The First “Jesus Freak” Was Gay

The closeted true story of the founder of charismatic evangelicalism

Mike Rosebush, PhD
4 min readApr 10, 2023

Lonnie Frisbee was a hippy, evangelical preacher, Pentecostal healer, and the energizer of two Protestant denominations. He was also gay.

Frisbee’s enormous impact on evangelicalism was covered up. And everyone tried to explain away his homosexuality.

The silencing and pathologizing of gays are once again happening in America.

The Jesus Movement and Being Born Again

In 1967, at age 18, Lonnie Frisbee left home and joined the thousands of hippies in the San Francisco area. In Tahquitz Canyon (outskirts of Palm Springs, California), Lonnie experienced a spiritually enhanced moment; he became born again. It was there that Frisbee had “a vision of a vast sea of people crying out to the Lord for salvation, with Frisbee in front preaching the gospel.” Soon enough, that vision came true as Lonnie baptized countless California hippies and surfers along the Pacific coastline.

Calvary Chapel and the Association of Vineyard Churches

Chuck Smith founded the original Calvary Chapel (later to become a Protestant denomination of the same name). Pastor Smith was blown away by Lonnie’s authenticity and charismatic, mesmerizing teaching. In short, Frisbee became the main attraction for Calvary Chapel.

While Pastor Smith originally thought his church could convert hippies, what paradoxically happened is that the Frisbee-led hippies converted Calvary Chapel. Frisbee, who sported a Jesus-like beard and outfit, passionately implored the audiences to accept the Holy Spirit into their lives. Amazingly, Lonnie utilized the Holy Spirit’s work in healing a man of blindness, plus other miraculous healings. This “goofy” skinny teenager was creating a revival of enormous proportions!

The movie “Jesus Revolution” (released in 2023) shows the impact of Lonnie, along with his relationship with Chuck Smith. The movie makes no mention of Lonnie being gay.

Chuck Smith and Lonnie Frisbee later split over the issue of what should be emphasized in the denomination: Bible teaching (Smith) versus Pentecostal healings (Frisbee).

Undeterred, Frisbee joined John Wimber’s Vineyard Movement (which eventually became the Association of Vineyard Churches denomination). On Mother’s Day in 1980, Lonnie provided his testimony. He also directed those young people under 25 to come to the podium and receive the Holy Spirit. Incredibly, person after person began falling to the ground, speaking in tongues. Observers said the site looked like soldiers strewn on a battlefield. And the Vineyard exploded in attendance.

Frisbee Was Gay

While debated by some, Lonnie Frisbee was in reality gay. At age 15, Lonnie was part of Laguna Beach’s underground gay scene. Also, Frisbee would party with the gay scene on Saturday night and then preach to an unknowing congregation the next morning. Frisbee’s closeted cover was blown when a gay man informed Chuck Smith that Frisbee and the gay man had been in a six-month relationship. When confronted with this allegation, Lonnie admitted that it was true. Lonnie acknowledged that he “gave in to sexual temptations.” “His early testimony at Calvary Chapel was that he had come out of the homosexual lifestyle, but he felt like a leper because many people turned away from him after that, so he took it out of his testimony.”

Lonnie Frisbee died of AIDS in 1993.

Coverup by the Church

Lonnie Frisbee’s name is never included in the written history of either the Calvary Church or the Association of Vineyard Churches.

It is as though he never existed, let alone championed the growth of those two powerful denominations.

Mind you, Lonnie was a man who ignited an entire revolution within Christianity. Frisbee validated the notion of modern-day Pentecostal healing and speaking in tongues. Lonnie was perhaps America’s champion in ushering in the Jesus Movement and countless Evangelicals having born-again experiences during the late 1960s and 1970s.

Evangelicalism’s Current Denial of Gayness

Today, in America’s culture, many schools are forced into a “don’t say gay” regime. Students and educators cannot speak of their homosexual identity without fear of expulsion or punishment. Conservatives and Evangelicals are vilifying the LGBTQ community.

How do modern-day Evangelicals white-wash the reality that God used a gay man to lead a tremendous Christian awakening? Lonnie Frisbee was able to prophesize and live out that same prophecy, miraculously heal people, and lead thousands upon thousands of people to Jesus.

Amazingly, today conservative Christians explain away homosexuality as a bad relationship with one’s dad or early childhood sexual abuse. Why is it so hard for many Evangelicals to acknowledge that gay men are not broken — and that they simply are who they are?

Lonnie Frisbee was a mild teenager who adored Jesus and tried to live like Him. He commanded demons to leave people’s bodies — and they did. Lonnie lead countless people into a born-again experience through the Holy Spirit. He helped establish two Protestant denominations and stimulated their rapid growth.

And he was gay.

Dr. Mike Rosebush (Ph.D., Counseling Psychology; he, him, his;) is the creator and editor of GAYoda, plus a writer for Backyard Church. He may be contacted at



Mike Rosebush, PhD

Lover of Jesus | Gay Married| Founder/Writer “GAYoda” | Counselor/Encourager