The Calvary Chapel Chronicles
Before we continue on down the CC road I need to address a frequent theme in my email…that being how much dirt I’m going to reveal.
The answer is… as much as necessary to understand the dynamics of the movement, then and now.
It’s entirely possible that if there were an internet and a Phoenix Preacher back when the movement started, what happened at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa would have been aborted early.
The main players, Chuck Smith and Lonnie Frisbee, were both allegedly morally compromised.
The supernatural power evidenced by Frisbee would have been held up as anything but “of God”…when it was those acts of the Holy Spirit through him that were both wind and fire at the time.
It was for that time…when you watch Frisbee on old YouTube video there is no power or “anointing”… there is a theologically incompetent hippie babbling away and one wonders how anyone listened.
Yet, I have been told by many that for those present, it was a life changing experience.
I wonder if it could have happened today.
I would have been writing scathing articles about the character of the leadership and probably mocking the supernatural manifestations.
My comrades in blogging would have taken up with me and we would have ended such foolishness…or tried to do so.
We would not have wanted that kind of revival…
What we have to come to grips with is that it did happen.
The Jesus Movement was a perfect spiritual storm at a perfect, God ordained time and I am convinced beyond any reasonable doubt that it was an act of God in it’s entirety.
God used people many of us religious folk would have disapproved of to spearhead a revival among a marginalized group that has borne fruit for half a century.
When those God used tried to codify and control these acts of God there was a lot of collateral damage to the people of God.
We’ll look at both the glory and the gore, but the one thing we can’t lose sight of is that God did something and He did it in a way that doesn’t fit our preconceptions of how He should.
To me, that may be the thing we need to wrestle with the most…
How about two comments to start this out?
1) I was there.
2) You are right.
Thank you…just hoping I’m clear about these things as we move forward.
I think this is one of my favorite posts and the principles apply on so many levels. “If God is who I think He is then He works this way and only this way.” At which point God says, “Oh yeah? Watch this.”
Also, the level of spiritual hero worship hasn’t changed since Jesus’ time if not earlier. Except today we have the means to document and share the faults of heroes much more widely. For some, it doesn’t matter. Their hero can do no wrong. For others, it destroys their world and invalidates everything that has happened in their lives since they put their hero on that pedestal. In both cases, they have the wrong hero.
This post can be applied to so many narratives.
Bravo, I love this post and it touches the heart of my conviction about revival. Ultimately, revival gets quenched when the level of offense exceeds the level of comfort. In Mt 11 Jesus illustrates the offense taken at both John, who was austere, “he has a demon,” and himself who was perceived as libertine, “a winebibber and glutton.” The Jews would neither mourn nor dance at the music these prophets brought.
More to the point, the offense at Lonnie, discomforted both Chuck S and John W. Remember those Israelites who told God to only speak through Moses because they frightened him. Remember the 70 elders who received the spirit of prophecy but quit? Lonnie would have received the ire of your pen but he ultimately received it anyway.
Even Wimber had toleration for the blast of revival Lonnie brought to his own church along with all the odd manifestations that were at one time captured on ABC cameras. (BTW long after they had subsided a great deal) But Wimber could not endure the Toronto manifestations that seemed to exceed what happened with Lonnie by 100x and almost every night.
At some point people begin to wonder, “is this God or gore?” Therein lies the reception or rejection of the odd things God seems to send us. Edwards had his wife’s own swooning and the revival ‘affections.” The second awakening had Finney’s mourning bench and Cain Ridge’s “exercises.” ( a study of its own) The Azusa Street meetings brought with them the manifestation of tongues and so many Pentecostal expressions. Is this God or is this gore? I simply prefer these days to say you can’t have one without the other and you can never parse it perfectly.
This one thing is sure as Tom Stipe once told me, we are in control. Certainly that is true as to what we allow and what we quench.
The next wave will be as offensive as all the others, but it will surely come.
Corby, BD… thank you.
The comments on these threads have been consistently better than the articles…and I couldn’t be happier about that.
When I first got into Christian leadership I did a study of the psychology of evangelism. It unhinged me. My focus was the mass evangelists and their methodologies. Powerful stories, powerful music, everything timed and coordinated. Emotional and moral calls to respond, the fear of hell or missing the rapture filling the air, counselors cued to move forward creating the effect of massive response and inducing others to act, on and on. By the time my study was over I had concluded that God was unnecessary to elicit a response. The paucity of real life change on the part of the participants made it worse. So I spent some years soured and jaded and sure that it was more gore than God.
