Staying the Course

Golden Springs Calvary Chapel Conference
A panel of pastors discuss ministry topics at the Golden Springs Calvary Chapel West Coast Conference.

Joy abounds as the Calvary Chapel Association leaders share their vision to stay the course

Story by Christmas Beeler
Photos by Tom Price

Pastor Raul Ries of Calvary Chapel Golden Springs shares about his relationship with Pastor Chuck Smith at the Stay the Course ConferenceWith the eyes of more than 1,400 people on him, Pastor Raul Ries of CC Golden Springs, CA, began to explain what the late Pastor Chuck Smith had meant to him. As the memories returned of Chuck’s kindness and confidence in a much younger, lesser-known Raul whom Chuck ordained in 1975, Raul stopped mid-sentence, choking back tears. A hush fell across the large sanctuary, interrupted by Pastor Mike MacIntosh of Horizon Christian Fellowship making a joke to ease the tension: “Chuck and Raul were very close. I love that Raul is so transparent. But he’s wasted a lot of money on those [martial arts] lessons.”

Raul laughed as tears cascaded down; finally, his voice returned weakly: “Pastor Chuck gave me an opportunity. I never had opportunities; I was always on my own. …He taught me how to love because all of my life, I hated people. He taught me, and these guys taught me, how to love.” He looked at the other men on stage with him at the 2017 Calvary Chapel Association’s West Coast Pastors Conference in April. As hundreds of CC pastors watched in the large blue-lit auditorium and online from around the world, the panel attempted to articulate their calling and purpose in leading the Calvary Chapel Movement since Chuck’s passing in October of 2013.

Remembering Pastor Chuck

Pastor David Rosales agreed: “When I looked at Pastor Chuck, I saw him as a model that I wanted to be like one day. That was ‘dad’—and that was my spiritual father.” He added, “We are supposed to be loving, like a family. We love Jesus together—that’s what Chuck taught us to do. We’re called to love each other; that’s what Jesus said.” He cited John 13:35, which says, By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.

David added, “I want to give honor to Pastor Chuck—to thank God for Chuck Smith and his ministry in our lives. He was our pastor.” Suddenly, the entire room erupted in thundering applause, with many standing, smiling, shouting ‘Amen!’—even laughing or crying.

Pastor Damian Kyle of CC Modesto, CA, added, with great emotion, “Like a lot of people in Calvary, I got to know Chuck from a distance at first through his cassette tape teachings. … I watched him like a hawk, how he carried himself. He was one of the most influential men of my life. … I needed a father figure; I wasn’t looking for one, but I needed one—spiritually. He never asked me or anyone I knew to compromise. We have a deep respect for him. The Lord used him. He saved my life.”

Pastor Mike MacIntosh was one of Pastor Chuck’s first young intern pastors in 1972. He recalled, “We respect Pastor Chuck; we don’t idolize him. He recognized when God was working, and he stood back and let us be ourselves. He forced you to go to the Lord. It was enjoyable being on his staff. He saw [ministry] life as just being one with Jesus—no hierarchy. Just be yourself and fall in love with Jesus.”

“We respect Pastor Chuck; we don’t idolize him. He recognized when God was working, and he stood back and let us be ourselves."

Another early intern of Chuck’s, Pastor Don McClure recalled how, as the Calvary Chapel Movement grew, Chuck took a lot of criticism from different groups through the years for his stance on various issues—splits within the fellowship, teaching the Word of God, Calvinism, and the working of the Holy Spirit. “We’ve been together for 40 years, and we…always had a father figure. He had that strength. Chuck was like this ship that went through these huge waves…. He took the heat when people didn’t understand. It’s time for us to come together collectively as one—to know who we are and what we stand for.”

Pastor Damian Kyle prays with for Pastor Tom and Pam Blumberg, from Calvary Chapel Northwest in Bellingham, WA.CCA’s Mission

In July of 2013—less than three months before his passing—Pastor Chuck sent out a letter to all Calvary Chapel pastors affirming the Calvary Chapel Association (CCA) Leadership Council as “my spiritual sons.” The Calvary Chapel founder wrote, “I am confident they will stay the course, honor my vision for ministry, maintain the Calvary Distinctives, and oversee the affiliation with the Lord’s leading and blessing.”

