Jesus Revolution—a new film recounting the Jesus Movement of the 1970s—has become a box office sensation with Christian moviegoers. But is the movie accurate? And does its focus on megachurch pastor Greg Laurie do justice to this 1970s movement that changed the world?
On this edition of The Roys Report, Christian filmmaker David Di Sabatino, creator of the Emmy-award-nominated documentary, Frisbee: The Life and Death of a Hippie Preacher, joins Julie.
If you’ve watched Jesus Revolution, then you know that Lonnie Frisbee played a pivotal role in the Jesus Movement. He was the hippie preacher who helped lead thousands to the Lord and performed mass beach baptisms on the Southern California coast. And, he’s the young man who imparted his vision of reaching lost hippies to Pastor Chuck Smith, who then launched the Calvary Chapel movement.
But there’s also a dark side to Frisbee that the movie didn’t portray. According to Di Sabatino, Frisbee was living a double-life—partying and engaging in gay relationships at night and then preaching the next morning.
Plus, Di Sabatino says the film’s focus on megachurch pastor Greg Laurie is the antithesis of the 1970s Jesus Movement. The focus of this revival movement was Jesus—not celebrity preachers. Plus, Di Sabatino says some of the facts presented in the film are just plain wrong. For example, Laurie, whose memoir the film is based on, misrepresented how his church started, Di Sabatino says.
We sought comment from Laurie on some of these issues, but his secretary said he was not available. However, he has spoken to other media outlets about some issues with the film, and these are included in this podcast.
This is an eye-opening podcast. And though we’ll be discussing some of the issues we had with the
film, we’ll also be discussing what’s inspirational and beautiful about it, as well.
David Di Sabatino
JULIE ROYS, DAVID DI SABATINO
JULIE ROYS 00:00
Jesus Revolution—a new movie recounting the Jesus Movement of the 1970s – has become a box office sensation. The movie made $15.5 million dollars in its opening weekend. Now it’s nearing the $40 million mark—and has become a runaway hit with Christian moviegoers. But is the movie accurate? And does its focus on megachurch pastor Greg Laurie do justice to this 1970s movement that changed the world?
Welcome to The Roys Report—a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And joining me today is David Di Sabatino, a Christian filmmaker and creator of the Emmy-award-winning documentary, Frisbee: The Life and Death of a Hippie Preacher. If you’ve watched Jesus Revolution, then you know that Lonnie Frisbee plays a key role in the movie. That’s because Frisbee played a key role in the Jesus Movement. He was the hippie preacher who helped lead thousands to the Lord and performed mass beach baptisms on the Southern California coast. And, he’s the young man who imparted his vision of reaching lost hippies to Pastor Chuck Smith, who then launched the Calvary Chapel movement. But there’s also a dark side to Frisbee that the movie didn’t mention. According to Di Sabatino, Frisbee was living a double-life—partying and engaging in gay relationships at night and then preaching the next morning. Plus, Di Sabatino says the film’s focus on megachurch pastor Greg Laurie is the anti-thesis of the 1970s Jesus Movement. The focus of this revival movement was Jesus—not celebrity preachers.
Plus, David says some of the facts presented in the film are just plain wrong. (Sound byte): “Greg Laurie is lying about how that church started. Now, whether he doesn’t remember whether he just wants to keep Lonnie out of his lineage—Lonnie handed off to him a church of 300 thriving young people. That’s when Greg came in.”
I reached out to Greg Laurie to get comment on the issues David Di Sabatino raises, but his secretary called me back and said Laurie was not available. Greg has spoken to other media outlets, though, and I include his comments to them in this podcast.
This was an eye-opening podcast for me—and I trust it will be for you too. And though we’ll be discussing some of the issues we had with the film, we’ll also be discussing what’s inspirational and beautiful about it, as well. We’ll get to my interview with David in just a moment. But first, I’d like to thank two sponsors of this podcast—Judson University and Marquardt of Barrington. Judson University is a top ranked Christian University providing a caring community and an excellent college experience. Plus, the school offers more than 60 majors great leadership opportunities and strong financial aid. Judson University is shaping lives that shaped the world. For more information, just go to JUDSONU.EDU. Also, if you’re looking for a quality new or used car, I highly recommend my friends at Marquardt of Barrington. Marquardt is a Buick GMC dealership where you can expect honesty, integrity and transparency. That’s because the owners there Dan and Kurt Marquardt, are men of integrity. To check them out, just go to BUYACAR123.COM.
Well, again, joining me is David Di Sabatino, creator of the Emmy award winning documentary called Frisbee: The Life and Death of a Hippie Preacher. David also has produced a documentary on the life of early Christian rocker Larry Norman, and a documentary about a Christian sect in Chicago called Jesus People, USA. So, David, welcome. And thank you so much for joining me.
DAVID DI SABATINO 01:06
Thank you for having me.
JULIE ROYS 01:07
Today, we’re going to be talking about the Jesus revolution and the movie and just the events depicted in it. But before we do that, I’m just curious what got you interested in the whole Jesus movement and this time in the 1970s, when being a Christian was cool and following Jesus became kind of a hippie thing.
DAVID DI SABATINO 01:29
So I grew up in the Italian Pentecostal movement in Toronto, Ontario. As a Pentecostal, there’s talk of revival, there’s talk of these great guys of spiritual power. I started looking around and trying to figure out what a revival was, because, you know, is a revival meeting next Tuesday at 10 o’clock, or was this a larger thing? I started looking, what’s the last revival that we had? Somebody said the Jesus movement. So I started looking at that. I was a Larry Norman fan.
JULIE ROYS 01:59
As was I.
DAVID DI SABATINO 02:00
Yeah, he would talk about it. And then I decided that I wanted to document this because there weren’t really a lot of books on this thing. So, I honed in on Lonnie because his stories as I started to talk to people, it’s like, a prophet was dropped in the middle of 1960s hippiedom in California. The stories are larger than life and it just drew me. So I was attracted to him because of that background, because of the signs and wonders, because of the miracle stories. Lonnie is just this fascinating character. And you’re seeing that now, because he’s the most riveting character in that movie.
JULIE ROYS 02:41
Well, it is interesting because Lonnie Frisbee and I grew up in the church, not in the Pentecostal movement, but in the Evangelical Church. And I mean, to be honest, I didn’t hear very much about Lonnie Frisbee at all. Even Chuck Smith, we were kind of outside the whole Calvary Chapel thing. But that’s someone that I’ve become very familiar with, as I’ve been reporting, because Calvary Chapels keep showing up in different scandals that I’m covering. There seems to be a lot of scandal that follows Calvary Chapels. And there is like a whole other side to this. And I’m curious for you, you grew up Pentecostal. Did you come to this as a skeptic, as a believer as maybe a mixture of both, or just, you know, someone who’s curious?
DAVID DI SABATINO 03:26
I’m not a true believer in the sense that I didn’t have questions. I’ve got lots of questions, you know. I mean, I went to seminary, I went to Bible college, I went to grad school, I was curious and interesting. But when I found roadblocks in it, I just didn’t discard it, I just found answers for it.
JULIE ROYS 03:43
Give us a little bit of the history sort of in a snapshot for those who don’t know it very well.
DAVID DI SABATINO 03:48
The 1960s was a time of tremendous openness. People were searching for truth, with open hearts, you know. It was a very innocent time in some respects. And whatever you decided was the truth, you got up on a street corner with a guitar and sang it or preached it out. And people would sit and listen, because they were so hungry for truth. I mean, the great scene in The Graduate where, you know, he’s got all these opportunities offered to him. And he goes, you know, what, I don’t want my parent’s culture. I want to go and find something that’s real. I don’t want to just this staid-50s culture.
