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://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