Chuck Smith is the senior pastor of Calvary Chapel in Costa
This booklet was transcribed from a message given to the leadership
of Calvary Chapel of West Covina on December 13, 1988.
Philosophy of Ministry of Calvary Chapel
By Chuck Smith
The philosophy of Calvary Chapel concerning the role and function
of the church is found in Ephesians 4:9-13 where Paul speaks about
Jesus Christ Who has ascended into heaven, but He is the One Who
first of all descended into the lower parts of the earth. And
when He ascended, He led the captives from their captivity. And
He gave gifts unto men and gave some to be apostles, to some prophets,
and some evangelists and some pastors and teachers. He then declares
why--for the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry,
for the building up of the body of Christ. We believe that the
church exists primarily for Jesus; to bring pleasure to Him; that
we might be to the praise and glory of His grace. The Lord has
created the church for His own good pleasure, and thus, the church
exists primarily for Him; it is His church. Christ said, "Upon
this rock I will build My church." I am a part of His church.
There is only One Person Who can say, "My church." And that is
Jesus. It is His church. The interesting thing about His church
is that you can't join it. You've got to be born into it. We are
born again by the Spirit of God into the church of Jesus Christ.
It is His church.
What, then, is the purpose of the church? To bring glory to God;
to be God's instrument of ministry to the Lord. But also in a secondary
sense, the church exists for the edifying or the building up of
the saints; to bring the saints into full maturity so that they
might engage in the work of the ministry.
When I was in seminary, Oswald J. Smith, pastor of the Peoples Church
in Toronto, Canada and noted worldwide for being a missionary-minded
church, placed a tremendous emphasis on foreign missions. In the
seminars I attended, I heard him say over and over that the primary
purpose of the church is the evangelization of the world. I heard
him say it so many times that I accepted it as gospel truth. So,
when I began in the ministry, I sought to evangelize the world.
My sermons were always evangelistic sermons. They were always followed
by an invitation, "Bow you heads, close your eyes, and no one looking
around; you who would like to receive Jesus Christ tonight, just
put you hand up and down again." Everything was geared toward evangelism.
I sought to be an evangelist because I felt that the primary purpose
of the church was evangelization of the world. That's what had been
drilled into me.
I soon discovered, however, that the most difficult thing in all
the world is trying to be something that God didn't make you to
be. Paul asked are all apostles, are all prophets, are all evangelists?
The answer is obviously no. Not everybody has the calling of an
evangelist. Not everybody has the calling of a pastor-teacher. Not
everybody has the calling of a prophet. And trying to be something
that God didn't make you is the most difficult thing in the world.
I was trying to be something that I was not called by God to be.
Paul, in opening his letter to the Ephesians, says, "Paul, an apostle
by the will of God." I can buy that. I can say, "Chuck, a pastor-teacher
by the will of God."
It's important that we discover what we are by the will of God.
For years I wanted to be "Chuck, the evangelist, by the will of
Chuck." It was not by the will of God. I was trying to conform myself
to the mold of the denomination in which I was serving. It was a
denomination whose emphasis was on evangelism. Exhortation was held
in higher regard than exposition, thus, they did not encourage the
pastor-teacher role. They expected all the pastors to be evangelists,
so we endeavored to be evangelists. But I was a miserable failure
as an evangelist. My wife sought to help me. She saw frustrations,
and she said, "Honey, you're just not dynamic enough." She said, "Watch
Billy Graham. He just doesn't stand behind the pulpit; he moves
around." She said, "You're going to have to learn how to move around,
be more dynamic." I tried, and it didn't work. I was frustrated,
because I was seeking to be something that God didn't make me to
As I started reading and studying the Word of God, I could not find
the Scripture that said the primary purpose of the church is the
evangelization of the world; I still can't find that Scripture.
But I did find in Ephesians 4 that God has placed gifted men, apostles,
evangelists, prophets, pastor-teachers for the perfecting of the
saints for the work of the ministry, the building up of the body
of Christ. This brought into my life a tremendous philosophical
change as far as my concept of the purpose of the church was concerned.
Rather than seeing the primary purpose as being the evangelization
of the world, I saw that the purpose of the church was for the perfecting
of the saints, making the believers strong, bringing them into maturity,
feeding them, loving them, strengthening them so that they would
be able to engage in the work of the ministry, for I realized that
God has called all of us and placed us into His body and He has
a plan and purpose for each of us. Paul said that the types of men
listed in Ephesians 4 were for the perfecting of the saints, for
the work of the ministry, the building up of the body of Christ,
till we all come to the unity of the faith and the knowledge of
the Son of God, unto the fully matured man, unto the measure of
the stature of the fullness of Christ; that we're no longer like
babes tossed to and fro with every wind of doctrine. But speaking
the truth in love, may grow up into Him in all things which is the
head, even Christ.
So, in changing my philosophy, I no longer preached evangelistic
sermons per se, but began to teach the Word of God in a consistent
way designed to produce growth within the believers.
When I first started out in the ministry, my sermons were all topical
sermons centered around evangelism. I had two years of sermons,
so every two years I would request the bishop for a change of church,
and then I would move to a new area and preach my two years of sermons
again. I did this in four communities until I finally hit Huntington
Beach, California. By this time my older daughter had started school
and personally, I loved Huntington Beach. It was a lovely little
beach community of only 6,000 people at the time, and I began to
really know and like the people. But I was running out of sermons
because preaching topical sermons, it is rather difficult to find
the text. When you're searching through the whole Bible to find
a text to preach on each week, it is difficult because the Bible's
a good-sized book. Every week, though, I found myself going through,
reading until some text really hit me. And of course, I had to have
three sermons every week and it began to get difficult for me to
find my text, especially since it had to be in the area of evangelism.
Once I found a text, I was able to develop it, but finding a text
was always a problem.
