is a little longer the each of the previous two books.

Chapters one through twenty-one contains Lonnie's memoir, which covers the ten year period from when he left the Anaheim Vineyard in 1983 until about the end of 1991. Intermingled with Lonnie's own recollections are numerous testimonies from people who interacted with him at various stages during these years.

Chapter twenty-two, entitled Eternal Perspectives, could be considered Lonnie's apologia and farewell address, in which he gives his final testimony regarding his life. This chapter might be the most important thing that Lonnie ever wrote, and it contradicts much of the consensus regarding him that you will find by googling the Internet. Now some people will be very disappointed with this chapter if they come to it expecting to get from Lonnie an endorsement of the various nostrums, concepts, agendas, labels, categories, prescriptions, and ideological constructs of contemporary identity politics.

After this, the next three chapters of the book were entirely put together by Roger Sachs, from his and other people's recollections. These describe the final fifteen months of Lonnie's life when his health began to deteriorate, his death at age 43 on March 12, 1993, his funeral, and burial.

The last chapter of the book is more or less a collection of eulogies, in which various people reminisce about Lonnie and the impact he had on their lives. Possibly the most noteworthy item in this chapter, for those who will hear and understand, is a retraction issued on page 271 by Kenn Gulliksen, the original founder of Vineyard. Following this chapter, the book ends with a short postscript by Roger Sachs where he announces that a fourth book, a supplement to the autobiography, might be in the works and which will consist of several transcripts of Lonnie's sermons, along with some other miscellaneous material.

My Overall Assessment
For me, the third book, Set Free, was the most critically important of the three books, and the most heartbreaking to read. It elucidates for the readers a more complete picture of Lonnie's personality, including his character flaws and deep emotional injuries. The book also demonstrates the tremendous grace that God worked in Lonnie's short life, although we had to wait 26 years after his death for his story to be published. And it does a fairly good job of relating the struggle that Lonnie went though as he climbed out of the dark hole of bitterness and backsliding into which he had fallen for a time. I very much recommend Set Free, and I can only hope that it will appeal to a wide audience and have a major impact. It would be good if down the line Roger Sachs published a hardback edition that contains the entire autobiography in one volume.

Two Underlying Themes
On page 1, in the Introduction, Ken Fish made the following observation regarding prophets:
…one of the rarest and least well understood are prophets of power. Such prophets are enigmas who nearly defy description…. They are people who carry something of the overt, explicit, numinous power of God…. Moses, Samuel, and Elijah were such prophets, and so was Lonnie Frisbee. [emphasis mine]
He was being a little rhetorical by putting Lonnie on a par with Moses, Samuel, and Elijah, but Ken Fish does have a point. Lonnie Frisbee was in many ways an enigma. So how does someone go about writing a critical biography about an enigma? Well, it would be difficult and may require a certain amount of inspiration.

Now by the term "critical," I simply mean employing a careful process of methodically examining and weighing the sources, trying to discern motivations and reasons, and then constructing the story about a person's life in a more chronological form — where the purpose is not that of debunking or destroying, but instead to gain a better understanding. For a biographer, one difficulty about Lonnie's memoir is that he isn't overly concerned about giving dates and timelines when he tells us his recollections. He was a preacher and not a scholar or historian. Another problem is that Lonnie doesn't always explicitly tell the readers everything that he knew regarding a situation. We often have to fill in the blanks, connect the dots, and read between the lines.

If I were setting out to write a critical biography about Lonnie Frisbee, I could begin by pointing out several things. First of all, as the saying goes, Israel loved its prophets, after they were dead. And secondly, the Church (in particular the leadership thereof) didn't always treat its mystics all that well while they are still alive. And in many ways this was also true about Lonnie Frisbee — although it can be said that even after his death he still isn't well regarded by many people. In any case, I would state that there are, at a minimum, two major themes that underlie his life, which are very intertwined:
  1. His personal tragedy
  2. His difficult relationship with church leadership
There are other themes in Lonnie's autobiography, some of which were covered in earlier reviews, but I would like to cover these two in particular, as briefly as I can.

