The Calvary Chapel Chronicles: Prelude

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40 Responses

  1. ( |o )====::: says:

    excellent into!

  2. Michael says:

    Thank you, G…I hope we do something worthwhile here…

  3. Jean says:

    Your observation about the type of men called into that revival rings true to the pattern of Scripture, and reminded me of something I’ve read before:

    “The love of God does not find, but creates, that which is pleasing to it. The love of man comes into being through that which is pleasing to it.”

  4. Xenia says:

    I am glad you wrote this, Michael.

    Many of my Orthodox convert friends would say the young people were converted to a heretical form of Christianity and that all the fruit is rotten but I do not say this. What if the Orthodox Church is the One True Church- where was it during the hippie days when people needed saving? My church did not step up to the plate. We were busy squabbling about which archaic language to use during Liturgy. God used the people who were willing and enthusiastic and who welcomed everyone.

    Having said that, I have serious issues with Evangelical theology and practices. But I cannot deny that God used these folks.

  5. Michael says:

    I have issues of all sorts with evangelicalism as well. God doesn’t seem to care… 🙂

  6. Hi Michael,
    I agree that the Jesus Movement was a real revival. However, it was a skewed or partial revival, unlike, for example, the Great Awakening, the Second Great Awakening, the Methodist revival in England, the 1904-1905 Welsh Revival and, for that matter, the Great Reformation. David Di Sabatino, who has chronicled this as much as anyone, says, “The fervent belief in the imminent Second coming of Christ [which was endemic to the movement] fostered an unshakeable apocalypticism among the majority of Jesus People. Though the Bible states that ‘no man knoweth the day nor the hour,’ most Jesus People believed that the ‘rapture’ (which would snatch all the Christian believers up to heaven before the end of the world) would occur within their lifetime. . . . Since the last days were quickly approaching, a sense of urgency towards the fate of those still unevangelized developed. Street-corner witnessing efforts were girded by a ‘turn or burn’ mentality. Those that did not accept their message of hope through Jesus Christ were forthrightly told that their choice would exclude them from the ‘rapture of the church,’ that they would be damned to hell. . . . [Because of their eschatology] the Jesus People did not readily embrace social amelioration as one of their dominant themes.” (Di Sabatino, “The Jesus People Movement” [master’s thesis] 1994: 140-42)
    The eschatology of the movement therefore tended to separate evangelism from a holistic approach to life. Evangelism was focused on getting people to make a “decision for Christ.” Faith tended to be applied only in the religious arena (e.g., going to church, personal devotions, prayer, Bible study), not in the social arena as well (e.g., the arts, righting injustice, cultural renewal) (see also Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life, 1980, 376-77; Truesdale, “Last Things First,” 117-18). You may well deal with issues like this in coming installments, but I thought I’d mention it.

  7. Xenia says:

    Hello Mr. Menn, how good to see you here!

  8. Michael says:

    You make an interesting point…I’ll comment further when I get home.
    Good to see you here!

  9. John Donne says:

    Well written, please just get the spelling right so it doesn’t detract from the enjoyment of it.
    “Calles” is streets in Spanish, but not a word in English that I know of.

    Thank you

    John Donne

  10. Michael says:

    Refresh your browser. That was corrected hours ago.

  11. surfer51 says:

    What must be fully understood is that Calvary Chapel existed way before Chuck Smith took over the helm. Calvary Chapel was a “John Birtcher” church. The city of Costa Mesa was run by “the good ole boys” who controlled the town as they saw fitting. Chuck fit the mold as far as that goes and became the pastor.

    In his own admission, when he saw hippies his thoughts were always, “Dirty hippies, get a job!”

    God takes a rednecked pastor and a hippie and starts a movement.

    Can you imagine that night that Lonnie first came into Calvary Chapel, bringing along some newly converted hippies with him? The John Birtcher types flipped out. Wanting to put sheets on the pews and have a box of thongs outside because the hippies were barefooted and some of them not so clean.

    How Calvary Chapel Of Costa Mesa Actually Begun From My Perspective:

  12. Xenia says:

    I remember my first church service at Calvary Chapel. My best friend and I were life-long Baptists but our local Baptist church just hired a pastor we didn’t care for so we checked out the CC in town for a Wednesday night study. We went into the hired hall of another church and sat on the folding chairs in the back. I had 3 kids with me and she had 2. The very first word I heard from Calvary Chapel was a polite version of “Get those kids out of here.” So we put the kids in the children’s church next door and were enthralled by the genuineness of the teaching that night. I guess in retrospect it was enthralling compared to the weak sauce at the church we had just left… but we stayed, both of us, for the next 20 years. Turns out, the man who told us to send the kids out was the pastor. The next to the last words I ever heard from that pastor 20 years later was “Orthodoxy is not a system that leads to salvation.” But the very last thing I heard from him were words of sincere reconciliation. He’s a good man, ol’ Pastor Bill is.