I came across a book at that time called the Apostle John, by Griffith
Thomas and in the middle of the book, he had outlined studies of
the book of First John. I began to read his outlined studies of
First John and found that they were great expository outlines of
this little epistle. There were 43 outlines, and I thought, "Wow,
I can spend another year here in Huntington Beach if I just teach
First John." So I announced to the people on a Sunday morning, that
the next Sunday we would begin a study of the First Epistle of John.
The very first thing Griffith Thomas explained in his book is why
John wrote his epistle in the first place: in chapter one he said, "And
these things write we unto you that your joy may be full"; in chapter
two he said, "These things we write unto you that you sin not" and
in chapter five he said, "These things we have written unto you
that ye may know that you have eternal life."
I announced to the people that we were going to begin a study on
First John and I said, "Now, there are three reasons why John wrote
this little epistle. By next Sunday I want you to be able to tell
me the three reasons. When I greet you at the front door when you
come to church, if I ask you three reasons why John wrote that epistle,
I'm expecting you to be able to tell me." I had people calling me
in the middle of the week saying, "We've read the thing through
seven times and we can only find two reasons, are you sure there
are three?" And I said, "I am sure there are three; keep reading." My
sermon that Sunday morning was the purpose of the book. I had three
points: reading the book will give you fullness of joy, freedom
from sin and assurance of your salvation.
There are six places in which John points to Jesus Christ as our
example. So that Sunday I said, "Now next week I want you to find
the six places where John points to Jesus Christ as our example,
and the key words are as he, or even as he. Six places where he
has pointed to Jesus as our example. Find them."
Again the people started reading through the book and it took them
8, 9, 10 times to find all six: if we walk in the light, as He is
in the light, we have fellowship one with another; if we say we
abide in Him, then we ought also to walk even as He walked. He is
our example in our walk. We ought to be walking as He walks, walking
in the light as He is in the light, our example in righteousness
and purity, for we are pure as He is pure, we are righteous as He
is righteous. He said we should love as He commanded us. And finally,
as He is, so are we to be to this world.
The next sermon was false professions that people make. First John
lists seven false professions with the key words if a man says,
or if we say. I said, "Find the false professions that
people are making."
The congregation was reading through the book again, and the following
Sunday, we dealt with the phrase "to know." How do we know what
we know? I had them reading through the book again. Beginning with
1:1 and going straight through the book of First John, I spent a
whole year in the book.
The interesting thing was that in a year's time, the church had
doubled in attendance. I had not given invitations in every
service to accept Christ, but we had more conversions and water
baptisms that year than any previous year. And the exciting thing
was that the people had a greater joy in their walk with the Lord
than they had ever known before. They were experiencing real power
over sin, and they were assured of their salvation.
"As the rain cometh down from the heavens and returns not thither,
but it waters the ground that it might give seed to the sower, and
bread to the eater, so is My word that goes forth out of My mouth,'
saith the Lord, 'it shall not return unto Me void. It shall accomplish
the purposes for which I sent it.'" If God sent us this little epistle
of First John to bring us fullness of joy, to bring us freedom from
sin, and to bring us assurance of salvation, that's exactly what's
going to happen to the people as you teach them that book. God's
Word won't return void. Our words probably will, but His Word won't.
If you are faithful in teaching His Word, it will accomplish the
purpose for which God sent it. And that's why, when you read an
epistle, it is always good to ask yourself, "What is the purpose
of this epistle? Why was it written?" Find the purpose, and then
you'll find out what it is that God is working out in your life
and what you could be expecting to happen as you make a real study
of that epistle or of that gospel.
I was able to stay another year in Huntington Beach, and with the
new church growth it was greater than ever. As I was finishing First
John, I was beginning to develop my own style of expository teaching.
I thought, "What book of the Bible could I tackle in the same way
as First John?" In seminary, I had a professor who told us that
the book of Romans would revolutionize any church. I'd always heard
what a glorious book Romans was but, I have to confess, I had read
it many times and it really didn't turn me on. But I had a lot of
confidence in that professor, and if he said it would revolutionize
any church, I thought it would be fun to be part of a revolution.
So I announced to the people when we came to the end of our study
of First John, "Now, next Sunday we are going to begin a study in
the book of Romans."
I went out and bought all the commentaries I could find on the book
of Romans and I began to develop outline studies similar to the
outline studies I had in First John. I spent two years on Sunday
mornings in the book of Romans. Again, the church doubled; we had
more people saved and more people baptized than we ever had had
before. It was glorious; it was exciting.
I picked up a copy of Halley's Bible Pocket Handbook.
In fact, I made a practice of giving one of these to every new
convert. I've always said the first book you should have in your
library outside of the Bible is Halley's Bible Pocket Handbook.
It's just full of valuable, good, background information, cultural,
archaeological, historical. For a little book, it's got more nuggets
and more facts than any other book I know. So, they came out with
a revised edition, and it had a new cover jacket on the front.
And on this jacket it said, "The most important page in this book
is 867." Now, I had so admired Mr. Halley that I thought, "I wonder
what he considers to be the most important page in this book?" I
mean, I had always gotten a lot of value out of the whole thing.
So I turned to page 867 and there he said, "Every church should
have a method of systematically encouraging the congregation to
read through the whole Bible." And, "Ideally, the pastor's Sunday
morning sermon would come out of the area that they had been reading
the previous week." He gave a suggested reading, so you could
go through the whole Bible in a year. I thought that was just
a little strenuous, but I thought we could go through in two years.
Taking ten chapters a week, fifteen when we get to Psalms, we
could go through the whole Bible in two years. And then the thought
occurred to me, Chuck, you can stay in the church the rest
of your life, if you just start teaching through the Bible.
I discovered that it was much easier to get sermons when I was
confined to one small area for my text, and the quality of the sermons
were much better, for I was able to spend much more consecrated
study on the next text I was going to be speaking from than I did
when I was hodgepodging around the whole Bible. When you have
to find your text within a certain portion of Scripture, it makes
you really push and do some consecrated and valuable studying. So
I took up Mr. Halley's suggestion, taking the people straight through
the Bible and that's been my practice ever since.