Personal Tragedy
The first of these themes began in Lonnie's early childhood and would affect him throughout his life. His father Ray Frisbee was alcoholic, very violent, and had severely traumatized Lonnie as a very young child. In my opinion, the physical abuse he gave his wife and children should have sent Ray Frisbee to a penitentiary for a very long time. Let me further illustrate the lasting effects of this in Lonnie's life by pointing out an incident, mentioned in Set Free, that occurred many years later. On one occasion, probably sometime after 1990, Roger Sachs suggested to his friend Lonnie that he needed to meet up and be reconciled with his father, Ray Frisbee. However, Lonnie's reaction was swift and very angry. He became "totally unglued" at Roger's suggestion, and the readers can easily imagine the cause behind Lonnie's intense feelings about the issue. Furthermore, Roger doesn't record anywhere that Ray Frisbee had ever changed or had expressed any remorse for how he had treated his children. And Lonnie also tells the readers that Ray Frisbee once had assaulted and nearly murdered Wesley, one of Lonnie's brothers. This must have made it doubly hard for Lonnie to cheerfully accept Roger's advice, however well-intentional it might have been. Given all this, we should ask instead why Roger was surprised at Lonnie's very heated reaction. The book never informs us if Lonnie ever met with Ray afterwards, and we can therefore assume that it must have been too painful for Lonnie to do so. The incident is enough to show us that for Lonnie the wounds down in his heart were still raw and bleeding.

Later, when he was growing up into adolescence, Lonnie experienced nothing but complete rejection from his stepfather Lyle. This was bad enough. The only light that came through was the godly influence of a grandmother, which led Lonnie to have faith in Christ at the age of eight. Throughout his autobiography, Lonnie always maintained that this was the starting point of his relationship with God. But what proves the existence of the Devil, who hates what is good and wants to destroy our souls? How much proof do you need? The reader is told that shortly thereafter a male teenage babysitter had started terrorizing Lonnie by sexually molesting him, which occurred repeatedly over a extended period of time. As Lonnie expressed it in chapter 22:
That was the beginning of a nightmare in my life that I cannot fully express. That babysitter was a dark evangelist sent by demonic forces to ruin my life two weeks after I became a christian as a child. [213]
Lonnie's mother and stepfather, for some reason, never had the wherewithal to watch, listen, and understand what this predator was doing. This was a case of parental negligence that bordered on criminal. Now the term "broken" is the one word that Lonnie's friends used most often throughout the book to describe him, and we can understand why it seems almost like a glib understatement. For what person could endure all this abuse and not end up becoming deeply confused, vulnerable, and psychologically scarred? Later in the 1960s, Lonnie drifted off into experimentation with drugs and the dissolute hippie lifestyle, and all these entail. That this would eventually happen is not surprising, and Lonnie's story could have ended there, as a drug overdose statistic in some back alley near the Haight-Ashbury. But God's grace and calling reached down and changed the direction of things that singular day when Lonnie was hiking alone up in Taquitz Canyon.

Church Leadership
A critical biographer would also have to deal with the second major theme of Lonnie's life; that is, his complicated and often difficult relationship with church leadership, specifically pastors Chuck Smith, Bob Mumford, and John Wimber. These men could be considered the most important substitute "father figures" in Lonnie's life. And in the book Set Free, it is John Wimber who played the most crucial role in the story.

The most surprising aspect of Lonnie's autobiography is the one question it never fully answers: Did these "father figures" in his life ever have the percipience to see beneath the surface of things and understand that Lonnie, though he was gifted in a most unusual and powerful way, was also a deeply wounded man who also needed help? This is what I wonder about the most. Apparently at the time they did not, as far as I an tell. And it is especially sad that John Wimber didn't, which is something even more difficult to understand given that John Wimber in his ministry had put some emphasis on "inner healing." Yet Lonnie never gave us in his autobiography any clear answers to this important question. From reading Set Free, we do know that there was an especially catastrophic breakdown in Lonnie's relationship with John Wimber, which would have a very drastic impact on Lonnie's life.

But what was the cause of the breakdown? Again, we are never told exactly what happened at this very crucial turning point in Lonnie's story, which occurs on pages 12 to 13 of Set Free. We do know that the breakdown must have been traumatic, in that all trust was destroyed, because thereafter Lonnie immediately plunged into a rapid downward spiral of anger, bitterness, isolation, backsliding, and drug addiction. His reaction would become very self-destructive, and it would take several years for him to begin recovering from the dark wilderness he went through. It is very much to the credit of Rich Buehler and Phil Aguilar, whom Lonnie encountered later, that they were perceptive enough to see a little of the deeper picture, and as a result they sought to help Lonnie find recovery, emotional stability, and wholeness.