  13. Xenia says:

    I remember my last Calvary Chapel service, too. It was also a Wednesday night study and we were now in our beautiful new “facility,” we were told to call it. I was a sitting on an upholstered pew-seat, once again in the back row, not out of shyness this time, but out of rebellion. The pastor announced we were going to spend the next few years plowing through the book of Romans… again. I almost stood up and screamed “I can’t take it anymore!!!’ But I slunk out and never came back, having by that time fallen into the mystical embrace of the Eastern Orthodox Church.

  14. Erunner says:

    Michael, I was here towards the beginning. I remember there was so much traffic here you would leave a post and 20 more appeared within a minute or two. I needed to learn a lot of what you shared as I thought CC was pretty much flawless.

    Although I’ve had some issues with how the blog has evolved and chose to step away this is something I hope will be done in an edifying manner. I pray you are well. Allan

  15. JD says:

    My first was also a Wednesday night study at Costa Mesa. We called it “Zap Night”, because you got “zapped” by the Holy Spirit when you stood up at the end.
    One of us, a Jewish kid, even went to the afterglow in the back room.
    Trouble is, we got into the car to leave and somebody fired one up. After a couple of tokes we came to the unanimous conclusion that it was BS.
    Spent the next twenty-something years running from the truth before surrendering myself to the Lord.
    My last experience was Fathers Day at the CC a few blocks from home. Not their fault but I felt strangely out of place. Around here there are few options that would work for us, our daughter seem to like going more than we do.

  16. Duane Arnold says:


    Just got home from the airport, so I might not be wholly coherent. Yes, yes, yes, God did something and it was unique. We were not much interested in “doctrine” as we were in the Bible – we saw the two as being distinct at the time. Oddly enough, so much was going on – music, new converts, “signs of the end times” that everyone was very much “in the moment” without real thought for the future (that is, if there was going to be a future). Somehow God used the simplicity and the lack of what we now consider essential. It is a paradox, but perhaps there are lessons to be learned about not handing a new believer a library rather than simply a helping hand…

  17. Em says:

    Reading Dr. Duane and thinking back to the times… wondering… How on earth did God reach the younger generation of that day? 1 Cor. 1:25,26 comes to mind ?

  18. Erunner says:

    Em, we each have our own story from that time. In 1976 I attended a Saturday Night concert at CCCM. It was there I first heard the Gospel and I responded when the altar call was given and my life has never been the same. Lots of ups and downs along the way but I’m His.

  19. Rick says:

    I was there in the early days in San Diego; it was real. In some ways the weakness of leadership that God used so mightily in the beginning became a hindrance in maintaining the innocence of those early days.

  20. pstrmike says:

    sandals or flip flops, thongs mean something different today 😉

    I had bare feet on the ground in So Cal during the Jesus Movement. This move of God was not limited to Calvary, God was harvesting in many different churches in So Cal. I often wonder how many would attend CCCM on Saturday night and then attend another church Sunday morning.

    In the high school I attended, Campus Crusade created a alternative culture that had much the same hierarchy as its secular counterpart.

    While I think there were many factors during that time that drew people to Christ, one of the main ingredients of the jet was the doctrine of the rapture. The idea of getting left behind (thanks Larry Norman) scared hell right out of people.

    It was a mixed bag, something I recognized even back then. Very few were really grounded. Ignorance abounded. Many fell away. But it was also miraculous: some of the greatest experiences in a church setting that I have ever experienced. And God showed up.

  21. Linnea says:

    Michael…a great context to that revival. CC played a great part in teaching me God’s word and maturing me in the faith.

    I’ve come to realize that carrying our cross daily means bearing with our own and other’s sins. I’ve come to believe, that in my life, those wounds, those inflictions from CC pastors/staff were ordained of God to move me to the next level of understanding Him. We carry those wounds by forgiving those sins in our lives. We can’t make payment for those sins, Jesus can. But, we can and are called to forgive. I’ve come to realize that forgiving and bearing those wounds are are a large part of what Jesus called me to do in this life. That, and focusing my eyes on Him, so that I can love others. It’s only after we figure that out that we can move on to count it all joy.

