Calvary Chapel History

In 1965 Chuck Smith took over a congregation of 25 people, located at Greenville Street and Sunflower Avenue, which had contemplated disbanding before he arrived.

Today, that "little country church on the edge of town" has become a 20-acre campus at 3800 S. Fairview Road, on the southern edge of Santa Ana. More than 35,000 people attend its weekly services, Bible classes, home ministries, fellowship groups in various languages, and other activities. It also operates Maranatha Music, a grammar school and a high school.

Smith has sent out about 650 men to start other Calvary Chapels in the United States and another 134 worldwide. The annual Harvest Crusade revivals were bankrolled by Calvary Chapel until it became a nonprofit ministry. It has drawn more than 1.2 million seekers since 1990.

"When you look at the miraculous transformation, it can only be the work of Christ, our lord and savior," said Robert Haag, missions pastor at Calvary. He spoke on behalf of Smith, who was traveling in Israel at the time. "God has empowered us to spread the biblical gospel that Jesus is the only way to salvation. No ifs or buts about it." [Ed. note: Success doesn't prove YAHWEH is behind a ministry or assembly. If Haag is correct it means the Roman Catholic Church, Watchtower Society, Mormon Church, Moonies, Hara Krishnas, Hindoos, Buddhists, Muslims, Babylonian Talmudic Judaism, etc. are of YAHWEH. That is utter nonsense. You can determine whether or not YAHWEH is behind a ministry or assembly is if it operates according to His word.]

Such unabashed exclusivity has helped fuel modern evangelicalism's meteoric rise in the United States. Evangelicals and Mormons make up the fastest-growing segments of Christianity in the world. While accurate numbers are hard to come by, much of evangelicalism's success during the past half-century has come at the expense of Roman Catholicism and mainline Protestantism.

The prosperity of evangelicals has come at a cost. There is a good deal of infighting over who's an evangelical and who isn't. The turmoil has led some to wonder if evangelicals can survive their own success.

"It's a dilemma," said Robert Johnston, professor of theology and contemporary culture at Fuller Seminary in Pasadena. Fuller, the world's largest nondenominational seminary, was established in 1947 as the beacon of evangelical scholarship.

"There's an umbrella set of beliefs that unites evangelicals," said Johnston, who co-wrote "The Varieties of American Evangelicalism." "But when the term includes certain Baptists, Presbyterians, Methodists, Lutherans, Adventists, fundamentalists, Anabaptists, pentecostals and even charismatic Catholics ... When you lump all those groups and more into one category, there's great room for conflict."

Part of the debate stems from evangelicalism's rebellious spirit. The movement is leery of anything institutional. Its decentralized structure explains the proliferation of independent entities in Orange County such as Calvary Chapel, Eastside Christian Church, Vineyard Christian Fellowship, Saddleback Community Church and Mariner's South Coast.

The independence of evangelical churches tends to generate friction. "It's like a family with dozens of siblings. They're bound to quarrel," Johnston explained. "You have one group accusing another of heresy. You have charges of some leader distorting biblical interpretation."

Johnston noted that all evangelicals hold to three fundamental beliefs:

Personal conversion to Christianity: The term "born-again Christian" describes people who have consciously accepted Jesus as their personal lord and savior. In addition, Holy Spirit movements, including pentecostals and charismatics, emphasize an intense experience of God. Their churches practice speaking in tongues and faith healing.

Biblical authority: Scriptures are the inspired word of Christ. The Bible is the first and final source of authority on all matters of faith and daily living. Biblical interpretation among evangelicals runs the gamut, from literal translations to paraphrased versions.

Evangelizing: The word "evangelical" comes from the Greek "euangelion," which means "good news." Evangelicals believe it's their God-given mission to convert non-Christians and save them from damnation in the afterlife. Their "good news" is that Jesus and only Jesus is the way to the Father.

Fundamental doctrines include humanity's inherent sinfulness; the virgin birth of Jesus, His atoning death on the cross, and bodily resurrection; God's trinitarian nature--Father, Son and the Holy Spirit; and a strong conviction that a world near its end will bring Christ's triumphant return to "judge the living and the dead."

Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa has built a down-to-earth worship style on evangelicalism's three-fold foundation. Its sanctuary features no icons except a dove at the altar and on Sunday, few of the 7,500 worshipers who regularly fill the pews during its three services wear coats and ties.

Worshipers sing praise songs with some raising their hands and then they listen to a sermon. "Chuck teaches that Jesus speaks to us through the Bible," Haag said. "Nothing should distract us from God's message. ... It's a message that not even time has been able to change." (OC Register, 3-07-98, www)

The following is a critique of the article, Smith and Calvary Chapel:

Evangelicalism was started with the goal of saving the world, but it helped usher in the apostasy that we are living in. The supposed success of big named evangelical preachers like Billy Sunday, Dwight Moody, R.A. Torrey, Charles Fuller, and Billy Graham sucked thousands of bishops into their movement. They saw some success and thought their efforts would bring world wide revival. This revival movement has been a major cause of the apostasy we are living in.