It is easy to find on the Internet a huge amount of misinformation regarding the reasons for Lonnie's departure in 1983 from Vineyard and his breakup with John Wimber. But the reader can check pages 12 to 13 for himself to get Lonnie's own recollection about what had happened during this very important point in his life. I will briefly recount here what he said:
One of he final blows for me at the Vineyard happened soon after in 1983. Lots of rumors about my sexuality were circulating, but my role at the church stayed on the same schedule. I had my own office, and when there were no trips or speaking engagements, I had counseling appointments scheduled like the rest of the pastors on staff.…

…all kinds of temptations and demonic setups seemed to be increasing. I decided to confide with and seek some help from one of the other pastors I respected and considered a friend. I asked this experienced staff leader if I could confidentially share some struggles I was experiencing and then told him about the gal in my office. In addition to attractive women throwing themselves at me, there were gay men doing the same. I knew for an absolute certainty that the satanic strategy was to label me a homosexual to discredit everything about my ministry. I had rejected that lifestyle, knew the Scriptures concerning the subject, and was seeking prayer from this pastor for all the attacks coming at me from both men and women.

The next day John Wimber confronted me and wanted to know the name of the young women who had exposed herself. The pastor "friend" had broken my confidence and taken the information directly to our leader. I was furious!

I told John, "I'm not telling you!"

"You have to tell me! I'm the senior pastor!"

"Well, I won't! I already dealt with the person, and besides, your trusted senior staff pastor broke a confidential agreement with me!"

That was that — or so I thought. The next day I came to the church and asked the secretary for my schedule. I was told that there were no appointments scheduled. The next day was the same, and the next, and the next for two weeks straight. I got so bored that I shut the window blinds, laid on the carpet, and went to sleep every day! It only got worse from there. I had several more meetings with John Wimber over the next couple months, and more accusations came at me until my final blowup when I declared, "I quit!"
There are several things a biographer would notice in this account. First of all, Lonnie had already gracefully handled an awkward situation with the young woman, and he wanted to spare her any further embarrassment. Also, Lonnie had a mind of his own and was not overawed by John Wimber. Therefore, he wasn't going to comply with John's demand to divulge the lady's identity. John probably did not like getting this kind of pushback from a younger subordinate. Secondly, Lonnie does not tell the readers who the "senior staff pastor" was. Since we know this incident happened in 1983, a diligent biographer could probably track down who this person was without too much trouble. Whoever he was, he had in extreme betrayed Lonnie's trust. This was bad enough, but John Wimber next added ridiculousness to the situation by clearing Lonnie's appointment roster yet expecting Lonnie to turn up for work everyday. This kind of pettiness makes no sense and is a ludicrous way to send a signal to someone. For if John Wimber didn't want Lonnie to do any more counseling, then why didn't he just tell him to stay home? Finally, in the meetings with John over the "next couple months", the tension must have increased, for Lonnie tells us, "more accusations came at me." Something must have gone very wrong. However, this is a case where Lonnie, for some reason, had decided not to tell the readers all that he knew about the situation, and the readers are left having to make educated guesses. We can only assume that John Wimber must have been the person making the accusations. But where was John Wimber getting his information? And where were the two or more witnesses as required by the Scriptures:
Do not entertain a accusation against an elder unless it is brought by two or three witnesses. [1st Timothy 5:19 NIV].
And what exactly were the accusations? When approaching this difficult question, the biographer will have to take into account several things. First of all, by the time Lonnie and Roger Sachs had begun working in earnest on putting together the autobiography, Lonnie was already going through an program of professional therapeutic counseling to deal with his emotional and psychological issues. These counseling sessions were undertaken in response to the suggestions made to Lonnie when he had earlier met up with Rich Buehler. And according to Buehler, Lonnie was greatly helped and had made progress. Secondly, Lonnie was also by this time actively involved with pastor Phil Aguilar's Set Free church in Anaheim, and Lonnie had started ministering again publicly under Phil's supervision. Thirdly, and very importantly, towards the end of his life, Lonnie had started receiving much needed financial support from Vineyard Ministry International (VMI), with John Wimber's permission. This support consisted of an small apartment on Balboa Island, a car, and a modest monthly stipend. Roger Sachs informs the readers in chapter 24 that Steve Zarit and Paul Cain were the ones who separately convinced John Wimber to provide help for Lonnie.

