By Mark Ellis –
As Lonnie Frisbee’s former wife, she is perhaps the greatest authority about Lonnie’s life and his central role as the ‘hippie preacher’ of the Jesus movement. An actress portraying Connie appears in Jesus Revolution, but inexplicably, the filmmakers failed to contact Connie or consult her about the movie.
They thought she was dead, or so they explained to her in an apologetic Zoom call a few weeks ago.
Connie learned about the film after her stepdaughter, Brandy, watched it in a theater in Tulsa, Oklahoma and told a friend sitting next to her: “I think that’s my mom!” Brandy didn’t believe the portrayals in the film matched the stories told by her mother. She called Connie immediately with the shocking news.
“I have to say it broke me,” she told God Reports. “For two days, I couldn’t stop crying. I couldn’t believe that as a Christian, you couldn’t reach out to me, you couldn’t reach out and find out. You couldn’t let me know that you were going to put a facsimile of me in a movie.”
When she went to see the movie, it provoked a strong reaction. “I can tell you that that 90% of the movie isn’t true,” Connie maintains. “The truth is that dealing with people is very messy. And they want to make it very tidy. They’ve tidied it all up so much that it just stinks to high heaven to me — and whitewashed it. That’s not how it was.”
“If the truth were known, I wouldn’t look so good. Lonnie wouldn’t look great. Chuck Smith wouldn’t look good. Greg Laurie wouldn’t look good. But who would look good? God would be looking stellar,” she says.
The filmmakers chose fan-favorite Jonathan Roumie, 48, to portray Lonnie, undoubtedly because of his superb characterization of Jesus in The Chosen. “You know that Lonnie and I showed up at Calvary Chapel within the first six weeks of being married. Lonnie was 18 and I was 19,” she recounts. The 30-year age gap between Roumie and her husband was difficult for Connie to swallow, among other issues.
For whatever reason, Pastor Chuck Smith refused to put the young couple on a salary at the church, which left them in desperate financial circumstances. “We were working so hard,” she recalls. “I was in such a state of exhaustion. By the time we were at the Blue Top Motel, we never had a day off. We had people living in our house. We were living communally from the time we were married. We weren’t on salary.
“Do you know that Lonnie and I were still dumpster diving, and eating garbage out of the back of the supermarket trash cans up until we left Calvary Chapel?”
“Chuck Smith had a church for many years with 40-50 people. And all of a sudden we show up and within weeks, he’s got 1500 young people coming to his church. Wouldn’t you think that he would help us?”
Connie’s memories are filtered through the eyes of someone who endured sickening abuse by her mother and father, ran away from home, then found solace in drugs and the burgeoning hippie movement. When she got saved at Tahquitz waterfall near Palm Springs, she was high on LSD. Jesus found her when she was spiritually lost and physically naked.
“God used extremely flawed people,” she says. “As a matter of fact, you know, I’m 75 now. And I think I’m finally getting some maturity. Lonnie and I both had such horrific child abuse, that I would say that Lonnie and I had mental illness issues. God was using it and I don’t think that’s a stretch.”
As the Jesus movement exploded, the young couple had little time together. “In three years of marriage I was not able to spend any time with my husband — I mean zero. It was extremely hard work, 24 hours a day. We had crazy people in our house.”
When Connie and her husband reached a crisis point in their marriage, they sought help from Pastor Chuck in his office, a scene portrayed in the film. “When we did go to Chuck Smith for help…we never even sat down, we just stood in the doorway, just inside the door, Chuck liked to sit in the dark a lot. So, he had just a desk light on, and the room was dark.”
“What are you here for?” Pastor Chuck asked.
“Well, I called about marriage counseling,” Connie said.
“Well, your marriage isn’t important, Connie. The only thing that’s important right now is that people are getting saved,” he said, according to Connie, reflecting a philosophy that God came first, ministry second, and yourself last.
When he imparted that advice, it devastated the exhausted and emotionally fragile young woman. “You might as well have somebody standing in front of you saying, ‘you’re just not important, Connie, you’re not important. Your marriage isn’t important.’ And you can imagine what that would do to a young girl who hadn’t been married very long.”
