The Current State of Calvary Chapel: Part 1
We still get lots of inquiries about the state of the movement, though I find it less than compelling anymore to find answers to those inquiries.
I believe what we’re seeing in CC is the end of a particular time in the history of American evangelicalism and what we’re hearing are the death rattles of what once was.
Calvary Chapel’s place in church history is first of all as the fulcrum of a genuine revival and secondarily as innovators who used contemporary music styles combined with fundamentalist Bible teaching to give that revival structure.
As is common with true revival, the action was on the edges of society and CC exploded by accepting the marginalized youth of the day.
Also as is common with revival, the revival doesn’t last, but the structure does.
Then the structure becomes institutional, and over time denies it’s own origin and history.
This is the story of CC in my opinion and the reason that the group split and is no longer a “movement” at all, but a stagnant institution with little vision of the future other than a fruitless attempt to grasp it’s former glory.
Calvary Chapel in it’s heyday was a personality driven movement… first with Chuck Smith and Lonnie Frisbee, than with Smith alone as he navigated the church away from the fringe and into the mainstream of American evangelicalism.
Smith’s unique personality and business acumen set the parameters of what his “affiliate” churches would look like.
When Smith died, there was no one of his stature in the group who wanted to take over, but plenty of lesser lights who desperately wanted the position.
A split was inevitable, and even then, the lack of charismatic leadership on both sides meant neither would succeed in unifying the tribe.
What is left is splintered and irrelevant, the emotions of both the founders death and the bitter divorce having dissipated like the revival that birthed the movement.
The cultural fringe is now something to preach against, not to minister to.
The ability to innovate musically and artistically has been replaced with a continual nostalgia for what once was.
The power of the untamable Holy Spirit has been replaced by the power of authoritarian pastors and dogmatism.
The current leadership is aging and the younger generation is less inclined to fully identify with the brand.
A lot of pastors simply don’t care about the conflicts or the brand anymore.
In the coming days, I’ll look more closely at the state of both sides of the split…but there’s not much worth writing about…