At the present time (1989), we are going through the Bible at Calvary
Chapel of Costa Mesa [35,000 members strong!] for the seventh time
with our congregation. I have slowed down considerably. I am only
taking a couple of chapters a week, sometimes three chapters, but
I've really slowed down my pace going through. And I'm loving it
more this time than ever because I am progressively learning more.
The last I went through I slowed down to five chapters a week. Now,
I've slowed down to two sometimes three chapters a week. By the
time I'm through with the present systematic teaching, we will have
a very thorough commentary on the entire Bible because I've made
it a personal practice that every time I go through the Bible I
read a new commentary, or sometimes two or three new commentaries,
so, as a result, I've been able to read most of the major commentaries
on the Bible.
A valuable lesson that I've learned is that the greatest way to
learn is to teach. Once you start teaching, you really start learning,
because you have to take in so much more material than what you
can give out. You've got to take it in and sift through it. You've
got to take in probably ten times the amount that you give out.
So, it's a great way to learn--start teaching.
In the book of Hebrews, chapter six, the author writes, "Therefore,
laying aside the first principles of the doctrines of Christ: the
repentance of dead works, baptisms, laying on of hands; let us go
on into full maturity." Having had an opportunity of looking
back now on my ministry, the 17 years of struggling in the ministry,
compared with the last 23 years of cruising in the ministry, the
struggling years were when I was endeavoring to be an evangelist,
preaching topical sermons. There was a marked transition.
I actually became comfortable with teaching in the fourteenth year
of my ministry.
I don't know if the book of Romans revolutionized the church, but
it did revolutionize me. I was never the same after that. I came
into a new relationship with the Lord that was just primo. It revolutionized
my whole spiritual experience. God just turned me upside down and
inside out. I also realized an important truth through the
book of Romans--when the people become strong and mature in the
Word of God, they then began to be more effective witnesses for
Jesus Christ. Christ became their life. We didn't have to have visitation
nights and witnessing programs anymore. Witnessing became a natural
function, an automatic thing. A witness is not something that you
do; it is something that you are, and when your life is matured
in Christ, your matured spiritual walk is a witness to others.
When I was trying to be an evangelist I discovered that the most
frustrating thing in the whole ministry was to have the Lord lay
on your heart a dynamic evangelistic sermon, and then have no sinners
in the church to whom to preach it. I used to get so excited over
some of the sermons the Lord would give me. Great evangelistic sermons.
They were so powerful in their logic that no sinner could possibly
sit through them without accepting Jesus. I would go to church and
my heart would be just overflowing with this dynamic message that
the Lord had given me. I could hardly wait to deliver it. I could
hardly wait till I got to the invitation so I could see every sinner
in the house on their knees, for I surely knew that would be the
But oftentimes with this kind of a sermon burning on my heart, I
would come to church, sit on the platform while the songs were being
sung, look over the congregation and know them all by first name.
Not a sinner in the house. You can't know how frustrating it is
to have a great evangelistic sermon and no sinners to hear it. I
would get upset and would add a few points to my sermon: "You people
are miserable failures. God is sick and tired of you not witnessing
for Him. If you folks were all that God wanted you to be, you would
have had your friends here tonight with you. You would have brought
your sinful neighbors to hear the Word of God!"
I was laying it on the saints because I was angry that there weren't
any sinners there. Those blessed dear saints. As I would take out
the whip and begin laying it across their back, they would just
sink down deeper and deeper in the pew as the conviction was coming
heavy on them. Instead of making an invitation for anyone to accept
Christ, I would ask how many wanted to commit their lives to really
being the kind of witness the Lord wanted them to be, because I
was of the spiritual mentality that you've got to get someone forward
praying at the alter or your sermon was not a success.
The problem, however, was not a lack of desire to be better witnesses.
They desired to serve the Lord. The problem was that they didn't
really know how because they were not taught. All they ever had
was the baby bottle. All they ever had was repent from sins and
Jesus died to save us from our sins. All they ever had was evangelism.
They were never really taught in the Word to where they could mature
and where they could grow.
When the saints were perfected for the work of the ministry,
however, they began to minister. They began to bring in their friends.
Evangelism became the by-product of a strong and mature church.
A church that is strong in the Word will automatically be an evangelistic
church. It is the natural function of healthy sheep to reproduce.
It's very natural. You don't even have to teach them how. It's just
the natural function of healthy sheep to reproduce. When you make
the sheep healthy by giving them a good diet, a consistent diet
that will develop growth and strength, they will naturally reproduce.
I also discovered that in going straight through a book of the
Bible, you avoid riding hobby horses. There are certain subjects
in the Bible that I find more fascinating than others. There are
some things that I love to preach on; there are other things I don't
like preaching about. Those things that I don't like to preach about,
I find ways of not preaching about them; sort of bypassing them.
When you're going straight through a book of the Bible from beginning
to end, you can't bypass them, and you're speaking on issues that
the people need to hear addressed, but rarely heard addressed in
the church because they are not popular subjects, yet God would
not have put them in the Word unless they were important subjects. If
you go straight through a book in teaching, you will be declaring
the whole counsel of God, and your emphasis will become a biblical
emphasis. I discovered for years my preaching did not really
follow the true biblical emphasis. I believe that as you study the
Bible you will discover that the biblical emphasis is what God has
done for man; that God is the Initiator, and that man is responder.
