Calvary Chapel

Passion and Reason

Photo credit: unsplash.com_SRingler Preachers are often portrayed in unflattering ways in movies. Often as some caricature that doesn't resemble the typical pastor of a church. To be sure, plenty of charlatans have filled TV screens and paced across stages.

Let's face it, a typical church pastor appears average and boring compared to the exaggerated portrayals of preachers in films. It's easy to poke fun at these emotional and bigger than life caricatures.

Most churches have pastors who are overworked and underpaid. I know many that are and remember my early years as a pastor. The charlatans and caricatures are the exception, not the rule.

Persuasion and instruction

Preaching is persuasive by nature.

A much better example of a preacher is the famous Billy Graham, or Luis Palau, or Greg Laurie who's known for his Harvest Crusades.

These men can teach from the Bible, but they are best known as preachers—men with a gift for evangelism with persuasion.

Teaching is instructional and appeals to the reasoning mind.

Pastor Chuck Smith, founder of the Calvary Chapel movement, was an excellent teacher. He was a prime example for many other fine teachers associated with Calvary Chapel.

Most pastors are called on to do both—teach and preach.

Paul our example

This is the example given by the apostle Paul throughout Acts. Most of us learn to flow from one role to another without consciously doing so. At least, that's my observation over the years.

And he [Paul] went into the synagogue and spoke boldly for three months, reasoning and persuading concerning the things of the kingdom of God. Acts 19:8 (NKJV)

I see the role of a pastor being a lot like parenting.

As much as parents need to instruct their children, we need to become more persuasive than instructional at times—“Get in there and clean up that room right now!”

But how does this relate to those who aren't pastors?

2 Different conversations

We are all called to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:19-20; Mark 16:15). Most of the time this takes place in one-on-one encounters between us and someone we want to see come into God's kingdom.

Not long ago, I met up with two young men for coffee and conversation. As I shared my thoughts as a pastor, I noticed two men at a table next to us.

One had a Bible in hand as he spoke to the other man with passion. I could see their discussion get pointed, while the one with the Bible both exhorted and pleaded with his friend.

Two groups of friends, two different approaches to conversation.

Sometimes there's a need for persuasion and passion, but most of the time we just need to share what God has made known to us—about Him and His kingdom.

Some questions and an encouragement

How recently have you spoken to someone about the kingdom of God, or shared the gospel message?

Are you more of a persuader or someone who likes to reason things out?

Find someone to share God's message of redemption with this week, and share what God's revealed to you recently with a friend.


This is a guest post originally posted on Calvary Chapel Fort Lauderdale's Daily Devo blog. Here's the link– Passion and Reason

20 Years and Counting

DSC_1021 How can I put into words what is beyond expression? Even a photo, like the one above, doesn't capture the breadth of relationships and experiences we celebrated this past week.

Just twenty years ago, a small Bible college was established in the central region of the Visayas, in Dumaguete City, Philippines. We started off with a small student body—five people, and the following year our second class was even fewer. But year by year, the school grew and developed.

ptr-alumni_hats

Over the years, many churches have been planted by our alumni, and some of those earlier ones planted more churches. Even Bible schools and extension campuses (non-English teaching) have been established in a few places, including Southern Thailand.

Welcome-CCTC

Missionaries, pastors, children's ministry leaders, and other workers have been equipped and sent out. Each alumni learned to serve in the ministry while they studied, and out internships helped cement what was learned in class.

TK_mpr-alumni

Our celebration included some important reminders from God's Word through some of His servants, and we had some great fellowship.

Diningroom

It was a sweet time of worship, Word, prayer, and of course, we enjoyed some delicious food!

dinner-beach

We also made time for fun!

Imo-vball_guys

 

Many of the alumni came as young men and women, some were teenagers, and now they have their own families. I've been privileged to be a part of their lives over the years.

guys-atbeach

It's been a treat for me seeing so many people I haven't seen in a long while, as well as those I see each year. The time has gone by too fast, and it's hard to say good-bye again, as I head back to my US-home.