Whatever they were, Lonnie knew the accusations were false. He wanted to tell the readers the truth about what had happened, yet at the same time he also wanted as much as possible to avoid casting John Wimber in a bad light. In other words, he wanted to cover for John Wimber, because to do otherwise would have been very ungrateful, especially since Lonnie was receiving financial support from VMI. Furthermore, by the time he was putting together his autobiography, Lonnie had largely worked through his feelings of anger and bitterness, and he had genuinely forgiven John for the wrong that was done. "Love covers a multitude of sins," as the Scriptures tell us in 1st Peter 4:8. I believe this is the simplest and most plausible explanation for why Lonnie didn't give more detailed information regarding this crucial incident in his life.

Some Minor Criticisms
I do have a few very minor criticisms regarding Set Free. I have kept this until last because I don't want to detract from my recommendation of the book. So feel free to ignore this section.

Lonnie's autobiography incorporates the testimony of other people to convey and confirm what was happening at various stages in his life. The third book Set Free leaned a little more in this direction than the previous two books. However, there is always a danger from uncritically pasting in testimony from other people — they sometimes have their own agendas, or axes to grind, and they might assume that their being asked to submit a contribution to the autobiography also constituted a kind of open-ended invitation to toot their own horns. There are a couple of places in the book where I think that things got a little bit out of hand in this regard.

The first of these involves Paul Cain, who died in February of 2019 shortly before Set Free was published. My view is that Cain's actual contribution to Lonnie's autobiography seemed to be materially pretty negligible. And what he said in pages 73 through 78 looked more like attempt by Paul Cain to puff up his own ministry. Other than one time, through a third party, sending Lonnie a "message", Paul Cain apparently never had any substantive interaction with Lonnie, although they had coincidentally attended the Docklands conference in October of 1990 — there Paul Cain and John Wimber were up on the stage, and Lonnie was somewhere in the audience. However, Paul Cain does mention that Lonnie was up in the balcony during a side meeting held at Kensington Temple around that time, stood up, and loudly prophesied. Paul apparently knew who the person was, although John Wimber didn't acknowledge that it was Lonnie:
And Lonnie, I remember, sat in the balcony on the left side of this church, and at one point he got up and gave a prophecy that just rang out all through the meeting without a microphone or anything. It made the hair on my neck stand straight up. It had a resonance about it; it was a real prophecy, but he and John Wimber had already parted ways, and John didn't acknowledge or recognize him in the meeting or anything. [78]
Lonnie once said that he had a "microphone voice." In any case, Lonnie didn't give the readers any details about the "message" from Paul other than "that I needed to reach out to a particular list of people and attempt to reconcile with them" (see page 79). Lonnie later mentioned that John Ruttkay was on the list, but otherwise we are not told who else was on it.

The second instance is where, on pages 87 to 96, Phil Aguilar spends a good amount of time talking about his own ministry. However, Phil's bold self-promotion here is much more excusable because he did give Lonnie a helping hand at a time when Lonnie very much needed it.

Paul Cain died on February 12th, not long before final book of Lonnie's autobiography was published. It is interesting to note that Paul Cain and Phil Aguilar are also controversial people, each in his own way. However, that would be an altogether different topic, and covering it would make this book review much too lengthy.

Final Words
I would like to end this book review of Not by Might Nor By Power by citing a few words from Ken Fish, given on page 2:
Lonnie left us all too soon, and the drama of his life and death reverberates through the pages of this book. … this small, frail, conflicted individual who carried the power of the Spirit and who sought to say yes to Jesus and to follow in his footsteps.
I regret that I never met him.

Friday, May 17, 2019

Epistles to Lonnie Frisbee

Letter #10

Seraph Postal - Forever
Dear Lonnie,

First of all, after waiting for such a long time, I finally got a copy of the third book of your posthumous autobiography. It came in the mail back on March 30th. As anticipated, it is subtitled "Set Free". It is slightly longer than either of the preceding two books, and it covers the years from when you quit your ministry position at Anaheim Vineyard in 1983 until your final illness and departure from this sad world in 1993. Your book is very interesting, and I will probably need to read it through about four times so I can digest completely the various topics you covered.

Now I don't need to tell you the details of what is in your own book. And you probably already know the final text that your friend Roger Sachs laid out. My guess is that you are satisfied that your side of the story is out there finally. It took a little over 26 years for Roger to finish it and get it published. But I think that taking this long was unfortunate, and I wish that it had been done much sooner. On the other hand, the long delay is understandable given that Roger also had many other responsibilities, such as running his own construction business as well as a foreign mission ministry on the side. But still, 26 years is an awful long time! The book indicates that he and you had already done much of the work on your story back in the 1990s.

