The beach boys

"The beach boys" Continued...

Issue: "Summer of '68," Aug. 9, 2008

But the hippies were soon coming to Calvary. A clean-cut young college student named John Nicholson, himself a former hippie who frequented Laguna and other beach hangouts, brought them. So did a young evangelist named Lonnie Frisbee, who hitchhiked along the coastal highways just so he could meet hippies and tell them about Jesus. And Higgins' houses were filling up:

"The first week 30 people moved into a little two-bedroom house. We made bunks in the garage for the girls. The guys slept in the yard. I slept in the yard," Higgins recalled. "It was chaotic. Every day people came who thought they were great prophets. There was a lot of drug-induced psychosis. One guy came from Riverside, had a big following, colorful silk robes and a staff. He was a guru. He wanted to debate. I didn't win the debates; the Scriptures won the debates."

In May 1968 Higgins sent a team into the canyons to bring back hippies living up there. Everyone who showed up at his "commune" also got a ride to church "every time there was church." What attracted them to Calvary-and to Smith-was that they were accepted as they were. What kept them there was the solid expository teaching, according to Higgins and others who came in 1968. It was more profound than clever slogans and lasted longer than LSD trips. The serious preaching set apart the Calvary work from others in the Jesus Movement then spreading west to east. "The 'Age of Aquarius' had a snake in it," said Higgins. "Smith was genuine. No tricks, no games, no promotions."

Smith says for a while he took heat from traditional churchgoers: "They would say, 'When are they going to start looking like Christians? When are they going to cut their hair?' I would say, 'Well what does a Christian look like?' To me, it's a matter of the heart, not a matter of the way they dress or the length of their hair."

Today the number of Christians descended from the Calvary Chapel movement is incalculable. In the United States over 1,500 churches are loosely affiliated with Calvary, and there are hundreds all over the world. Sunday morning at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, where Smith continues to preach, draws 25,000.

Like many in the counterculture who found the Jesus Movement, Smith said God "had to bring me to nothing because He knew what He was wanting to do. He let me experience defeat to show me and reveal to me that all of the ideas and programs I was involved with just didn't cut it. So that when He began to give the success, there was no way I could try and take credit for it."

Lynn Vincent
Lynn Vincent

Lynn is a senior writer for WORLD Magazine and the best-selling author of 10 non-fiction books.


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