About Calvary Chapel

Calvary Chapel

Family of Churches

The History

The Lord began using Calvary Chapel in the 1960’s when Pastor Chuck Smith took over as the shepherd of a small flock of people named Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa. The Lord blessed Pastor Chuck’s simple, straight forward exposition of the Bible, going through God’s Word chapter by chapter and verse by verse.

With a sincere concern for the lost, Pastor Chuck made room in his heart and his home for a generation of hippies and surfers, generating a movement of the Holy Spirit often referred to as the Jesus Movement. That movement erupted into a revival that spread from the West Coast to the East Coast, and now, throughout the world.

The Lord has wonderfully and gracefully placed His Hand on the churches and missions of Calvary Chapel around the world, resulting in over 1,600 associated ministries under the umbrella of the Calvary Chapel Association.

Calvary Chapel churches are independent of one another, and thus do not comprise a denomination per se.  Some Calvary Chapels do not even bear the name of Calvary Chapel, but all are connected by distinctive principles for ministry and emphasis on the clear, systematic teaching of the Word of God.

You can visit calvarycca.org or calvarychapel.com for more information about Calvary Chapel.

Biblical Exposition

by Skip Heitzig

We place great emphasis on the exposition of Scripture and teaching the entire Bible chapter-by-chapter and verse-by-verse. We believe that the Spirit of God works through the Word of God in the hearts of the people of God. Exposition is more than merely speaking about the bible or from the Bible; it is the proclamation of the Bible itself. The work of the expositor is to determine what God has said in Scripture and then to convey it to God’s people so that God’s own voice is heard.

We believe that Bible exposition is inductive: directing the listener to the Bible’s own truth without preconceived ideas. We believe that Bible exposition is exegetical: demanding that the pastor critically examine the text with accuracy and basing his message upon observable principles of interpretation.

Informal / Relaxed Style

by Chuck Smith

Another distinctive characteristic of Calvary Chapel is our relaxed casual style. We don’t get involved in a lot of spiritual hype. We don’t try to motivate people carnally, and we aren’t apt to shout at the congregation. I believe this stems from our belief and trust in Jesus Christ and in the Holy Spirit.

We are of the belief that if the Lord doesn’t build the house, they labor in vain who build it, so all of our hype and pressure aren’t really going to do the job. We simply trust in the work of the Holy Spirit, and of Jesus Christ who is building His church as He said He would. If we have complete confidence that it’s His church, that He’s going to build it, and that He’s going to do His job, then all I have to do is be faithful. I simply need to watch His work, and then the pressure isn’t on me. I don’t get all hyped or pressured because the work of God isn’t my responsibility. It’s not my church. It’s His church. I believe that it’s very important to remember this, because if you try to carry the load and bear the burden, you’ll find that it’s too great for you. You’ll find yourself under pressure to create schemes and hypes, and then you begin to push and manipulate people. That isn’t the Calvary Chapel style.

Calvary Chapels are minus the hype. We’re not into the carnal pursuit of new programs or spiritual hype to try to appeal to people. It’s the Word of God that we trust in, that we teach, that we rely on. It’s the foundation upon which we are built. It’s inexhaustible. There’s no burnout with it. It just keeps going on and on and on.

For this reason, we have a relaxed, casual style that’s reflected in our ministry. It’s His church so we don’t have to sweat it. We’re not really into seminars on how to build a church, how to create a user-friendly church, or how to develop a five-year plan. Who knows if we’ll even be here five years from now! Let’s minister for today!

Integrity and Morality in Leadership

by David Rosales

When Paul wrote to Timothy concerning the qualifications of an pastor, he made it clear that a pastor was to be “able to teach” (I Timothy 3:2). The question is: was Paul only saying that one of the qualifications of a pastor is that he be able to verbally communicate theology, clearly? If that is the case, then even non-believers who read prepared scripts could qualify as a teacher of God’s Word, and thus become a pastor. Many church pulpits are occupied by such men.

Teaching the Bible is different than teaching someone how to read, or write, or to do basic math. It is the communication of spiritual truth, and God’s Word is to be communicated by those who have personally partaken in the transforming power of the message that they now give.

Paul said that pastors are to be “examples to the believers” (I Timothy 4:12), because the Word of God is lived out amongst people, and pastors of all people are “walking sermons” before the world, and the churches that they lead.

In Calvary Chapel ministries, we desire to be men who not only talk the message, but also walk the message. We take Paul’s admonition to Titus to heart, where Paul instructed Titus to “in all things show himself to be a pattern of good works; in doctrine showing integrity, reverence (and) incorruptibility” (Titus 2:7).

As Calvary Chapel pastors, we know that the ministry is not a job, a fast-track to fame, a place to show off our talents, or something we try to do because we are not skilled enough to do something else. It is a calling, something that we must do because we long for nothing else. And this longing to minister is undergirded by a hunger to please God, and a desire to walk worthy of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

We are aware that God has entrusted the care of His sheep to us, and because we take such a charge seriously, we guard our hearts, and we minister with integrity, and moral purity.

Servant Leadership

by Damian Kyle

One of the things the Lord has been pleased to bless in Calvary Chapel is its emphasis upon servant leadership. This is the conviction among its pastors that the churches we pastor do not exist to serve us, but that we are called to serve and lay our lives down for them.

Jesus taught that we are not to be like the rulers of the Gentiles who lord their power and authority over others, but rather that the way to greatness in the kingdom of God comes by being a servant. He declared Himself to be our example in this, “The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:25-28).

As pastors, we cannot represent our “Servant” Lord without being servants ourselves. Pride, harshness, a sense of self-importance, or a dictatorial spirit is inconsistent with Jesus’ example.