Strangely, God used that to wean me from my devotion to only have PURE results. The messiness of the Jesus People movement was preceded by the messiness of the ‘decision for Christ’ movement that rankled so many people’s view of sovereignty in salvation. I saw from Billy Graham that his ‘results’ were just as easy to debunk as Benny Hinn’s. I also have seen over the years that both of them got in their catch a great many fish along with the carp.
I really love this series and what it is stirring in me.
I split my time between Calvary Chapel and a SBC in Orange County. Both were experiencing revivals, as were most churches that I had some knowledge of through friends.
At Calvary Chapel there were excesses that I witnessed at afterglow services, not to mention the weird expression of worship at all the services through raising of hands. The tongues, the healings, the manifestations, people falling over were too much for many mainline churches. I heard several critiques of the Pentecostal practices that too place at Calvary Chapel.
And something has to be said here. In my experience, it wasn’t about the long hair, beads, jeans, and all the other expressions of the hippie culture. Most churches that I am aware of were also welcoming. It was a straw man that fostered elitism that became so prevalent at Calvary.. What the traditional churches had an aversion to was the charismata.
The revival in more traditional churches was very emotionally driven. Alter calls that morphed into what the Vineyard called “ministry time,” but without the manifestations. God forbid that anyone would speak in tongues at those gatherings. 😉
Again, wholly unexplainable. At our CC/Fellowship in Ohio we were much more “laid back”. At the end of our Saturday night concerts, I would simply get up and say, “If you want to talk to somebody about what you’ve heard tonight, there are a few people at the back of the hall that would love to share with you…” Every week people responded, prayed and started coming to church. Every week… without fail. There’s no reasonable or rational explanation…
Great post, Michael, and I hardily agree with everything you’ve said. Wouldn’t we have expected the respectable, established religious sects of the day to herald Jesus life and ministry? Instead we got non-Jewish kings from the East, fisherman, tax collectors, and conspirators in murder. It boggles the mind. Isn’t that great?!
Years ago, when I was 19 I began attending a CC in Encinitas. Pastor Ed Smith was a big guy with a big personality who hailed from Costa Mesa and those early years of the Jesus People . I came from an abusive home and I needed a place with kids my own age I could relate to, one where the music was inspiring. CC had this so I went there for a few years. While I attended CC Encinitas, Ed Smith began connecting with the Charismata and at one point he strongly considered jumping CC for a Vineyard tag, but instead he kept the CC name and brought this guy from Texas to do a weekly series on the spirit.
We’d go in and the guest would preach, then the lights were turned low, and then the “afterglow” began. Week after week I attended, bathing in the love I had found with a few of the people there who knew nothing of my past, who knew nothing of the absolute brokenness of my being. And every week I did as the rest of them. I raised my hands, closed my eyes, spoke in tongues- or so I tried just a little, and opened my heart to some touch from God if it were possible. And I set aside my discomfort at the growing ritual. I set aside my concerns. I was in fellowship, there was music, and the openness to the miraculous seemed real to someone like me who was new to this. At least for a while, that is.
Until the night when I found myself not so excited about going. Something felt off to me and I self-chastised for even thinking it. I went anyway, Ed preached this time, the lights were turned low, the music was belting and the same people from previous week’s spirit filling began the ritual dance (metaphorically). Suddenly a woman I had noticed times before began to move in a seizure like manner. She stood and shook. She began to moan. Her arms waved. And as she cried her nose ran and she seemed not to notice. Suddenly, she began to scream in pant like waves. I’m no longer singing. I’m horrified. And Ed turns to her and yells, “Stop IT!” And she does.
And this impressionable now 20 year old is struck with one compelling thought. “God, if you ever do that to me, I will not speak to YOU again.” But then I realized I don’t really think He never did anything to her. She did it to herself. In some way they all did it to themselves. Who turned the lights down? Why is this like a seance? Why do I no longer wish to participate in what feels manufactured and in which the product has become farcical? That was my last Sunday. I had outgrown it, or it had outgrown me, or somehow in all the conjuring up I just could not muster one more moment that was outside my reason.
It was told to me years later regarding the CC/Vineyard split that Chuck Smith distanced himself from these “expressions” and focused on the “wordagawd” because that’s where is was at. No crazy-town stuff… just the word. Over the years this became increasingly true in Chuck’s chosen pattern of liturgy. The free expressionists held to Vineyard, the verse by versers stuck with Chuck. The chasm was real and only widened over time. The fracture never healed.
