Pastor-Chuck-Smith-smallLike many of you, I found out Thursday morning that Calvary Chapel founder and pastor Chuck Smith has died. He was 86. Charismanews.com has a helpful obituary.

Chuck and Calvary Chapel have played an important role in the evangelical movement in the past century. Simply put, it is hard to overstate the significance of Calvary Chapel in remapping Protestantism, particularly evangelicalism. And Chuck Smith was one of the main reasons for that impact.

When I first became a seminary professor back in 1998, I made a trek to Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa and attended with my family, interviewed the staff and learned how God was using the church and the movement. Over the years, I’ve been an observer of the movement to the point where I’ve actually had students write papers on Calvary Chapel, and I discussed the movement in my book Viral Churches.

I actually do a presentation when seeking to explain the modern evangelical movement, particularly to movement leaders here in the United States or to missionaries who have been out of the country for a long time. The presentation is called “The Contours of the Modern Evangelical Movement.” In it, Calvary Chapel is right near the beginning of the trunk and has a series of arrows that flow from the movement, showing its amazing influence. As scholar Donald E. Miller wrote about in his book Reinventing American Protestantism, Calvary Chapel helped birth and shape a movement.

Calvary Chapel helped a new generation of churches see:

  • A deep passion for evangelism where churches focused on reaching the lost, not just shuffling sheep
  • A Spirit-filled movement that believed in all the spiritual gifts but focused on worship and Spirit empowerment, not just the sign gifts (though they do believe in all of them)
  • Culturally engaged communities that wanted to reach (at first) hippies and then just about everyone else, bringing them into a worshipping community
  • Church planting that was birthed out of a desire to spread the gospel and reach a lost world through new churches
  • Verse-by-verse preaching through books of the Bible

My guess is that many readers will resonate with the list. If so, you can thank Calvary Chapel—and Chuck Smith. He will be remembered by many, but he has influenced many more.

Last fall, I spoke at a national Calvary Chapel meeting. Before I did, I shared this post at my blog. After the conference, Pastor Chuck wrote me and said:

Dear Ed,

Thanks for the kind things you have said about the ministry of Calvary Chapel, in the last [part] you mention Calvary as my ministry. I do not consider this my ministry, as I feel as a blessed spectator watching the glorious sovereign move of God and marvel continually at His work. Thanks again for blessing our people at this conference, may the Lord continue to use you to encourage others in how to be more effective in serving our Lord.

In Him,

Chuck

Now that he is with the Lord, I will tell you that he was wrong. He was not just a “blessed spectator” (though I am thankful he thought that way). He was a bold and courageous man that was used by God in amazing ways.

Yes, it was the Lord. Yet, the Lord used Chuck in a way that impacts most of my readers today. Yes, it was not his movement (so I guess he was right), but if you are in a contemporary church engaging culture and planting churches, you are, in a sense, a child of Calvary Chapel and of Chuck Smith.

Let’s be thankful for Pastor Chuck and his legacy today. May this loss “provoke us to love and good deeds” (Heb. 10:24) so the Savior who Chuck served so passionately is glorified and honored.

Ed Stetzer is the president of LifeWay Research. For the original article, visit pastors.com.

Leaders are readers! Subscribe now and get 3 magazines for the price of 1. Get Ministry Today, Charisma and SpiritLed Woman all for $24. YES - I'm a leader!

Ministry Today Subscription Special - Subscribe to Ministry Today magazine today and get 12 issues (2 full years) plus Amplified Leadership, a free leadership book for only $24.

Your Turn

Comment Guidelines
  • Discouragement can be a serious struggle.

    Guard Your Spirit Against These 4 Crippling Attacks

    Are you struggling this Valentine's Day with one of these discouraging issues?

  • Some of the toughest lessons reap the greatest rewards.

    10 Tough Lessons Every Pastor Should Remember in Ground-Shaking Trials

    One is that your suffering may turn out to be the highest compliment the Father ever gave you.

  • Why Many Christians Misunderstand This Crucial Leadership Trait

    Great leadership doesn't start with a great education, although that is incredibly valuable. ...

  • Worship leaders, keep your team's attitude in check.

    This Can Quickly Erode a Worship Team's Culture

    God has given us talent and He calls for excellence, but excellence with this is not honoring ...

  • Start a Wildfire of Spiritual Growth in Your Church

    Start a Wildfire of Spiritual Growth in Your Church

    Watch how God can take one spark and turn it into a wildfire that impacts your ministry, your community and even future generations.

  • Your Source of Unlimited Kingdom Energy and Power

    Jesus said that we can do greater works than He did and that He will do whatever we ask in His Name.

  • What reasons can you think of that leaders might not choose to delegate authority?

    7 Reasons Some Leaders Dump Delegation

    These could have a lot to do with stalled growth and low team morale.

  • These seven responses can get you on the right track.

    Responding Like Jesus When Your Church Kicks You Out

    It's a pain that many in the ministry have felt at least once and maybe more.

  • A 'What's in it for me?' mentality could bring your church down.

    The Mentality That May Be Killing Your Church

    And we wonder why so many congregations are stagnated, plateaued or declining.

Use Desktop Layout
Ministry Today Magazine — Serving and empowering church leaders