Their limited success led them to believe nothing could stop them. They rejected the clear teaching of the Scriptures that just prior to the Second Advent of YAHSHUA there would be the apostasy (2 Thes. 2.3; 2 Tim. 4.3,4). They propagated the idea that there would be a world wide revival prior to the Lord's return and ignored everything except evangelism.  Their arrogance ushered in a time of great ignorance of the Scriptures among believers.

The bishops (pastors) that joined the revival crusade neglected discipleship and left the people they saved in a permanent state of infancy. Few bishops taught anything more than the basic doctrines and they preached mostly salvation messages. The only ones who grew in knowledge and faith were men who sought to be bishops.

This situation has not changed since the first days of the revival movement and it never will. It is too easy for bishops to preach boring sermons and do little else. It is much easier to do that than to personally teach the Scriptures to every member of their flock (I Tim. 4:6,11,13-16; 5:17; 6:17-19), exhort them (2 Tim. 4:2; Titos 1:9; 2:15), watch over them (Ibriy-Heb. 13.17; I Keph 5.1), enable them to exercise their gifts for the common good
(Rom. 12:6; I Kor. 12:7), train them to be able to "be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks" them "to give the reason for the hope that" they "have" (I Keph 3:15), teach them to obey civil authorities, do good deeds and not slander anyone or be contentious (Tit. 3:1,2,14), train young men to be bishops (2 Tim. 2:2; 3:16,17), and to refute and correct those who contradict their teaching (2 Tim. 2:25; 3:16,17; 4:2; Tit. 1:9,13; 2:15) or continue in sin (I Tim. 5:20).

The founders of the pentecostal/charismatic movement also thought they would save the world through the power of the HOLY SPIRIT and they rejected the clear teaching that there would be a great apostasy among true believers in the last days. They perverted the Gospel teaching people that unless they had a supernatural experience they were not born from above or were second class believers.

Virtually everyone in that movement is convinced that their experiences prove they have been born from above. They focus on experience and neglect the study of the Scriptures which is vital to spiritual growth (Acts 17.11). Their primary goal is to get high on the "supernatural" and tell others they can have the same experience.

In some of the most corrupt branches of the pentecostal/ charismatic movement, salvation through "Jesus Christ" is secondary. The churches embracing the latest charismatic fads -- laughing, barking, growling, shaking -- spend most of their time putting on carnival style shows and neglect Bible teaching altogether.

Chuck Smith saw the aberrations emanating out of the charismatic movement and backed away from the practice of exercising the sign gifts in public services. He no longer allows any sign gift to be used in a worship/teaching service and he put an end to the use of them in all church services.

I applaud him for this, but he has a long way to go. He needs to concentrate on teaching small groups and back away from preaching to large audiences. He knows this, but if he were to do this he would lose most of his flock and his financial support. I don't think he or any bishop of a mega-church has the courage to do what is right and forget about being famous and wealthy.

Had he concentrated on discipleship rather than evangelism he would have started a true world wide revival and his disciples would have led millions to the Lord. Instead he went the way of the revivalists and raised up hundreds of disciples who have led millions to believe they are saved when they are not.

Unfortunately, the love of fame and money motivates bishops of most assemblies no matter the size. They think bigger is better and do not realize their top priority should be the spiritual welfare of their flock.

Most of the Reformed assemblies have stayed with teaching the Scriptures and have not been swept away with the revival movement, yet some Reformed bishops have fallen prey to revivalism and the mega-church syndrome.

The charismatic/pentecostal movement is another major cause of the apostasy we are living in. The revivalists of all persuasions are the primary cause of the apostasy of the last days and few of the people in those movements are truly born from above. I do not say this lightly. It is based on my experience in both groups. I have met only a handful of men and women among the thousands I have known that had any desire to study the Scriptures and fewer still who actually knew more than the elementary teachings of the faith. Only a handful have been able to share a testimony that showed that understood salvation and had trusted YAHSHUA of Nazareth to save them.

I must remind everyone who has been caught up in the pentecostal/charismatic movement that YAHSHUA (Jesus Christ) prophesied about pentecostals and charismatics:

        "Not everyone who says to Me, `Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of Heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in Heaven.  Many will say to Me on that day, `Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles.'  And I will declare to them, `I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.'" (Matthew 7.21-23)

There is no way to reverse the apostasy, but every believer who is aware of this has the duty to warn others and encourage them to study the Scriptures. Since few bishops will take the time to teach the flock it is up to those who know the Word to disciple people one-on-one and the few who are qualified should start local assemblies.

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"It is most difficult to free slaves from the chains they worship." DOV