MPR_CCBCP

From Germany with Love

snow-walk My wife and I have been in Germany for a short while to enjoy our youngest granddaughter's first birthday, and visit our youngest daughter and her husband. There was snow on the ground when we arrived, and we enjoyed crisp walks around their quaint German town.

But we also did a bit of sightseeing to nearby cities, cathedrals and a castle, along with a quick trip to France. It's been a wonderful time and we wish we could stay longer, but we hope to be back sooner than later.

Vidals

We came in February to celebrate Eva's first birthday, and it was a lot of fun! It was also a great time for Nana and Pop-pop to spend time with Eva!

©LVidal

 

 

 

 

 

One of my highlights was to visit the city of Worms where Martin Luther made his stand before the Roman Catholic Diet (court), which paved the way for the Reformation and Protestant movement.

ThomasFam

New missionary friends, the Thomas's, hosted and guided us around Worms. They are developing relationships and working towards planting a church in Mainz.

Joe developed a unique form of outreach with a coin and his website in German. Please pray for them!

tk-MLuther

 

We also visited the beautiful city of Heidelberg, with its wonderful castle overlooking the city.

Heidlbg

 

Another highlight was visiting the city of Metz, across the border in France. The city's cathedral (Dom) has the largest collection of stained glass in one place in all of Europe. It includes some of Marc Chagall's work, which is beautiful.

Chagall-MenzWe found the people of France and southern Germany to be quite friendly and helpful, even though we knew little French or German.

An added bonus was fellowshipping at Calvary Chapel Gruenstadt, where our daughter and her husband attend. This past Sunday I had the privilege of sharing the Word, and there was a wonderful time of worship, as well.

We are not looking forward to saying farewell, but already looking forward to a return trip. It's been as much of a blessing as we expected.

 

The Search to Know God

Photo credit: TNValleyTalks.com  

Not long ago, I posted Calvary Chapel—Past and Present as a guest post on Ed Cyzewski's blog. It's easy to reminisce, but I'm not so big on that. Selective memory tends to cloud reality and make things worse or better than they were.

In that post I share a bit of my early history with Calvary Chapel. So, here's a little more of my own life story and search for God. My search proved fruitful, but it met some roadblocks along the way.

It may be history, but it's relevant for our times and a new generation.

The 60's and the Jesus Movement

During the sixties, I was part of the counterculture movement seeking spiritual truth. In the early seventies, I became part of the Jesus Movement.[i] This movement was neither organized, nor guided by any church or religious organization. It was the work of God in people searching for spiritual truth and encountering Jesus in a personal relationship.

“It’s not about religion, but relationship,” was a common expression during that decade. Young people, including those known as hippies, joined the developing counterculture of the 1960's and popularized the Jesus Movement. A spiritual vacuum existed in those days.

[bctt tweet="During the Jesus Movement—It’s not about religion, but relationship was a common expression"]

For the most part, traditional churches did not reach the young people of that generation. Several elements in our current decade remind me of that era. Today, traditional and established churches are not reaching the young people of this generation, including those raised in Christian homes. Many surveys show a strong trend toward young people leaving churches in droves.[ii]

My search begins

In my own search for truth, I sampled the wisdom of various religions and philosophies, which surrounded me in abundance and diversity. I was raised in a nominally Christian home and confirmed in the faith of the Episcopal Church at age twelve.

But my Christian moorings were too weak to keep me from drifting into the counter-cultural vortex of the day. Initially, my search produced plenty of confusion and uncertainty.

During the late 1960's, I developed a ritual of reading the Bible every morning. Even so, I still used drugs and alcohol, practiced transcendental meditation, and played and wrote music, along with other experiences typical of that era.

[bctt tweet="My Christian moorings were too weak for the counter-cultural vortex of the 60's"]

Through it all, I came to believe Jesus was an important element of true spirituality. During this period, a friend invited me to a church in Southern California that grew into a mega-church within the Jesus Movement.