So these kids all at the same time, started looking around. And there was a percentage of them that started looking up and straight to Jesus, and saw that he had truth, not necessarily organized religion, but you know, the Jesus of the Bible. And so, all these little 18 year olds and some hippies, some church kids, they started embracing this. And you had then a movement that started people like Chuck Smith, were open to it. And it caught on like wildfire when somebody from that kind of culture said yes to this. So now you have you know, Calvary Chapel explodes because you have all these young hippies going, well, you know this guy, he loves us, and he’s going to take us in. There were other places that said, no, these dirty hippies, you know, leave them at the door. So the Jesus movement then, you know, starts to go on and these people start to make music, they start to do Jesus papers, you know, the countercultural kinds of papers, they aped those. There were communes all over the place. And this happened not just in Southern California, but across the country, Canada, some parts of Europe. I mean, it was a worldwide phenomenon, because something was happening. And people were tuned into it.
JULIE ROYS 05:37
Yeah, I used to be a part of The Vineyard, which is one of two denominations. They don’t like to call themselves a denomination, but network of churches, whatever you want to call it, that sprung out of this, and actually, Lonnie Frisbee was connected to. But you have Calvary Chapel with over 1000 churches coming out of you have Vineyard churches, actually, not just in the USA, but worldwide. And I remember talking to a pastor at the Evanston Vineyard here in Chicago area. And he said, Boy, back in the 70s, like Jesus people movement, you just had to like, say, you’re having a Bible study, and it would just like flood, like, you know, people would just come. And so just an amazing time. And I think, an amazing period of Christian history and an amazing move of God with some very complicated characters. And interestingly, I mean, in the Jesus Revolution film, and we’ll talk more about this, Greg Laurie features prominently. I mean, he’s basically the main character, but was really, you know, I don’t want to say a bit player, but I mean, he kind of was I mean, that, yes, the Harvest. His church grew out of that, but he was not central to the beginning of the Jesus people movement. Correct?
DAVID DI SABATINO 06:47
Correct. He left out some stuff, which is fine. One of my friends said Greg Laurie made a selfie movie, which I thought pretty much what I mean, if you he paid for it. So, you know, he can do whatever he wants. So, he’s attached himself to the story. And I have some thoughts on that. I bumped heads with Greg when I was doing the Frisbee documentary. He did his movie. You know, he followed Lonnie around like a lost puppy dog. He dressed like him. He tried to ape his moves. He tried to be him. And that’s not represented in the movie, which is fine. Again, I’m not a person that goes to that movie and go, oh, man, he got it all wrong. It’s his movie, right? Lonnie’s story is yet to be told. Because Lonnie story is much more difficult.
JULIE ROYS 07:33
And I’m really looking forward to unpacking that because I think that is an important part of the story. And I think the Jesus Revolution and what happened there has a lot to speak to us today. Especially you know, as we’re looking at what happened at Asbury, and is that revival, is it not revival, is it renewal? I mean, what’s happening? We’re gonna dig into that.
Let me start with what you liked about Jesus Revolution. Again, this is an extremely popular movie it was supposed to they were hoping to gross what 15 million now they’re double or even triple that. I mean the movie is doing extraordinarily well and obviously connecting with people, and I found myself connecting with parts of it deeply and parts of it not.
DAVID DI SABATINO 08:15
That’s how I felt. Yeah.
JULIE ROYS 08:16
Okay, so tell me what you liked.
DAVID DI SABATINO 08:18
What I liked about it? Those early Calvary Chapel scenes where love song is playing those songs and people are drawn, the water, baptisms, seeing the power and transformative power of the Holy Spirit come down on people. You know, they did a really good job recreating the beach baptisms, all those kids sitting on rocks at Corona del Mar. Wonderful. I mean, that was just, they really captured that well. I thought Jonathan Roumie, I thought he did a great job of Lonnie. I mean, that’s a tough character to nail and he did a good, he did a great job. But Kelsey Grammer was just fantastic. I mean, who doesn’t like Fraser Crane? I saw him in interviews and he’s, you know, he’s saying the words that I crafted, you know, because, you know, whatever you say about whatever I did, I mean, the documentary kind of set the stage for this story. And some of the words that I put together he’s now saying, and I got a kick out of that.
JULIE ROYS 09:20
I was really connecting with the Kelsey Grammer character, as well as Chuck Smith. And the reason I think I connected so deeply with it was that was my parents. I grew up late 70s, early 80s. I was in high school and this is when Christian music was just taking off. You know, Larry Norman. You know, I remember his very early, early, you know, drinking whiskey from a paper. You know what I mean?
DAVID DI SABATINO 09:49
The best of all that stuff. No doubt about it. I give him his due. He was a great performer.
JULIE ROYS 09:56
Yeah. And I saw my parents who you know, in my home, we listened to sacred music and we listened to I think the Carpenters and John Denver were like, the most rock we could get, you know, that’s the closest we could get the pop music that we were allowed on like long trips. And so I saw my parents struggling with this new like Christian rock thing just reminded me of Chuck Smith, although I don’t think they were as square as he was. But they embraced it because they saw the impact it had on me. And when I was in high school, there was, you know, your Jesus people who found Jesus went to Oral Roberts University, charismatic, all that, who ended up discipling me, and we ended up doing this coffeehouse ministry outreach to my friends, and my parents, you know, I saw them take him and his wife under their wing and disciple them and do very much like Chuck Smith did. And so that part of it really was precious to me, because it brought me to that. I mean, it’s nice to have a movie that doesn’t make fun of a spiritual reality and things that we honestly can’t describe, like healings or manifestations of the Spirit. I mean, they’re hard to wrap our heads around, but yet at the same time, we follow a God that Aslan is not a tame lion, so to speak. So, he does things that confound us. So, I agree with you. Like there’s some things in this really to be commended. But there’s also some issues as well. So, let’s start diving into some of those. Connie Frisbee, you said that her head is going to explode when she sees how she was portrayed. Why do you feel that way?
DAVID DI SABATINO 11:38
Funny enough, I talked to Connie yesterday. And, you know, my question was, did anybody bother to ask about Connie and who she was? I mean, I’m assuming that what happened was, and I don’t know this, but Greg probably framed all that stuff for them and they just filled in the Connie character, you know, because it wasn’t a big role. So, she comes off extroverted, you know, and a couple of my friends said, we were waiting for her to, you know, lean over and kiss Greg next. And because, you know, there was almost like an intimacy developed between the two of them.
JULIE ROYS 12:16
Yeah, that was a little creepy, to be honest.
DAVID DI SABATINO 12:16
Yeah, but I don’t know what this is about. But I’ll tell you what her response was, you know, she just, you know, she said, Look, I’m used to this, I’m used to them, you know, dismissing me from history and not talking to me at all, you know, my phone is open. Why didn’t somebody call me? At the same time, I said, it doesn’t work that way. You’re a bit player. They cared about the Frisbee character and the Chuck Smith character. But you know, curly hair extroverted, that’s not Connie. They take license and you have to deal with that.
JULIE ROYS 12:48
Yeah, you do.
DAVID DI SABATINO 12:50
They’re not doing the Connie Frisbee – Lonnie Frisbee story. They were doing the Greg Laurie story. So that’s what’s important to them. That’s a little thing.
JULIE ROYS 12:56
Well, another maybe little thing, but this bothers me. I mean, I know there’s artistic license, but why can’t we do things true to the story? Chuck’s daughter picking up Lonnie as he’s hitchhiking. That never happened, right?
DAVID DI SABATINO 13:09
It never happened. No.
JULIE ROYS 13:10
How did he meet him?
DAVID DI SABATINO 13:11
That girl was dating a guy named John Nicholson, who brought Lonnie to Chuck Smith. That’s, you know, it’s another thing. But she gets up on stage with love song at the end. Yeah, I mean, come on. That never happened.
JULIE ROYS 13:25
Some artistic license also with the guy who wrote the Time article.