Don McClure recounted how Chuck first asked him to help form the CCA Leadership Council that would oversee regional CC pastors. Shortly into their time as a group, some pastors on the council had disagreements about the future of Calvary Chapel.

Sandy Adams, CC Stone Mountain, Ga, said, “[Some] had different ideas for leading us forward. We [the men here] had a ‘stay the course’ mentality. … The same Calvary Chapel that we received is the same Calvary Chapel we’re going to pass on to the next generation. It doesn’t need to change. We just need to live out the principles that Chuck put in our hearts. …We don’t see anybody as an enemy.” Sandy added that the council members still love those who decided to go another way, and the door is always open for them to return.

Joe Focht of CC Philadelphia recalled when some left the council: “As Christian men, we value unity and loving one another, and we know we are all in need of God’s grace. The separation at the beginning left us scratching our heads; we want to say, ‘Lord … make us wise: to do this in a way that honors You.’”

“The same Calvary Chapel that we received is the same Calvary Chapel we’re going to pass on to the next generation. It doesn’t need to change. We just need to live out the principles that Chuck put in our hearts. … We don’t see anybody as an enemy.”

Sandy emphasized the need to keep the Calvary Chapel Distinctives the same. “Our movement is unprecedented: It’s amazing to see how many Calvary Chapels have been added … and they maintain the same flavor and Distinctives. It’s the work of the Holy Spirit. As long as our [current] relational affiliation process is respected, and there’s one group setting the stage—the CCA Council—then we’re moving in the right direction. There is still freedom for the individual Calvary Chapel pastors.”

Pastor Garid Beeler, Vision City Church, a Calvary Chapel in Irvine, CA, prays for a couple.Speaking of the CCA Leadership Council, Don added, “There’s no leader among us. It’s a wonderful thing being a team where we say mutually, ‘God’s will be done,’ collectively with one voice.”

Sandy added, “Our pastor (Chuck) has asked us to lead our movement in a way that we don’t even lead our own churches. We’re all strong leaders of pastor-driven churches, but now we’ve been asked to come together in a collaborative way and make corporate decisions, and there’s safety in that—for you and for our movement. We come together before we move forward.”

Addressing the assembly of pastors and leaders, Joe said: “There is wonderful accountability. And genuine love comes through accountability—when it’s real, and there’s vulnerability. I’d encourage all of you guys to grow with men that you’re close to and like-minded with.”

Raul urged pastors to follow the Holy Spirit as they lead their own congregations. He added, “Chuck always said, ‘How are you going to finish?’ We’ve seen a lot of men not finish well because they got their eyes off of Jesus, off of reading and teaching [the Word], and off of praying. … God wants us to be humble.”

“We’ve seen a lot of men not finish well because they got their eyes off of Jesus, off of reading and teaching [the Word], and off of praying. … God wants us to be humble.”

Asked about the viability of a movement after its founder has passed, Joe said, “Jesus said, ‘I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it’ (Matthew 16:18b). He [Jesus] was the founder, and here is His church 2,000 years later.” Don added that what Calvary Chapel needs is not a new set of Distinctives, but a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit.

Looking Ahead

After the session, attending pastors expressed gratitude for the CCA council’s openness and clarity. Pastor Randy Leskovar, CC West Seattle, stated, “When dissension increased last fall, I felt like a child of divorcing parents that didn’t know why they were getting divorced.” Now he feels equipped to address his own puzzled congregation. “I feel really good about the guys who are on the CCA board—what they’re doing, where they’re going, and how they want to honor Pastor Chuck. He taught us how to minister to God’s people, teach the Word of God, and be men of God. Now we can move forward, keep doing what we’re doing, and the best is yet to come.”

Pastor Tom Blumberg, CC Bellingham, WA, credited Pastor Chuck and the men on the leadership council for impacting his life and ministry. “We’re looking for unity—not just in word but in real-life application. When we speak about love, it’s very real.” Tom appreciated Joe Focht’s message from 2 Timothy: “Joe spoke of not looking to the left or right—not looking to create some sort of new vision or pursuit—but to be steadfast, immovable, and abounding in the things of the Lord.”

http://calvarycca.org/