  22. Bobby Grow says:

    It’s interesting I attended Calvary Chapel Bible College in 96–97, there was just a reunion page set up for all former CCBC students set up about a year ago where I’d say hundreds joined and participated. I’d say 50% in that group are now atheists, agnostics and want nothing to do with Christ. Similarly I attended CCCM for about 5yrs almost everyday in and around that time. Most folks I know from that period are also no longer professing Christians, or at very best have moved onto more substantial Christian expressions (including myself—I actually grew up the son of a Conservative Baptist Pastor so I didn’t start with CC). Anyway, I’d say CC is more like a revivalist clearing house rather than a place where deep and abiding discipleship takes place; this a function of not having trained leadership and teachers (beyond Chuck Tapes). Of course this isn’t just a CC problem in the free low evangelical churches in Northa America and beyond.

  23. Linnea says:

    I should have read the comments before I commented!

    J. Menn at 1:11…thanks for sharing that perspective.

    eRunner…so good to see you again.

    Xenia…I enjoyed reading your introduction to and last interaction with CC.

    I was pricked by ‘s (Oswald Chambers) devotional today. He describes that the disciples were sent out by Jesus to minister to the rest of Israel, allowed Jesus to work in Galilee. The train of thought was that when we tarry or wait as God commands, He is able to work without hinderance. Thinking about that thought now in the context of the current situation at CC.

  24. Steve says:

    I’ll leave CC legacy in the hands of God. I certainly don’t want to take away anyone positive experience they had away from them but at the same time I don’t think writing a hagiography of Chuck Smith is appropriate. Many folks may have become saved and many others may have been injured spiritually but I think it’s almost impossible to understand the fruit good or bad that has resulted. I personally find the group to be heterodox and the damage done is profound but that’s just my personal opinion whether it’s right or wrong.

  25. Matthew says:

    I’m looking forward to this series. I grew up in San Diego and was very attracted to Calvary Chapel (decided to go in another direction) but I loved all the people involved, still do in fact. I know it was / is messy, but what other kind of people and churches are there? I, too, am a messy follower of Jesus

  26. Steve says:

    Matthew,. Messy is a great adjective to describe an immature toddler. Probably an excellent metaphor for CC but certainly not all Christians by any stretch.

  27. The New Victor says:

    [i]It’s interesting I attended Calvary Chapel Bible College in 96–97, there was just a reunion page set up for all former CCBC students set up about a year ago where I’d say hundreds joined and participated. I’d say [b]50% in that group are now atheists, agnostics and want nothing to do with Christ[/b]. Similarly I attended CCCM for about 5yrs almost everyday in and around that time. Most folks I know from that period are also no longer professing Christians,[/i]

    Why do you think that is? I’ve only ever run into one very angry ex-Christian who told us that he was deep into The Bible and all of it but believed it was a load of…. he did manage to run off. quite rudely, a JW who was quietly but consistently trying to get a few of us to go to a Kingdom Hall meeting.

  28. John Donne says:

    This revival in the late 60s to 70s I remember was taking place everywhere, there was Melodyland, the Catholic Charismatic Renewal Movement, even fringe groups like the Children of God were birthed at this time that were exploiting what God was doing, but I think what Chuck Smith did was provide stability and direction and a place for people to discover their gifts and talents. The beauty about Chuck Smith is that he wasn’t put off by external outward appearance, but welcomed all, and the music being birthed at Calvary Chapel by hippies was welcomed as it became Jesus music, Chuck Smith made room and provided a place and gave guidance to what became a movement without compromising the word of God.

  29. Steven says:


    Great intro that sets the tone for the series.

    I always thought it interesting that Chuck Smith credited his wife, Kay for meeting the hippies. From his words, he was like “get a job ya bum,” but she was able to bring a few to their home (including Lonnie Frizbee).

  30. Sue Reinberg says:

    After 20 years of attending Calvary Chapel my husband and I decided to leave almost 2 years ago. We saw big changes over the many years we attended such as the worship music which was more and me and I instead of about God, repentance and the Holiness of God. Singing Hillsong music didn’t appeal to us either. There were many other reasons why we left too. We go to a good solid church that teaches theology and the importance of repentance. When we decided to leave that is when I started to really look at Calvary Chapel and their inception and Lonnie Frisbee which of course is kept quite in the Calvary Chapel movement.

