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Calvary Chapel Tag

In my Friday morning men’s group, I was asked what it looked like back in the day at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa when Christians got together, for a bible study or other gathering.

And I have been thinking about that since he asked that, and I’ve had a hundred memories running through my head while trying to think of how to answer that question.

And I think the answer is found in who we were, how we lived daily. Because without that any examples don’t make sense and are truly unduplicatable. Because that is the foundation, was the catalyst for what occurred when we met together.

Like the trinity we had a three-fold purpose and that ultimately was one purpose, Jesus, the Word, and the mission. And it dominated every aspect of our daily life, our thoughts, our actions, our purpose for living. Sub purpose along with those was Koinonia, (fellowship) and Maranatha, (the second coming of our Lord Jesus).

Because Jesus, the word of God and His mission were our lives, the most important things in our lives, the priority of our lives, what happen when we got together happened because of that. Jesus, the word of God, and the mission dominated our thoughts, our conversations, they affected everything we did every day.  So, when we came to gather it looked like the book of Act’s chapter 2, like Eph 5:16, and 1 Cor 14:26.

When we gathered together all we talked about was Jesus and His word, because for us “to live is Christ” was how we lived. We did not have to switch to “church mode” or start acting like Christians when we came together, we were living it out daily. We talked about Jesus all day with everyone.

I must start with the elements, the foundation that created what happened when we came together?

The Mission: We all joined God in what He was doing every day, and so we had daily stories about fresh encounters with God, with what He was doing, stories of us joining Him in what He was doing. Stories of preaching the gospel, the sick being healed, the blind seeing, people being saved, people repenting, people being delivered. That is we had testimonies of Mark 16:15-20 “And they went out and preached everywhere, the Lord working with them and confirming the word through the accompanying signs.” Even stories of receiving persecution for preaching the gospel, and testimonies of prayers being answered.

First hand stories, so that no matter who we talked with, set down next to when a conversation started we had a steady stream of God stories about what He had done. We prayed daily for God to use us, lead us where He was working, let us join Him in the mission. And when we prayed it, we meant it, we put everything else on the back burner. So then we brought those stories, testimonies with us when we come together, our part in the mission, in what God was doing on earth (Matthew 28:19-20, 10:7-8, Mark 16:15-18, Luke 9:2).

The Word: We had daily fresh encounters with His word and what it said to share, not just a list of isolated bible verses committed to memory from some list memorized we just repeated. But a daily fresh encounter with the word and the Holy Spirit speaking to us through the word it for that day. We started our day with our bibles open digging into the word, we finished our day in it, and every minute in-between that we could. We carried our bibles with us everywhere, we were reading it and sharing it every opportunity we had. We were set on fire for and by His word, encounters with God in His word. And if we did not share what we had received, we would have exploded I think. And we wanted to share it with everyone. We had burning bush encounters with God in His word. You cannot keep that kind of encounters with the Lord under a basket, you must shout it from a rooftop, and so we did, to each other, to everyone we encountered.

We all carried our Bibles with us if we were going to a restaurant to eat alone or with somebody, it was with us and open. When going to somebody’s house, because whenever we gathered together we always open our bibles and shared the Word. Even work because we never wanted to be far from it or miss any opportunity we had for sharing the word with others.

Jesus: And we abided in Christ and He in us, our thoughts were consumed with Jesus. We preached the gospel to ourselves all day, keeping the cross and resurrection fresh in our thoughts, to us it was if Jesus died for us and rose from the dead that day and we praised Him for it and had to tell others about it. We walked and talked with Him as if He was standing right next to us all day long because He was, we were consumed with Him. God became a man, suffered for our sins, paid our debt, died for us, and rose from the dead. And when we die He is going to raise us from the dead, give us His ring, robe and sandals. And we will eat with Him at His banquet table. What is there to talk about that was more important than that! Therefore, we talked with everyone about Him, I mean everyone. Our greatest joy was to talk about Jesus, we would rather talk about Him than anything else with each other and with others.

And we were also about Koinonia, the word means; 1contribution, 2fellowship, 3participation, 4sharing. We used the word a lot back then to describe our gatherings, because It denotes the active participation or sharing of what one has in common with others. Koinonia is a very special kind of sharing—entering into what the apostles experienced with Christ. And that is what we did when we came together, “active participation or sharing in what one has in common with others” and that was Jesus, the word, and the mission. We entered “into what the apostles experienced with Christ.” That is why we wanted to be with the body of Christ in the first place.

Maranatha, the word means; “Our Lord comes” or “Our Lord is coming.” Jesus us told us “Therefore you also be ready, for the Son of Man is coming at an hour you do not expect.” (Matt 24:44) So we reminded each other to be ready, we did not want to be found asleep in the light. Paul said “Therefore let us not sleep, as others do, but let us watch and be sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk are drunk at night. 8 But let us who are of the day be sober, putting on the breastplate of faith and love, and as a helmet the hope of salvation. 9 For God did not appoint us to wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, 10 who died for us, that whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with Him. 11 Therefore comfort each other and edify one another, just as you also are doing.” (1 Thess 5:6-11 NKJV) And so when we came together we “comfort each other and edify one another” and we keep each other awake. And alerted others that Jesus was coming again.

