Dr. Vern Charette
JESUS REVOLUTION: GOD’S ABILITY TO USE FLAWED PEOPLE
Updated: Mar 9
I’ve seen the new movie based on the testimony of Greg Laurie twice. I’ve heard some criticisms of the movie surrounding the doctrine presented and the life of one of the main leaders of the Jesus movement, Lonnie Frisbee. I want to take some time and tell you why I highly recommend the movie and share why these two criticisms, in my opinion, stem from a misunderstanding of the place of secondary doctrines within the Christian faith as well as a misunderstanding of one of the main reasons for the movie.
First, some bristle over the, I believe, downplayed and covert Charismatic or Pentecostal element in the movie. This gives us chance to address the difference between a main orthodox doctrine that every evangelical should agree on and a secondary doctrine that allows for differences and leeway, even liberty within the body of Christ. First, it is true that the Calvary Chapel movement was and continues to hold what I like to call a conservative Pentecostal position. They denounce the Word of Faith movement and, as far as I know, discourage speaking in tongues out loud in their services. As a matter of fact, I used to listen to Chuck Smith teaching on the Radio before he passed in 2013. Smith’s style and method of delivery was very much a verse by verse teacher as opposed to the seemingly typical, topical and emotional appeal made by those in the Pentecostal family. This being acknowledged, the movie presented first and foremost the orthodox view that salvation is solely found by faith in Christ. This is something we all will agree on. I personally found myself moved having identified with Laurie’s conversion experience and transformation. We need to remember that old saying attributed to Augustine, “In essentials unity, non-essentials liberty, in all things charity.” One’s view of the gifts of the Spirit is a non-essential and should not be elevated to primary doctrinal status and a rule for fellowship within the body. It is for this reason, I had no problem with the minor theme of Pentecostalism within the movie. Someone that becomes upset over this or the baptisms that are seemingly free from church identification is missing the point of the movie and not giving liberty to secondary doctrines within the body of Christ. I am not saying that one’s position on these secondary doctrines is not important or that these positions shouldn’t be agreed upon within specific churches or denominations. The point is not to become so rigid that these secondary doctrines become a test of fellowship and a reason to divide.
Second, there has been some controversy over one of the early leaders within the Jesus movement, Lonnie Frisbee. It is true, and Greg Laurie has been candid about Lonnie’s downfall after he left California. Although not depicted in the movie, Lonnie and his wife did get a divorce. Lonnie most likely engaged in homosexual activities and did in fact die of Aids. There is a slight reference, even in the movie, to Lonnie’s homosexuality in San Francisco before his conversion to Christ. One needs to keep in mind, the movie is only a snapshot of what happened in the span of about two years. Lonnie Frisbee’s later life of falling away from the Lord and even ultimately coming back to the Lord before his death is not the issue the movie highlights. Lonnie clearly, even though greatly used by God during that short period, was a flawed individual who wrestled with narcissism and self-exaltation. The very fact that God used Lonnie despite his shortcomings and flaws is a main point that is made in the movie. In fact, when one watches the movie, it is clear that all that God greatly used were flawed individuals. Chuck, Lonnie, Greg and the rest were all flawed. That’s the point! I like to say that God can draw a straight line with a crooked stick. At the end of the day, the focus should not be on the messenger but the message itself. It is the Gospel, though presented through flawed individuals, that has the power to save and transform. It is our Sovereign God who ultimately deservers all the glory for working through such flawed individuals. If one doesn’t see this in the movie, then one of the key themes of the movie has been missed. This is another reason I had no problem with the Lonnie Frisbee depiction. I identify with being a flawed individual that God deigns to use. Oh, and if you are honest, you are too.