The film is Greg Laurie’s version of the Jesus movement, and as such, it fails to address Lonnie’s homosexual background, which resulted from serial sexual abuse at the hands of a male babysitter during a three-year period, when Lonnie was six to eight-years-old. “Lonnie told me before we got married, that he got saved out of the gay lifestyle and people back then didn’t even really understand gay. I just thought, ‘That’s the old person and this is a new person.’ I wasn’t concerned about it.”
Lonnie felt pressure after they arrived at Calvary Chapel to remove this part of his background from his Christian testimony, which Connie feels was a mistake. By keeping it hidden in the dark, rather than bringing it into the light, a stronghold remained that ultimately was his undoing.
“The power of this (story) is that we were so damaged when God used us so that we couldn’t take any of the glory. Did Lonnie want the glory? Oh gosh, he did. He really did fall for the adulation of the crowd that he was so needing. Had Chuck Smith taken Lonnie under his wing like Paul would have taken Timothy or Titus a young brother in the Lord and done what the Bible said, Lonnie and I very well may have stayed married, and Lonnie might not have died of AIDS.”
“When you backslide, where do you go? You go right back to your vomit. I went right back to my vomit. When Lonnie was heartbroken, he went back to his vomit too.”
Connie has no recollection of Greg Laurie’s girlfriend, unless she appeared after she and Lonnie left Calvary Chapel. She also says that Lonnie built up the Bible study in Riverside that was handed over to Laurie. “Greg Laurie took everything that Lonnie did and mimicked him, very successfully.”
“The Jesus movement was happening before Lonnie ever met Chuck Smith. People were getting saved all over the place. We were pulling kids off the street (in San Francisco) and sending them back to their homes born again.”
She doesn’t believe any one individual or church should take credit for the Jesus movement. “When God shows up. It’s it like, all the boats float at the same time. God was pouring his spirit out on us. And everywhere we went, people were getting saved like popcorn popping.
“There are a lot of people taking bows, and a lot of people taking credit, and it’s just laughable,” she adds.
Connie believes another massive revival is coming that she likens to a tsunami wave, but she says it will arrive in conjunction with major upheaval, involving either a natural or man-made disaster. The Ukraine war is one of the contractions that precedes this event, she says.
“It’s not going to come out of the church, because there’s too much yeast. God is going to have to do something, to make people aware that they are blind, and they can’t hear. Stop lying if you want to hear God. If you want to see him, don’t lie at all,” she intones.
Despite her sharp criticism of the movie, she still recommends people see it. “I really don’t want to cause somebody to say, ‘I don’t want to go see this movie.’ Because I really believe that the guys that made the movie, although he didn’t get in touch with me, I think he probably just believed anything that Greg Laurie said and went with it. God will use the movie; they had very good intentions.”
Related: The sad death of Lonnie Frisbee
Lonnie Frisbee’s best friend also saved out of gay lifestyle
[…] Related: Connie Frisbee’s surprising reaction to ‘Jesus Revolution’ movie […]
Thank you Connie for your side of the story. I got blessed by the movie and also blessed by what you wrote . it looks like you both went through a lot but Jesus allowed it for a reason for something good to come out of it . God Bless You and Your Family ❤
In what I have watched and read I had heard everything except for the lack of money or Chuck Smith turning a blind eye to emotional and marital needs. In his defense, I would not want some of my own responses and behaviors back in that era to come to light. A different mind set. I have read comments by Billy Graham apologizing for being absent for his family. Regardless, Connie it sounds like you have continued with the Lord. You’ll have a reward in heaven and Lonnie too. Life without Satan, sickness, tears, death. I so look forward to the Second Coming. Hoping for that Tsunami of a revival you mention. Exiting times
God bless you Connie! The movie inspired myself and many others to research and dig for the truth, and to ask God for more of His Spirit! Watched interviews with Lonnie’s brother Stan, then John Ruttkay, watched the Life and Death of a Hippie Preacher documentary (unsettling – esp. Chuck Jr.’s comments) then read Connie Frisbee’s full interview after she saw that documentary – very eye opening, like this article. Ordered all 3 books of Lonnie’s life story, currently reading #1 and being blown away by the power of God. The supernatural conversion stories of Gregg Laurie, and Mike Macintosh!!! Not like the movie, I’ll just say. I am convinced that Lonnie and Connie are the real deal. My heart breaks for how they were handled, I look forward to meeting them in heaven! I am grateful for the Jesus Revolution movie – which introduced them to me, and provoked me to dig deeper.