It is likely, after I finish thoroughly studying Set Free, that I will write out a brief book review. Your book will get a positive review from me. I can tell you that ahead of time. It was very worthwhile to read, and it also gave a more complete picture of what your personality was like. You had your ups and downs (way down), and you could be overly candid with people, outspoken to the point of being tactless and undiplomatic, even with your friends. It is easy to see how you could have gotten yourself on the bad side of church leadership by speaking your mind too openly. This further reinforces my view that, if somehow you were still here today, you would have a difficult time fitting into the system. But your book shows me that over time you learned to tone it down.

Lonnie, there were several places in the book where I wished you had retained more of your outspokenness and had given a more detailed explanation about what was happening behind the scenes. There are several things that are not clear to me, the reader. For example, on pages 12 to 13 regarding the circumstances surrounding your departure in 1983 from Vineyard, I don't entirely understand what the problem was between you and John Wimber. I am talking about the point in the narrative where, after explaining how John had de-scheduled you from doing any more pastoral counseling sessions, you finally said, "I had several more meetings with John Wimber over the next couple months, and more accusations came at me until my final blowup, when I declared ‘I quit!’"

I suppose that you were trying to cover for John Wimber here to avoid as much as possible casting him in a bad light. From what I know about John, he was a godly leader, but he also was fallible and could make some serious mistakes, which later he would come to regret, have to walk back, and apologize for. However, I also think you should have been more up front about what exactly happened, especially at this very crucial point in your story. The readers should have been given more insight about John's motivations, at least as they existed at that time. As it is now, the picture is blurry, and I am reduced to guessing about the reasons behind what transpired.

You mentioned that multiple rumors and accusations had been circulating about you. But who exactly were your accusers? Did they have names and faces? Were you ever allowed to confront them? Where was John Wimber getting his information from? Why did he give it any credence? Where were the (1 Tim 5:19) witnesses? You never really provided answers for these questions. But it sounds to me, going by what was written in your book, that you were being pushed by John into an unfair no-win situation, as if he had determined beforehand that he was going to shut you down and had found some convenient pretext for doing so. Consequently, there was no feasible way to defend yourself no matter what you say or do. And you became extremely frustrated with the situation, blew up at John, quit your position at Vineyard, and in anger walked out on him. There was a complete breakdown, which had huge repercussions on you afterwards. I am just wanting to understand fully the reasons for the breakdown.

John Wimber might have been under a lot of pressure at the time, or at least that's one possible theory. You know how accusations work in the real world — they don't have to be true in order to be truly destructive. When accusations get repeated often enough, they can take on a perverse, inextirpable life of their own. And labels, once applied, are worse than difficult to remove. Looking at the situation this way, I can only imagine the havoc that self-appointed vigilantes could have inflicted on John and Vineyard if they had latched onto the accusations against you, used them as high-explosive ammunition, and started broadcasting everywhere "hey people, look here, the heretic John Wimber is also allowing a such-and-such person to continue to minister at Vineyard churches!" And they were very influential (they still are) and had platforms from which they could do serious damage. One noteworthy inquisitor had his own well-known national radio program. Others published widely circulated books — there is a big market for books by makebates — and they were often invited to expound their imprecations from the pulpits of various churches. I remember that one of these vigilantes was also invited to speak at Harvest several times.

If I look at things from this perspective, John Wimber's motivations in the story might be more understandable to me. I mean, for example, where he repeatedly took steps to make sure that you would never be invited to minister at any other Vineyard churches (such as the "telephone calls" you mentioned). Now some readers easily could interpret this as a form of stalking, motivated by spite. However, it is very difficult for me to imagine that he was acting simply from a malicious desire to hurt you — although I must admit it showed a side of John Wimber that isn't pretty to behold. But I suspect that, given the pressures he was under, John might have calculated that the risks for the Vineyard brand name were just too great if he allowed you to continue having any ministry visibility. Do you remember what I said in a previous letter about reputation, how important it is? More than they like to admit, church leaders are concerned about reputation and therefore can bend under the pressure of controversy — and you were always controversial if nothing else.