I attended an evening service where a young but quite charismatic evangelist was teaching the Bible. At the end of the study he invited us to “accept Christ.”[iii] But, I wasn’t ready to do this.

Questions, questions, questions

After the service, I asked many questions my friends were unable to answer. So they brought me to a man considered a Bible-answer-man of sorts, so I continued to ask questions. He answered me by quoting verses of Scripture from the King James Version (KJV), but without explanation.

I had studied Shakespeare and Chaucer in high school, so it wasn’t the archaic language that troubled me—it was my lack of spiritual understanding.

[bctt tweet="Answering questions with Scripture quotes, with no explanation, is not helpful"]

Each time I asked a question, he quoted a Scripture in response. I heard a round of “amen’s” and some cheers, as he refuted my challenging questions.

Intent on my quest for spiritual truth, and exasperated with his pat answers, I finally asked him—“If I could destroy all the books in the world, then how would you tell me you truly know God?” He promptly called me the devil and threw me out of the church.

More wandering

It was another two years of spiritual wandering before I came into a personal relationship with Jesus. I continued to read the Bible and pray, but didn’t give up the other counterproductive activities and experiences to my spiritual growth. My frustration deepened and became desperation.

One morning, I left the small trailer I lived in with my girlfriend to search for God. I expected some sign in the sky or a burning bush experience, as Moses had before he led Israel out of Egypt.[iv] I saw no sign, no burning bush, and didn’t hear any voices. Discouraged, I returned to the trailer and began reading my Bible. I came to some verses that challenged me—

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matthew 7:13-14)

In my heart I took up the challenge of going on the narrow and hard way. I considered many different philosophies and religions in search of a harmonious belief everyone could hold. This text showed me I was on the wrong path and it led to destruction.

[bctt tweet="Do you expect some sign in the sky or a burning bush experience from God?"]

A new path and new door

I saw the last part of the verse as a challenge to pursue, so I committed my life to God. My life changed little by little as God showed me a new way of living. I began to give up the old habits of my previous lifestyle and develop new ones.

On the day of my wedding I experienced a rush of new life and freedom. I had closed the door on my old life as a new door to a new life opened up.

My wife and I attended the same church I’d been thrown out of, but I had a much different attitude and view of God. I began to serve the Lord[v] in various ways, and became part of the church staff. My wife and I were full-time volunteers overseeing the childcare ministry at the time our first son was born.

Years later, I’ve wondered if the time between my earnest questioning and eventual committing of my life to Jesus could have been much shorter—perhaps two years shorter!

[bctt tweet="For many, Jesus is a historical figure whose life is shrouded in mystery"]

What I needed that night and what millions—even billions—still need is a simple, clear, and complete explanation of the gospel. For many people, Jesus is a historical figure whose life is shrouded in mystery.

I believe every Christian believer should be able to share the truth of the gospel with or without a Bible in hand, and without using Christian terminology and jargon. Is this possible? Absolutely!

[Check out Acronym-ically Speaking for how this is possible!]

This post is an edited excerpt from my book. If you'd like to read more, it's available in paperback and as an e-book.


[i]The Jesus Movement was a Christian counter-culture movement starting in the late sixties, and growing to prominence in the early seventies. Young people, often termed Jesus freaks, and Christian rock music, characterized this non-organized movement. [http://www.one-way.org/jesusmovement/| http://conservapedia.com/Jesus_Movement]

[ii]The Barna Group has done a lot of research, especially in the area of young people. Here are a couple reports that reveal this trend of church dropout among youth/young adults— http://goo.gl/HwxIJ| http://goo.gl/0vA5T. There was also a significant study done by sociologist Christian Smith, which he published in his book, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Eyes of American Teenagers (published in 2005), coining the term Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD). Here are some links to articles about MTD— http://goo.gl/pJLgY | http://goo.gl/RvllH

[iii]“Accepting Christ,” describes a person making a decision to follow Jesus as their Lord and Savior. It is also called “making a decision for Christ.” An invitation (opportunity) is given to make this decision during an “altar call”—an invitation to come forward or signal an intention to “accept Christ” with a raised hand, then being led in a simple (often rote) prayer.