Hi! Yeah, I’ve been reading everything I can find also. I don’t know about the books about on his life yet.
Lonnie’s life story tape recorded in his own words, put together by Roger Sachs.
Part 1 The Jesus Revolution
Part 2. The Great Commission
Part 3. Set Free
Sold on Amazon
Deborah….I could have written your comment word for word. Did exactly the same thing. I think the story of Lonnie Frisbee has totally caused me to dive deep into knowing God deeper. Loved the 3 books of his life which I too ordered and I have a LIST of people waiting to read them. Holy Spirit….come pour all over us again! I then went to the movie “come out in Jesus name”. Another Holy Spirit experience. Thanks Connie for your input. I sincerely value your comments and my heart breaks for you as well. I just want to come spend a day with YOU and hear more stories. REAL stories. God bless you sweet soul!!!
After watching the Jesus Revolution movie I knew I had to look up Connie’s perspective!
Is there a record of that apology to Connie?
Thank you, Connie! I am so sorry you were not consulted. May God receive the glory, as you say. It is not about any man, but how God uses His called and chosen to do His work.
Very real and helpful insights from Connie. I remember as a young pastor in SoCal in 1981 hearing from my district superintendent that his generation had the same perspective that Chuck Smith had about ministry coming before family … giving as an example that an evangelist in our denomination was expected to be out on the road when his wife was expecting a baby. In Lonnie and Connie’s case, it does seem like a serious neglect of pastoral oversight by those who should have been more watchful over the flock, especially those so young in the faith and doing extremely difficult work like Lonnie and Connie were doing.
It was the spirit of the times. I came out of high school during the 70’s, and it was prevalent in all the church. “Do what God has called you to do, and let Him take care of your family”. Was not surprised by what Connie said.
We now know that ministering involves the family; I hope no other pastor carries the same attitude that was so evident at that time.
I was there, volunteered as an Usher while working at The Crab Cooker in Newport aa a Dining Room Manager with Robbie, great man! I was baptised by Pastor Chuck at Pirates Cove along with my girlfriend at the same time! My memories of Pastor Chuck ans the staff were the best and the teaching was the best! The congregation grew substantially and the Jesus Movement was such a blessing for all of us, I was maybe 20 or so! Years later I took my family there for the services, full of memories! All of my experiences were great and the fellowship was so inspiring! I am sorry that Connie had such a difficult time, none of which I witnessed! My prayers to you and your family!
[…] Connie Frisbee not thrilled with “Jesus Revolution”.…her story about people serving at CC Costa Mesa having to “dumpster dive” to survive is one I’ve heard from many… […]
Lonnie had a very large group of us at All Saints Episcopal in Riverside, I did not like that the movie showed Greg starting it. It made me wonder what else was fabricated. I also feel for Connie, I remember her and hope and pray someone sees fit to help her out someway. It must have been so hard.
When did Lonnie leave All Saints? Gregg Laurie had just moved out as we came in, 1975.
Thank you, Connie! Thank you for moving beyond your hurt to keep pointing us to Jesus! I too ache that you and Lonnie did’t get the care of mature spiritual leadership you so desperately needed. What a gracious Savior we have to keep building His church, even through the broken stories of our lives. How much we need His wise and healing care!
I for one am SO appreciative for this movie!! You cannot put everything, every detail into one movie ..,& I’m sure there are so many different accounts & I’m sorry for your pain and not feeling validated when the movie was being made.
