Calvary Chapel: D+
I recognize that this title is a bit provactive. It is not written merely to be so. Perhaps I could have entitled it “Calvary Chapel D3,” but “D+” actually does a better job of presenting what I see as a problem.
I’ve been a part of the Calvary Chapel Movement since I was 11 years old. Almost my entire Christian experience has been within the Calvary style of ministry. I’ve served in full-time vocational ministry within Calvary Chapel for nearly 13 years in many different capacities. I’ve served as a youth pastor, assistant pastor and now senior pastor at Calvary Escondido. I’ve taught at Calvary Chapel Bible Colleges in Siegen, Germany; Murrieta, California and Costa Mesa. I assisted with Worship Generation at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa back in 2000 and 2001. I’ve been privileged to work alongside men who I consider to be giants in the faith. But my heart has been troubled over the last several years to see certain shifts within this great movement. Troubled as we, the Calvary Chapel Movement, have become detached, disengaged and defensive.
I am still in awe that I have been given the opportunity to teach at Calvary Chapel Bible College for the last 8 years. What began as a wishful desire has become a regular part of my routine. This semester I had the largest class I’ve had to date, nearly a 100 students. Most of those students are in their last semesters at the school. They are preparing to go into “the ministry.” In my interaction with them I am amazed how detached they are from the larger work of God through the [non-Calvary Chapel] church. I realize that this is likely a reality within many such institutions. Two examples of this immediately come to mind.
Early in this last semester I had made a passing comment about the work being done by Acts29 and Mark Driscoll. I was stopped by raised hand within 30 seconds, “What’s Acts29 and who is Mark Driscoll?” I asked my students, “How many of you know what Acts29 is and about Mark Driscoll?” I think 2 people, out of a hundred, raised their hands.
Just a couple of weeks ago, in talking about eschatology (I rotate between teaching Isaiah and Jeremiah at the college) I made reference to amillennial and preterist doctrine; again I was stopped, “What is that?” Again I asked, “How many of you know what these things are?” Blank stares abounded.
My point is not that everyone should know of Acts29 or Mark Driscoll, or that all Christians should have a good grasp of preterism and amillennial theology, but that we, the leadership and future leaders of the movement are a bit detached from the larger work of the church and what is happening in current ecclesiology in our own sphere. If 3rd and 4th semester Bible College students at our movement’s primary school have no clue about the opposing eschatological views within Christendom, in a movement which has, as one of it’s primary distinctives, a pre-millennial and pre-tribulational eschatology, there’s a problem.
One of the primary curricula at CCBC is listening to audio tracks of Pastor Chuck Smith’s through the bible series, recorded in the 1970’s & 1980’s. Please don’t misunderstand what I’m about to say. I love Pastor Chuck Smith and greatly appreciate his ministry. I don’t know that I’d be in the ministry today if it were not for his clear exhortation to serve and follow God given at a youth camp I attended as a sophomore in high school. Be that as it may, I do not believe this emphasis to be helpful, for several reasons.
- It breeds the kind of personality cult which Paul preaches against in 1 Corinthians
- It produces students with an incredibly limited scope of biblical understanding
- It produces teachers that tend to parrot what they’ve heard, rather than rightly dividing the word of truth.
- It creates (not at all intentionally) defensiveness toward anyone who disagrees with Pastor Chuck’s position
- It creates a cultural frame of reference that is about 30-40 years outdated
Given enough time I could probably come up with a dozen or more additional reasons. I realize that by writing such things I’m opening myself up to get slammed. I pray that that will not be the case. Speaking to students at the Bible College and pastors throughout our movement I find many times over that we’ve become detached from the the larger work of the church. This detachment is not at all intentional. A couple of months ago I had an opportunity to meet and interact with Ed Stetzer on the topic of Calvary Chapel, he observed very much the same detachment when told me, “Calvary Chapel has become insular.” His words were in no way antagonistic; rather he expressed them with a bit of sorrow. Unfortunately I believe his observation to be spot on. It is grieving when I meet pastors from outside Calvary who say to me, “What has happened to Calvary?” My answer to Ed Stetzer and many others who have expressed such concern has been, “We’ve begun to define ourselves by what we’re against on not by what we’re about.”
Our detachment has lead to a defensiveness toward other theological positions and a disengagement from our original mission. In seeking to clearly articulate what a Calvary Chapel is we’ve opted to tell everyone what we are not, instead of showing people who we are. “We are not Calvinists,” “we are not emergent,” “we are not seeker,” “We don’t like John Piper, Mark Driscoll, John MacArthur, Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, Doug Pagitt, etc…” There was a time where defining exactly what a Calvary Chapel was wasn’t entirely easy, but those on the outside of the movement couldn’t argue against what they were witnessing. Sinners were being saved and transformed into saints who went on to plant churches, lots of them; and many of them became the largest in the nation. Yes, on some levels that is still happening, but it is much harder to be “Calvary” in 2011 than it was in 1991, or even 2001. In defining who we aren’t I believe we’ve lost sight of what we’re truly are all about.
Sure, there are things that are distinctively “Calvary Chapel,” but mostly we’ve been a non-denominational, bible believing/preaching movement that makes disciples and plants churches. The question is, can we move through this awkward grumpy old man stage and reengage on the offensive for the cause of the Kingdom, and not be distinctively detached, disengaged and defensive?
Alright give it to me… but remember I’m sleep deprived having just brought my wife and our 3rd baby home from the hospital within the last 48 hours 😉
Miles, I appreciate your admonition here. It is worthy of much consideration, prayer, repentance and action.
sitting over here in Europe it is even clearer…but then from over here we see the whole church in American as very Corinthian…as you said, not all…but very much on the road if not consumed…i am a missionary but i work with the baptists and pentecostal church…the ones that aren’t defined by their moniker or seeing something more than and are looking to break out of the constrains of the Corinthian church… and sadly, there is not a seriousness with a lack of empathy in that part of town… let me not talk in a way that i am not current in…i haven’t been there in abt 4 years…great observation and comment…we should never be against but for…that is giving the grace in which we were called…i may have said tooo much but thanks for your comment…(how do i get a hold of dan fusco…i’m from ccsf of t/late 90’s…have many question…)
Great article. I’ve always appreciated your honesty (if when it’s challenged me). I’ll just say I agree with your statement “distinctively detached, disengaged and defensive”. I’ve been burdened by this all semester (when looking at my own ministries).
@ Bill – if sleep deprivation caused this, then Miles must come to class really tired every thursday 🙂 He’s always controversial! In regards to the your four semester comment, as a current part-time student at CCBC, I feel it’s enough time. Honestly, what I feel is lacking is the work load, it’s pretty simple (Not that I really want more homework with ministry, work, and a family). But I am rarely challenged to learn outside of in-class sessions.
BTW – I’ve always like Piper and MacArthur, even before your class!
Miles: Well said. I sense you are a tender-hearted man, honest, and respectful of the gift of your CC heritage, as am I of mine. But I believe Stetzer is right and the CC movement risks becoming like a pot-bound plant. May the Lord grant us all the humility we need to remain teachable, the courage we need to peek outside our own four walls, and the discernment and faithfulness we need to remain biblical in a world that worships at the altar of ambiguity. Praying with gratitude for the pastors, leaders and founders of CC!
I owe a great deal to the ministry of Calvary Chapel and Chuck Smith. I’d love to see the ministry thrive for as long as the Lord would tarry.
First off a little about me for context.
I’ve been a part of Calvary Chapel for almost 2 years. I haven’t attended CCBC, but I have taken part of our church’s School of Ministry.
I must admit, like you, I too thought it strange that CCBC would make their students listen to Pastor Chuck’s ‘through the bible’ series. I get the heart behind it and the benefits of hearing the Bible preached verse by verse, but, speaking as someone new to the movement, it seemed to me like saying, ‘Chuck has revolutionized the wheel, come and see what he’s done.” Which I know it’s not, but that’s how it seemed. Even still today I hear some of the older CC Leaders say things like, “There’s something Pastor Chuck always says”, or “I remember Pastor Chuck saying one time.” And perhaps it’s nothing more than showing appreciation for someone who has blessed their life, but I too can see it being the 1st point you made.
Seeing how I am fairly new to the movement I can’t speak on growing up in the culture of CC and not knowing about other movements. I can say though that going through my church’s School of Ministry I was greatly blessed reading books by authors in movements I would never read. There is a great reward in reading works outside of your particular stream of Christianity. If CCBC doesn’t currently do that I would encourage it. Like I heard Daniel Fusco say(did I just do what I criticized above 😉 ) “Chew on the meat and spit out the bones.”
There’s my 2-cents. I appreciate your honest assessment. I’m sure the firestorm will ensue.
I don’t track with Miles on the Pastor Chuck teaching series. If this was all the students had to listen to and was the whole of the curriculum, there might be some merit to his observations. Anchoring yourself in the heritage of the movement to which you belong is a healthy and productive use of time and energy. I don’t think that Methodists should avoid immersing themselves in the writings of John Wesley, etc.
Any danger of cultural arrest and personality cult will be removed by the larger curriculum. If not, the problem isn’t with the Pastor Chuck teaching series, but with the larger curriculum.