For the love of Christ is what constrains us. God initiated our
relationship by His great love for me and I'm just responding to
Looking back at my topical sermons, I realized that I was
always emphasizing what man should be doing for God. They were sermons
on the believer's walk; how we ought to be praying more; how we
ought to be giving more; how we ought to be witnessing more; how
we ought to be praising God more. It was always on what we should
be doing for God. That is frustrating, especially for the congregation--yes,
I know I should be doing these things for God, but I don't know
how. You see, if you only pick those texts which are not usually
at the beginning of a chapter but somewhere down the line where
is says, "I beseech ye, therefore brethren, by the mercies of God,
that you present your bodies as a living sacrifice," and you haven't
gone back to the grace of God wherein we stand and that we know
all that God has wrought and done for us, then my commitment can
be just an emotional thing of the moment. I'm being called to present
my body without any basis for it.
In the Scriptures, the exhortations to commitment usually begin
with "therefore" or
"wherefore." These words are never the beginning of a thought but
rather, words that call for a response to the statements or arguments
that preceded them. Paul didn't begin the book of Romans with chapter
twelve, he began with chapter one. There's a natural progression
of thought through the book of Romans till you finally get to chapter
twelve where, because God has called you and justified you and glorified
you, I beseech you, therefore, to present your bodies to Him.
Look at Ephesians, Paul begins the first chapter by saying, "Thanks
be unto God and the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ who has blessed
us with all spiritual blessings in Christ in heavenly places." God
has blessed us and Paul spends three chapters telling us of all
these spiritual blessings we have in Christ. It's not until he gets
to chapter four again he uses the word "therefore." Because of what
God has done for you, therefore, walk ye worthy of the calling where
you are called." It's not until you get to chapter five that Paul
begins to exhort you how you are to walk in your relationship with
your family, your wife, your servants, your employees, but again,
only after he has given us the basis of what God has already done
for us. If we are only emphasizing to the people what they should
be doing for God, that is not a real biblical emphasis.
As I see it, the Bible teaches that God is the Initiator. John 3:16
says, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten
Son." God initiated His love towards me. God reached out to me.
God initiated my relationship with Him. He chose me in Christ before
the foundation of the world. God initiated the whole thing. What
I am to do, then, is to respond to God. When you teach from this
solid biblical perspective, you will discover that when people really
begin to understand God and what God has done for them, they will
want to respond to God. You're not going to have to be begging them
to volunteer for work; they are going to be volunteering on their
own. You don't have to have all kinds of gimmicks to get them to
give. They're going to be wanting to give. They want to respond
to God. When they really know Who God is and what God has done
for them, then they respond to God. I have been in services where
people were encouraged to
"praise the Lord," so that God would bless them, because they have
been told that "the Lord inhabits the praises of His people." In
that case, you're saying man is the initiator; that you can get
things going between you and God. All you have to do is praise Him
a little bit. He'll respond and begin to bless you. The truest praise
is not something that is done out of motive in my heart to get a
blessing. If I am praising the Lord just so I can get a blessing,
that's not true praise. That's a self-centered attitude. The object
for praise in that case is me, not God. The truest praise is that
automatic response of my heart at the recognition of the grace of
God to me when God has just done something fantastic for me, even
though I have failed miserably, yet God just lays some rich blessing
on me and my heart responds, "Oh God, You are too much; I can't
believe Your love and goodness." That's the purest form of praise;
that which comes spontaneously from my heart at the recognition
of God's grace in my life. I don't praise the Lord so I can create
an atmosphere in which God will come down and bless me. My praises
are a response to the blessings that God has bestowed. God is the
Initiator; man is the responder.
The book of First Peter begins with a thanks to God who has "begotten
us again unto a living hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ
from the dead, to an inheritance that is incorruptible and undefiled
and that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are
kept by the power of God." This is all God's part. We don't have
anything to do with this. He's talking about what God is doing.
Thanks to God who has caused us to be born again. Where do we come
in? Peter says "we are kept by the power through faith." That's
where we come in, by just believing that God has done all this for
us. In John 6:29 Jesus said, "This is the work of God; just believe
on Him who He has sent." Yes, human response is important, but I
have to know to whom I am responding. I have to know God and I have
to know what God has done. A person will receive this naturally
if you are teaching through the Bible and through the books of the
In essence, the philosophy of Calvary Chapel is to perfect
the saints for the work of the ministry and to build up the body
of Christ, instructing them in the Word until they come into the
unity of the faith and the knowledge of the Son of God and into
a full maturity, unto the stature of the measure of the image of
Christ. [And that is the goal of the web site you're reading this
from toward the entire body of Christ.]
As you look at the church of Jesus Christ,
you'll find that there is a very broad spectrum. As you look at
our society, you will see there is also a very broad spectrum of
people with many and varied tastes. So at one end of the broad spectrum
you have the very formal liturgical church: the prayer book, the
robes, the choirs with their chants, the incense, the candles, when
to stand, kneel, sit, and respond; everything's worked out for you;
it's a very formal, ritualistic, liturgical form of worship; on
the other end of the spectrum, you have no form, no program, a lot
of screaming, a lot of shouting, a lot of utterances in tongues,
people going all over and everybody standing up here and there;
there's no order; no form; you sort of sit there waiting for what's
going to happen next.
There are some people who seem to be able to relate to God only
in a very liturgical way. They like the rustling robes, the chanting
choirs and the smell of incense. As they sit there, they have a
sense of worship. When they walk out, they have a sense of having
been in the presence of God and love to worship the Lord in that
manner. I do not doubt that some people actually, truly worship
and love the Lord in that environment and relate to Him in that
On the other hand, you have people who are all emotional and unless
they've had an emotional jolt and have gone through a wide variety
of physical kinds of things, they don't feel that they have worshipped
God properly. In fact, they'll often come out of a teaching church
and say, "That was the most dead thing I've even been in. I don't
know how you get anything out of that old man; it was so dead. Why
didn't they have utterances in tongues? Why weren't there miracles?" Their
whole thing is an emotional kick. They live for en emotional high
and in that emotional high, they have the sense of worshiping God.
That's the way they relate to God, in an emotional way. God knows
that there are emotional people; He also knows that there are people
on the liturgical side. And God loves them all.