However, as crazy as it might sound, , after I saw the movie I said, I don’t want to know all the details because I know there were a lot of flawed human details involved-I’m sure there are a lot of accounts that were different. But what this movie did was take a moment in time or at least a piece of the puzzle…. I wept through the whole movie because it was not about the details-it was the sheer simplicity &’ love of Jesus felt throughout the movie. And a hope for the future generation. And I believe it’s an incredible witnessing tool-without having to say a word. Maybe I am being grandiose, but it affected me like nothing in a long time-what the producers were able to capture as far as feeling God’s love! Also, I think it’s because realizing today’s generation hunger for something greatly like they did then. And having children that age and taking my child to the movie, & it moving him meant so much to me. Thank you for letting them use a part of your life to do great things for The Kingdom even if you didn’t know.💗
“When the waters rise, all the boats float” Like you and Lonnie,God took a broken kid and brought Him to His side. My awakening came in No. Calif. during that same time period….where the Hippie communes now became Christian communities, where the old folks prayed us in and many left when no shoes and long hair walked in….lol. And somewhat like you guys it was very messy…with not many fathers and mothers in the faith to guide, young leaders do what they do…..yet here I am 50 odd years later, more broken and poor with a great hunger for a life after the spirit and many of the folks I got saved with are still on this wonderful journey called eternal life. Thank you dear lady. May God visit you with great care and heavens encouragement.
“Connie believes another massive revival is coming that she likens to a tsunami wave.”
And she is right. It is happening: “And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting.” https://seaclearly.com/2023/02/21/a-revival-fulfilling-sweeping-and-uniting
I was a 16 year old when I first encountered CCCM. Such a blessing! I and many of my friends stayed for the Afterglow service that Lonnie pastored and just loved him. He had an infectious smile and personality that uplifted the worst of us. It’s usually those who are suffering that are able to help the suffering and now I understand at nearly 70 years that Lonnie and Connie were suffering.
It’s hard to get to that understanding when, after all these years, CCCM was held with such respect and love but we all fall short at some point. Truth prevails.
Thank you Connie for your honesty and integrity. So glad you were finally able to tell your side of things. God continue to bless you as you journey on the path He has chosen for you.
[…] https://www.godreports.com/2023/03/connie-frisbees-surprising-reaction-to-jesus-revolution-movie/ […]
I’m so glad Connie spoke up. It’s a real shame she wasn’t consulted. The movie suffered as a result. I agree with what she says. I met them when they were in Ft. Lauderdale. Her depiction in the movie was way off.
Thanks for writing this Mark. Connie is 100% right when she says that God uses flawed people!
My name is Renee
I was interviewed in look magazine right after I was baptized.
It told my story witch was the same as thousands of young pp back then. Look magazine was the 1st I thank to have a story on the Jesus movement
It would have been nice to have others that lived during that time who wasn’t a big shot in the church to be heard
I’m so sorry Connie! God bless you and your family. God bless you for your openness and graciousness regarding the injustices you’ve suffered. May the Lord pour Himself out on you in such beautiful ways – restore you where you need it and give you great peace and even joy. I pray that you experience His great love for you like never before. Be loved and blessed!
Great piece. I really appreciate hearing from her.
Connie, I so appreciate your honesty, God is still calling you to witness to a new generation seeing this movie. A young man dating my daughter said it helped him see some areas he “might be sinning ” in and pray more about that to Jesus. Yes, it felt like too much attention was on Greggs relationship and it was just filler I guess for what they left out. But with Heartfelt thanks and gratitude to you and all who opened up the floodgates to our Saviour Jesus!