Tim — I agree with your logic. It’s sound. I think I disagree with the assumed premise that Chuck is to CC as Wesley is to Wesleyans, Methodists, and Nazarenes. In fact, I think that’s Miles’ point… that Chuck’s desire never was (nor is still) to be akin to a Wesley or Calvin or Luther, etc. In fact, I doubt if listening to the entire 2000 series AGAIN (the last time for me was at CCBC 18 years ago) I could find any teaching of Chuck in those “old days” that would support the idea that he would want those attending CCBC to be anchored in his teachings as some sort of heritage learning.
In fact, having been involved in overseas CCBCs, I’ve learned along the way that the specific purpose of the “Chuck Tracks” as stated by CCBC Murrieta is to consistently demonstrate throughout the course of the four semesters what a verse-by-verse exegetical exposition of Scripture looks like.
That could be accomplished other ways and it has even been discussed for those nations where Chuck hasn’t been translated into their tongue just what resources other than “Chuck Tracks” would fulfill that same purpose.
Why disagreement with the presumed premise? Wesleyans built upon the pattern of ministry J. Wesley laid down and CC builds upon the pattern, or patterns itself after the example/foundation Chuck laid down.
If Chuck doesn’t want his series to be used as a basis for CCBC, he could very easily have it removed. I don’t know if the purpose of listening is to be anchored in his teachings (more than any other evangelical teacher) but to be anchored in a way of teaching. Yet, there are the Calvary Distinctives that will be emphasized – the CC perspective on eschatology, pneumatology, soteriology, etc. I gues I don’t understand the disagreement.
Amazing that sleep deprivation can muster up a man’s courage to say controversial things. 😉
Good word. Sad, but true in many cases.
In all fairness, (and you would know better than most), is there enough time in a 4 semester Bible College pursuit to thoroughly explore other positions? Is 4 semesters just enough time to thoroughly present what CC stands for, without getting into the wide spectrum of what others believe?
Or should that be included? (I think it should, at least in a cursory manner)
I am currently taking an online seminary class form an other than CC school, and am enjoying very much things that have not been emphasized within the CC movement. I say that not as a disappointment with my CC experience, but simply to point out that widening the sources for my scope of learning has been good.
All that being said, none of it changes who I am, and what my ecclesiological dna is, which is Calvary Chapel.
BTW, do you know if A29 and other movements cover the wide range of study that you have suggested would be beneficial, or are they focusing on what their core beliefs are?
Good article, and congrats on your new baby.
Definitely fair questions.
A29 – to my knowledge – does not have a Bible College. Sadly, a good deal of new A29 planters grew up in Calvary. In fact, I’m pretty sure that Mark Driscoll was discipled, for a time, at Wayne Taylor’s CC in Seattle.
I’m less concerned about students knowing about Driscoll and A29 than I am about them knowing about the other eschatological positions. If we are as dedicated to prophecy and it’s end time fulfillment as we are, then students preparing for ministry should know the other positions if only to defend ours.
Wouldn’t you agree that core beliefs could be emphasized in the first semester (in many ways they are)?
I totally agree with you about the need to be well read and having the understanding of other end times views. No argument there. Having just taught through 1 & 2 Thessalonians, I tore into all the other streams of thought and was blessed for the effort.
Regarding how much time is spent teaching core beliefs: I am ignorant on the curriculum at CCBCM, and what is taught, etc. It may be that they could be covered well in one or two semesters, and then with that knowledge under their belts, the students could be introduced to other lines of thought, and taught how to wrestle through them. I think that that is always wise.
On a side note, I have thought that short term missions into Mexico ought to be included in the curriculum. The other CCBC’s around the world do a lot of outreach. I believe that that would be a valuable experience for the CCBC students as well.
Thanks for the article…
Acts29 does have a program called ReTrain that’s good. They’re goal is to have a Masters level Seminary program for their brand of Reformed theology and New Calvinism. I’m not a Calvinist, but I’ve gleaned greatly from many Calvinists. Honestly, Acts29 is the closest movement to CC where many ecclesiological issues are concerned. They teach much the same way, they govern much the same way, etc.
Bill and Miles — when I attended CCBC almost 20 years ago the other eschatological positions WERE covered. At least enough that I knew what they were called and had a basic understanding of why those who held them did so. In fact, it was required as part of the 25-page paper I had to write for my Revelation class that I explain the other views with Biblical support. Maybe things have changed.
Miles, good observations. I’m glad you are raising these issues.
P.S. Don’t forget to update that bio–happy/sleepy father of three. 🙂
thanks for the heads-up.
Hi, Miles – bold article. Thank you. If I was sleepy when I began reading, I’m not now. It will be interesting to follow the conversation today.
My interaction with CCBC has been minimal and so I can only speak to impressions and anecdotes. It seems that ‘what’ is being taught is determined by the ‘why’ it’s being taught. The vision of any school will determine its curriculum. The students from CCF and others I have interacted with convey to me that the classroom feels more like a sanctuary than a lecture hall – meaning: they are hearing sermons and Bible teachings more than lectures; the education is more devotional and informative than critical and analytical.
When I teach on Sunday mornings, I am not giving a lecture. Rarely do I present competing schools of thought and the controversy surrounding the passage or subject unless it directly impacts the congregation. A sermon is not a lecture. Any systemic change at CCBC, or any other institution, will have to address the ‘why’ of its mission.
I think that there is definitely good that comes out of CCBC. I wouldn’t be teaching there if I thought it was pointless, and while I brought up CCBC as partial evidence for my concerns, my concerns extend beyond CCBC into the whole CC movement. CCBC is [to me] a microcosm of the movement as a whole.
I agree that we should address the “why” of the mission… wouldn’t that be smart to do for the whole movement?
Good thoughts. I admit I’m super surprised. My eschatology class at CCBC York taught the other positions… I assumed that was the case at Murrietta.
The truth is we are an isolated movement from the Christian mainstream, in part by choice.
I’d say a word in defense of the chuck tapes, I’m still in my 20’s and listen to then somewhat often. The reason is for all the stuff you talked about in the post. It reminds me of the original vision of CC and it’s ministry. It’s not isolationist, Chuck knew and explained many of the doctrines of the day that he disagreed with. He spoke warmly of leaders and churches from other tribes who had the same heart of for the gospel.
It makes me wish more current CC leaders would teach like that.
Ih, and since I’m from Seattle, I hear that Driscoll was around the college group at CF for a short time but really he came out of Antioch Bible Church in the Seattle area. A lot of mars hill folk came from a CC background and Mark has voiced respect for the movement on several occasions.
Ok, I had to read this one a few times. I’ll be honest Miles, at first I didn’t like it. But then I drafted an outline of your post and found out why. First, I’ll say that unfortunately I agree with what you are proposing. I can definitely attest to the presence of “defensive” and “defining what we’re not” verbiage, having attended several of the pastors and leadership conferences this year. This stage in a church’s development is not one to be desired, so your question is very applicable, “How do we get out of it?”
As far as detached or disengaged, your examples might be too specific to the Bible college. If it is movement wide, what are some other, significant, examples of detachment and disengagement? Furthermore, how should CC be attached or engaged? I think that needs further defining, maybe via comments or a follow up post.
Finally, the example of the Chuck Smith tapes being insufficient as Bible college curriculum should probably be another post in itself. Whereas you evidenced your main, opening thesis, you only listed five critiques without providing the evidence to support them. Not that your critique is invalid, but in fairness they need to be supported with evidence, possibly in another post.
And as a post-script, I’m sure it stands that the “grumpy old man” reference is entirely a reference to this stage of the movement as a whole, and not to be associated with the coincidentally elderly leadership within CC. I just didn’t want anyone to misapply your words (if I am correct).
Yes, I am speaking to the movement as a whole. I recognize that my examples are aimed a bit at CCBC over the larger movement (somewhat by design).
Yes, “grumpy old man stage” is also directed at the larger movement too, and not specific people within the leadership.
As to more specific support for my critiques. If I did a full post on those critiques I would develop more fully the support for them. I will admit, however, that such support would derive from circumstantial observations.
I recognize a deficiency in my post, in that it is somewhat CCBC oriented. To site examples movement wide would involve a bit more specificity, which would essentially involve calling people out, if you will. I’m not sleep deprived enough yet to go that far 😉
How might we move forward? That is certainly open for discussion, but it is a discussion I think we should have. For one, I would suggest a less defensive posture toward those who are non-Calvary. Kellen’s post from a couple of days ago does well to highlight Jesus’ words in Luke 9; “Do not forbid him, for he who is not against us is on our side.” I’ve often come across an unwillingness to agree to disagree within our movement; this greatly hinders us from being able to work alongside others within the body of Christ who may not flow from the same stream as us, but still end in the same river. There is an interesting rigidity in this movement that has so often held as one of it’s creeds “Blessed are the Flexible.”
Having come into CC from another denomination and educational background, I identify strongly with everything you’re saying. My sense has always been that, “the less you know, the more strongly you know it.” IOW, people get very defensive when they’ve never nibbled around the edges, and had to understand other positions. That’s a pity. That’s when we, like Paul, find the Lord strengthen us, and grow us up.
As to Driscoll, he actually was educated at Western Baptist Seminary in Portland, and was a youth pastor with Ken Hutcherson in Seattle before he launched out to start Mars Hill. He has interfaced with Wayne T., but that isn’t where he received his education.