Because God knows that there are some people who can only relate
to Him in a liturgical way, He has the liturgical churches so they
can minister to those people who need the liturgy. Because He knows
that there are people who can only relate to Him in a highly emotional
way, He has the highly emotional churches where people can go and
relate to Him through emotional experiences. I thank God for these
churches and I see their place in the body of Christ. The swing
of the church pendulum, then, is marked by the highly liturgical
on one side, and the totally non-conforming experiential on the
Coming down the spectrum from the liturgical side, you have those
churches that teach the Word of God. Their services are somewhat
a ritual, that is, you can know every Sunday just what's going to
go on. It's been going on for the 100 years and you can feel rather
secure because you know you're going to have the call to worship,
the opening hymn, the announcements, the offering, then the sermon,
the benediction, and time to go home. The sermon is an exposition
of the Word and there are a great many gifted teachers. Unfortunately,
though, many of them deny the anointing power of the Holy Spirit,
so, as a result, you have a dead orthodoxy.
Calvary Chapel believes in teaching the Word of God through the
power of the Spirit of God which changes the lives of the people
of God. If you have just the Spirit--emphasis with no Word and
no foundation in the Word, then you are leading the people into
experiences only, which are shallow. If you have just the Word of
God without the Spirit, then you are leading people into dead orthodoxy. It
takes the power of the Spirit of God to make the changes, but it
takes the Word of God to give the substance and to give the foundation. It
is that blending of the Word of God and being taught through the
power of the Spirit of God that brings the changes in the people.[One
comment: Chuck and Nancy Missler taught in their book Way of Agape
about the significance of the bronze lavers for washing the priests.
They were made from women's looking glasses, so when the priests
washed before entering the temple to serve, they could see themselves
in the looking glasses which made up the bottom of the lavers. In
James 1:22-23 James tells us the Law of God is a spiritual mirror,
to show us where the spiritual dirt is in our lives. The water in
the lavers represents the Holy Spirit. To try to wash just using
the Word, without the water of the Spirit just smears the dirt--dead
orthodoxy does this. It takes both the Word, our spiritual mirror,
and the water of the Holy Spirit, to make changes, clean up spiritually.]
Calvary Chapel recognizes the need for the power of the Spirit,
but we also recognize the need for the solid foundation and teaching
of the Word. To effectively teach the Word, however, it takes the
anointing and the power of the Holy Spirit so that the person teaching
the Word of God is usually exercising the gifts of the word of wisdom,
the word of knowledge and prophecy, and these gifts are in operation
in the pastor's life as he is teaching the Word of God. This is
where Calvary Chapel fits into the church spectrum.
Since our society has changed drastically over the last twenty-five
years, it is necessary to bisect the church spectrum with a perpendicular
line labeled "High World View" at the top and "Low World View" at
the bottom. The High World View consists of people who are highly
structured, highly organized and have highly developed programs.
Everything fits right within its little niche, fitting together
in this very carefully put-together package. The Low World View
is the kick-back, casual, take-it-as-it-comes attitude.
On both sides of the High and Low World View are those who are dependent
and those who are independent. The people who are dependent need
something or someone on which to lean. They need a church that emphasizes
their dependency on the church, and the dependency of the church
on them. You have those who are highly organized and dependent.
You have those who are casual and dependent, and you have those
who are casual and independent. The majority of churches today would
fit into the dependent, highly organized, structured, developed,
everybody-on-a-committee and everybody-knows-what-their-duty-is
category. That church says, "We depend upon you. We depend upon
your giving, your being here. And you depend upon us for your spiritual
life and salvation."
When you miss a service, the designated person will call you the
next day to see if you are alright and to find out why you missed
the service. You dare not visit another church, for you will be
accused of leaving the Lord. They don't always say it, but they
believe that your salvation depends upon your remaining faithful
to that church.
Calvary Chapel, on the other hand, fits into the casual, kick-back,
independent mold. We appeal to people who are more casual and more
independent; people who don't generally have to lean upon anyone,
nor do they want to be leaned on. They can wear T-shirts, no ties,
or three-piece suits if they want; no one cares about how you are
With the social structures in the United States today having
changed quite a bit over the last few years, moving more and more
toward a highly technical society, ninety percent of the people
in our country would seem to fit into the rather independent and
casual way of life, especially in southern California, while the
remaining ten percent are of the organized, dependent mold. As a
result, you've got ninety percent of the churches fishing in a little
pond of ten percent of the people and fighting over their share
of the little pond. On the other side, you've got Calvary Chapel,
and a few churches like it, fishing all by themselves in the ninety
percent pond. The ninety percent churches come and look at us and
say, "What are you doing?" They study our church; study
what they think is our program, and say, "Well, it's because they
let kids go barefooted. That's the key." And they're finding all
sorts of keys to explain why people are being attracted and packing
out the Calvary Chapel churches.
What they fail to observe, however, is that it's the Spirit
of God working through the Word of God in the lives of the people
of God that is the key; not following or conforming to
the traditional church. People don't feel threatened. They don't
feel like they're going to be collared and be thrown a Sunday school
book and told, "Oh, thank God, brother, you've been here three Sundays.
We need you to teach Sunday school now." You're not going to be
pressured; your service is going to be something that's going to
come from within you as you respond to the Lord.
The philosophy of Calvary Chapel is giving and ministering rather
than taking and being ministered to. You will find that a lot of
ministries [in other churches] exist in order to be ministered to.
They don't mind letting you know: "We need your support to keep
this ministry going. This ministry depends on you." I've concluded
that any ministry that depends upon man for its existence and operation
should die, and the best thing we could do is let it die. Calvary
Chapel, then, exists to minister and our emphasis is on giving;
giving to the people; ministering to the people.