Truth can hurt. Lonnie and Connie’s life story is so heartbreaking at so many levels and yet God used them. I know Chuck Smith was known for being both warm and a hard task master with his co-laborers–he was known for being a tireless hard worker himself and he expected no less from those around him, but I do fault him for not assessing Lonnie and Connie’s background before throwing them into service–they both clearly needed the love and counsel that the Church could have offered..along with necessary financial help. The big if-only for me is what if Lonnie and Connie got the counseling they needed for both healing from their child hood trauma’s and working on their marriage? What power-house ministers and counselors they could have been into their late years…together, if they had remained under good teaching and just gotten the love and counseling they needed. I am praying for Connie to be strong in the Lord and to be encouraged at His soon-coming for his Church. Lonnie is up there now smiling and waiting.
Hi Connie. I came to Christ on my way home to
Corona in 1970. I heard and saw lonnie then. He was so on fire for the Lord! Another kid in the car asked me if I wanted to know the Lord. I said you mean the king of the Universe? I said what do I have to lose. I am so sorry that you were not consulted for the movie! You and lonnie did so much for God’s cause! I’m appalled at how you two were treated! I’m glad I found you!! God’s blessings and riches in Christ. Carl
Sorry but I believe that Pastor who told you your marriage wasn’t important has forgotten that if you cant watch over your family, then how are you going to be a leader to the Church? 1 Timothy 3:5
[…] Connie Frisbee’s surprising reaction to ‘Jesus Revolution’ movie […]
I certainly think it’s fair to have Connie’s memories included in the story, however what I see lacking is the understanding of what Historical Fiction is. Movies are entertainment not documentaries. Anyone familiar with the story knows it was very different in real life because there were many more people involved for example Kay and Chuck have more than one child).
The biggest issue I have with this entire story are the accusations made against a defenseless dead man: Chuck Smith. It is true Chuck made mistakes? Of course, the only mistake-less human was Jesus. It’s clear by the hyperbole (i.e. It was extremely hard work, 24 hours a day, she admits to being 19- can you recall with extreme precision details of your life at 19 ~56 years later?) in this article that other “facts” that are presented should also be taken with a grain of salt. As with all things hindsight is 20/20 and I’m sure if Chuck were alive he’d have an opinion on some of these accusations and would also admit he would have done other things differently (if we can’t disagree with our past selves then we aren’t learning). To take this article as cart blanch truth is as dangerous as taking the movie the same way. There is only one source of truth (the Bible) Christians need to concern themselves with, the rest is up to Jesus.
Yes! I was disappointed that Pastor Chuck was not portrayed as the chapter by chapter, verse by verse teacher that he was. Both he and Kay were portrayed wrong .. Kay was the one that had the heart for the hippies. She’d say: “They are saying the right words – peace and love .. they just need Jesus.”
But it was Greg Laurie’s story.
I’ve almost finished Lonnie’s three books that say Connie had an affair .. broke his heart.
Please Father .. save and protect all our children (like at Asbury) and blow those embers across the nation and the world, plz Holy Spirit. Maranatha❤️
First of all- thank you Connie for your honest account and for giving yourself away for the sake of others. I’m sorry too as a fellow believer that doing “the work of the ministry “ took on a higher value than being ministered to yourselves. What hurt and confusion you must have felt- my heart goes out to you. I got saved in 1969 when I was 15 years old at a ministry house in Walnut Creek calked Upper Streams started by David Hoyt who came out of the Haight Ashberry scene in San Francisco . He knew Lonnie and I later met Lonnie when my family moved to Santa Cruz in ‘74. We experienced the Holy Spirit moving in freshness in those early years but there was in my opinion a lot of fleshy man made counterfeit things to sort through too! The bottom line is men have good ideas, but they’re not always spiritually born- they’re born out of good intentions with a scriptural backing, so they look spiritual. It is difficult to separate the rigors and cost of ministry from being “successful” in ministry. We shouldn’t become fodder for someone’s ministry, we need healing too as individuals. Looking back after 54 years of walking in the light – I feel like I am not so quick to have answers for everything, but I crave honesty with God and others. Personally, I have to be careful not to let past hurts from ministry become a root of bitterness that would keep me from continuing to seek Him and know Him. May God give you peace and refreshment Connie….you deserve it!