Among churches, Mars Hill is one of them, no more, no less. There are great thoughts, and things being done, in numerous churches, large and small, all over the US. Who hasn’t been challenged by thoughts like those raised by Kyle Idleman in “Not a fan”?
Good thoughts! Let’s keep this conversation going!
I agree whole heartedly that “the less you know, the more strongly you know it.” Anytime that I find myself defensive toward a position I try to step back and understand it better. I’ve spent a lot of time over the years studying the “other” positions, and 9/10x it has strengthened my position… or I’ve had to change my position. Right or wrong, I’m bummed when I meet pastors who do not have the same view.
Thanks for the info on Driscoll… very helpful.
Miles, you might find this interesting. The “grumpy old man” syndrome? It has nothing to do with either aging, or the brain. It has to do with emotional baggage that people don’t offload through their lives. The problem is not that somehow their brains become more inflexible; rather, it’s that they are carrying so much emotional baggage, they have no room left for joy. Interesting, no? One wonders how much baggage we’re carrying as a movement that God would have us offload on him, and get on with following after him with all our hearts, finding our joy in the fresh things he is doing now!
In the midst of this conversation I just had to pause and say amen to the truth you’ve shone a light on here. Let’s shed that baggage and move forward with gladness and joyful expectation!
Oh amen and amen Bill, I totally agree. This issue carries over into all arenas of life, and oh but to roll it all off onto the capable loving shoulders of Christ. Thanks for your insight.
I have to agree with Tim’s point when he writes: “The students from CCF and others I have interacted with convey to me that the classroom feels more like a sanctuary than a lecture hall – meaning: they are hearing sermons and Bible teachings more than lectures; the education is more devotional and informative than critical and analytical.”
Whether it’s in CCBS, in a youth group,or an adult Bible study there seems to be a lack of the critical and analytical processing opportunities. That includes thinking outside the C.C. box. But the question might arise, how many teachers are prepared to handle that kind of open discourse?
I think that is great! Shouldn’t it be devotional/informative and critical/analytical? At least for a Bible School/College setting? There is a time and a place for “This passage says ____ to me” (i.e. application) and then there is the very important “This is what this passage means” (i.e. interpretation). Sometimes I find that devotional means application oriented and analytical/critical is a little more systematic interpretation, yes?
Gillett — I agree with Miles that both are good and often needed. But you brought up something that to me is central to the Bible College side of this discussion when you said, “how many teachers are prepared to handle that kind of open discourse?” If we continue to teach Bible College classes that are characterized mostly by devotional teaching then how can we expect to bring those students back some day as experienced teachers and have them “handle” the challenge of teaching otherwise? It’s a circular/snowball sort of problem.
Don’t worry about your bible college students not knowing Acts 29. They will soon. When some of them want to plant a church, they will be sent by A29! Calvary trains them and A29 sends them. That seems to be the way it goes 😉
Well stated article. I grew up under Chuck’s teaching and still listen to his C2000 series online almost daily, But… After planting two Calvary Chapels over a 12 year period the Lord has moved me on. The constant bias by Chuck Himself thus nearly all Calvary pastors against the manifested expressions of the Holy Spirit has finally had its full effect on what was once a major revival. I have personally found great joy and freedom in the Bethel Redding movement where I attend and serve. Every week I see numerous healing’s. In 2011 alone I have personally led dozens to Christ, healed over 50 illnesses including terminal cancer and cast out a few demons. I have witnessed the presence of God appearing in unusual and miraculous ways that send people away with boldness and love. “decently and in order” has become CC’s epitaph. Most of my Calvary friends have written me off thinking pastor Bill Johnson is in error. Im o.k. with it because after two decades of studying and teaching scripture chapter and verse at a time I know the real thing when I see it. And I have found it. Goodbye and God bless you Calvary Chapel… Behold, He stands at the door and knocks!
Obviously I am poking at your content with a desire to add another stream into consideration, besides just Acts29. As a former CC pastor for 16 years I know for a fact that we blocked out almost every ministry stream that doesn’t systematically teach scripture, or approaches scripture from another view. The CC movement suffers from a doctrinal superiority complex brought on by the assumption that if you teach the bible line by line; by default you know and understand it all, and are the ones best able to uncover the mysteries of Godliness. This comes with a built in bias against the Acts 29 or the charismatic movement, and or any other ministry that you dont understand. That bias has become the very reason that the power of the Holy Spirit has been taught right out of the movement. I know for a fact that Calvary pastors live in a box fearful of everything from Rick Warren to Bill Johnson. My first senior pastors conference about 12 years ago at Murietta was themed in response to Rick Warren. It was his year to be doctrinally reprimanded, subliminally of course. I hope you see that the topic you are touching on has affected the CC movement way beyond your students not knowing about Mark Driscoll. The CC movement has almost zero idea of the many wonderful moves of God that are effectively spreading the gospel all over the world. I personally know of one couple in Mozambique who have planted over 500 churches and feed 15,000 children a day, but since they are charismatic and heal the sick, cast out demons and have raised the dead numerous times.. conservative Christianity and CC doesnt even consider their contribution the the kingdom and would pick apart their theology on healing or can christians be demonized. Bless you. I write boldly, but honestly I love my CC brothers and sisters, just frustrated. Agape!
There’s much broad-stroking of Calvary Chapel in your comments, brother. I think you need to be careful about essentially calling CC devoid of the miraculous works of the Spirit. That’s a little over the top. I’m in Calvary, still preach verse by verse, and have seen many works of the Spirit that you mention above. Above all, we see the Spirit do the greatest miracle of salvation on a regular basis. So, while I understand some of where you’re coming from, I’d encourage you to not be so general in your propositions such as saying, we’ve “decently and in ordered the Spirit right out of the movement.” It isn’t helpful to take your personal experiences and decide that’s what everyone in an entire movement of thousands of churches which represent so many pastors and individuals are experiencing and manifesting.
Kellen, Definitely a broad brush stroke. I admit. Based solely on the two dozen or so CC’s I know of and have history and experience with. This includes pastors who lead very large well known CC’s who have inquired into the revival/renewal movement with an admission of their longing for the power of God in their church. I have sat in regional pastor meetings with 15 senior pastors all CC’a who have confessed a desperate desire for God to move in power and admitting that an exclusive mind-set has cost them the presence of God.
One CC in the Northwest has emailed me with a FYI that he will be doing a teaching on “egregious” doctrines infecting the church today and that my pastor will be mentioned. It was a courtesy letter, so as “not to offend” me. He promised to be gracious. Branding a cow with smile makes no difference to the cow. I have seen this mentality over the years and is the reason I left the movement. I love you brother and Im glad that your particular church is experiencing Acts again. My opinions are based not only on my personal limited experience but also what many CC pastors have told me.
I think the reason for my boldness here is that when I read Miles comments I was blown away at the courage. Something arose inside because I have carried these concerns for a very long time. Having said all that I can agree with Chuck, Love is the most excellent way! I love you all. Thanks for responding, I appreciate it.
Hi, Brian – I do’t find your post judicious or fair. I can’t speak to the CC movement as a whole, but the 20 or so CC pastors that I know very well do not fit the negative characterization you offered above. Broad brushing is rarely helpful. Many CC pastors are bi-vocational and it is all they can do to work, pastor, and be husband and dad. It’s difficult enough to do well at the basic things that branching out is a luxury not presently afforded.
Ignorance of broader streams/teachings/men/movement does not necessarily translate into rejection and criticism of them. The CC movement is damned when pastors of note make unloving and ignorant statements of other men and ministries. The well known pastors have not been elected to represent the movement – they speak for themselves. CC is not monolithic in its sympathies. We may be in our philosophy of ministry and basic operational understanding, but there is so much more to ministry life than this.
None of the men I know intimately in 26 years of CC pastoral ministry fit your description of doctrinal superiority complex by reason of verse by verse teaching. Indeed, just the opposite has been my experience. They are humbled and stand in awe at the unfathomable depths of the truths of God and welcome assistance in understanding them.
It is unhelpful to speak of the CC Movement as though the movement is monolithic and the same criticism has equal application across the board. Thank you for your love of your CC brothers and sisters.
Tim, Agreed! Wholeheartedly.
I would consider myself more at home in the Reformed scene, but I will say this in defense of my brothers (and I deeply consider them brothers) in the CC movement. When I read Acts and then am presented with both the Calvary Chapel movement and the Bethel Redding movement, do you know which more resembles the Book of Acts? Yeah, you guessed it – CC.
In the Book of Acts, what were they doing? There was teaching, there was the work of the Spirit and there was mission. The miraculous always served to give a platform for the Word to be proclaimed – there are no self-contained miracles in Acts…because they were intended to open the door for the Gospel.
When I see the Bethel movement, I see a lot of self-proclamation, depreciation of the Word and over-appreciation of the miraculous. One thing I will always take from my CC brethren is a tenacity when it comes to keeping it Biblical and that’s why I can fellowship with them, even when we disagree on points.
I’ve read Johnson’s books and listened to much of his teaching since my Dad is very much aligned with the “revival/renewal” movement and I’ve come away from that wondering how the Apostles would recognise that from the Book of Acts. I’m not convinced they would.