We had a very wealthy man who was vice president of a tool company
from Texas, as well as being in the oil business. He attended Calvary
Chapel quite regularly, and we became very close to him and to his
wife. All the while, though, he kept saying to his wife, "When are
they going to hit us for the money?" He just kept waiting for our
pitch for his money.
The Sunday before Thanksgiving I announced that we had so much to
be thankful for and how God had been so good to us that year. "Unfortunately,
though," I said, "there are some who are going through difficulties
and they don't have much for which to be thankful." As I started
talking about the problems that some people were having and the
financial difficulties they were going through, the man nudged his
wife and said, "At last, he's finally getting there. I knew the
pitch had to come some time."
I concluded my statements, however, not the way he had been expecting.
I said, "So, if you are in need this Thanksgiving and you are going
through some real financial difficulties, just see our assistant
pastor after the service and the church will be glad to give you
a turkey and all that you need for your Thanksgiving dinner. We
just pray that you'll have a glorious Thanksgiving." The man was
absolutely dumbfounded. We were simply operating according to the
truth of the Scriptures, as Jesus said it is more blessed to give
than to receive. That is our philosophy: giving the Word of God
freely to people; giving freely of ourselves in serving the people;
going the second mile.
By the same token, the minister is to minister rather than be
ministered to. Somewhere along the line there has been a tremendous
flip-flop in terminology and ideas in ministry. The word "minister" really
means "servant" and Joshua was Moses' minister. It meant that he
was Moses' servant, that is, he ministered to the needs of Moses.
He was Moses' errand boy. That's what the word "minister" means.
Yet, I am amazed at how upset some ministers get when someone asks
them to minister to the needs of the congregation. "Can you believe
he called me up for a ride? Doesn't he now that I'm the minister
here?" If you are the minister then he should have called
you for a ride. Jesus said, "He that would be the chief among you,
let him be the servant of all."
The minister is a servant. Remember, it was Jesus who took the towel
and girded himself, and went around and began to wash the feet of
His disciples. That was the job of the servant, not of the master.
Dusty paths, open sandals, feet were always dirty. When someone
would come to your home, the lowest servant in the house had the
duty of coming up, taking off the guest's sandals at the door and
washing his feet in a basin of water. That was the role Jesus chose
and illustrated for us by His example at the Last Supper. Jesus
told the disciples, "Do you see what I have done to you? If I, being
the Lord, have washed your feet, so ought you to wash one another's
In other words, the idea is that we are to be servants, and we should
think of ministry as servanthood. The book The Jesus Style written
by Gayle Irwin [check http://www.amazon.com or http://www.Christianbooks.com for it] would acquaint you with
what real Christian service is all about and what ministry should
be about. The entire church, from the pastor on down, is here to
be minister to the needs of others. We are not here to be ministered
to. We do not look to the people to minister to us; we look for
ways to minister to them.
The philosophy of Calvary Chapel is to see the whole body of Christ,
and we are filling one little area of the spectrum that God has
called us to fill, and we want to be faithful to that calling. We
strive to see the whole body of Christ and the purpose of the whole
body, and so the only place where we might be in conflict with others
in the body of Christ is where they are not leading people to a
personal relationship with Jesus Christ. That may sound bizarre
to some but unfortunately, there are churches that have gotten to
the place where they are no longer leading people to a personal
relationship with Jesus Christ.
We're not in competition with the churches that are leading people
to Jesus Christ; we're not fighting them. We don't exist to fight
them; we exist to fight the devil and to proclaim Jesus Christ.
Jesus said to His disciples,
"You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you, and
you will be witnesses unto me, both in Jerusalem and in Judea and
in Samaria, and unto the uttermost parts of the earth." Their witness
for Christ was to begin in Jerusalem, and it was very effective
in Jerusalem. A few months after the birth of the church, the disciples
were brought to court and the charges against them were this: "You
have filled the whole city with this man's [Jesus] doctrine."
Now that was a successful church. Would to God that we could be
brought to court and the charges against us are that we filled the
whole city with the doctrine of Christ. I would say praise the Lord.
Persecution had scattered the church of Jesus Christ throughout
all of Judea, and wherever they went, they preached Christ. We then
read that Phillip went to Samaria and preached Christ to the Samaritans,
and many of the Samaritans believed and were baptized when they
saw the miracles Phillip was doing. Then we read that the Holy Spirit
said, "Separate unto Me, Paul and Barnabas, for the ministry where
I have called them." They fasted and prayed and laid hands on them
and Paul and Barnabas headed for the island of Cyprus. Later Paul
took the gospel to Asia Minor, Rome, Greece and Macedonia. Thomas
took the gospel to India. In just thirty years after the birth of
the church, Paul wrote to the Colossian church,
"The Word of the gospel has come to you as it has in all the world." In
just thirty years the disciples had spread the message into all
When we started at Calvary Chapel in 1965 with only 25 people,
I was determined that I would make those 25 people the most knowledgeable
people of God's Word in all the harbor area. I began teaching
them five nights a week: two nights in the church; three nights
in the home Bible studies. One night a week, Saturday night, I had
a prayer meeting with the men. We took Acts, chapter two,
as our pattern: "They continued steadfastly in the Apostles' doctrine,
in fellowship, in breaking of bread, and in prayer." We
decided that these would be the essential elements of our worship
and fellowship. The emphasis would be the teaching of the Word,
the Apostles doctrine. We would teach them solid doctrine; scriptural
doctrine. We would teach them about God. We would teach them about
Jesus Christ. We would teach them about the Holy Spirit. We would
teach them about man. We would teach them about sin. We would teach
them about salvation, and we would teach them about the coming again
of Jesus Christ. Solid doctrine; the Apostles' doctrine.
We began to develop the fellowship, the koinonia, where
we really became an integrated unit and began to minister to each
other both in the physical and in the spiritual sense, praying for
each other, binding our lives together in prayer, helping out each
other in a physical sense. If one in the group was in need, we would
all go together to help him, creating a strong fellowship. We would
also gather together in these Bible studies and break bread.