[iv] Reference— Exodus 3:1-6

[v]“Serving the Lord” became a popular phrase describing volunteerism in the church, but can also include paid staff positions. The idea being it’s more than a job, it’s an opportunity to “serve the Lord.”

Calvary Chapel—Past and Present

©CCCM – the Tent This week I'm attending the SE Calvary Chapel Pastors Conference at CC Merritt Island (Florida). I'll be representing and hosting a table for Poimen Ministries, and fellowshipping with other pastors.

Several weeks ago I submitted a guest post to a writer friend whom I interviewed a while back. He allowed me to share a post about Calvary Chapel in a series with other bloggers called Denomination Derby.

It's been interesting to read other people's appreciation for their churches, and I'm glad to be included in this. Thanks for letting me join Ed!

Photo credit: edcyzewski.com

I hope you enjoy reading the post, and maybe you'll appreciate why I've been a part of Calvary Chapel all these years. This link will direct you to the post— Calvary Chapel—Past and Present

 

A Father Dies... A Son Lives

Photo credit: http://pastorchucksmith.com/ God chooses some people to have a great impact on the world and for His kingdom. When choosing King David, God pointed out to Samuel the prophet, "Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart." (1 Sam. 16:7)

Although they are chosen for a specific purpose, not all finish well. I want to share about someone who was faithful to God and His call to his last breath. Pastor Chuck Smith was the first pastor my wife and I knew, and his impact on our life endures beyond his passing. (Click to Tweet)

A shepherd for lost sheep

We were raised up and established in our own calling to ministry through Pastor Chuck's leadership at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa. It was the early days of the Jesus People Movement. Chuck was not the initiator of this movement, but he was a major influence in it, as attested by others. Pastor Chuck did establish Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, which became the hub of a still-expanding association of churches and ministries. But this was not his great achievement. As he would say, " I was only a spectator."

©CCCM http://pastorchucksmith.com/

Jesus saw the people as sheep without a shepherd, harassed and helpless (Matt. 9:36). It was Chuck's wife, Kay, who helped him catch a similar vision for the wandering, searching mass of young people called hippies. They never lost sight of that vision.

Kay was a powerful and fruitful leader for many young women, especially the wives of young pastors. She knew the pressures and pitfalls of ministry. She knew how to encourage and guide women, young and old.

Chuck was a father-figure to a multitude of young people, then and now, and my wife and I experienced the inclusive manner of his father-like care. (Click to Tweet) Plenty of posts, articles and videos cover more than I can share in this post. I want to share what impacted me as an enduring legacy of Pastor Chuck's life.

His smile

His smile expressed a lot—his joy in the Lord, and a gracious and genuine love and concern for others. It was disarming. He was a presence wherever he went. He was a good-sized and strong man, unafraid of hard work. He could be stern and direct when needed. He was a genuine father.

He was honest and humble, which suited him well for the mantle of ministry laid upon his shoulders. (Click to Tweet) He was clear that it was not his ministry or burden, but the Lord's (Matt. 11:28-29). He was the Lord's servant.

His legacy in my life and others

Teaching. A cornerstone of Pastor Chuck's ministry and discipleship was teaching through the Scriptures, the Word of God. "Simply teach the Word simply," a saying he coined, sums it up. (Click to Tweet) I remember his Sunday morning messages, teaching on Sunday nights, and in-depth studies during the week. It all lined up and pointed us to Jesus, the Living Word made human. Jesus was the cornerstone of his exposition of God's Word, and he had an expectation for Jesus' return at any moment.

©CCCM – the Tent

Grace. This was the core of Chuck's perspective on everything. It permeated his teaching, life, and service. It was the basis of relationship with Jesus, and relationships with others. Some critics faulted him for this. His response was that he would rather err on the side of grace than legalism and condemnation.