Back in the CC Encinitas days I was a young and naive. I was also ripe for the pickings because I came from highly broken family, one which devoured itself from within. I was a runaway, or a castaway, depending on who you talked to. And I was in great, great need to be accepted. By someone. By anyone. And so that made me vulnerable. Very vulnerable. And so my point in this long entry is that God used an unconventional church environment to bring an unconventional child to Himself. In my case, whacky was met with wacky and I was ok with it until I wasn’t. I was looking for a hero in those CC and Vineyard pastors and congregations. That need appealed to pastors more than willing to accept my adulation of any father figure who might be a support in my life. And to be honest, I met quite a few people willing to love and care for someone as unlovely as I was. It saved my life. I can never repay those people for the way their kindness was a salve for an abused soul. But conversely, the power imbalance within CC left it prone for misuse by weak men who used their positions for their own purposes be it financial, sexual, or simply to drink the intoxicant of power.
Ed eventually was found to be engaging in behavior unsustainable to his calling. He left the ministry. I had long gone before this went down. But the funny thing is his misdeeds coincided with those Sunday nights. In fact, it began around that same time.
Once upon a time a real thing happened at CC… a wave which was a tsunami of grace which God in His mercy applied to a culture of hippies. It was so great that 10 years later it’s legacy would still prompt people to search for a repeat of that divine moment of spiritual expression. Hence Ed Smith’s season of Sunday night afterglow’s. But by that time something secret had crept in and began rotting the CC system from the inside and the ongoing tide of the unexplainable that once rolled in and out became a lap on the shore. Ed was only a symptom of something larger and more insidious that would come to hurt so many. I am one of the haunted. But I am also one who found a new life in my faith which took me far from the hellish life I had once known. As hard as the realities of what CC became might be for me, it’s truly nothing when compared to the abuse of which I once knew.
the narrative of human-based revival includes heroic, charismatic protagonists and ‘ain’t he sumpthin!’ moments of drama. the narrative of Godly revival is brokenness, humility, conversion, and change all with by-standers and observers scratching their heads wondering ‘what happened?’
Name the true revival then.
The story of CC Encinitas is almost paralleled by CC Oceanside. Afterglows with dimmed lights, the music, tongues, etc. Just change the name Ed Smith for Ralph Wood, and head about 15 miles north. After several years, exercise of manifestations was relegated to yearly men’s or women’s retreats.
One big difference: When Ralph was found to be engaging in behavior unsustaining to his calling, he took a brief time-out, then went and started another church not five miles away.
This is one thing I adore about God is His willingness and propensity to use flawed vessels to achieve his purposes, making the religious people angry and confused. I love that in Jesus’ lineage is a prostitute and some other unsavory characters. He is amazing and wonderful in His love and grace.
I’ve been to wild Montana
I went there in a storm
My boots were Texas leather
My Levis wet and torn
I loved it in Montana
Loved it in the storm
I think I’m gonna cross that river
I just might be reborn
New York, New York, winter, ’61
Takin’ me a city ride
Somebody tall musta put out the lights
‘Cause it got real dark outside
And I never saw the sun till ’71
But I never gave up the fight
I sure was glad when I saw the dawn
Somebody, somebody turned on the light
Somebody turned on the light
Women, wine, and fast red cars
And I couldn’t seem to read the signs
Somebody said, “Whose life is this?”
And I said that it can’t be mine
And I never saw the sun till ’71
But I never gave up the fight
I sure was glad when I saw the dawn
Somebody, somebody turned on the light
Somebody turned on the light
When the world is wrong, better right yourself
It’ll make the dark clouds fly
Nobody tall can put out the lights
Just don’t let the spirit die
If you never see the sun till ’91
Don’t you ever give up the fight
Sure be glad when you see the dawn
Somebody, somebody turns on the light
Somebody turns on the light
Thanks for sharing your story. My response might better serve later within this series, but I thought I’d respond to your transparent and open post.
” In my case, whacky was met with wacky and I was ok with it until I wasn’t. ”
While I grew up in church, my mom eventually worked every Sunday and my dad was a total pagan. Like you, church was my lifeline.
” It was so great that 10 years later it’s legacy would still prompt people to search for a repeat of that divine moment of spiritual expression.”
Try 20-30 years later. For me it wasn’t the charismata, or abuse of it that effected me, it was the spiritual abuse. I kept hearing that little voice in my head that told me I was in a cultic environment, but I wanted to be in a place where I and my family could really experience God. The dualism of blessing and abuse almost killed me, and it must have been Providence that I was firmly established in my sobriety during that time.