And the Holy Spirit, I cannot leave out that we were all filled with the Holy Spirit, lead by the Spirit, empowered by the Spirit, baptized in/with the Spirit, however you want to label it. It was not us doing these things in the power of our flesh, our strength, something we learned from a “How to” church manual. Not man made plans, schemes or programs, but by the Spirit of the Lord. We lived surrendered to, lead by the Spirit. It was not as much as us doing as it was us just Going and letting God do something through us, letting the Holy Spirit work through us. We let the Spirit equip us, work in us and through us when we were Going, and when we came together.

They were all filled with the Holy Spirit, and they spoke the word of God with boldness.” Acts 4:31-33, “Not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit,’ says the Lord of hosts” (Zechariah 4:6), “But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you.”  John 14:26, “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.” 1 Corinthians 12:7,  and 1 Corinthians 12:8-11 and on and on, we lived out, or maybe I should say the Spirit lived out though us.

Those things defined who we were and thus cased what it looked like when we came together, it looked like the book of Act’s chapter 2, like Eph 5:16, and 1 Cor 14:26 I really think it looked like what it must have been like when the disciples came together after a day of joining God in what He was doing, a day of living on mission. A day of Going into the world and preaching the gospel, teaching what Jesus said even onto persecution.  Each one with their stories to share of going. A bunch of people who were crazy about, passionately in love with Jesus, the word. A people obsessed about people getting saved, even unto death, coming together as co-laborers for the Kingdom of God, encouraging one another in Christ, in the word, in the mission, filled with, equipped and empowered by the Spirit.

That’s the starting place, the foundation of what caused what occurred when we gathered together, part 1 of the story.




Chuck Smith passed on to heaven Thursday ( October 3, 2013) morning after his body gave out after a long struggle with cancer.

Chuck Smith was one of the key figures of the Jesus movement in the late 60s and early 70s. and was my pastor and mentor for 10 years. He is the most significant man of God in my life, God used him in so many ways in my life.

Time magazine ran a story on the phenomenon that was Calvary Chapel, a little inconspicuous church in the middle of booming Orange County, California, it began with the 25-member church Smith founded on a Costa Mesa lot in 1965.  He taught the bible very simply, verse by verse, and continually pointed to the Holy Spirit, rather than his own abilities as the unexplained explanation.  When asked him to share what the “method” or “secret” was, he said, “It’s the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes.  If you can explain what God is doing, then it probably isn’t God.”

From the pulpit, and in person, he emanated a disarming warmth. Calvary Chapel became famous as a sanctuary for a generation of counterculture refugees. He wore a Hawaiian shirt and a big, benevolent smile.

He didn’t care how worshipers dressed or how long they wore their facial hair. He welcomed hippies, dropouts and the drug-damaged. He allowed guitars to accompany worship songs. He became Papa Chuck to the thousands he baptized below the ocean cliffs of Corona del Mar (as many as 500 at a time, including myself).

Chuck Smith’s life was a legacy of faithful bible exposition.  Chuck taught very simply, but the presence of the Lord flowed from him, and you could sense the Holy Spirit speaking powerfully and giving thrust behind his very simple words when he spoke.  Chuck taught trough the bible verse by verse, cover to cover, starting over about every 3 years. It was while at Calvary, that I not only got in-depth teaching of the whole bible, teaching  that surpassed any seminary, it was there that God taught me how to study the bible under Chuck, that I still use to this day.

Calvary Chapel has recently been hailed by Ed Stetzer of Lifeway Research as the biggest church planting phenomenon of the 20th century.  He added that it was largely an “unintentional” church planting movement.  In other words, it’s what happened naturally, organically, and spiritually.  It was as if the Spirit of God was directing young leaders to thrust out and plant, all of whom had no idea of what they were doing, but nonetheless, were entrusted by Chuck into the hands of God much like he, himself had been. Calvary planted  nearly 2000 churches, all where trained under Chuck. The process was, if you came on staff, the understanding was you where to be trained for three years, then expected to go and plant a church.

God through Chuck changed the world, the way church is done, worship, music. The emergence of Calvary Chapel paralleled — and helped to fuel what was called “The Jesus movement” of the late 1960s and early 1970s, which embraced those the “traditional church” rejected, and that lead to the greatest number of salvations in Americas history.

Because of Chuck Non-denominational churches became the largest type of church in America

Modern worship songs came from Calvary. Before Calvary an organ, choir and hymnal where the only way to “worship” in a church. Or what I called dead worship, this is one of the two principal reasons I was not part of a church prior to Calvary.

Christian rock music started at Calvary.

The first time I walked into Calvary as a back sliding Christina living with my then fiancé Joan Cooper, and for the first time I witnessed a true biblical church. I saw for the first time true lovers of Jesus worshiping Him, I heard for the first time from a pulpit the word of God taught word by word. I was the same after that. He is the single most influential man of God in my life.

He will be missed.