DAVID DI SABATINO 13:29
JULIE ROYS 13:30
He wasn’t African American, right?
DAVID DI SABATINO 13:32
Oh, no. Richard Ausling? No. There were two guys that came out and did stories. So, I think they’re conflating there is the Look magazine article, which came out first. That story, it came out in February 1971. It’s the Jesus movement is upon us. Now that’s Jack and Betty Cheatham, who did all the photographs. And Jack Cheatham is responsible for getting the Jesus movement story to New York. And when he put that up the ladder to these guys in New York, these guys said, did you pay those people to go into the water to be baptized? Are you staging this? They didn’t believe it. And he said no. He said, that’s what they’re doing up and down the coast. They’re having beach baptisms. And so that’s why that story got slated. The guy that wrote the article, his name is Brian Vashuan. Then there was the Time Magazine one which is Richard Ausling. All white, everybody’s white. Again, creative license, you know, that’s fine.
JULIE ROYS 14:31
I mean, I just saw Les Mis in theaters and the cast was not all European, which I guess if you want to be true to Les Mis, it would be. But I like that, that we’re using diversity and I like that but at the same time, it wasn’t Time magazine that put him on the charts as you’re saying it was it was Look magazine, who published first so I mean, again, minor things.
DAVID DI SABATINO 14:55
But you know, I talked with Chuck Smith’s right-hand guy is still alive and he’s a pastor, and he said to me, he said, in the crowd early Calvary Chapel, there’s black faces, you know, there’s people that are of color. And he said, we maybe had three the whole time I was there. You know, there just was a white crowd. But historically, this is what it was. It was a white movement, really. So, if you’re a Black person in the 1960s, and they did join up with some Jesus movement groups, but largely, why would you do that? They’re not speaking your language. Really. Just the way it was, yeah.
JULIE ROYS 15:34
What a missed opportunity and how the church might look different today. And we wouldn’t be having half the issues we’re having today, had that happened and had we seen properly that the Civil Rights Movement is a part of our values as Christians to be a part of that. That’s something we’re extraordinarily late to the game on.
DAVID DI SABATINO 15:55
There’re other things I’d like to say about some of the missteps in the movie. Lonnie would have never said that he was the Jesus movement. Like when he turns to Chuck and says, The only reason this is happening is because of me. I mean, that’s not true. That’s not Lonnie. You know, I talked to Connie yesterday, her comment was Lonnie wouldn’t even ever had that thought.
One of the great things about Lonnie is he understood that this was God moving through him. He would have never thought he took any you know; it was anything of his. I mean, he understood and his comments where, God raised me up from the dunghill. He understood throughout his life that it had nothing to do with him and that is was all God. One of the great things about Lonnie, he never would take credit because he didn’t do anything. He just kind of showed up. And God put this thing on him to be kind of like a fire starter. So that comment in that film they just got that so wrong. That’s just not him. Beyond that, Lonnie started Greg’s church. So that narrative about how Riverside happened, that’s wrong. That’s just dead wrong.
There’s a fellow named Fred Wah, who was involved with the early Riverside Church. Twenty years ago, Fred phoned me up, and he says, David, I love Lonnie, and I love Greg. But Greg Laurie is lying about how that church started. Now, whether he doesn’t remember whether he just wants to keep Lonnie out of his lineage, Lonnie handed off to him a church of 300 thriving young people. That’s when Greg came in, after Lonnie had discipled these people and brought them along. So that’s the story. I got one more.
The fact that they have marketed this film to suggest that, oh, this is going to be the catalyst to a revival. I mean, that is the most disgusting thing about this whole thing to me. Because it’s like, name me the movement or somebody’s self-centeredness, and hubris has fired off something in the Spirit. You think the spirit responds to your selfie movie? Give me a break man! To say that this is going to spark some sort of movement in the Spirit. What are you talking about? Are you so daft that you can’t see what you’re saying? Because basically, he’s saying I am the high point culmination of everything good that came out of the Jesus moment to which I say, Oh, that’s nice. You built a big church, who cares? Who cares, man, good for you. You know, I don’t care about that. But to say that that’s going to spark the Spirit of God. That just got my blood boiling.
JULIE ROYS 18:48
Well, as we’re thinking of revival, and especially coming out of the Asbury revival, which let’s remember at Asbury, we had a bunch of big-name people who came in right? Wanted to co-op the revival for their own platform. And the administration there said, you know, if you want to come fine, but you’re gonna sit like any other congregant, and they put the kids up on stage, you’re not going to get on stage. And it was good for them. And they made it very clear, this revival is what God is doing in a grassroots movement through the students, and we’re not going to get in the way of it. I love that.
But what’s happening now for Greg Laurie to say, you know, it is kind of the antithesis of what happened at Asbury to now go promote this movie and say, you know, this is what God did, and he can do it again. Yes. Can you do it again? Yes. But what’s it about? And this is what bothered me so much. It wasn’t about the celebrities. I mean, Chuck Smith is about as vanilla as can be the way he’s portrayed, and I think it’s probably somewhat true to form. Lonnie was a character but as you say, the thing I like about Lonnie is that he really seems to be showing up for what The Holy Spirit is doing. And he’s there to be a part of what God’s doing not to kind of co-op this for himself. But I do get the sense from watching your documentary and reading some others that Lonnie truly was seeking something real. But he was a pretty complicated character who maybe never overcame his own demons. But he was seeking something real. And so, to see this movie, it’s played prominently, that Lonnie, and Church both tell Greg Laurie that he’s going to go preach to thousands. And to me, this is so classic charismatic, and I love charismatics. And I lean that way myself, but I remember once turning to my husband and saying, When is somebody going to get a prophetic word that you’re going to live out your life in relative obscurity, and you’re going to serve your family and do it faithfully. But that’s going to be the beautiful thing that God has birthed in you, is that your life is going to be remarkably normal, but you’re going to live faithfully for him, and you’re going to touch some people profoundly in your life through living that quiet life. Like you never hear these, you always hear these, you know, kind of grandiose, and that’s where I see like, just the spirit of man getting caught up in these things.
DAVID DI SABATINO 21:09
I say that all the time. I say, you know, when Is God gonna anoint somebody to make dinner? I don’t get it. And I’ll tell you even with this story, and I’ve watched this the whole time, everybody wants to be important. So, I have a question for you. The Asbury thing; I know what happened in the 70s. Is it the exact same place?
JULIE ROYS 21:27
Well, it happened at Asbury did it happen in that specific chapel? That I don’t know.
DAVID DI SABATINO 21:32
But the fact that it happened at the same college 50 years later, that is extraordinary to me. That coincidence, like why? Because I know the original one, some teachers got up and said, Hey, man, we’ve been phoning it in, and we’re sorry. And this tremendous sense of forgiveness and confession, started this whole vista. And people just started flocking to this place because the Spirit reacted to the humility or whatever. I mean, you know, that’s what I’m thinking. And it was tremendous, but that 50 years later, the same thing sparks off and good for them to rope it off.
JULIE ROYS 22:10
Yeah, I mean, my mother was Wesleyan, and she grew up on the campus of Houghton College. So very similar roots and coming out of the holiness tradition, for them, the litmus test of it is not speaking in tongues being filled with the Holy Spirit. It is a second work of this spirit to give you the power to overcome sin in your life. It’s a repentance and holiness movement. And so my mother, like I remember her telling me stories of when she was a child being woken up in the middle of the night, because revival was happening on the campus of Houghton College, and going out, you know, like, I don’t know, one-two in the morning, as a really young teenager, and being in the church and hearing professors get up and confess their sins. For her as a kid, you can imagine hearing these adults get up and confess their sins. just remarkable. But again, it was very grassroots and she used to talk about it. So, this was part of my growing up; wanting and longing for revival and wanting for holiness in the church. That has always been, you know, deeply rooted in me because of my history. But I’m guessing at Asbury the same sort of thing, because it comes out of a similar revivalist history. But yeah, it’s beautiful when you see that happening.