Doug, Of course your more at home in CC than Bethel. Your roots are in the “reformed scene”. The atmospheres are similar. Praise God that the Lord has raised up so many beautiful expressions of faith to reach the world with. Not sure how you can “over-appreciate” a miracle. If its truly miraculous then God is involved. If God is performing a miracle then He obviously endorses what is happening. Jesus Himself healed as much as he taught. Personally I stumbled into the renewal movement as a skeptic and realized all of my apprehension was baseless and biased. All of the sublime critiques from the teaching movement had affected me more than I realized. But on close inspection and over a year of regular attendance have found, great teaching, genuine miracles, and a love and a passion for the entire body of Christ and the Kingdom of God… and a missionary effort that is outstanding. Bethel’s teaching is done through the week in various classes you can take, and the Sunday gathering is a topical sermon with at least an hour of worship and healing service. Their School of Ministry teaches mountains of scripture and a huge dose of required bible reading. Its quite beautiful. If you want to visit I would be honored to sit with you. I will admit that we get real excited when people get healed, but! why shouldn’t we? When someone is sick or even sentenced to die from a terminal disease and the power of God overcomes them and they get healed… that is cause for rejoicing. I love CC, I love Acts 29. I have wonderful pastor friends in both movements.
I recently attended a dinner in Orange County with a dozen old friends who attend a CC affiliate in Huntington Beach. When they asked about what I was doing these days, I told them that I had been to Costa Rica for two months sharing the gospel and healing the sick. I told them of a man who was terminal who the Lord healed and his whole family received Christ because of what had happened to the young man. Large tumors gone overnight and a week later a clean bill of health from a team of doctors. From terminal to perfect health in a few days. My CC friends responded, “what church are you attending?” I said Bethel Redding, to which they responded “do they teach the word?”. The testimony of a man being healed of cancer had zero impact on them and their only concern was if I was attending a church that “taught the word”. It was pathetic… at that moment I quit talking and realized that this group could not hear what I was saying. FYI the one who asked me about my church, he and his wife are full time staff at CC Costa Mesa. Basically I had just told them that the poor had the gospel preached to them and the sick were being healed and the veil over their ears disallowed them from realizing that authentic gospel testimony was being shared. This is common… sorry to say
“If its truly miraculous then God is involved.” To be fare, that kind of overly-simplistic thinking on miracles is exactly what will lead many to follow the false prophet and antichrist during the Tribulation period who come with false signs and wonders. The question isn’t merely “did something miraculous happen?”
Whoa there, friend and brother. Miracles are not a blanket endorsement of anything. I’m from Ghana – both parents were born there and I often refer to myself as an umpteenth-generation Ghanaian. I, with my own eyes (and supplementary glasses), have seen native doctors do “miracles” that would cause even the most die-hard of “renewal” brethren to be shocked. Yet the fact remains that the source of the miraculous in that instance was anything BUT God.
I believe that God heals and does the miraculous today – but is that to be the thrust of ministry? What has every revival in history had? The proclamation of the Word with power. As Brother Kellen wisely noted below, the question of whether something miraculous happened isn’t really the point. Everything is subject to testing from the Word, so yes I agree with your CC pastor friends for asking the question of whether the Word is taught.
I’d conclude with one more thing. Paul lays out a philosophy and theology of ministry in the Pastoral Epistles. Why are there no references to signs and wonders ministry in those epistles, yet Paul is like a broken record on the subject of soundness of teaching? I’m not saying that we should be neglectful of spiritual gifts but like Corinth, let’s beware of elevating the miraculous to a place where the Bible itself doesn’t.
that was beautiful Doug…thank you..it remains the reason i simply teach the word and let it speak…or let Him speak…thanks again..
I am talking about miracles done in Jesus Name that lead people into a saving faith in Christ. I also know of witch doctors that produce miracles that lead whole villages into a state of fear demonic control.
As for Paul, he himself said that he did not preach according to the wisdom of men, but he came also with a demonstration of power so that their faith would be in p-o-w-e-r of God not the wisdom of men.
Im saddened that as a believer in Jesus Christ I have to defend a miraculous lifestyle against other believers who are fearful of deception. Your faith in Satans ability to deceive is greater than your faith in Gods ability to heal. Your theology causes you to shut down the power of God due to fear of false prophets. Does this mean if I heal the sick and cast out demons, Im under the influence of false teachers… wow… with that approach I could just as easily say, be cautious of bible teachers because in the last days there will rise up false teachers… Paul, healed, Peter healed, James healed…. oh yea… Jesus healed. good enough for me. I love you guys your awesome and your passion for the word is admirable.
Hi, Brian – miracles done in Jesus’ name are beautiful things and broken people who are touched by the hand of Christ and made whole often shine with the beauty of Christ and give off the aroma of Jesus. There is another side, a Bible side, of miracles that I have to take into consideration.
Which generation in the OT saw the most miracles? It was Moses’ generation. From the 10 plagues to the dividing of the Red Sea to the miracles of provision and protection in the wilderness – there were more miracles than you could shake a stick at. Moses’ generation saw more of the power of God than any other generation in the OT.
Which generation in the OT was the most unbelieving? The same one! Those who saw all that God could do and experienced all God could do came to the place where they said that God can’t!
Which generation in the NT saw the most miracles? It was Jesus’ generation. The blind saw, lepers were cleansed, the demoniacs were exorcised, the blind saw, the lame walked, and the dead were raised. The people were blown away by Jesus.
Which generation in the NT was the most unbelieving? The same one! The people who saw all God could do said, “Crucify Him.”
There is a Biblical case for miracles and a Biblical case for the built-in limitations of miracles. Miracles do not guarantee faith. There is a danger of being blind to miracles and a danger of being blinded by miracles. I desire a ministry rich in miracles and rich in the Word and rich in worship and rich in love and rich in the convicting power of the Holy Spirit. I covet your prayers.
I went through the chuck tapes at ccbc (@ 2x speed) lol. Chuck always spoke kindly of other churches plainly saying that Calvary isn’t the only church where God is moving. This is why I feel it is important that they continue to instill that message of love through the study of the tapes. We must also remember that the Calvary movement is very young compared to other churches. Many Pastors qoute Chuck not because he is some sacred cow, its because they know him personaly and still view him as thier pastor. I can imagine Paul and Timothy had the same type of relationship. I have to admit I really don’t agree with most of what you had to say. Calvary isn’t perfect but its a Church where the Spirit is still working,the Bible is taught and Jesus is still the main focus. The simplicity of the movement bothers alot of christian circles, lets keep the main thing the main thing and continue to grow in grace. That can never be out dated.
Please don’t misunderstand… I’ve listened to a LOT of Chuck tracks over the years. I’m not in anyway saying that Chuck has instigated an antagonism toward other works within the body of Christ, and any personality cult has not been propagated by him. 99% of this comes from our own carnality.
I agree that many pastors within our movement view Chuck as their pastor and respect him greatly. I have no problem with people quoting him, I do so myself even. That said, I am a bit taken back when I hear a seasoned pastor at a CC Pastor’s conference say that his devotional life is Pastor Chuck’s tapes.
I’m going into my third semester this fall at CCBC York, and over the summer I listened to most of the “Chuck Tracks” for the NT. I loved his NT survey more so than the OT survey, but I’ll comment about that later. I can tell that he has a heart for his church and for those who are duped by false teachers, word-of-faith teachers, and other hirelings who are out just for money or fame. He doesn’t speak as if he’s some “holier-than-thou” teacher. He knows he has faults, and he admits them.
And I’ve heard of how some people praise chuck and almost (or totally) treat him as this great and wonderful person who can do no wrong. But that’s not Chuck’s fault, because he admits his faults. It’s not his desire for others to lift him up. In fact, maybe more people should listen to his tracks to find out what he really says about himself.
He just wants to preach the Word and see people grow in their fellowship and relationship to Christ. He doesn’t say CC is THE church. He just wanted to do God’s will.
Also, I agree with Jon Langley (sorry I missed you when you went to Houma, LA), that at CCBC we listen to Chuck Tracks to get an idea of preaching through the Bible. I was told it’s not that they think he is the best pastor ever who’s always 100% correct, but he does have sound teaching and, pretty much, has the right amount of sermons that fit into the 2 years/4 semesters.
Here’s the other issue, I did like his NT teaching. The OT teaching was good too, but now, when I hear the name “Russia,” I immediately think of Chuck. Okay, that might not be completely true, but there is the 30 year time difference that comes to play.
But at the same time, I know that not every Calvary pastor has gone through the Bible. Or that some teachers have the sermons recorded (David Guzik’s webiste doesn’t have the audio for every book). Some teachers have gone through the Bible, but they have hundreds of sermons for just 4 semesters (Joe Focht in CC Philedelphia has some 800 sermons).
So, it’s not that Chuck is “The Best,” but he is very good, and he has a good amount of sermons for the 4 semesters. You don’t have to listen to 20 sermons a week, just 6-8.
Also, for some hopeful encouragement:
I agree with David Guzik’s post below: Some people just aren’t that interested in different perspectives. I am, but I know others just don’t want to put the time into studying other ideas.
So while it may have been disheartening to see only two hands raised when you asked them about Acts29, Mark Driscoll, pre- post- a- this- that- millennialism, just be reminded that teachers can only do so much. If the students don’t want to learn it enough to learn it outside of class, then they won’t remember it.