Love. Many of the early choruses we sung (especially during the "tent days") were about God's love. It went hand in hand with the emphasis on grace. But this wasn't a cheap grace or "sloppy agape" type of love, it was genuine. It was the love we saw in Jesus and the early church.

The teaching, with its emphasis on grace and love, established a firm foundation in our lives, and the natural, unforced result was personal evangelism and discipleship. (Click to Tweet) As described later, it was caught not just taught.

Worship. The style of worship characterizing the early Jesus People Movement was simple, yet powerful. No overhead or video projectors were needed. We didn't use songbooks. On Sunday nights, Pastor Chuck would lead the church a cappella (no instruments, no praise band) for 45 minutes before teaching for an hour and a half. Worship was one of the cornerstones of each service and an integral part of discipleship. This emphasis led to a flourishing music ministry that grew into an industry all its own.

Leadership. Chuck's leadership wasn't based on a set method or scheme, it was by example. (Click to Tweet) He listened a lot, was incredibly patient with many impetuous young people (who later became leaders themselves), and yet he held people accountable. He expected a lot from those he discipled and entrusted with ministry. His genuine honesty and integrity marked his example as a leader. Not just in teaching and pastoral ministry, but in laying sod, swinging a hammer, cleaning toilets, or whatever was needed to be done. Again, it was caught not just taught.

©CCCM Baptism at Pirates Cove

When I heard of Chuck's passing, a sadness set in. I loved and respected him. But my sadness moved into reflection, and then to joy. I know he would like that. He said that when he passed from this life, he would just be moving from one place to another.

He always pointed us towards Jesus. It was always about Jesus. Not Chuck, nor Calvary Chapel, only Jesus. (Click to Tweet)

Yes, he was a father figure. Perhaps the only true father many young people knew.

But he was still a child of God, and God's servant. A father of a movement may have died, but the son, the child of God, lives on—now in the presence of the Jesus he proclaimed.

Here are some links if you'd like to know more about Pastor Chuck's life and ministry—

http://pastorchucksmith.com/

http://goo.gl/xH9KBk (blog post of my friend Pastor Bill Holdridge)

http://goo.gl/jXAGMahttp://goo.gl/1eIPKi (2 articles from Christianity Today)

http://goo.gl/ReNkLZ (a post from Pastor Bob Coy)

http://goo.gl/7UtB3G (a post and interview with Pastor Greg Laurie)

The Search

©CCCM – the Tent

During the sixties, I was part of the counterculture movement seeking spiritual truth. In the early seventies, I became part of the Jesus Movement.

This movement was neither organized, nor guided by any church or religious organization. It was the work of God in people searching for spiritual truth and encountering Jesus in a personal relationship.

“It’s not about religion, but relationship,” was a common expression in those days. Young people popularized the Jesus Movement, including those known as hippies who joined the developing counterculture of the 1960s.

A spiritual vacuum

A spiritual vacuum existed in those days. For the most part, traditional churches did not reach the young people of that generation. Several elements in our current decade remind me of that era.

Today, traditional and established churches are not reaching the young people of this generation, including those raised in Christian homes. Many surveys show a strong trend toward young people leaving churches in droves.[i]

In my own search for truth as a youth, I sampled wisdom from various religions and philosophies that surrounded me in abundance and diversity.

Raised in a nominally Christian home, even confirmed in the faith of the Episcopal Church at the age of twelve, I found my Christian moorings too weak to keep me from drifting into varied experiences, philosophies, and religious encounters. These encounters brought plenty of confusion and uncertainty.

During the late 1960's, I had developed a ritual of reading the Bible every morning. Even so, I still used drugs and alcohol, practiced transcendental meditation, and played and wrote music, along with other experiences typical of that time.