DAVID DI SABATINO 23:29
I think that’s why people gravitate towards Lonnie, there’s an authentic Ness to him. You and I both know that charlatans abound. Lonnie wasn’t like that. He kind of just showed up. And you know, the authenticity of Lonnie is he moves a 40-year-old pastor who doesn’t like the hippies, to let him up on stage the next week, knowing full well that he came out of the homosexual lifestyle. How does that happen? The meeting between Lonnie Frisbee and Chuck Smith should be on the Mount Rushmore of 20th century spiritual events, because what happened there just defies all logic. And they get at it a little bit. I don’t know how you would do it screen-wise. Lonnie explained it much more dramatically than Chuck did. He said it was like a cloud came and enveloped us. And we were both moved because we understood that there was some connection that had been made. You know, Chuck downplays it because Chuck comes out of Aimee Semple McPherson. He downplays the demonstrative acts of the Holy Spirit. He doesn’t want to talk about that stuff. He doesn’t want any kind of glamorization of that because he saw the abuses. You know, Aimee Semple McPherson was, you know, the dramatist and the healings and Katherine Kuhlman followed in that step and a lot of that is just show. I mean, I’m not suggesting that they didn’t do good things. I’m just a lot of that is for performance. Lonnie just wasn’t like that. So, for him to move this guy, that is extraordinary. This is absolutely extraordinary. And he gives him his pulpit and this thing starts to explode, you know. So for me for Greg Laurie to super impose himself on that. You know, and that’s maybe my own personal pet peeve. And I know he was there, but that should be a hands off event where you go, I don’t want to take anything away from this event because this was an act of God.
JULIE ROYS 25:39
But yeah, this is an amazing thing. That Lonnie is able to come in both of them know Jesus, Chuck and Lonnie, but he really converts Chuck to what’s most important. And being willing, you know, this is something that I did love about the Vineyard is that they had a commitment to the church being messy, because when the Holy Spirit moves, it’s usually messy. And we want to clean it up because it makes us nervous, right? But I love that Chuck embraced that at the beginning.
DAVID DI SABATINO 26:09
I mean, you know, I’m watching people do backflips and calisthenics to try to scrape the gay off Lonnie.
JULIE ROYS 26:16
So, let’s talk about this. It’s my understanding he renounced his homosexual past and got married, but then sort of back slid into, you know, and this is when he was married, he was going to gay bars, partying one night. And then the next morning preaching. What Brent McCorkle told Christian Post was, they chose not to mention it, because they wanted to stay true to the story of who Frisbee was in 1969 and 1970. And supposedly, he wasn’t acting out on his, you know, homosexual desires at that time. Laurie told Christian Post and I quote, I don’t know the specifics of his, Lonnie’s, immorality if it involved homosexual encounters. But during the time of the Jesus movement, I never saw or heard anything of that kind. And I don’t believe it was happening at all in his life. This is something that happened later, his marriage fell apart. And then we know he died in his 40s of AIDS. So, I mean, how do you respond to those explanations of why they didn’t mention it?
DAVID DI SABATINO 27:20
So, for this movie, I don’t think this was the vehicle by which to try to explain Lonnie’s complexities. Now, the things that they are saying, there’s, you know, they’re saying that out of ignorance. Why would Greg know that? He wouldn’t, I mean, Lonnie leaves in 1971. So Greg never sees him until his deathbed in 1993. I don’t think that they had any interaction. You know, so he doesn’t know about Lonnie’s life. You know, I can tell you from what I know, that Lonnie did renounce, you know, homosexuality, and for the rest of his life, preached that he was not gay, and that he did not, and that homosexuality was a counterfeit. And he preached that and told anybody that wanted to talk to him about that. However, what he did throughout his life, was venture back into that lifestyle. So, the people that are saying, well, you know, he was molested as a child, and therefore, he fell into this sin or whatever reasoning that they want to do. I think you have a real problem with that, because I can show you all along the way that he was engaging in that behavior all along.
JULIE ROYS 28:33
Even in the late 60s, early 70s?
DAVID DI SABATINO 28:36
Yes, I talked to Connie about it yesterday. But this is the reality of his life.
JULIE ROYS 28:41
And wasn’t Lonnie disciplined by Chuck Smith for some of his behavior?
DAVID DI SABATINO 28:47
Chuck knew. To his credit, so I think he knew about it. And I think he said, but God is using him. He didn’t dismiss him, even though he knew. I give him credit for that, because that’s unlike anybody else, including John Wimber, who treated Lonnie horribly for 10 years because of this. Horribly.
JULIE ROYS 29:10
So, Lonnie was a married man, whether this is a homosexual relationship or heterosexual relationship. I mean, it was forbidden by scripture, I mean, to have extramarital affairs. So when you bring up Chuck Smith, I mean, I read a 2007 article just recently, CT article called Day of Reckoning. And they’re talking about Calvary Chapel and specifically Chuck Smith having this dangerous laxity and maintaining standards for sexual morality among their leaders. And this became, I mean, really a hallmark for Calvary Chapels. I mean, tons of scandals. And one pastor said these men cannot call out sin. Easy forgiveness, insiders say, has created an atmosphere of sexual license where some unethical pastor sense that there are few consequences for sexual misconduct.
So not to make it a gay issue or a non-gay issue, I mean, the fact of dealing with sin within Calvary Chapel, he did have a pattern of looking the other way, which then came back to bite the movement. What I’ve heard, and I hear this repeatedly because I report on these scandals, right? Is that we have men from broken homes, maybe abuse in the background, all sorts of you know, drug use immorality coming in getting saved, right? They get saved, and they want to follow Jesus and they want to do what’s right. And they do for several years, because you know, you’re on that sort of a honeymoon period of just, you know, you’re kind of on this high, Jesus high, whatever you want to call it. But when life hits, and it requires character, and it requires dying to self, and it requires walking in holiness, there’s not that ability to do it. But also, there’s like zero understanding in the church zero, about, you know, getting some professional counseling about getting some help for these folks, for someone like Lonnie, that was abused as a child. I mean, just horrible that we have not had a framework of dealing with those root issues. You know, has the church treated gay people horribly? Absolutely. No question. But have we treated just broken people with just a lack of care and understanding? And that’s where, again, I’m watching this movie, and I’m seeing those issues.
DAVID DI SABATINO 31:32
Yeah. Boy, it’s complex. Boy, I tell you, cuz, you know, I’ll tell you from what I know, Chuck had his own issues. And again, the overriding principle of Calvary Chapel was if you are anointed, then we’re going to give you all the slack that there is.
So yeah, you are absolutely right. There is that thing in Calvary Chapel. And what they say is, you know, you take on the limp of the leader. And this is the way that he handled it, because it was given to him, he was given grace for his foibles. Again, it’s a good impulse. And then when taken to another level, it becomes the rigor des jour and, you know, unfortunately, people will use it and abuse it. So, you’ve got guys that are running around, and nobody’s going to put the hammer down. Because, you know, there’s a fine balance between the law and the spirit and you know, you can’t just have that sort of thing. And you’re right about Calvary Chapel, I don’t follow them past, you know, a certain point, but I could see that happening. Absolutely. Lots of guys that, you know, have gone off the reservation and do things and then nothing happens.