Of course, one has to ask, if they don’t want to learn it outside of class, then why are they even there? But for me, I am thankful for my 2 semesters so far. They have shown me my desire to teach, and they have pushed me to do so. I can’t wait for the next two.
All good points and counterpoints here. Please, allow me to interject an “outsiders” perspective. I have been attending a Calvary Chapel for all but 3 years of my 30 yr. walk with our Lord. But, not as being a Pastor, therefore, I am an outsider to the movement of which you write,
for you are writing about the training of our future Pastors, I get that. I just wanted to share something about “the movement”, called Calvary Chapel from the perspective of being a simple member.
While learning eschatology and all the other ologies mentioned here is good and right, it is not necessarily the needful thing to foster healthy sheep. Being lead by the Spirit, as a Body of believers, requires something no Pastor, Board, committee or school can create. It requires that the people of that body abide in Christ, each individually first, then as community.
It is the beginning of death for a physical body when its individual parts cease from receiving blood. Jesus made it the responsibility of every believer to abide in Him and thereby receive life which brings forth fruit.
I spent many years as a church member thinking that I wasn’t truly committed to Christ because I was not a Pastor or evangelist, or on staff at church. While I know that this is not true, I now recognize that the idea was not mine alone, many others felt and still feel this way. It is the Natual result of viewing pastors and teachers as the “truly spiritual” and all others as simple followers.
Unfortunately one way this seed is planted is through an over emphasis on the need for Pastors and Teachers to attend Bible College. Because we live in such a reasonscience based society, we have a tendency to exalt those with educations. While this is great when you’re choosing a surgeon, it isn’t necessarily the required thing when God is forming a Body of believers.
Life is in the blood and those who abide in Christ WILL bear much fruit. You don’t need college to be a Pastor, you need the Holy Spirit. I know you not only know this, but you also live it.
I write this not for your sake alone, but for all who read this thread. There is so much I want to say on this matter, but I don’t want to bore you, so I will not do justice to what I’m trying to get across, so, please, suffice it to say that: all “movements” die. It is because movements themselves were never actually alive. They are simply vessels through which the Master pours His new wine. But, much like an old vine the people become woody and dead, because they stop living by every Word that proceeds forth from the mouth of God and they begin eating from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (mans reasoning.)
Real, true, authority does not come from knowing the right things, it comes from knowing the right Person. Sure, it’s much easier to defend your position when you can convince others that your knowledge exceeds theirs, but to truly change a man, they must see the Life of Christ actively transforming us before their eyes. This requires brokenness and humility and in my experience, a lot of embarrassment, for I am a sinner saved by His grace and not a theologian with a college degree, so whom am I to speak?
If we want to see our young Pastors produce much fruit, if we wish to see the Church do the same, we must pray and die and so must they.
In Him and of Him,
I couldn’t agree more. Bible College is not a necessity for service, if anything my experience is proof of that. Furthermore, you are correct, eschatology is not an essential doctrine. I think that is one of the truths that we within Calvary Chapel would do well to remember.
I pray that your evaluation is not correct. I for one do not want to see the Calvary Chapel movement of churches “die.” You are right however, the movement is simply a vessel through which God works. My hope is that we see that work reinvigorated, yes?
As always, Don, you are a blessing!
Re: “see that work reinvigorated” Amen! Lord, light the fire again!
“If My people…….”
I could not agree more Don, Father help us to live by, with and in Your Holy Spirit and give us an ever great hunger for you Lord and for your Word of truth. I sure do miss you brother… Love to Desiree
Miles, challenging article.
Here’s something I’m wondering; I don’t know that it can be answered, but I would like your perspective, or that of other readers here.
What responsibility do the students/young people themselves have, simply in that they often seem completely uncurious about the the Christian world around them? I’m wondering if things like social media, entertainment, and general business absorb all their interest.
I’m just remembering my own young years. No one had to tell me about different Christian groups, movements, and theological opinions; I was curious about them on my own.
That really is a great point and good question. Perhaps it truly is an issue of calling.
Ever since I determined, as a sophomore in high school, that I wanted to serve the Lord, I’ve had a genuine desire to know as much as I possibly can about God and His word. That desire has meant the study of all kinds of sources from many different channels. I guess I don’t often see the same commitment from very many, which is bothersome.
I think that your thought definitely makes sense for students at the Bible College, but what about the larger movement? I think you have a good gauge of the pulse of CC. Am I being overly critical?
Another question. With your background, having attended CCBC, when the program was more like 1 semester than 4. And then directing an extension campus for 7 years? What differences did you observe that could be beneficial to add to the program now. Would you say that your intern looks more like CCBC of old?
David / Miles — I’ve done an unofficial mental survey of many CC pastors I know personally from this blog and other blogs and from personal relationships. What I’ve come to realize is that almost without fail we are all like you and Miles have described: self-starters when it comes to theology, history, doctrine, and other knowledge profitable for the ministries we’ve been called to. Mind you, there are definitely many who are not like that, but the ones that I know are similar in thinking to myself, Miles, and several others on this blog who DO know much more that just the basic CC Distinctives and their study has been either on their own or outside of an official CC school.
I wonder if this dynamic is the same in other groups, denominations, or “non-denominations”. Is it somewhat of a universal truth regardless of denomination or theological bent? Are there those who know the “company line” really well and not much else, and then those who have made a point of expanding their knowledge and understanding?
I think there’s something there.
Another question: Has there been a growing trend towards the discouragement of interest into other traditions, denominations, etc? I think there has. I have personally experienced the discouraging remarks of fellow leaders and pastors when I’ve talked about reading various Orthodox theologians, or certain authors, etc. The response has often been along the lines of “You better be careful with that stuff”, etc. I’m not a big fan of Neo-Augustinian/Calvinist theology, but I have been deeply impressed and challenged by a lot of guys who are. I remember a few years ago when Mark Driscoll was supposed to speak at the Youth Leaders conference. People were freaking out, and I couldn’t understand why they were so upset. I was blessed by his short recorded clip, and I’m not a big Driscoll fan.
I know growing up, the general attitude of a lot of the Calvary people was negative towards anything that wasn’t Calvary. Imagine my surprise to find that not only were there a lot of people who passionately loved Jesus outside Calvarys, but that there was a 2,000 year old stream of Faith that I could draw from, not just a 40 year old one.
I suppose what I’m trying to articulate is that I hope (and intend to encourage them to) that the younger guys coming up will explore the wider stream of orthodoxy for themselves. If we believe that Scripture is true, and that a correct exegesis of Scripture will lead to a correct understanding of Scripture, and that the Holy Spirit will teach, then I think we can relax a little.
One last thought on my little ramble here: I don’t think we need to knock down the walls that separate us from the different expressions of Christianity completely, but I think they should be low enough for us to give a handshake and maybe a hug over the top of them, and maybe it’s time that Calvary become a little more aggressive in pursuing those handshakes and hugs…
Really appreciated your little ramble; my thinking exactly.
there you go again Dave….speaking the truth….sorry we could never hook up in europe…
Miles, first of all, congrats are your daughter’s birth… always great, even with a loss of sleep.
I’ve been with the CC movement for about 40 years, watched it grow, then ebb… insular is an accurate word, unfortunately. Having lived outside my home culture (as you also have), though still involved with CC ministry, I’ve been concerned about the myopic, nostalgic, “circle the wagons” mentality. We’re not cutting edge, not even close.
But what really concerns me is what you & others addressed… the lack of depth in teaching nowadays. You can’t just parrot Chuck (& others). Chuck was my first pastor & I’m deeply indebted to him for my grounding in the Word & ministry of grace. But, it’s hard to move on beyond his center of gravity & I’m not sure the movement (as a whole) can do that. God’s church, however, can and will move on. My hope is that we’ll move with Him.
Thanks! Sitting with the new little one right now.
As a “young guy” in the movement it’s incredibly hard to constantly be reminded about what God did 40 years ago, as if the greatness of His work is done.
You said, “it’s hard to move on beyond his [Chuck Smith’s] center of gravity & I’m not sure the movement (as a whole) can do that.” I think you’re right, it is hard to move beyond that gravity. Is it possible? It certainly will be difficult.
40 years,an interesting number… God had Moses lead all thoes people through the desert for 40 years…mabey Chuck Smith was meant to be a type of Moses :). And I have a hunch that Chuck Smith would proably agree with everything you are saying, and that people would only see Jesus when he preached, that’s a good thing… I feel a little out of place here! I’m mearly one of the sheep in the fold. I do think it is important to listen to other points of view, the Lord has been known to speak through the unconventional vessel (even a donkey!), but I believe it is utmost important to weigh ‘everything’ we take in, by the word of God. Reading your article and the responses, it would almost seem that the Holy Spirit is ‘stirring up hearts’..and again, that’s a good thing, we don’t have a complacent God! He doesn’t sleep, He moves…yet never changes! Also, we enjoyed having you as our pastor at CCesco, if only for a short time, I got fed very will there, when coming back to the Lord, thank you… I am now attending CCMurrieta… congratulations on your new baby girl!!, prayers for you and the family.