  31. JM says:

    Didn’t see all this before today’s posting.
    Well stated preamble, Michael.
    Very, good comments from others, too.
    I am learning a lot through them.

  32. The New Victor says:

    I saw the Lonnie Frisbee doc on YouTube a couple of years ago. I found the snippets of his sermons a little creepy, but I could see how he connected with his people. Our CC’s worship team isn’t flashy and they mix the team from week to week, like last week taking the drums off stage. They support a mission in Africa, and members mission in Latin America (Guatemala recently, to provide relief for victims of the volcano), and encourage youth to connect with Potter’s Field ministries (any concern with them?).

    Our pastor did invite Walid Shoebat to speak two years ago… then apologized to the congregation the following Sunday.

    I’m aware of the controversy with The Whosoevers, but they apparently support them due to Ryan Reis, Raul being his dad of course. Ryan was open about his degenerate past. When he described it, I couldn’t help but think “a son of Eli?” But I’ll take his repentance and work as he says. I still think The Whosoevers as questionable.

  33. Michael says:

    I have huge issues with the Potters Field but have no desire to say more than that.

  34. The New Victor says:

    I know you’re a busy man but if you have time feel free to email me. This is the kind of thing which triggers me as a father. With whom do I trust my kids? They were already victims of abuse due to my ex-laws’ dysfunctional family dynamic 4 years ago, something I’d never envisioned having to go through as a parent. I pray for wisdom from God to be upon them all of the time.

    I’ve thought about changing churches, but haven’t experienced red flags to drive me to do so yet. D6 is happy in Sunday school. S8 has stayed with me in the service for the last two years after he transitioned out of the 4s/5s class. It would likely be a harder transition for my daughter.

  35. Michael says:


    I don’t think there is any risk there…they have simply been on the other side of every war I’ve fought with CC…

  36. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    “What must be fully understood is that Calvary Chapel existed way before Chuck Smith took over the helm. Calvary Chapel was a “John Birtcher” church. The city of Costa Mesa was run by “the good ole boys” who controlled the town as they saw fitting.”
    — Surfer51

    I’ve lived all my life in SoCal, the last 35 years behind the Orange Curtain in North County. Costa Mesa’s local nickname is “Costa Lotta”, i.e the Rich Guys’ part of town that these days is a magnet for Megachurch plants.

    “John Birch Church”? That would explain a lot. Maybe you could take Chuck Smith out of the Birchers but you could never take the Bircher completely out of Chuck Smith? i.e. he retained the Bircher Conspiracy attitude, just transferred it to a more Cosmic scale? (And the Birchers always did have a Christian overlap…)

  37. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    “Chuck Smith had been a bi vocational minister mired in mediocrity, Lonnie Frisbee was a bisexual who converted while on drugs, and the musicians who provided the crowds and soundtrack for the movement were largely from the newly converted.”

    Sounds like some of the Weird-but-True stuff you find throughout history. As either Tom Clancy or Mark Twain put it, “The difference between reality and fiction is fiction has to make sense.”

    And when Entropy set in over time, Chuck Smith ended up as Big Brother and Lonnie Frisbee as doubleplusunperson (not even an Emmanuel Goldstein).

  38. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    “[i]It’s interesting I attended Calvary Chapel Bible College in 96–97, there was just a reunion page set up for all former CCBC students set up about a year ago where I’d say hundreds joined and participated. I’d say [b]50% in that group are now atheists, agnostics and want nothing to do with Christ[/b]. Similarly I attended CCCM for about 5yrs almost everyday in and around that time. Most folks I know from that period are also no longer professing Christians

    “Why do you think that is?” — New Victor

    My take?

    “Communism begets Objectivism” — burnouts flipping one-eighty from one extreme to its opposite, but with equal Righteous Fury. Fundamentalism is a state of mind, and the object of that Fundamentalism is just a necessary focus. From the pen of the prophet Charles Schulz:

    CHARLIE BROWN: What do you want to be when you grow up?
    LINUS: A fanatic.
    CHARLIE BROWN: Uh… Have you decided what you want to be fanatical about?
    LINUS: I don’t know. I guess I’ll be a wishy-washy fanatic.

  39. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    “Before we begin examining the Calvary Chapel movement we have to go back to the beginning…”

    “What we gonna do is go back. Back into time.
    When the only people who existed were Troglodytes — CAVEMEN!”
    — Jimmy Castor, “Troglodyte” (1972)

  1. October 1, 2020

    […] Calvary Chapel Chronicles: Prelude […]

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