JULIE ROYS 32:48
And Calvary has influenced a lot of I would say charismatic movements. Chuck Smith was famous for the Moses model. And this was the idea, right? So your pastor, you know, we’re not living in, you know, like we’ve skipped over Acts 2 where the Spirit of God comes on your young men and your women and your children, we’ve missed that. Now, we’re reverting back to an Old Testament model where the Holy Spirit speaks only to your pastor. And then he has to disseminate the words of God to His people, and the elder board isn’t there really to hold him accountable, it’s just there to support him and try to keep them as healthy as we can, while he’s self-destructing half the time. I mean, and this has become the model for the Association of Related Churches, ARC. The largest, arguably the largest church planting organization in North America. And if you just go to my page, and go under investigations, and click on ARC and Church of the Highlands, and you will see a litany of scandals just in the past two or three years. Unbelievable how much sin is going on in that church, and this is a, I would just say, the Moses model is perverse. And that’s why when I see at the end of the movie, you know, Greg Laurie, wanting to, you know, glorify the mega church, but also appropriate, these words of knowledge, you know, prophecies, whatever, as you know, for him, and this is why, you know, he’s got this mantle. I can’t say whether God said that, or he didn’t say it. But I can say that that kind of thinking and the celebrity and thinking you’ve got the anointing and the mantle’s on you, has been absolutely toxic. It is, and instead of us watching a movie about what Jesus did, among unbelievably ordinary, messed up people, we’re hearing about the words of these celebrities that were making even Lonnie being a celebrity. I mean, I think all of that, did God use them? Yes. Could he have done it without any of them?
DAVID DI SABATINO 34:47
It’s funny, because like, after my time within that world, I kind of thought to myself, you know, it’s sad that church has become the center of so many people’s focus instead of the family. And wouldn’t it be nice for us to pull back and go, you know what? let’s make the center of the locus what God wants to do the family instead of this thing. I don’t get it. I don’t get what people are expecting church to be. And these mega churches, are they a good thing? What’s the guy that did Purpose Driven Life?
JULIE ROYS 35:20
DAVID DI SABATINO 35:21
You know, he repented of all that, to his credit. Now I don’t, you know, I didn’t follow it. But I remember, you know, when I came down there, and I met him and because he was friends with my boss, and I liked him. He repented of building the biggest, baddest church on the block. But he got caught up in that. And he shouldn’t have and he realized it. He’s one of maybe, you know, I don’t know. I don’t see too many people do that. I see a lot of people trying to emulate that. And that seems to be the goal.
JULIE ROYS 35:49
Yeah, but what when he retired instead of saying, Okay, let’s break this up and have each one be a separate congregation and let’s find pastors, he brought in a guy with all sorts of allegations of spiritual abuse. And it’s like, we have to find somebody you know, the man, right? We have to find the celebrity pastor to pass this on to. And you know, it’s like, when do we wake up and say, the model is broken?
DAVID DI SABATINO 36:12
I agree with you.
JULIE ROYS 36:13
It’s heartbreaking. I’m just thinking, put not your trust in princes in whom there is no help nor the Son of man in whom there is no help happy as he whose hope is in the Lord. You know, and yet we have made it about man over and over again. And I probably need to get off my soapbox, but I could talk about this all day and obviously have a lot of passion behind it, because I’ve seen the damage and I talked to the wounded and I talked to the casualties of this movement. In your ministry or business, your reputation is your most valuable asset. But what do you do when you suspect misconduct? Hopefully, you do the opposite of many of the organizations I report on. Instead of covering up wrongdoing, you investigate it, and Accord Analytics can help. In just 72 hours, their team of experts can scour emails, call logs and other records to produce usable evidence. They also can analyze your organization to identify specific threats and to suggest best practices. For a free consultation go to ACCORDANALYTICS.COM Well, let me get back to the story because you’ve hinted at why Lonnie and Chuck didn’t split. What did eventually cause them to part ways and then Lonnie to end up I mean, he ended up at the Vineyard?
DAVID DI SABATINO 37:41
Lonnie felt that, you know, he would say, Church, why are you putting the Holy Spirit in a box? You know, that was one of his great lines. He felt that, you know, Lonnie loved Katherine Coleman. And he saw, you know, the show people that that did this stuff. And I think there was a little bit of that with him. I think, too, it was just an honest expression of who he was. He was an experimentalist, not only in the counterculture, but when he came to church, and fortunately, or unfortunately, God would sometimes backup, you know, what he did.
So he would take this mantle and put it over people to get them to speak in tongues, which is, you know, it’s ridiculous. But he was a hippie, he didn’t know, you know, so he’s doing this stuff. And then, what’s kind of sad is that people started to do the same thing around him and you’re like, you know, anyways.
What happened with Chuck, it was a spiritual thing. Chuck was very uncomfortable coming out of that Foursquare drama, you know, everything’s drama. Everything’s manipulative. He did not like that stuff. So, inch by inch, he started encroaching on Lonnie’s kind of charismatic. Chuck, we call it charismania. Where you make the gifts of the Spirit and the demonstrative acts of the Holy Spirit, the main thing. He was against that, so it was Lonnie that made the decision to leave Calvary Chapel. Chuck would have never told him to leave. But on Chuck’s part, I think Chuck was restricting him more and more. And I think the movie touched on that. I mean, that’s a complex issue. But that’s basically what happened. Lonnie left; Chuck did not want him to leave.
JULIE ROYS 39:23
What’s hard, is reconciling the fact that someone who was sinning. In some ways people would look at his lifestyle and say, that’s open rebellion against God. You know, he’s partying one night and, and that’s hypocrisy. I mean, that’s hard. That’s something that Jesus was pretty clear about. Whether the immorality is heterosexual or homosexual, the point is, as a minister of the gospel there, I mean, there’s scriptures that are pretty clearly about what qualifies you as a pastor. Being above reproach.
DAVID DI SABATINO 39:59
And pride is so insidious. Yeah. I mean. My thing was, I thought it was tremendously unfair that Lonnie got marginalized and treated because of this sin. I’m not saying that it’s okay. And that, you know, it should have been that a blind should have been turned to it. I don’t think that’s good, either. But my feeling is that we dote on this sexual sin, to our detriment, because what are we saying to people that have sexual sin when they come into the church? I mean, if I had sexual sin, I wouldn’t go to a church. That would be the last place because if I’m exposed, the way that I get treated is much worse than somebody else who’s just proud. You know. I mean look at what’s going on here. Greg’s pride and arrogance are being used as a virtue. Really. And what do we do? And in the American church, this is something that’s great. Look at him. Oh, that’s wonderful. Hey revival is going to happen. Really? Really? On pride and arrogance? This is what you’re going to build revival on? Okay. I’d like to see that happen. You know, I’m waiting for that to happen. Now it’s great that they’re making all this money. But you know, that’s because you’re marketing very smartly. But revival outbreak? Come on. You can’t imagine how that galls me. I mean, it’s just so ridiculous. I don’t know what the answer is to this. I mean, because there’s always a fine balance between these issues.
JULIE ROYS 41:27
Well, there is. I hear you talking out of seeing people, wounded people in the church, not be properly loved and supported. And really, people walk through healing, like, and we’ve been so like, allergic to professional counseling, and to learning from the world at all, which I think has been a real problem for the church, because we’ve not helped people that really need help, and we’ve not come alongside them. And yet, I’m coming at this from seeing the unbelievable license for pastors, and especially if you’re a superstar, and if you’re a celebrity, and if you perform well. Wow! And it’s destroying the human being, though. I mean, this isn’t loving to the human being it wasn’t, it wouldn’t be loving for Lonnie, even in that situation to just have it winked at and for Chuck to keep using him, because, yeah, you’re bringing people in, it’s working. I mean, that can be an abuse, too. I mean, so I think there needs to be, you know, if we’re not going to grieve the Holy Spirit, and we’re in the midst of a move of God, we need to uphold both his holiness and His love. And both of those things need and they both of them work together. When they’re applied, rightly,
DAVID DI SABATINO 42:42
I would hope that that happens, I just don’t, I don’t know how that balance gets struck. I don’t know, I don’t know what the what the resolve is. For me, it’s been come out of her and just, you know, be separate, and just kind of go handle my family, and just not worry about all this other stuff. Because it’s just so painful to watch. I’ve had friends who committed, you know, sexual acts outside of their marriage, and they get treated worse than the devil. You know, it’s like, these people lose their minds. How can this happen? What really? You had heterosexual sex, you don’t know how that could have, like, this is uncommon to you? That they treat him with such disdain. That person is cut off from talking to anybody. So, one week, they’re the guy and then the next week, they’re the devil. And it’s like, is this how God would handle this? Like, really? I don’t know what the resolve to that is, I have no idea. You know, Chuck’s trying to be gracious. And now you’re saying 30 years later, this is a huge problem. That’s, I can see that. The drift, you know, just the drift of that notion can then become an abusive thing. Like anything what starts as a good impulse, and then it becomes calcified. And people, you know, are trampling over it, just to use it for their own gain.