Trip/Miles – I see this a bit differently than it seems you do. Though I grew up in So. Cal., my Christian years have been in Nor Cal and I was a CC pastor when there were literally only a handful in the Bay Area. I have never been in an area where Pastor Chuck is idolized and his style is the template for ministry. Up here it’s ‘Chuck who?’ ‘Calvary what?’
I think what Chuck has given to the movement very much moves us beyond his center of gravity even now. Whatever else can be said of CC, we are very theologically conservative, Christ centered, Bible anchored, Spirit filled. The movement as a whole today isn’t held in the orbit of Chuck’s gravity, but in Christ’s gravity. For the vast majority of CCs, if Chuck were to die tonight, nothing would change in their ministry. Yes, there will be splintering, but not division. There will be attempts to redefine who/what we are, but most of the pastors will blow that off – we know who and what we are, that’s why we’re CC in the first place. There will be bickering and posturing, but the center will hold precisely because we’re not in Chuck’s gravity. Just because Chuck is at the ‘top’ doesn’t mean he’s at the center.
well said Tim…Chuck is just the top…I never went to bible college..just helped build one…it’s Christ and Christ alone..i’m not really interested in that other stuff but there is some credibility to the comments…and the church seems to be wrapped up in the stuff and not Christ…my Calvinist friends mostly think i am lost and yet the Baptists over here think i am a Calvinist…i liker baked potatoes and mashed potatoes…the raw ones are the ones i don’t care for…thus i don’t use (associate with) them..i too love Don..and i’ve listened carefully to him…i am not a theologian b/c of what it seems to infer…i preach Christ and him crucified…
Miles, this has been one of my favorite posts on Crossconnection. I feel that you hit the nail on the head. I’m a recent “convert” to CC through Pastor Kellen’s church plant in Utah, and I’ve really fallen in love with the CC movement. I’m kind of weird within CC, as I’ve listened to probably everything Driscoll has put online on the one hand, and days of David Guzik’s preaching on the other. I’m not a Calvinist or a reformed guy, but I love and appreciate and glean from many who are.
That being said, you’re right that the movement as a whole needs a catalyzing moment where things get redefined on a cultural level (per John 17). Your comments on the movement are (at least, from my perspective) spot on. Many CC’s fall into the trap of contextualizing to the wrong decade and becoming inflexible.
Here’s what I also see, though. Pastors within the CC movement like Pastor Kellen, Daniel Fusco, etc. who are very much aware of other movements and willing to glean from them. Pastor Kellen’s eldership application included books by Driscoll as well as standards by John Walvoord, Brian Brodersen, and others. I see the stirrings of a fresh work from within CC that addresses many of your legitimate concerns. I’m really excited to be CC! A good dose of perspective and fresh work on excellently contextualizing and being missional, and CC will continue to explode. I see that happening, and it encourages me greatly.
Thanks for your honesty. I’ve had the same stirrings as it seems you’re having. Grace and Peace.
Great observations. I do think that God is still working within Calvary, both among larger, well established (i.e. older) Calvary’s and among a younger group of new leaders/churches.
A willingness to glean from those outside the walls of CC is [I believe] very important. I know a number of guys who’ve been apart of CC much longer than I’ve been around, and they tell me of attending Sproul’s Ligonier’s conferences or Hayford’s pioneering pastors conferences back in the 80’s and 90’s. Today if you openly attend an Acts29 conference or Desiring God, Together for the Gospel, or Ligonier’s you may be branded a heretic.
A little disconcerting if you ask me.
Yeah, that’s mad. Those are our brothers and sisters. We have Gospel unity with them, as well as unity around more secondary things than we generally admit or focus on. Just look at Mark Driscoll’s preaching: It’s expository and verse-by-verse through books of the Bible. For sure, there are issues where we part ways, but they have a lot of wisdom that could grow CC just as CC has a lot of wisdom that could grow Acts29.
Again, thanks for the article. This is a great discussion and one that needs to happen among more CC leaders.
I have spoken in about a thousand churches from many denominations, and can say that what you are saying about Calvary’s is very common. People belong to certain streams because they believe that that stream is the one with sound doctrine. The irony is that each stream has different doctrine. God is bigger than our denominations (and non-denominations). God bless you Miles.
Definitely an irony. I’m very glad that God is bigger than [non]denominations.
Ray, this is off topic, but are you the Ray Comfort behind 180 Movie? If so, I want to say thanks for the work you’re doing. The movie is excellent. I love your heart to not just share an argument against abortion (certainly a worthwhile endeavor), but also for the Gospel. Jesus is glorified by your ministry.
This is an intimidating post to jump into. First, I am not a Calvary Chapel pastor, although I have been influenced significantly by the Calvary Chapel denomination. I know this is not an endorsed statement by Calvary Chapel, but it is in fact the reality. I would even argue that Calvary Chapel is just as much of a denomination as the Southern Baptist Convention which I am currently affiliated. I know that statement might get more of a backlash than Miles’ article, but the simple reality is I can invite just about anyone to any event, but I cannot attend many Calvary Chapel events (namely the pastor’s conference) as a non-Calvary Chapel pastor. Much of the dialogue has related to Calvary Chapel people isolating themselves more accidentally than intentionally. Based on my experience, Calvary Chapel has also excluded those who want to be a part of what God was doing…or at least this was my experience trying to plant a Calvary Chapel church back in 2004 coming out of Horizon and The Rock.
The irony in Miles’ post is that I have heard it said that Chuck Smith coined this phrase, or one similar to it, “It starts with a man, then a mission, to a machine, and then to a monument.” I basically read Miles’ post and thought he was saying that Calvary Chapel is at or is approaching a serious cross roads with going from being a machine to being a monument. Something, I believe, Chuck himself doesn’t want to happen.
I also think Ray is correct. Many of these issues are common to many churches and denominations around the world. I also think the reality is that most denominations become stale and die. From the outside looking in, I think it will be interesting to see what happens to Calvary Chapel following Chuck Smith. From my perspective, I would love to see a network spring up like Acts29 that would be a catalyst for nonreformed church planters that are currently excluded from the Acts29 network.
Okay, time to get back to work…Sunday is coming quickly!
“I would love to see a network spring up like Acts29 that would be a catalyst for non-reformed church planters that are currently excluded from the Acts29 network.”
Gunnar, you bring up a good point. We have some funny things happening within the Calvary Chapel Fellowship of churches. I would think that a perfect place for a potential church planter to become more acquainted with the ministry of CC would be at the CC Pastor’s Conferences, but many of them are off limits to those who are not on “the list.”
Just so you know, you can attend our church any time Gunnar. 🙂
Thanks Miles, I have enjoyed the children’s ministry the last three weeks! 😉
I have always thought that the Pastor’s Conference was limited to CC guys because of space. Is this not the case?
Miles, New Breed Church Planting is only small, but we started it in the UK as an alternative for guys who followed the same missiology and idealogy as A29, and not necessarily the same theology. I love the A29 guys, and we actually had reformed and nonreformed guys in our network. Our whole approach is that those secondary points shouldn’t matter and the gospel should always come first. IN the end, imagine what could happen when you get guys like Whitefield, Wesley, Spurgeon and Parker all to work together. Smith, Hybels, Driscoll, Warren, and Keller? Superteams…not “I follow Paul”. Anyways, for what it’s worth, if anybody is looking for a network that dismisses secondaries and focuses on primaries, check out http://www.newbreedcp.org
Definitely appreciate this approach! It’s incredibly unfortunate when secondaries become primary. We miss so much when this is the case.
I hate to say it but CC saying its not a denomination is just dishonest, or at least disnenius, also its become a lot like Rome. Why the fear of a different end times scenario? Why the fear of “reformed” teaching, we can see the fruits and roots of the reformation reclaimed the gospel, do CC pastors realize they share a common ommrade in the RCC and english church which killed believers who wanted to get the gosoel out? Its beyond clear that CC’s goal is to keep pews filled by not straying to extremes, whats the flaw in that? Jesus himself told his apostles the truth trumps feelings and asked them if they wanted to leave? (john 6)
Tim, I am an outsider speculating, but I doubt that because of two reasons:
1) There are always larger venues that can handle more people.
2) We were turned away when trying to plant a church in 2004. There wasn’t even a track to enter if you were not immediately from a Calvary Chapel church (we, my father-in-law and myself, had left Horizon to help Miles start the Rock, and then ended up at an E-Free church for a year helping out during a transition). We ended up planting “The Chapel” and associating with the SBC. Their process was pretty simple but I will spare you the details.
I am just an outsider though and have no idea about the details.
Gunnar, I don’t about other regional CC conferences, but the one in September at Mt. Hermon Conference Center in the Santa Cruz Mountains is open registration. Consider this an invite. I’ll buy you an ice cream cone!
You were turned away because of not being sponsored by a CC church?
We’ve had this problem a number of times down at the June conference at Murrieta. It may be because it tends to be packed, but we have been told that if the pastor was not on the CCOF list they could not come. In fact I had a difficult time coming in 2008 having just taken over CCE, my name was not on the CCOF list yet and it wasn’t certain until about a week before whether they’d let me come.
Miles, you had a hard time in 2008? My guess is you might have a harder time this year after this blog! 😉
Tim, free ice cream? I’m in! In fairness, there are many CC events that are open…like the Men’s Conference etc. I think my point with the pastor’s conference is that there seems to be intentional isolation and CC is a denomination even though the term is frowned upon.