Even when I was no longer ok with it, I didn’t leave right away. It took years. Its hard to do that when you are pastoring a church. I went through an angry phase, made a fair amount of enemies within the movement – something in most cases I wish I could undo – and have since come out the other side.
Those prophets of Southtown taught me a few things:
“If joy really comes
in the morning time
then I’m gunna sit back
and wait until the
next sun rise”
~ Goodbye for Now, P.O.D.
Today I’m grateful for what God did in my life with CC, and thankful for the creation of CGN where there is a broader theological platform to operate from, all the while, waiting for my next sunrise.
For me it was a combination of the spiritual abuse but always throughout all my history with CC, the cognitive dissonance. I entered the Jesus movement in 68 through the House of Miracles in Riverside. It seemed the perfect answer to the spiritual divide of being raised by a nominal catholic, military father and Protestant mom. I was very much into rejecting the materilism and politics of the prevailing culture. I wound up at Shiloh in Eugene and was married off to rising young pastor within the year.
Turned out I had married into a family who were founding elders of CCCM. In fact had known Chuck and Paul since their college years at LIFE.
My personal experiences, access to the inner workings behind the scenes of the more human side of all the players involved has greatly added to my struggles to make sense of it all over the decades. Counselors both Christian and secular have said I need to right a book. One wanted to connect me with Oprah, LOL. Another with Gloria Alred. Bigger LOL. It was an incredibly wild ride. Taking a long break off the roller coaster for now. No more seeking, knocking, struggling. If anyone, anything even closely resembling what I thought found me long ago in Riverside truly exists, they’ve got my address. I sit in silence often enough to hear them if they ring me up. Until then love is the only guide I try to follow and the least confusing path I’ve found.
Most times leaving all the hurt behind and focusing on the present moment. One breath at a time. It has literally saved my life several times.
( |o )====:::…love those lyrics!
Anne…you should document that history. It’s important. Without a reflection on history, we cannot learn. You are a key witness. Glad you are focusing on the present. Love to you…
Perhaps someday. At my age I maybe shouldn’t keep procrastinating! Love to you too,Linnea.
This event took place around ’82-’83, so my 10 year mark was based off ’72-’73 Jesus People era. I stuck around for a couple of decades afterwards in the CC environment, just not in CC Encinitas, because I just did not want to loose what I thought was my family. Boy was I ever wrong. When the day came I could no longer bear up under it all (lies, deceit, infidelities, fraud, arrogance, et al infinitum) I was called “unstable” and “mental” behind my back because I ended up in a therapist office trying to unwind the profound pain I was in- trying to stop thinking about ways to off myself. I guess in hindsight name calling was really the only thing they had on me. At one point it left me prone to anger over the way I was treated by people I truly cared for. But I did as you, I now have moved on, became better, won a few awards in my field, began a new career outside of the bubble. In the meantime, I raised my children who walk with God and who have finished college and have careers, much to the chagrin of the anti education crown of CC. I still believe in God. I just have a hard time with church. I honestly can’t see myself being a vital part of a congregation again.
As for Woods, I know all too well what happened. I wish I didn’t. But the stories have interesting parallels and support my long held belief that the inherent kill switch in CC always has been it’s governance and it’s inability to police the nonsense appropriately within the confines of scripture.
Thank you as well for sharing openly and transparently.
I am grateful for the moment I was touched by the Spirit back in high school. Years later when I surrendered my life to Christ, it was Him who came to live in me. Calvary teaching in church and on the radio helped early on also.
Although I didn’t regularly attend at Costa Mesa, I did serve at quite a few others for many years and still enjoy the folk worship songs.
Since I chose to go to another quality accredited school, I was considered a black sheep by the heavyweights but so what? At least I didn’t end up as a shill for the “movement”, or wind up a complete castaway. 😉
Anne, your comment blew me away as you write with such deep honesty… Every once in a while someone’s comment will grab you… yours did!
“No more seeking, knocking, struggling. If anyone, anything even closely resembling what I thought found me long ago in Riverside truly exists, they’ve got my address.
I sit in silence often enough to hear them if they ring me up. Until then love is the only guide I try to follow and the least confusing path I’ve found.”
There are many of us who have had the misfortune to peek behind the curtain of everything cc, and the healing from what we saw/experienced comes exceedingly slow!