JULIE ROYS 44:03
And only Chuck knows why he did it. But I will say, I mean, Lonnie became the person that attracted people and launched the Calvary Church. So, I mean, we’ve given Greg Laurie a hard time here. But he does live in a $3.5-$4 million dollar home there in Newport Beach. The movie itself is a huge capitalist venture. Laurie, is you know, one of the movie producers. There’s a whole book Jesus Revolution: How God Transformed An Unlikely Generation and How He Can Do It Again. You can buy that for a retail price $18. You can get the Jesus Revolution study book from Lifeway for$14.99. You can get the leaders kit from Lifeway for $89. Somebody is making an awful lot of money on this.
Here’s the thing. I mean, as I’m looking at it, and I’m understanding revival, that normally repentance and renewal is the precursor. You know what I’d like to see? I’d like to see all these multimillionaire megachurch pastors, which where have they gotten their money? From donated money from, I would like to see them do exactly what Jesus urged the rich young ruler to do. I mean, what would happen in our churches, if they opened up the books and said, here, you’re gonna see what we pay everyone, and our pastor who’s making, you know, over a million dollars or six-hundred grand, or whatever it is you’re making, you know, and he’s going to come down, and he’s going to have a median, whatever the median is here, you know, whatever it would be. I’m not going to say the exact and people are gonna say, well, you’re saying it’s wrong to be rich. And it’s one thing to be rich because you produce something that people buy. And that’s how you’ve made it. It’s another thing to be rich because people are donating. You know, and I guess you could say the ones that got rich off of publishing and, you know, their book royalties, and that’s a whole other thing. But I just think somewhere in there, if there’s going to be revival in this country, and the mega church leaders, our celebrities want to want to lead? lead by stepping down, lead by giving up, lead by selling all your goods, doing those radical things that Jesus said. Lead that way, then I would say, I wouldn’t be surprised if a revival would come to this country.
DAVID DI SABATINO 46:11
Yeah, agreed. I would love to see that movie. Now, you said we’re piling on Greg Laurie. Let me pile on some more. I don’t like Greg Laurie. I’ll say that right up front. I haven’t had a lot of interaction with him. I got a phone call one day when I was doing this movie. There was a story about his salvation. Lonnie tells it very differently than Greg tells it. Lonnie tells it much more dramatically. The Lonnie’s rendition is that Greg came and started to heckle at Harbor High School, he started to heckle him. And Lonnie saw him in the crowd and said in the name of Jesus I command you to shut up. And Greg, Lonnie says he hit the ground. And as he hit the ground, he started speaking in tongues. That’s the story. And when people came to him and said, well, so Greg wasn’t a Christian when he was heckling. But then by the time he hit the ground, how does this work? When did he get saved? And Lonnie would say, on the way down. You tell the story, and people would laugh. And you know, it was one of the big stories.
So I’m listening to that story. And I’m going, okay, so I find a guy that says he was in the crowd and he saw that happen. So, I, you know, I’m a researcher, right. So, I have prima facia, kind of, I have a guy, right. So I started telling that story, because I got a guy, right that says he was there. It was not just Lonnie story. It’s a guy that says he was there at Harbor High School when it happened. So, Greg gets wind of this, and I’m telling the story. And he phones me up. And he starts to say, that didn’t happen. And I said, Okay. And he said, Let me tell you, and the first thing out of his mouth is this. That guy took a lot of drugs, you know? And I was like, whoa! look at this. He’s dismissing this guy by besmirching him. He’s not contesting what I said, he’s not entering into a dialogue with me. He’s belittling this guy. And I said to him, and I didn’t say this to him, but I wrote him a letter later, because I was, I was stunned. Like, I was just like, what? So, and again, I was working for a guy who’s his friend who put me on the phone with him. So, I’m in a position of, you know, do I want to keep my job or want to yell at Greg Laurie? So, I didn’t yell at him. But I sent him a letter later on. And I said, How does this work? Because you took drugs? And not only did you take drugs, you sold drugs? Do I get to dismiss you? You know, is that how this works? Because what you should have said to me was, well, I have my take on it. And I can produce these people or, you know, come back to me with some sort of dialog that says that you’re interested. Instead, you dismiss this guy who you know, who is your friend at one time. And I said, what is that? So that’s who Greg Laurie is, to me. And I’ve corroborated that with a bunch of people. He is an arrogant man to do that to his friend, and to besmirch him like that. Just a total jackass to me, but that’s my feeling.
JULIE ROYS 49:21
Who is this guy?
DAVID DI SABATINO 49:22
He’s passed away. His name is David Sloan. David Sloan was a young hippie friend of Lonnie’s. He laid the foundations of Calvary Chapel. I mean, this is, you know, he found out that I had done that to him because somebody, Greg must have told somebody else. He came back and he thanked me. He said, you know, you had my back and I said, Dude, he should not do that. Like, that’s just, you know, because it’s, I’m the guy, right? Like, I’ve got this church and I can do whatever I want. I was like, nah, nah, you know, that pissed me off. Because again, God called me you know, when I was in Canada, God laid Lonnie’s story on me. And Lonnie is the guy that gets written out right? When I came down in 2001, all of his friends are bemoaning the fact that nobody is talking about Lonnie. And so I said, okay, we’re going to fix that to whatever extent I can, because God has laid this story on my heart. And so, I stuck up for the little guy. Because that’s what Lonnie was. And that’s how I feel. And that’s what you know, you’re doing the same thing. We stick up for the people that can’t stick up for themselves. Because either we have big mouths or we don’t know any better. I don’t know what it is, you know, but, you know, for me, it’s like, you can’t do this to people. You can’t treat them like the gum on the bottom of your shoe. How dare you do that! That’s my feeling.
JULIE ROYS 50:48
And I think I think God’s heart is grieved.
DAVID DI SABATINO 50:51
JULIE ROYS 50:53
And I think he still has and longs to gather people to Himself. And I think we’re the ones who are getting in the way. And so, I mean, am I thrilled to hear people talk about revival? Absolutely. Was I thrilled to see what happened at Asbury? Absolutely. Do I long for that to happen now? Absolutely. But I think it begins, it does begin with us facing these things and how people are treated, how the little guy is treated in our church, how the sinner is treated, you know how the person up front, who sets himself up an example how they’re living? How are they really living when it comes to loving people and exhibiting the fruits of the Spirit? Which are not numbers and money and how many books you’ve sold. It’s love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, self-control. These are the fruits of the Spirit.
I think there is an opportunity now with people talking about revival, and looking at past revivals and looking at moves of the spirit. But I think it starts with us getting in tune with what God’s doing, instead of trying to coopt stories for our own self-aggrandizement. Right? That’s where it needs to begin.
So, David, fascinating discussion, I knew it was going to be fascinating. I knew that it was going to be challenging and it has been and I just I appreciate your commitment to truth and to getting the truth out there and to giving a more complete picture of what happened and encouraging us towards that.