I guess it is fair to call it a turn away, it was more like “there really isn’t a way in” from a friend who is a senior pastor. It was during the same era of the 10 mile radius rule if that helps. It really isn’t that big of a deal as I believe it was more of a God thing. I am totally happy with the SBC…no they are not perfect, but they believe strongly in the autonomy of local church.
LOL… I hope not.
I have to say that as a “Neo-Reformed” guy, I have always loved Calvary Chapel for planting churches and plugging people into the Bible and always will. I have many friends who have roots in a Calvary and were definitely blessed by them. Just this afternoon, I enjoyed some teaching from Jon Courson in the Book of Hebrews.
As you said, Calvary Chapel will always be known for church planting before it was trendy and discipling people through the teaching of the Word. I look forward to seeing what the Lord will do in the life of the CC movement over the next few years.
Miles, you said: “There was a time where defining exactly what a Calvary Chapel was wasn’t entirely easy, but those on the outside of the movement couldn’t argue against what they were witnessing. Sinners were being saved and transformed into saints who went on to plant churches, lots of them; and many of them became the largest in the nation.”
That is true, as I can remember those earlier days. What is also true is that when we are focused today on saving sinners and transforming church planting saints, we won’t be able to easily identify those with whom we would argue. That will not be the issue at that time.
I resonated with much of your article, Miles. I didn’t agree with all of it (I’m with Tim on his arguments re: the use of Chuck tapes), but you have boldly characterized what has come to be true of too many of us. As Terry wrote, “It is worthy of much consideration, prayer, repentance and action.”
I’m in the middle of nowhere. Literally; between Bakersfield & Fresno! I would dare say that a majority of our people, especially the younger ones, are familiar with the movements you mentioned, e.g., Acts29. I’m finding it a little hard to believe that in today’s connected, socially-networked world, the Bible College students would be so sheltered!
Having said that, I think the college is the perfect place to discuss a broader ecclesiology & various viewpoints on eschatology.
I’m not one to be able to speak about the movement as a whole, but I can speak for myself. Let’s take the issue of Reformed Theology as an example. Yeah, I’ve been forced to speak out against certain aspects of it. Is it because I am weird & grumpy & defensive? I sure hope not!
It’s because those who hold the Reformed position are the ones who do not wish to co-exist. Typical situation: Someone ‘converts’ to Reformed Theology. Instead of sharing Christ with nonbelievers they go around sharing Calvin with believers. Believers get wounded & confused and look to their pastor & leaders for clarification.
In my limited experience, the grumpy, dissenting individuals are in the movements outside of Calvary Chapel, trying to convert us!
Keep up the good work, brother!
I totally agree with you on the Reformed proselytizing of believers… very disconcerting.
Also, I was quite surprised that a group of well connected, socially networked college students wouldn’t know about things happening in the larger body of Christ, too. That’s why I mention it.
good article. open criticism – especially from within, motivated by loving concern – is something that we should welcome, not just tolerate.
i appreciate this website, helpful stuff! keep it up, guys!
Thanks for your post. If the bulk of what students at CCBCs are doing is digesting sermons, they would be better served doing that while being mentored by a pastor or missionary and immersing themselves in ministry. The value of the academic experience is learning analytical and communication skills, building relationships and expanding horizons.
I think the big mistake in the CC movement was when it decided from the beginning to become “Know it All” (KIA) as to eschatology. As to other unclear issues, most especially Calvinism vs. Armenianism, Chuck Smith refused to take sides. Of course in the seventies, it all seemed so clear.
By staying KIA about eschatology, the vulnerable in the CC movement quickly succumb to the A29s, the Pipers and McArthurs of this world. Such are KIA about every part of theology especially the disputed parts. As their adherents push their various versions of systematic theology, the doctrines of men, and use the weaknesses in Pre-Trib teaching as opening, many CC types become turned and follow them into the woods on every other issue as well.
I hope that CC will eventually become consistent in the sense that it will stop being KIA about eschatology as it already is in other unclear areas. There is certainly more than enough to engage us in the certainties of God’s Good News, the need to become increasingly like Christ, and the urgency of the great commission.
I LOVE Calvary Chapel and Pastor Chuck they have changed my life forever. It does seem what Miles is saying is a relevant discussion for today. As I look at how few pastors, missionaries we are birthing, we have to wonder what is wrong??? The book of Acts has the complete solutions. It is surely time to take a new look at how we do ministry.
Miles, you’re right where God wants you and it’s great to see the directions he’s leading you in. Keep at it!
Miles, I agree with much of what you said in this article. Especially about Calvary Chapel being known for what we are against, rather than what we are for and it has saddened me to watch it happen over the years. I have a little different perspective about the Chuck tracks as one who has also taught at the Bible College and is not yet old and grumpy. 🙂 You listed some negatives; I want to list some positives.
#1 It does teach the students a discipline of having to work through the entire Bible on tape. When I was first called into ministry, I studied through the Bible using a Matthew Henry Commentary that someone gave me.
Sure, it was one perspective, but it taught me a good discipline and did give me a good foundation in my knowledge of the scriptures.
#2 To me, one of the key elements in listening to Pastor Chuck is his simple approach to God’s Word. Pastor Chuck is a gifted Bible teacher, but he is not the most gifted or polished communicator (I hope no one misunderstands my point here.) There are plenty of men in our movement who are gifted communicators such as: Bob Coy, Greg Laurie, and Skip Hietzig, just to name a few. Bob and Greg can talk on just about anything and make it interesting and enjoyable to listen to. Pastor Chuck does not have that same gift, which is a huge benefit to all of us who do not have those gifts either. You see, as a young man called into ministry, I would listen to Bob Coy or Greg Laurie and think, “I could never do that. I can’t talk and command a crowd the way that they do.” However, when I would listen to Pastor Chuck or Pastor Brian Brodersen, I would think, “maybe I could do that. Maybe God could use me in that way.” One of the reasons I believe both Pastor Chuck and Pastor Brian have seen so many men called out of their churches to plant new churches is that their simple approach instilled within us a confidence in God and in the power of His Word to use, even the weakest of vessels.
I believe listening to “Chuck tracks” will have the same affect on the students at the Bible College if they take it seriously and do not listen at 2x speed, just to ‘fulfill’ the requirement. Listening at double speed is the bigger issue to me.
#3 You indicate that, because Chuck’s messages were recorded in 1970’s and 80’s it creates a cultural frame of reference that is about 30-40 years outdated. Couldn’t the same be said about reading a commentary or sermon by Spurgeon, Llyod Jones, or Ironside? The fact is, if the Lord tarries another 100 years, the church might refer to Pastor Chuck in the same sentence as the names I just mentioned. His impact has been far reaching and has spanned test of time.
#4 The Elephant Room vs. the Dinosaur Room. I watched the DVD’s of the first Elephant Room, which I thought were enjoyable for the most part.
However, what troubled me was, aside from Greg Laurie and James MacDondald, most of the guys in the room had been “Lead Pastors” for 10 years or less. These are the men that young guys and Bible College students across the globe are looking to them for direction and insight and they are commanding large audiences at conferences. The problem I see is that their ministries have not yet stood the test of time. Example: Acts 29 boasts of being a church planting organization, but somewhere in the neighborhood of 60% of the churches in their network are not church plants but guys who have left their denominations to become an Acts 29 network church. I think a close look at the network would reveal there is far less ‘church planting’ going on as there is ‘church shifting.’ I don’t mean that as a knock, just a simple fact that there has not yet been enough time to judge the real effectiveness of their movement. But take some of the Dinosaurs of the Faith that are still around today such as Pastor Chuck and guys like Warren Wiersbe, as well as some of the guys who have since gone home to be with the Lord, there is a great benefit in our young people being exposed to these men and their ministries.
All of that to say that I believe our young Bible College students could learn a lot about heart, integrity, simplicity, reliance upon the Holy Spirit, loving Jesus and an overall balanced look at scripture by seriously listening to Pastor Chuck teach through the Bible.
I could give several more reasons but I will stop there. There is a rich history in Calvary Chapel that needs to be preserved, as we head into the future seeking the Lord’s direction to minister to the changing culture around us.
These are really good points you bring up! 2, 3 and 4 really resonate with me too.
While the words I wrote might present some negative observations, they were not in anyway written from a heart of negativity. My sincerest desire is to encourage us to continue plodding the path and promoting growth. I, and many my age, desire to see God move in and through CC in our generation as those who came before us did in theirs.
Thanks for the comments… truly appreciate them.
Good word Rob…
Definitely a thought provoking article, and I have to say a lot of what you say makes sense. Have you been able to talk to Dave Shirley or Chuck Smith about this? There is a theology class where we are taught the essentials using the Bible, and that class was definitely an excellent class, but it seems a class about things that divide the church (eschatology, calvinism vs. arminiasm, etc.) where we look at each position, look at how they support their position using the bible, and see if the doctrine is correct or false. Of course the teacher may be biased toward a certain doctrine, the one he believes correct, but I think that it’s definitely important to see why others believe the way they do, and use the Bible as the final authority rather than a mans word. If the teachers do this, and be completely honest about how other people support their doctrines (which I can’t see being much of a problem), I think it would work. I think currently Joe Holden (the apologetics, theology, Ecclesiastes, and bibliology teacher) would be the perfect teacher for this. This would not only cover the problem of ignorance of other Christians unique beliefs, it would cover the problem of repeating things because “Chuck said it”, and instead we’d be able to truthfully say we believe it because the Bible says it.