There are wonderful promises in God’s Word for those who choose to live a life of servant leadership, including I Peter 5:5, “God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”

Church Government

by Larry Taylor

Calvary Chapel also differs from most mainline churches in its style of church government. Most denominational churches maintain either a congregational form of church government, a Presbyterian form, or an Episcopal form of running their churches. These three terms should not be confused with the denominations that bear the same names because other churches of different names share the same styles of government.

The congregational form of church government is an American invention and appeals to our American sense of democracy. Basically, the congregation as a whole makes all decisions in these churches by voting on matters of importance and appointing committees from its ranks to run the daily operation of the church. Most Congregational, Baptist, Pentecostal, Brethren, and non-denominational churches are organized in this fashion. The congregation votes on hiring a pastor, votes on how to spend the money, and on anything else of importance. Although democratic people like the idea, congregational forms of church government often wind up at best causing the pastor to be directed by the sheep he is supposed to lead, and at worst reducing the pastor to a hireling.

The Episcopal form of church government, used by Episcopalian, Anglican, Catholic, Orthodox, and Methodist churches (to name a few) is controlled by a church hierarchy which may have differing names. Basically, there is a bishop, or someone of similar stature if called by a different name, who oversees the churches, appoints pastors to pulpits, sets policy, and guides the vision of the local congregations. Unfortunately, this style of government, which grew out of European monarchies, leaves little freedom for the local pastor or congregation to follow the leading of the Spirit.

The Presbyterian form of church government, which is typical in Presbyterian and Reformed churches, puts the decisions of church polity in the hands of a select group of elders (the “presbytery”) who are appointed in various different ways, depending on the church. These elders are over the pastor, who in turn is over the congregation. The problem here too is that this system puts the God-appointed leader, the pastor, under some of those he is supposed to lead.

Calvary Chapels are organized differently. Church government at Calvary Chapel is very simple, not a complex bureaucracy, committees and sub-committees are essentially non-existent. Basically, at Calvary Chapel we believe that the pastor is responsible for the church, responsible to hear from God, and responsible to feed and love His people faithfully. Elders are appointed in the larger churches to help the pastor care for the spiritual needs of the congregation, as are deacons to help the pastor care for the material needs of the church.

In addition, our churches have church boards as required by most states which vary in size depending on the size of the church, and which usually are made up of mature Christian businessmen who can advise the pastor with respect to the business operations and decisions of the church such as property management and investments. At Calvary Chapel, church organization is de-emphasized, and only the organization that is needed to run the church is instituted. The pastor guides the church as he is lead by the Holy Spirit, and we trust God to put pastors where He wants them to be.

The Holy Spirit / Gifts

by Malcolm Wild

The task of reaching the world with gospel of Jesus Christ is an impossible one. Impossible, that is, without the equipping and enabling of the Holy Spirit. We acknowledge that to live for and serve the Lord we need the dynamic that the Lord Jesus imparts through the Baptism with the Holy Spirit. He has called us, commissioned us, and promised to equip us (Acts 1:8).

The promise of this power (Dýnamis) is a gift for every believer (Acts 2:39) subsequent to the Holy Spirit’s work of regeneration and to be received by faith as a separate and distinct work of grace to that of salvation.

The Lord has also promised to equip His servants with spiritual gifts for the work of the ministry (I Corinthians 12:4-11). These gifts are for all believers to experience as the Lord wills and did not cease to be manifest at the end of the apostolic age.

The Balance

by Larry Taylor

In a broad general sense, Calvary Chapel is the middle ground between fundamentalism and Pentecostalism in modern Protestant theology. In fact, we believe that this is at least part of the reason why God has raised up this ministry.

Fundamentalism is that portion of Protestantism which holds to the literal interpretation of the Scriptures, believing that they are divinely inspired and inerrant. Hence, the “fundamentals” of the faith are emphasized. Although the modem news media and the liberal church scorn fundamentalists as backwards and stupid, the truth is that fundamentalism has preserved the integrity of God’s Word and held on to the essential doctrines of the orthodox faith.

Pentecostalism as a modern movement grew out of the Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles at the turn of the 20th century, and spawned denominations that emphasize the fullness of the Holy Spirit and the exercise of spiritual and Scriptural gifts of the Spirit which had fallen dormant in the main line churches. Also criticized by the liberal church and news media as being emotionally driven, Pentecostalism restored to the church the importance of gifts of the Spirit and the power of God for the believer today.

Over the years, however, fundamentalism, while it clung to the integrity of God’s Word, tended to become rigid, legalistic, and unaccepting of spiritual gifts. Similarly, Pentecostalism became enthusiastic and emotional at the expense of the teaching of God’s Word.

Calvary Chapel is the balance between the two. At Calvary Chapel we believe in the gifts of the Holy Spirit mentioned in the Bible, and we encourage their exercise, but always decently and in order, and with the primary emphasis on the Word of God which we look to as our primary rule of faith.

To quote Pastor Chuck Smith: “We believe in the gifts of the Holy Spirit mentioned in the Scriptures, and that they are valid for today if they are exercised within the Scriptural guidelines. We as believers are to covet the best gifts, seeking to exercise them in love that the whole Body of Christ might be edified. We believe that love is more important than the most spectacular gifts, and without this love all exercise of spiritual gifts is worthless.”

Because of this balance, Calvary Chapel services are designed to be centered around the verse by verse teaching of God’s Word, and special “after glow” services are provided where the gifts of the Holy Spirit can operate freely under the leadership of mature Christians. Many Pentecostals think Calvary Chapel is not emotional enough, and many fundamentalists think Calvary Chapel is too emotional. That balance is indication, in my opinion, that we are right where God wants us to be.