In the book of Acts it says that as they did these things, the Lord
added daily to the church such as should be saved. As we began to
teach the people, this fellowship began to grow into a union, a
oneness, a sharing in prayer and in love and in support, and as
we began to break bread together, worshipping the Lord together,
remembering Jesus Who died for us, and as we started praying together,
the group began to grow. My wife led a prayer meeting for the ladies
in the neighborhood during the week and I led one for the men on
Saturday nights. We also had a group of men we had designated as
elders who would visit and pray for the sick. As we began to do
these things faithfully, we found that the Lord began to add daily
to the church such as should be saved.
In six months we had increased to fifty people. Within a year
we had a hundred people. In eighteen months we were looking for
another facility because we were packing out the little church in
which we were meeting. We had the promise of getting a local
Lutheran church whose congregation was building a new facility,
but they were delayed in their plans, so, we started meeting Sunday
afternoons in the Lutheran church and waiting patiently until the
church could become ours. We waited for two years but continued
growing until we were soon packing out the Lutheran church as well,
so, by the time we were able to move into the Lutheran church, we
had already outgrown it. Instead, we built our own building and
lasted there for two years until we were so packed and crowded that
we had to move into a tent. [So if you don't think these principles
and philosophy of ministry work, think again.]
While we were building our new sanctuary, we changed the plans three
different time for enlargement. We were growing so fast, the architect
couldn't get the plans drawn quickly enough to accommodate our expansion.
We had actually outgrown the church three times while it was still
on the drawing board and when we opened our doors, we were at two
Sunday morning services, and that only lasted two weeks before increasing
As we grew and covered Jerusalem, we began to spread into Judea.
My son, Chuck Jr., Greg Laurie, Jeff Johnson, Mike Macintosh, Raul
Ries and Jon Courson began Bible studies and fellowships all throughout
California. From Judea we spread into Samaria with other effective
Calvary Chapels springing up in Washington, Oregon, Florida, Kansas,
New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, New Mexico and Washington, D.C.
Now we are in the uttermost parts of the world. England, Hungary,
Yugoslavia, Czechoslovakia, Germany, Switzerland, Japan, Singapore,
Hong Kong, Taiwan, Philippines, Thailand, India, Egypt, Uganda,
Peru, Chile, San Salvador, Guatamala, and elsewhere.
If the Lord tarries, will we continue to see this exponential type
of growth, this explosion? It can happen if we will just hang loose
and let the Spirit lead; let the Spirit move. Don't try
to get things too organized. Let God take care of that. Just teach
the Word, bring people into a loving relationship with Jesus Christ
and each other, and celebrate communion with them. When
God established the nation of Israel, the form of government was
a theocracy, that is, they were to be a people ruled by God. They
were not to be as other nations with a king over them. They were
to be a nation that would be distinct in the fact that they would
be ruled by God. It was a sad day in their history when they came
to Samuel and said, "We want to appoint a king over us like the
As a theocracy, God established the nation of Israel, but He called
Moses to be the earthly leader over the nation, and God, through
Moses, led the people. Moses was the recognized instrument of God
in leading the people. When things became too heavy for Moses, the
responsibilities too great, he gathered seventy of the elders of
Israel, representatives from the twelve tribes, and the Spirit of
God, Who was upon Moses, came upon them also. And they began to
rule with Moses.
However, there were times when the people would bring an issue to
one of the elders that they were not able to resolve. In that case
the issue was then brought to Moses and Moses, in turn, went to
God and God gave Moses the answer to the problem. Reversing the
process, Moses would then pass the answer to the elders, who passed
it to the people.
Also, under Moses' charge was Aaron and the priesthood from the
tribe of Levi who oversaw the spiritual aspects of the nation. As
the elders were overseeing the legal and business squabbles and
differences of the people, the priests were overseeing the spiritual
aspects of the people.
The following is a diagram of the type of government God established
with the nation of Israel, and a diagram of what Calvary Chapel
understands as the New Testament counterpart as God's government
for the church:
[Calvary Chapels can best be defined as "independent affiliates" of
church, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, California, all operating
on the philosophy of ministry being expounded here and on the principles
of ministry given in the other article in this section. The idea
of independent affiliates forming throughout the body of Christ
and its denominations is a sound one that could breathe dynamic
new life into the body of Christ, especially if these
"affiliates" put into practice these powerful concepts of ministry
found in these two articles.]
Children of Israel
elders board assistant
We feel that this is the form of government God desires
for His church; Jesus Christ is the head of the body, the church;
He established the episkopas or bishop, who we call the pastor,
who is responsible to Jesus and whom must recognize and bear the
responsibility to guide and direct the ministry of the local church,
guided directly by Jesus Christ. Under the pastor, in some cases,
you have assistant pastors, equivalent to the priests under Moses'
You also have a board of elders. The board of elders discuss
and decide the business of the church, the spending of the church
funds, the requests for help that they have from various missionary
groups, and ministries.
The board meetings should always begin with prayer. When a voting
situation comes up, you should go to prayer before the vote. You
should ask the Lord to show you what He would have you do. The Lord's
guidance and direction are needed in all matters. The assistant
pastors oversee various aspects of the church in the spiritual sense.
Jr. High, single adults, married couples, special interest groups.
When they come up against a problem that they don't know how to
handle, they should seek the counsel of the senior pastor, who,
like they, should be seeking counsel from the Lord.
If someone in the church comes to a board member about something
they feel that the church ought to be doing, it is presented at
the board meeting. The board will discuss it and pray about it together,
and oftentimes the board will say,
"Chuck, what do you feel that we should do?" The board recognizes
that God has called me to be the pastor of the church, the shepherd.