I’m currently a second semester student at CCBC and enjoy it a lot. It’s stimulated the love of studying the Bible in me, something I wish I’d started doing much earlier in life. A class like this would be an excellent addition, and maybe someone like you (as a teacher there and a Calvary Chapel pastor) would be able to suggest this type of thing to the the higher ups of the school, like Dave Shirley and Chuck Smith.
Late on the bandwagon with this one, as I’ve only now just read it. Thanks for asking this question. It seems that to ask such questions is often viewed as ‘uncalvary’. But these are important questions. I remember listening to one Chuck track several years back where he tells a joke about the Church of Christ and when they get to heaven, they think they are the only ones there. I don’t think this is the case with Calvary, but there is a certain elitism that is attached to our detachment from the wider body of Christ. By only listening to our voice and claiming that we HAVE the balanced view of Scripture, we become deaf to those outside our movement. Sometimes it takes voices from the outside to point out blind-spots that are inside. If we become the standard by which orthodox Christianity is measured, we may be in danger of what Paul warned about in 2 Corinthians 10:12, “…they, measuring themselves by themselves, and comparing themselves among themselves, are not wise.”
We need the wider body of Christ to speak to us and challenge us. Rather than being defensive, we need to listen. We also need to listen to those in the movement who are giving some push back (such as your post). How will we grow if we are not challenged? But the challenge works two ways. It either makes us defensive so that we are more concerned with being right than being ‘righted’. Or it makes us humble, where we respect others and allow some of our views to become more generous and open-handed, and even strengthening our positions, but with a gracious and humble spirit.
I wonder if one of the reasons for this is because of the movement’s success, we no longer needed to network with other local evangelical churches because a) there was another Calvary nearby that we networked with or b) the Calvary church becomes so big that it ignores the little guys. For us here in the Europe, we need to band with other evangelical churches. We are small lighthouses in a swell of pluralistic waves. Our structures may be different, but we are all shining the same life-saving Light of the world, and thus appreciate and need one another.
Good thoughts, Matt. Thanks for posting. I think of Medad and Eldad prophesying in the camp.
Thanks for the words of encouragement.
Certainly God is doing great things through many within the Calvary movement. My prayer has been and will continue to be that we, in our generation, will see God do as great and greater things among Calvary’s, as those who came before us. I hope that dialog like this will in some way encourage growth, as it isn’t meant to tear down.
It definitely is true that we need to find ways to work alongside those from other streams within the larger body of Christ to effectively reach the culture of the day. It’s far more evident in places where there are fewer Calvary Chapels, like Europe.
D+ Ouch!That seems like a pretty harsh grade for someone who is a pastor within the movement. Although I do agree with some of the things you say especially that we need to receive from those who are outside and have a different perspective and can show us some of our blind spots. I think a B- might be a more accurate grade, we do need to grow as a movement especially in the area of larger more established churches being more pro-active in church planting. I think the fact that you grew up in Calvary maybe gives you a different perspective than my own. Having been part of a Pentecostal denomination for many years and then ten years with an interdenominational ministry before finally finding my home in Calvary 17 yrs ago I can tell you that every movement or denomination thinks that “THEY” are “THEE” movement it just comes with the turf,people always think their team is the best it’s part of Human nature. I think also it’s not possible to make broad statements about CC by the fact that every fellowship is independent and self governing. The only broad statements that can be made is regarding the doctrinal foundations that we all embrace (we are not Calvinists)I personally know probably 100+ CC pastors and my experience has been that they have a heart for the whole body of Christ and not just Calvary. As for our students not knowing who Mark Driscoll is I think that is something to rejoice about seeing the very questionable aspects of his ministry. I agree with Rob Salvato we have so many good solid bible teachers within our own movement men who have stood the test of time. Thanks for doing this site it’s a great format for Iron to sharpen iron!
Think about you guys in Italy often! I’m hoping that I have a chance to be out that way again in the not too distant future.
As I said in the article, the title is a bit provocative. I recognize the harshness of it and actually would probably retile it “Calvary Chapel 3D” if I rewrote it. The “D” came more from the 3 “d’s” in the article than a true grade. I agree that there are many, many good things happening within Calvary, and as I think I’ve mentioned in the comments, my hope is to stir us on in the next generation. I sincerely desire to see God work through this movement in my generation as He has in previous generations. So, like you said, “Iron to sharpen iron.”
You are totally correct, every movement, denomination or non-denomination has a “They are thee movement” perspective. I think Brian Brodersen’s recent article at CalvaryChapel.com highlights well the desire that I also have, as it relates to our interactions with others in the larger body of Christ. But, these are not always easy lessons for us to learn.
hey miles –
just came across this site a couple weeks ago. i appreciated a lot of the thoughts in this article. pretty spot on, unfortunately. as a pastor in europe, i have to say that i do feel the critiques apply more to the CC’s in the states perhaps than in other countries, and yet i’ve seen it over here to a degree as well. i was talking with another couple CC pastors recently (also transplanted americans) about these unfortunate trends. i think a big part of it is a loss of the sense of mission, or perhaps a lack of clear vision for the movement. one of the reasons A29 is attractive to many young guys is that it is forward-looking and clear in vision. too often, as many pastors’ conferences stateside have proven to me, CC is looking back to “the good, old days” as much as (or more than?) it is looking forward… to such a degree that we feel compelled to have the same bands that were cutting edge in the 70’s come and play the same songs that are now older than the new generation of church planters are, and share testimonies more from decades ago than from what God is doing NOW. btw, i feel this is less the case in europe where there is less “looking back” possible since the movement is younger here. yes, we should rejoice in the great things God has done through our movement in the past, but as soon as we become focused more on the past than the future, we begin to die as a movement (aka, “grumpy, old man syndrome”.) as soon as we surrender to the idea that “our greatest days are behind us”, we will continue losing the younger generation to movements with strong vision for the future. i am, however, very encouraged to see some CC pastors stepping up and trying to recapture our sense of vision/mission with things like CCPN and hear other CC leaders speaking positively about the work of God in other tribes and even cooperating with them. there are obviously some serious changes coming sooner rather than later in the leadership of the CC movement, and i pray that we, as a movement, will use these unique opportunities to breathe new vision into CC.
I got saved and attended CCESCO since I was in HS. I was taught by Miles and Josh and consider them the biggest role models in my life. When I have walked away (ran away) from the Lord, their love for me has always been in the back of my mind. With that being said, only knowing the CC movement I have always had a hard time with the charismatic gifts. My KJV bible talks about all these gifts that I have never seen. It was like the CC movement always had an excuse as why no one would speak in tongues, or this and that. About a year ago I met a christian wh went to The Summit in San Marcos, CA and they had a career aged group called the Crux and I was invited to go. I hadn’t been to a church in a while at that time, and I felt kinda weird about going to a non CC church. So I went and at first I was sitting there watching everyone worship with so much passion and charisma. I could really feel the Spirit there like nothing I had experienced at CCESCO. In the back of my mind I was still fighting it like it was wrong for me to be here. Then something happened to me that blew me away. I felt the Spirit calling me to go up to the front for prayer. I had been in such a low place and I was being drawn to get some prayer. I went up to the front and fell on my face and two women came over and started praying for me. In one ear, I could hear one of the women just start speaking in tongues, and in my other ear, interpretation. I was halfway freaked out by it, and the other half of me was being blessed. I have never met these people and they were praying for things I only knew in my heart I needed prayer for. I was weeping and I had never felt anything like the sort. To this day I have never felt that before. In all honesty it was the start of me slowly walking back to the Lord. I never went back because I still was fighting the whole, its not a CC so it must not be where I should be going. The message after the worship session was spot on and really spoke to my heart. It was actually about fellowship and crossing denominational or church movement lines. Like if God was telling me it was ok to be there. My friend who invited me has witnessed healing’s that are beyond anything I have heard of on mission trips in Africa. I still had all these doubts in my head, especially after being told the Lord had grown back a finger that was cut off with in hours of the incident, or people declared dead, coming back to life after a few people started laying hands on them and praying in the Spirit. I still have my doubts, and I dont know if that is just because of my CC upbringing? I pray the Lord will take those doubts away because the Lord himself did all those things, the apostiles did those things, and the Spirit is still alive today. I feel so interested in witnessing these type of things and wish for more passion. I think this is where CC falls short. I listen to Pastors Perspective every day and people call in all the time about the speaking in tongues or healing, and I feel like Chuck just says something non relevant and goes to the next caller. I always have enjoyed Chucks teachings, but I almost feel bad for him when I see him on the live webcasts. He has a hard time with his thoughts, and I just know thats from his health right now. I pray for him because his movement has brought me to the Lord, and I know he is a kind man who loved the Lord, and has been blessed beyond measure. I dont agree with his my way or the highway view of the Church though. I would like to challenge anyone who hasn’t attended another denomination or church movement to just try it sometime. The Lord just might bless the experience. And with all things, we should test those spirits with the Scriptures.
Pastor Rob….a word fitly spoken.. thank you