Through it all, I was coming to believe Jesus was an important element of true spirituality. During this period, a friend invited me to a certain church in Southern California, which later became a mega church within the Jesus Movement.[ii]

Thrown out

I attended an evening service where a very young but quite charismatic evangelist was teaching the Bible. At the end of the study he gave an invitation to “accept Christ.”[iii]I wasn’t ready to do this.

After the service, I began asking many questions my friends were unable to answer. So they brought me to a man considered a Bible answer-man of sorts—I continued asking my questions. He answered me by quoting verses of Scripture from the King James Version (KJV), but without explanation.

I had studied Shakespeare and Chaucer in high school, so it wasn’t the archaic language that troubled me—it was my lack of spiritual understanding.

Each time he quoted a Scripture in response to my many questions, I could hear a round of “amen’s” and some cheering, as he refuted my challenging questions.

Intent on my quest for spiritual truth, and exasperated with his pat answers, I finally asked him—“If I could destroy all the books in the world, how would you then tell me how you truly know God?”

He promptly called me the devil and threw me out of the church.

The wrong way

It was another two years of spiritual wandering before I came into a personal relationship with Jesus, my Lord. I continued reading the Bible and praying, but didn’t give up the other activities and experiences that were counterproductive to my spiritual growth.

My frustration deepened and became desperation.

One morning, leaving the small trailer I lived in with my girlfriend, I went on a search for God. I expected some sign in the sky or a burning bush experience, as Moses had before he led Israel out of Egypt (Exodus 3:1-6).

I saw no sign, no burning bush, and didn’t hear any voices.

Discouraged, I returned to the trailer and began reading my Bible. I came to some verses that challenged me—

“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. (Matthew 7:13-14)

In my heart I took up the challenge of going on the narrow and hard way. I had considered many different philosophies and religions in search of a harmonious belief everyone could hold.

This text showed me I was on the wrong path that led to destruction. I saw the last part of the verse as a challenge to pursue, so I committed my life to God.

A changed life

My life changed little by little as God showed me a new way of living.

I began to give up old habits of my previous lifestyle and developed new ones. On the day of my wedding I experienced a rush of new life and freedom.

I had closed the door on my old life as a new door opened up.

My wife and I attended the same church I’d been thrown out of, but I had a much different attitude and view of God.

I began serving the Lord[iv] in various ways, and became part of the church staff. My wife and I became full-time volunteers who oversaw the childcare ministry at the time our first son was born.

A better way

Years later, I’ve often wondered if the time between my earnest questioning and eventual commitment of my life to Jesus could have been shorter—perhaps two years shorter!

What I needed that night and what millions—even billions—still need is a simple, clear, and complete explanation of the gospel.

For many people, Jesus is only a historical figure whose life is shrouded in mystery.

Every Christian believer should be able to share the truth of the gospel with or without a Bible in hand, and without using Christian terminology and jargon.

Is this possible? Absolutely!


[i] The Barna Group has done a lot of research, especially in the area of young people. Here are a couple reports that reveal this trend of church dropout among youth/young adults— Barna article. There was also a significant study done by sociologist Christian Smith, which he published in his book, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Eyes of American Teenagers (published in 2005), coining the term Moralistic Therapeutic Deism (MTD). Here is a link to an article about MTD

[ii] The Jesus Movement was a Christian counter-culture movement starting in the late sixties, and growing to prominence in the early seventies. Young people, often termed Jesus freaks, and Christian rock music, characterized this non-organized movement. [http://www.one-way.org/jesusmovement/| http://conservapedia.com/Jesus_Movement]

[iii] “Accepting Christ,” describes a person making a decision to follow Jesus as their Lord and Savior. It is also called “making a decision for Christ.” An invitation (opportunity) is given to make this decision during an “altar call”—an invitation to come forward or signal an intention to “accept Christ” with a raised hand, then being led in a simple (often rote) prayer.

[iv] “Serving the Lord” became a popular phrase describing volunteerism in the church, but can also include paid staff positions. The idea being it’s more than a job, it’s an opportunity to “serve the Lord.”


This is another excerpt from my book— The Mystery of the Gospel