PLEASE WRITE MORE! You have a gift, and those still “waiting” like us really need it!
Some of these comments leave me puzzled. Especially because the spiritual expression in my world seems similar to what I am reading about in your early CC days. What I think I am reading is that there was a moral rot underneath that was pervasive and extensive. That is foreign to me.
My encounter with Jesus during the years of the JPM did not lead into nondenominational work. Quite the contrary it led to a local Southern Baptist Church, training in an SBC College, two stints in seminary. It also did not lead to a life immersed in pretrib-rapture theology. That was present but not central to SBC life contrary to the caricature. All that to say … the floor was not rotten and the ceiling was not rapture ready… moral failure was met with dismissal and there was no cult-like expression in local churches … sectarian-yes! Cultic — no.
I am now involved in very renewal oriented churches. Style-wise we resemble the old JPM with a bit more Pentecostalistic embrace but I simply do not know anything about a culture that hid immorality, countenanced abuse, or embraced what I am reading between the lines here.
Yes I know all about Patterson — much more a product of his hierarchical male/female world than of any form of intentionally covering scandal.
All that to say, I want to read more about what the heck is in the weeds here. OR maybe I don’t. One thing for sure I have firmly come to believe there is something in the theology of the Jesus-rapture-any-second theology that is undergirding an apostasy, if not an apostasy toward Jesus than at least one toward CC.
My high level take is this:
There is embedded within the culture of this dysfunctioal family either the unwillingness ( for some) and/or lack of capacity to assess and address within local bodies/ families the actions and effects of wickedness, woundedness and weakness appropriately.
Simple Bible teachers and evangelists were granted autonomous authority based upon outward evaluations of the short term effects kf their annointing or “charisms”. The result is the reduction of greatly graced and gifted communities to becime environments of aow joy and low trust.
Not what Jesus had in mind.
Again, many great and godly people and leaders but the overall community environment and relational dynamics are found undernourished.
In a spiritual battle , this leads to unwarranted carnage among sons and daughters of the King.
“I wonder if it could have happened today.”.
I think you nailed it, Michael…we would have done more harm than good
Perhaps we still do…
Another thing that contributed to much of the dysfunction is that many of these newly saved Jesus People were sent out as pastors far too early and were not mature enough in their faith to be an effective or capable pastor. In many ways, I think much of the biblical qualifications for eldership were glossed over in all the enthusiasm.
CM – I know that was a huge factor! My ex and I were put in charge of communes under the umbrella of both Shiloh and CCCM in OC while still in our late teens & early 20s. Total insanity! From conversations with my ex in laws in their later years, it seems that perhaps more than any leading of the Holy Spirit, it may have been a bit of favors to old time friends involved on behalf of their son as much as anything. Although he was certainly passionate and charismatic in his way. Not very steadfast in others. Which is probably why we moved 17 times in the 7 yrs we were married. I still find anything re: the leading, guiding, protection, etc of the HS a very problematic doctrine to wrap my head around theologically let alone by faith and especially emotionally. Either towards the faithful or towards the creation as a whole.
It’s a mighty rough road from conversion to glory
And the line’s down a three-mile grade
It was on that grade that we lost the air brakes
And you see what a jump that we’ve made
verse sung to the tune of “The Wreck of the Old Southern 97”
(The first million-selling hit record)
Revival involves humans necessarily. But does it have to end in a train wreck? Maybe it’s a form of spiritual DNA. Then it must also be time for the fruit to be gathered up. The seed, the Word of God, remains to be sown again and again.
Will some of us see it happen again? Like the second temple, we might not think it compares to the former temple’s glory.
Keep seeking, knocking, for soon He will open the door to heaven for each of us personally.
Precious in the sight of the Lord
Is the death of His saints
Precious in the sight of the Lord
Is the death of His saints
Psalms 116:15 says you are precious to Him
And He’ll welcome you in
Psalms 116:15 says you are precious to Him
Another thing is I think that many of these early Jesus people converts, and some of them at the beginning (Lonnie Frisbee) would have been better served if they were taught and/or realized that perhaps their biblical office was evangelist, instead of pastor or teacher.
Yes I know all believers are called to evangelize and proclaim the Good News, but I am referring to the office of Evangelist listed in Ephesians Chapter 4.
Calvary Chapel is a satanic movement.
I’m originally from NY. In 1982, after my sophomore year in college, I spent the summer in So Cal. I heard the Gospel for the first time at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa that summer and received Christ. I’m forever thankful for that