The church loses a visionary leader. As you may have heard, Pastor Chuck Smith, the founder of the Calvary Chapel movement, passed away last Thursday. Chuck was 86 years old and had been battling lung cancer for some time.
Chuck’s outreach to Southern California hippies and surfers in the 1960s helped transform worship styles in the US and eventually led to the formation of over 15 hundred Calvary Chapels across the country.
Christianity Today reports that Smith was known for expository preaching as he worked his way through the entire Bible, unpacking texts from Genesis through Revelation and offering commentary along the way.
But it was Chuck’s openness to new cultural styles, including laid-back music surfer fashions, that helped him reach young people and inspired a trend toward seeker-sensitive congregations.
Brad Christerson, a sociologist at Biola University in Southern California, said this about Chuck, “He led a movement that translated traditional conservative Bible-based Christianity to a large segment of the baby boom generation’s counterculture.”
“His impact can be seen in every church service that has electric guitar-driven worship, hip casually-dressed pastors, and 40-minute sermons consisting of verse-by-verse Bible expositions peppered with pop-culture references and counterculture slang.”
One story I love about Chuck took place in the early days of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa. After the sanctuary was renovated, some older elders posted a sign that said “no bare feet allowed.” Chuck tore it down and pledged to reach young souls for Christ, even it meant throwing out the new pews and carpeting and bringing in steel folding chairs.
I lived in Southern California in the 1980’s and had the opportunity to hear Chuck preach at Calvary Chapel. He will be greatly missed.
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