Another puzzling incident is later in 1985 when John requested a meeting with you, which the book covered on pages 31 to 33 and which you attended. This looked to me like it might have been a lost opportunity to turn things around. However, you rejected John's offer, which seemingly had mild conditions attached, and you said that "I didn't really trust him or his motives at the time" and that "he is trying to shut me down and label me." Something in your relationship with him had gone terribly wrong. Although I think you were far more perceptive than your friends gave you credit for, you didn't clearly explain to the readers what the underlying issues were here. Why exactly didn't you trust John? What do you think his motives were? Why was he trying to shut you down? Is the "label" the same one that you mentioned on page 13? Lonnie, I am just trying to understand what actually happened. There are other examples where I wish a more complete picture had been provided for the reader.

I get the distinct impression from reading your book that over time you came to regard your fractured relationship with John Wimber as very much tied to all the heavy psychological baggage you carried. Yes, you had a problem with feelings of rejection, and you became very embittered and angry, and you needed to overcome these things. But was everything strictly a one-way street? Was the onus only on your side, like a one-man seesaw? It is sad to say this, Lonnie, but people have been abused or mistreated by clergy due to malfeasance, incompetence, misguided priorities, or good intentions. Church leadership doesn't always get it right — what happened on page 94 was a very sad example of this. And you yourself said on page 6, "Good men can be really wrong," and "the more power and authority they get, the more chances they have to be wrong." True, you had to learn forgiveness, and you made it clear this was the major aspect of the Set Free story. But there must have been something to forgive. So I am guessing that, in their dealings with you, John Wimber and Chuck Smith might have made a few mistakes which they should have owned up to. Tell me, Lonnie, did they ever once apologize or ask you for forgiveness? About anything? The book doesn't say, which is strange. It was good that at least Kenn Gulliksen, the original founder of Vineyard, issued a retraction, given on page 271. I was very surprised by this, though I think it might have been added to the book just recently. He apologized for something in a "so-called Christian documentary" that he said about you, which was "due to false information that I was given from some church leaders." I think I have a good guess about what "documentary" he was talking about here. Heaven knows who the "leaders" were.

All this might not matter too much as far as you're concerned now, for every tear has been wiped away where you are, over there in The Sweet By And By. But we have the record you left us, your autobiography, parts of which were very heartbreaking to read. And after reading it, I can tell its major underlying theme: the severe traumas and rejection you experienced in childhood continued to affect you throughout your entire life. You were a "broken" individual, which is the word your friends most often used throughout the book to describe you. And it wasn't until after you met up with Rich Buhler that you started to get the kind of counseling you needed to begin healing your deep seated, emotional wounds. On the other hand, the substitute "father figures" in your life whose approval you most desperately wanted, John Wimber and Chuck Smith, apparently never had the percipience to understand what was going on beneath the surface of things and to see the break down in your heart. Wouldn't they have sought healing for you if they had? Instead, they treated you as if you were little more than a difficult employee — very useful to have around for some purposes but otherwise hard to manage — and when push came to shove, you were expendable.

Lonnie, I can try reading between the lines and connecting the dots, but in the end I have no choice but to accept your decision regarding how much information you wanted to tell the readers. Later on in the book, John Wimber agreed, at the instigation of others, to allow VMI to provide you with financial support during your final illness and decline. You were given a car, a small stipend, and an apartment on Balboa Island, your last earthly residence. Therefore, I can see some reason for why it would be very awkward, and downright ungrateful, if your book were to depict John Wimber too unfavorably. Consequently, some things had to be toned down, and some details had to be left out. But I get the distinct feeling — although the book wasn't clear about this — that your relationship with John Wimber here on Earth was never fully repaired. I am glad to know that now in Heaven it has been restored.

Now I want to move on to other topics …

Chapter 22 of Set Free could be considered your final farewell address before crossing the Jordan. Everyone should read it. By the way, Lonnie, can I borrow your mantle? Or at least your easel? (LOL) 😄

At the end of the book, when your friends eulogized you, some of them likened you to "Samson". I think this was just another label that people were trying to paste on you, a convenient way to make it easier for them to understand your life by putting you into a category of some kind. Your friends probably meant well by it, but labels were something that you always very much disliked. And I particularly disagree with the Samson analogy for several reason, most of all because I don't believe that it fits you. I think you would agree with me about this: you were scrawny little guy — "too light to fight and too thin to win" — and not a comic book level hero doing superhuman feats of strength, such as carrying off the gates of Gaza or killing a thousand Philistines using the jawbone of an ass. (Oh, by the way, have you met Samson yet up there in Glory Land? Did he ever grow his hair back out?)