In Calvary Chapel the pastor is not a hireling. There are many churches
in which the pastor can be fired by the board. He becomes a hireling
and he's totally responsible to the wishes of the board as they
govern the church. But these men are oftentimes businessmen and
not the most spiritual men within the church. In that case, the
church becomes governed by men rather than governed by Jesus Christ.
There are dangers, though, in a theocratic form of government, primarily
because there are some pastors who disobey what the Lord said concerning
the one who is chief becoming the servant of all. There are pastors
who have abused their powers. They do not make a clear accounting
to the board of the financial aspects of the church. The do not
seek the advice and counsel of the board before they make important
decisions that are relevant to the function of the church. They
try to be a one-man show.
When issues come up at our board meeting, invariably before a decision
is made, the board will ask how I feel about the particular issue
because they respect the fact that God has called me and has raised
our ministry, and has used me as His instrument in so doing. But
many times I won't have an opinion: "Fellows, I really don't have
an opinion; let's pray and seek the will of the Lord." And I let
them go ahead and make the decisions without any input from me at
There are other times where I have very strong feelings and express
them: "I feel this is what the Lord would have us to do. I've been
praying about this and I really feel this is what God wants us to
do." Invariably, because these men recognize God's anointing upon
my life, the vote will go that way. I'm honest and above board with
the men; I'm not trying to be a one-man show. We're open in our
discussions and in the things that come up, and they respect the
integrity and the leading that the Lord has placed upon my life.
Without question, though, the Lord is definitely the head of the
body of the church. I am only a servant to carry out His orders.
It is important to have a church board but not to assemble that
board too quickly. In starting a new work, the Bible says to
lay hands on no man suddenly. Know the men well. Whenever we are
looking for new board members, I always look in the Saturday night
prayer meeting for men who have prayed with me for years. I can
trust them. I know that they are men of prayer; men who will seek
the counsel and the guidance of God, even as I seek the counsel
and guidance of God; men who were faithful in the Saturday night
prayer meetings with me.
I mentioned that it is important not to appoint a board too quickly.
As case in point illustrates one of the reasons why. The man who
was in charge of the Korean fellowship at our church is a medical
doctor. He did not get any salary for his ministry to the Koreans.
He makes his living as a pediatrician and an allergist. The Korean
fellowship was growing quite large, so they said, "We really need
to get a board established for the Korean fellowship." So the man
appointed board members and asked me to come to the service that
I might lay hands on these men that he had chosen for his board,
and I did. The very same week that we laid hands on these men and
prayed for them and appointed them as board members, they had a
meeting and asked the pastor to resign. They said,
"Either give up your medical practice or resign as the pastor. We
feel that we need a full-time pastor and your medical practice is
taking you away from your ministry here." The man was devastated;
he didn't know what to do. So he asked me what I thought. I said, "Fire
the board. God has called you to pastor that fellowship; the board
didn't call you to pastor it. Let them go." So, we ordained them
one week, and defrocked them the next. That's just one of the problems
you can run into if you haven't really prayed together and really
know the men who are serving on the board with you.
On the other hand, you need a board of dependable men for your
protection because there are decisions that must be made that are
not going to be accepted by everybody, decisions that will create
divisions among the body if you make them yourself. Several
years ago I was pastoring in Tucson, Arizona, where every year we
had an annual picnic on Mt. Lemon on the 4th of July. There was
a beautiful public campground up there; it had a baseball diamond,
football field, and so forth. We would always go up and play ball
and a have a potluck; it was great church fellowship.
We had a fellow who came to the church, sort of the hyper, super-spiritual
type, and a group came in with him. He had an acre of ground atop
Mt. Lemon and he felt that it would be great to have the church
picnic on his acre of ground. However, he did not have restroom
facilities or running water, but, he suggested, we could spend the
whole day in prayer. Wouldn't it be better to spend the whole day
in prayer and waiting upon God rather than doing such a frivolous
thing as playing ball? This man talked some of the people into a
spiritual 4th of July. We would all go up to his property and pray.
Other people, however, said, "If you go to his property, we're not
going. We're not going to subject our kids to a place where they
don't have any potties; if you go there, we're not going." The super-spiritual
group replied, "If you go to the public campgrounds, we're not going.
We're not going to expose our children to the riff-raff of the public
So, everybody came to me and said, "Okay, Chuck, what are we going
to do?" It was a catch-22 situation. Either choice I made was sure
to have a group of enemies. I said, "Well, let's pray about it and
at the board meeting we will decide where we are going to go."
We had the board meeting and the board said, "It's foolish to go
to the place where we don't have facilities; we can't have 150 people
out there without a restroom; we'll just go to the public campground." The
board, then, decided that we would go to the public campground.
I happened to think that was a wise decision, but the board technically
When I announced that the board had decided to go to the public
campground, these super-spiritual types called me up, just as upset
as they could be. I said, "You know, it would be exciting, wouldn't
it, just to have a day of prayer?" We should just plan that sometime.
But the board made their decision." You see, I was still able to
minister to them. They didn't polarize against me. They polarized
against the board.
So, the board is there as a protection for the pastor, a buffer
to stand between you and the people when difficult decisions are
made that are not always acceptable or agreeable to the entire
body. Your board can keep you from being cut off from your
congregation and allow you to continue to minister to them. It
has a very important function and every church, I believe, as
soon as they have qualified men, need to appoint a board to oversee
the operations and spending and to make the decisions that must
In conclusion, I believe Calvary Chapel has a biblically sound and
balanced understanding of the church, its function in the world
and its total dependence upon the leading and guiding of the Holy
Spirit of God for its success as it faithfully proclaims the Good
News of the cross of Jesus Christ and the hope of salvation through
"For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven,
and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring
forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower and bread
to the eater, so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth;
it shall not return to Me void, but it shall prosper in the
thing for which I sent it."
[To read further about this amazing revival go to the section
titled "Some Church History, Let's Get To Know Each Other" and click
on "Chuck Smith and the Calvary Chapel Christian Revival"]