I never met Chuck. But I know several people, not least pastors, who have been indelibly marked by either Chuck himself or the church planting and disciple-making network he helped launch. Chuck was a key figure in the Jesus-people movement of the late 60’s and early 70’s in Southern CA. It was that ethos and movement of the Spirit that the Chapel Hill Bible Church was influenced by, albeit across the nation. And so, though I have not met Chuck, I felt sad this afternoon. Though we disagreed on some secondary matters (how the spiritual gifts normally operate, the nature of God’s sovereignty, eschatology), he stood strong on the essentials of theology and ministry life, not least the primacy of faithful expository preaching. If there is one thing that has made many of the Calvary Chapels strong and healthy, and often quite influential, it is the fact that they have been nurtured by the week to week unpacking of God’s very words. The evangelical church has lost a major figure.
Here is what I value about Chuck Smith:
1. He believed that God’s word should be preached systematically, carefully, in context, often going through whole books. And, he preached his love for Jesus.
2. He had a passion for the lost. Thousands of young people came to know the Lord through the clarity and explicitness of the Gospel in the teaching and discipleship of Calvary Chapel.
3. He did not separate evangelism and discipleship in worship services.
4. He believed that churches should multiply. Calvary Chapel was and is one of the most significant church planting networks, outside of a denomination.
5. He was not afraid to create a definite culture, and to replicate that, knowing God would raise up other leaders and cultures that would meet other types of people.
6. He led a life above reproach. Was he perfect? No. But He finished well. Many men start well, build a huge ministry by their mid life, but crash and burn at the end. Chuck finished well.
This afternoon, shortly after I found out the news, I briefly watched a clip of him preaching just this past year. Still preaching at 86! He even had the church stand for the reading of the text! He referenced a youth camp he reluctantly attended as a junior higher. As he began to recall it, he stopped and began to weep. He could not make it through the recollection, for it was that camp at which the Lord pressed on Him and called him to pastoral service. At 86 Chuck was still in awe that God called him to the sublime task of pastoring. He still remembered the force, yet grace, of God pressing on him, setting him aside for service. That shows his heart. I hope to be like him. I hope to end like him.
Thank you Lord for putting Chuck Smith in this world and for using him the way you did!