The book indicated that you went to the Docklands Arena in England in October of 1990, though you were just out in the audience somewhere. Besides your meeting up again with Roger Sachs, I wish that you had told the readers more about why you were there, what you did, and what you saw. That conference was a crucial turning point for John Wimber and a big disappointment. The influential "prophet," who was with the Vineyard at that time and up on the stage with John, had to eat crow burgers afterwards because the big bang revival that earlier he had predicted would follow the "Holiness" conference simply did not happen. "I think we missed that one," he said on page 78. Who is this "we," Kemosabe?

Also, in the sermon you preached at Tom Stipe's church in Denver, back on July 20, 1991, you told the congregation about the "seven lights" vision, which hit you while reading Jamie Buckingham's biography about Kathryn Kuhlman. You never made it clear exactly when this vision occurred. Now at the end of the vision, you were told to "call Chuck Smith." Lonnie, you probably remember the part I am talking about…
Then He lowered a golden scepter at my head, and He said, "Thou art received in the beloved. Now call Chuck Smith."

I was brought back into my body. I called Chuck Smith. I hadn't talked with him in years. And I said — it was one-thirty in the morning — "Aah!! I am one of the seven lights!"

Old Chuck was going, "You need prayer!"
Lonnie, I must say that Chuck's response was a funny ending to the strange vision you told everybody about in your sermon, but I wish you would have told the readers a little more about what else transpired in that telephone conversation between you and Chuck Smith. Did you explain to Chuck all that happened? Did you and he discuss anything else? Or did Chuck just dismiss it all as lunacy and hang up on you? After that sermon in Denver, did Tom Stipe and you continue to be friends? Later, Tom went on to have his own falling out with Vineyard, as you probably know by now.

I noticed on page 229 that you paid a big compliment to Greg Laurie, saying you that were proud of him and calling him "one of the most dynamic evangelists in the United States." Yes, Greg's been hugely successful at the stadium level. And he even has a hired PR firm, The Kairos Company located in Glendale, that helps his news and media optics. You also added, "Of course, he definitely has his opinions about me, but that doesn't matter." And when I read this, it seemed as if you had prophetically anticipated what I said in my previous letter to you where I talked about Greg's latest book. I guess it also reinforces what you said in the angelgram you sent me. Yes, it's true that Greg does have his opinions. Whether he ever changes them is anyone's guess.

Finally, Roger Sachs gave a postscript at the end of the third book. In it Roger mentions a "prophecy" that was given to him by someone named Tom Chapman …
"Immediately, I heard just two words: ‘Book four!’"

"You got to be kidding, Tom!"

Lonnie's story had been such a long endeavor, with so many challenges, delays, and spiritual warfare, that Tom's message was not really welcome news at the onset.
Lonnie, the idea of a fourth book might be a surprise for you. But what Roger Sachs is proposing to do is publishing an additional book that contains transcripts of your recorded sermons, along with some other miscellaneous material. I guess it would be an interesting supplement to your autobiography. There is one thing I wish Roger would include in a fourth book: he should add an essay explaining all the difficulties and "spiritual warfare" that he faced in the process of getting Lonnie Frisbee's autobiography published. That in itself would be a very interesting story to read, and I think that Roger has shown himself to be a fairly good and perceptive writer. In fact, I wish it were possible for me to meet Roger. I do hope that he publishes this "book four" in a timely manner. But I am very glad that at last I have lived long enough to read the final book of your autobiography.

In other news, my wife's restaurant business, Bimbo's Coffee Pot, is doing very well. In fact, it's really taken off and become famous, so much that Gordon Ramsay has scheduled us to be filmed in an episode of his new show highlighting outstanding, excellent restaurants that do the job right. We don't know the name of the show yet, which will be on the Food Network, but we are looking forward to working with Gordon. He is especially fascinated by our authentic Byzantine desserts, which are truly extravagant and were derived from ancient Greek manuscript recipes from pre-Ottoman Constantinople. It should be a whole lot of fun. I can't think of much more to say for now, so I will end this letter. Please write me back, Lonnie, if you think I am getting things wrong. Thanks.

Forever young, you're set free at last. Shout hallelujah!

Sincerely yours,
Old and Grey and Weeping by the Rivers of Babylon