Thank you Mark Ellis for interviewing Connie. Her voice matters!!! We shouldn’t be afraid of truth… maybe those who made the movie were afraid to include Connie because they knew her version of what happened would have been brutally honest and they thought the public couldn’t handle the truth. She has no reason to lie. I appreciate hearing her story. She isn’t bitter even though she had/has reason to be. Thank you Connie for sharing your life and thank you Mark for sharing her insight ❤️
I too became a follower of Jesus in 1973. I was suspect of the truthfulness of the movie but was pleasantly surprised when I saw it. Then I went digging. Thank you Connie for your honesty and graciousness. You and Lonnie endured a lot but as you said God uses flawed servants. I look in the mirror everyday and see one. I probably will never meet you this side of Heaven but looking forward when we meet on the other side and Lonnie too.
Thank you for speaking up. I have been praying for truth to come in this account of the Jesus Mmovement. My husband and I were pastors of a sweet Jesus church in Auburn, California during the Jesus Movement. . We were blessed to receive many young people who came up north after getting saved.
It was after we resigned that church we went to Grace Chapel in Grass Valley. Pastor Neil invited his friend Lonnie to come and minister. The miraculous ministry Lonnie walked in was an amazing annointing. given by God. We knew thete were struggles and there were many times the folks at Grace Chapel prayed for you and Lonnie.
Later we were blessed to pastor Grace Chapel. Many of the Jesus people had moved into the foot hills.
When I saw the movie I knew enough to know there were gaps in the facts. I reached out to Neil for more truth. I have been praying for you. I read Lonnie’s three books and about his going home. I am very thankful that he is safely home in the arms of his Lord. I am praying for you as you are walking through truths that are being brought out.
In Jesus love, Sandra
It saddens me to hear that a marriage failed “for the gospels sake”. The pressure is real. When people are giving out day after day….their capacity ends up empty. When there is no support for rest, a marriage, or appropriate boundaries, and then temptation is so strong, people often succumbed to temptation in secret for relief. Thankfully it seems the church has learned so much since that time. BUT God…in spite of the mess…He uses frail flawed people to save and touch the hurting and lost. Thank you Connie for all you did. We are all on a journey and it can be so messy. I am not afraid of the mess. God knows anyways. He knows we are all but human. His redemption story continues through it all. All glory to God.
I witnessed a Lonnie lead church service in 1990 in Morro Bay, CA. At a Odd’s Fellow Hall. I helped pass out the flyers to this meeting. I attended a Los Osos Vineyard at the time. It was the best church service I ever went to my entire 45 years of following Jesus. I shook on the floor for 10 minutes, spoke in tongues, laughed my head off. The service was to be 2 hours, it lasted 6 hours, the band kept playing people were singing, filled up. No one wanted to leave. People were getting healed, filled to the max. etc. I was high on the Holy Spirit for 3 days after this meeting. I would say about 3/4 of the people who attended this meeting LOVED IT and 1/4 of the people judged the entire show and had frowns on their faces, they did not get it. Then I heard 2 years later Lonnie had passed. After that I looked up Roger Sachs and later bought his books. listened to Set Free church meetings. Mother’s Day at the original Vineyard in Anaheim. I had to learn all about Lonnie. I heard Greg wanted to be Lonnie, but just did not have the same anointing. I give the Jesus Revolution movie a C-. I wanted to leave the theatre all pumped up for a bigger revival! but left the theatre bummed and only 6 other people were in the theatre in SLO.
I was thoroughly intrigued by the Jesus Revolution movie. I’ve read the three books on Lonnie. How God used and responded to Lonnie’s devotion to Him and love for Jesus. What a sad story of his & Connie’s upbringing and how broken and wounded they were by their childhood. Although Lonnie did not say derogatory things about Chuck Smith and John Wimber, I was severely disappointed by those two. Lonnie & Connie were used and then dumped by those two and their churches after they had built up. To me, it was apparent, they never supported them financially, but gladly used them. How shameful! These two young kids, severely damaged by their past upbringing needed love, support, and guidance not ostracism and rejection.
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