DAVID DI SABATINO 52:31
Thank you for having me. I appreciate it.
Again, thanks so much for listening to The Roys Report—a podcast dedicated to reporting the truth and restoring the church. I’m Julie Roys. And just a reminder that we’re able to do this podcast and all our
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35 thoughts on “‘Jesus Revolution’: The Untold Story”
This is excellent. Julie, I appreciate all you do. Sending a donation today.
Thank you, Terry! Much appreciated.
Interesting podcast but guest seems a bit cynical for me. Listen to another viewpoint from someone who was there, Chuck Gerard, from Love Song on Alicia Childer’s podcast. It was clear to me and others that this movie was centered on Greg Laurie’s life based on his autobiography and view of the Jesus Revolution.
No question there were certain liberties taken in the movie, Jesus Revolution, regarding Greg Laurie’s story such as when he met Cathe (according to his book, Lost Boy, he met Cathe after he already came to Christ and was leading a Bible study, and they were both already saved, whereas in the movie, they met before they were saved). And who was responsible for those liberties in the movie and why, I don’t know. But what would cause me to question David Di Sabatino’s characterization of Greg Laurie in his younger years is due to having listened to an early recording from the mid 1970s of Greg sharing his testimony back when he was 24 years old (three decades before his book, Lost Boy, in which his account is consistent with what he shared in the recording). Here’s a link to that recording: http://server.firefighters.org/catalog/1998/00134.mp3
I was disappointed in the negative, cynical unloving attitude of David Sabatino. It was clear that he has long standing bitterness and resentment toward Greg Laurie. I’m not a mega church fan or a big fan of Greg Laurie, but the none too thinly disguised hatred toward Laurie by your guest was mean and unedifying. This quest was not a spiritual or spiritually minded man. Yet you allowed him to use your program to disseminate his bitterness as if this is normal mature loving Christian behavior for relationships within the body of Christ. He felt himself justified and qualitied to condemn Greg for pride but couldn’t even see the palpable bitterness and verging on hatred coloring his attitude towards Laurie. I appreciated you reminding listeners that people in leadership positions must exhibit the fruit of the Spirit in their personal lives and interactions with people. But that goes for all Christians and your quiets frankly needed to be lovingly helped to recognize his own bitterness, rather than promoted and given a public platform to disseminate it.
If Sabatino had expressed a dislike for Laurie for no reason, I would agree with you. But he said he didn’t like Laurie because Laurie tried to discredit one of Laurie’s own friends when the friend challenged Laurie’s conversion account. And according to David, Laurie discounted his friend because his friend had a drug background similar to Laurie’s own drug background. If true, that’s gaslighting and it is concerning. That, coupled with the questions surrounding Laurie’s version of how his church started certainly raises some serious red flags. I could have edited the information out, but I thought the allegations were credible and worthy of consideration.
Hi Julie, I appreciate your goal in keeping the church pure and have been helped by much of your content, but this interview missed the mark in my opinion. I knew nothing of this story going into listening to the interview, hadn’t watched the movie, and came away thinking, “yikes, that is a bitter man who seems to hate Greg Laurie”. You platformed his slander without evidence to his claims and without charity towards Greg Laurie. Interviews like this do not help the church in my opinion. Based on his attitude alone, and his clear and unloving disdain, this interview would’ve been better unaired. I’m more concerned about David’s heart before the Lord than anything he shared about this supposed scandal.
Since listening to this podcast, I’ve watched the movie and this interview by Greg Laurie. Please give it a listen.
Thanks for what you do and I’m praying for you today!
I listened to many excerpts from the above linked interview that Russian KD did with Greg Laurie before reading this podcast David Sabatino did with Julie Roys. I was quite surprised by the amount of disdain Mr. Sabatino expressed for Greg Laurie, and definitely think one needs to also hear the interview done with Russian KD in order to have a more balanced view of the events during the early days of Calvary Chapel and the Jesus Movement.
I disagree with you. It’s not and truths if somebody wants to correct untruths. It was refreshing to hear the truth. I also was there from the beginning and I mean before Chuck was at Calvary Chapel.
Interesting that at the end of the interview the point is made that Laurie has made a profit from donors, but then there is a plea from Julie to donate to her venture, stating the thousands would be just fine. Hmmm?
The Roys Report is committed to making our content freely available and not charging for subscriptions, so yes, we rely on donations. I don’t know how we could possibly run a professional media outlet without any funds. However, unlike most megachurches, which don’t open their books and report their highest wage-earners salaries, we do. It’s all published on our donate page and you can read there exactly how much I make and exactly how we allocate our money. And as you’ll see, I make a modest stipend, nothing that would support anything remotely close to Laurie’s $3.5 million home.
Julie, I think it’s commendable that you offer transparency to your donors. I just thought it ironic to have the donor issue juxtaposed at the end.
That being said, it might be helpful for you and your followers to recognize that Laurie’s Newport Beach home may very well have been purchased by family money inherited by Greg or Cathe. It appears from the Jesus Revolution movie depictions of Cathe’s parents’ home and lifestyle, that her family was a prosperous Orange County California family.
I personally know many families who were fortunate enough to have legacy wealth passed down to them. I’m only suggesting that you expand your intellect by considering other means by which Greg and Cathe Laurie may have prospered other than making a blanket assertion that it came from his congregation.
Just a thought. I don’t know any details of how Greg bought his Newport Beach home… but I concluded from the movie that both sets of parents were prosperous.
Just my thoughts.
Karen – Julie didn’t reference Greg Laurie buying a $3.5 million home, she referenced supporting a $3.5 million home. Even if he had a family inheritance to purchase a home of that value, does he also have adequate family legacy funds to maintain that home? I can’t imagine the taxes on a $3.5 million home, let alone the insurance, utilities, maintenance, etc. There’s a basic economic principal called opportunity cost. If he is committed to a vocation of full time ministry, it just seems sketchy that he would prioritize owning an extravagant home over other opportunities for those funds.
As a SoCal native, I’m less interested in how much Laurie paid for his home or how much it’s appreciated. I’m more interested in why he lives 40 miles away from the church he pastors.
Then again, based on how megachurches affect local churches, I am confident a fair number of his parishioners drive farther.
In response to Mark, I don’t know whether or not it was related to moving to Newport Beach, but around the timeframe of the purchase of the home, Greg Laurie was also leading a Bible study on Monday evenings at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa at the request of Chuck Smith. After many years, that Bible study transitioned elsewhere on Monday evenings to Anaheim which eventually led to the Harvest church in Irvine.
I spent 20 years in Calvary Chapels both in CA and TN. My experience with their Moses model of leadership along with their staunch stance against any use of psychology, therapy or looking back at one’s childhood just about destroyed me. I attended Calvary Chapel University in 2013 and received a certificate of biblical counseling. They use Jay Adams’ books (AKA abusive theology) as curriculum. And the cherry on top, also known as the day I walked out for good, was being told by my CC pastor that “I have no spiritual authority to tell my husband what God says.” The misogyny in all the CC’s I attended is stunning. I have heard Sandy Adams from CC Stone Mountain in Georgia teach very closely what we just read from Josh Butler. It has all been a nightmare. Grateful the Lord pulled me out but healing from all the abuse and false teaching will take me years and years.
I went back to my journal and found the notes I took from Sandy Adams’ teaching (“Gender Matters to God.” 1 Cor. 11:7-10 November 24, 2015 I believe it was from a men’s conference at CC Philadelphia). It’s worse than I remembered. Here are a few of my notes.
“A man “woos” a woman. Penetrates her with his seed. Plants his life within her womb. She nurtures that seed and bears fruit. Presents the child, fruit of her womb, back to the man.”
“Only women and boys and weak sissified men are going to receive spiritual truth from a woman.”
“Young men will only listen to a strong masculine man they respect.”
“Men anchor women.”
Sandy Adams is on the Leadership Counsel and a Regional Leader for the CCA. He is quoted in this article. https://julieroys.com/calvary-chapel-pastor-addiction-abuse/
Carolyn thank you for sharing and connecting it to the recent conversation re: Butler.
I travelled for several years with Chuck Girard of Love Song (the band’s name should be capitalized in your transcripts – also it was Katherine Kuhlman, not Coleman) and we discussed many of these matters at length. I agree with the comment above regarding the value of obtaining his perspective on the matters covered in Jesus Revolution and your podcast with David. I’m happy to put in a word for you with Chuck whose book “Rock and Roll Preacher” should be consulted along with Love Song’s own upcoming movie to be released later this year. I also have an insightful copy of a PhD dissertation written on Calvary Chapels should you be interested.
Sure. I’d love info on both. You have my contact info, right?
Tim, would you be willing to provide links to that Phd dissertation if you don’t mind? Would love to read it!
I attended 3 Calvary Chapels in two states, over 15 years. They’re not what I would call charismatic at all, but middle-of-the-road. They do not believe the pastor has special knowledge for the congregation like some more Pentecostal churches do. I appreciated the verse-by-verse teaching without much opinion from man, and the non-showy worship. Lots of good fruit and growth. My only issue is the governmental style (Moses model). It works fine with humble guys like Chuck Smith. But it is a disaster with abusers. (I’m not referring to Greg Laurie.)
When pastors are caught cheating on their wives, usually people are debating the right way to confront the sin, but I don’t often hear discussion about how to support the wives through betrayal trauma. Those wives are “the little guy” we need to standup for because the culture pretends they don’t exist.
Mr. Di Sabatino asks, “What are we saying to people that have sexual sin when they come into our church?” Well, I know what we should say: “Repent.” In a church where people love Jesus Christ, everyone’s sins get rebuked. Go to a real church, and you will hear earnest condemnations of lying, bullying, luxurious self-indulgence, infidelity, predation, theft, racism and pride. The thoroughly documented outrages of men like Ravi Zacharias, James MacDonald, Bill Hybels, Mark Driscoll, John MacArthur and Greg Laurie will not endure the fire of authentic biblical preaching and application. (My own recurring sin of hopeless despair over corruption in the evangelical church would stand rightly rebuked by a good sermon on the Lord’s message to Elijah, “I have reserved 7,000 who have not bowed the knee to Baal.”)
Mr. Di Sabatino continues “If I had sexual sin I wouldn’t go to a church. That would be the last place.” But why, Mr. Di Sabatino? If you have sexual sin and go to a Chuck Smith church or an ARC church, they’ll give you a broad platform and put you in the pulpit! On the other hand, if you go to a real church of true, humble lovers of Jesus, you might find yourself feeling very bad indeed over sexual sin. But that would be the best possible thing to happen to you.
Yeah this was the part of the interview that I had problems with. You cannot ignore the clear teaching of scripture in 1 Timothy 3, Titus 1 and 1 Peter 5 concerning godly behaviour in leaders. This clear teaching of scripture cuts across all denominations and theologies – Charismatic, Pentecostal, Holiness, Reformed, Liturgical, Jesus Movement, New Calvinists, Third Wave – leaders are to be, above all, godly in their words, actions and decisions.
Lonnie Frisbee was never morally qualified for leadership. If Di Sabatino is correct on Greg Laurie, then Greg Laurie was never morally qualified either. Mark Driscoll, Brian Houston… they were not qualified either.
Di Sabatino’s mistake is to merge leadership with membership in the Kingdom of God. Membership in the Kingdom is based on grace, but leadership is based on character and a knowledge of the scriptures and Christian theology.
So if we were to go back in time for an ideal alternative… Lonnie Frisbee would not have been allowed into leadership and/or would’ve refused leadership, with the Holy Spirit telling him through scripture (1 Timothy 3 etc) that he was not suitable. Instead, the Jesus Movement would’ve selected leaders that were obviously godly and who knew the Bible well, and the fruit of that leading to less immorality and less heterodox beliefs later on.
I would like to read the comments but can’t, they are overlaying the transcript.
Lonnie should never have been put into leadership without biblical mature oversight of some married couples in his and Connie’s lives… They both needed to be loved on and it seems Connie’s needs were ignored and Lonnie was used to bring people in… So sad to to see people in awe of a guy who supposedly gave deliverance out to many freely but could not find any from the God he called on for himself…
A non accurate portrayal of Greg Laurie’s life. Lonnie Frisbee was a practicing homosexual adulterer liar and it was not mentioned in the movie. His wife Connie said he never stoped having extramarital sex with men. There was no mention of the consequences of our sin. There was no mention of who Jesus is. There no mention of why the crucifixion. There was no mention of the resurrection. There was no mention of the purpose of baptism, even though there were baptismal scenes in the movie. An incomplete Gospel is no Gospel. A non saved person would have no idea what the Gospel is after seeing this movie. The portrayal of Frisbee might be being used to soften the “Churches” view on homosexuality. I have no idea what the purpose of this movie is or why it was made, but it gets rave reviews.
You answered a lot of questions and concerns that I had about Greg Laurie’s interpretation of the Jesus movement. That it was more about him than it was the work that Jesus was doing. The one major concern I have was one where the confrontation between Chuck and Lonnie and Chuck said I brought you in and I can take you down. I don’t think that ever happened. And you confirm that with the fact that his wife Connie said Lonnie would never said I am the movement. Also I had a question is why did not Chuck reach out and try to do more for Lonnie and his struggle in homosexuality. Also the scene where Lonnie tries to interrupt Chuck send the Holy Spirit telling him that someone needs to be healed and Chuck tells him to go sit down .thank you PS but I did not like your slight against prophetic ministers speaking into peoples lives with positive affirmations. I spoke into a group of teenagers and young adults and told them just because you do not have a testimony of sinful behavior but rather one of growing up in a Christian family doesn’t mean you don’t have a testimony.
Lonnie and chuck and Greg have brought thousands to the lord. I was there in OC when it started. I remember a message no one else brought to my life. David brings complaining and Lisa what truth do you now know? Nice try David on only being able to ridicule and bring doubts to a wonderful movement you can only document vs participating in.
To all non Orange County people, enough with the home values. In 1983 I bought a 900sq foot condo in Irvine ca for 100k. it’s now worth $750,000.00. Get over it. Homes in OC since the eighties have gone up exponentially. Again, what have
you done for the glory of God vs Lonnie and chuck and Greg. Focus people focus.
To add to your comments, should someone get the idea that the dollar amount in property taxes paid per year for the Newport Beach home is based on its current value (which would be an enormous amount of money based on a current property value of $3.5 million), here in the state of California, property tax to be paid per year is determined by the purchase price of the home at the time of its purchase, not determined by the current value of the home.
Thank you Jeff for shedding light onto this issue. I might add that for decades property could be passed along to other family members through property trusts and there was no change in the assessed property value for the family who inherited it. There has been a change in the property tax laws here in California regarding this recently. To my understanding, the property can be passed on without a new assessment but only if it is inhabited by the recipient and not turned into a rental property.
Making judgments about this situation without all of the facts is not prudent or appropriate.
To all the Lonnie complainers. You probably weren’t there and I was. Our society was devoid of any real spiritual leaders. Lonnie (with all his faults) preached a word most of us never heard via our traditional churches. Qualified: yes. He just spoke the word with love. Had faults? Yup but imagine what the Pharisees said about Jesus. He just taught us.Lonnie taught us when most churches didn’t want anything to do with hippies. Think JMACs leading most churches. He served a purpose for Gods glory. Not yours.
Such sad nitpicking of a movie that’s doing great things for the kingdom – sad.
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