The State of Calvary Chapel

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78 Responses

  1. Kevin H says:

    Hey, does this thing work?

    It’s been almost a whole hour since this article has posted and not one person wants to comment on the State of Calvary Chapel and the accompanying commentary. What is happening to this place? 🙂

    I guess this is what happens when it is written by a “fringe personality”. 🙂

  2. Michael says:

    I used to wear fringe… 🙂

  3. fyi says:

    Michael, me, too. Thought fringe was cool. Are we getting old or what?

  4. Andrew says:

    The numbers are in and they are compelling: Communities are crying out for new Calvary Chapels!
    Since I am convinced that CC is a consumer driven church, I say give them what they want. I’m glad I am set free of this though.

  5. Michael says:


    I’ve never felt this old.
    Maybe I should bring back the fringe… 🙂

  6. David says:

    Check out the “New” (for past year) worship services (online) at Calvary of ABQ. Lights, mist machines on stage, etc… Feels more like entertainment than worship. It is a distraction. I tell my friends why do we need all the lights, mist, smoke to come into the presence of a Holy God??? Many say they like it, but most don’t but won’t speak up (including the Pastors). The new show is run by Nate. Many years ago Skip used to preach that we don’t need lights shows, mist, darkened walls and ceilings at Calvary ABQ. They will come to hear the Word of God with simple worship. What happened Skip?? Yes it has become nothing more than consumer driven.

  7. everstudy says:

    MIchael, do you have a link to a video of the stuff at CC Cypress? I’d be interested as that’s the church I grew up in and still know quite a few people that go there.

  8. Michael says:

    Doesn’t look like the conference is up yet.
    Here’s one from recently.

  9. Em says:

    1Co 1:26,27
    For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose the fringe to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong;

    i think i got that right … might be a good idea to double check me, tho

  10. once a cc guru says:

    Roger O. said it the best… Ichabod!

  11. Ixtlan says:

    Criswell doesn’t know Calvary history very well.

    Quintana needs a haircut.

    There does not appear to be any accountability within the Calvary Chapel Association board. If you have an affair, that will get out, if you are involved in a corporate cover up of unethical practice, not so much.

  12. Babylon's Dread says:

    Southern Baptists still have more churches each year but less members. It would be shocking if a movement as young as CC were retracting at this stage. The lifecycle still favors it but everyone in the movement can sense the lack of momentum or there would be no questions raised…

    Calvary Chapel is still viable, quite viable but the wineskin they promote is leaking badly and has a short shelf life. Defectors probably closely align with new converts.

    The charisms of the local pastor are the likely determinator of success the brand no longer carries the spirit of a generation.

  13. Babylon's Dread says:

    Just one man’s quaint and uninformed external observation

  14. Babylon's Dread says:

    The conference I watched on TV is so swollen with suspicion it will produce at least as much bad fruit as possible good.

    You cannot make a life out of demonizing everyone else.

    The SBC and CC has been on the same trajectory for 40 years, find and expose enemies, separate yourself from them and their brand. Us and Them … we all do it… it always has consequences other than the ones we want

  15. Bob Sweat says:

    Blah, Blah, Blah?
    Excuse my pessimism.

  16. Bob Sweat says:

    I struck out 3 times, I will never try for a fourth.

  17. AA says:

    I’m taking Bobs advise.

  18. Xenia says:

    For David @ 6, here’s an oldie but goodie:

    Parody of modern worship service:

  19. Scott says:

    Comment #6, isn’t that the kind of thing emerging churches do? Sounds like it’s time for Oakland to visit Skip.

  20. Officerhoppy says:

    I’m a CC pastor and I didn’t know this article existed. Was it sent to the pastor’s?

  21. Michael says:

    It’s on the front page of

  22. Officerhoppy says:

    Yeah. I figured that out after I posted (duh). This is only the 2nd or 3rd time I’ve ever been there! Interesting

  23. Surfer51 says:

    Xenia and Kevin you made my day!

  24. Cookie says:

    I guess the article speaks for itself. Nuff said.

  25. surfer51 says:

    There has been a spiritual pride in CCCM.

    Romain, the assistant pastor of CCCM, once told me a story in 1973 as we were standing in the parking lot looking towards the recently completed sanctuary.

    He said,”A man had recently arrived in heaven and Peter was giving him a tour.

    They came to a wall and Peter started talking in a whisper.

    The man asked why he was suddenly whispering?

    Peter told him that on the other side of the wall were the Calvary Chapel people, “They think that they are the only ones up here.”

  26. Disillusioned says:

    From my experience, each CC operates on the cult of personality of the pastor. There was consistent brainwashing at the CC we attended that to challenge the pastor was to challenge God Himself.
    Talk about delusional.
    Time for these franchisees to ask themselves: what spirit are we of? So much hidden in the darkness.

  27. Josh the Baptist says:

    “Calvary Chapel exploded in the 60s, but we are still expanding today.
    Calvary Chapel has arguments, but we are still a committed family today.
    Calvary Chapel is aging, but we are still training and deploying new leaders today.
    Calvary Chapel has roots that are American, but we are still going global in more ways than ever before today.
    Calvary Chapel is vintage, but the planting of more local Calvary Chapels is still in high demand today.
    We still have a lot to work on, to be sure. But I for one think it is safe to say that things are looking strong for the future of Calvary Chapel.”

    Babs is right again. First thing when I saw this I though that all these still apply to SBC.

    He is also right in #14:” The SBC and CC has been on the same trajectory for 40 years, find and expose enemies, separate yourself from them and their brand. Us and Them … we all do it… it always has consequences other than the ones we want.”

    I wouldn’t say the main thrust of SBC for the last 10 years has been finding and exposing enemies. For 30 years prior to those 10? Sure.

    What about CC? Is that a large characteristic for CC, or just a few loudmouths? Remember, I have no experience at all with CC’s. This is an honest question.

  28. Michael says:


    There are exceptions to the rule…but CC has always had a separatist edge.
    The search for enemies has been as much inside as out in the group for the last few years.

  29. Josh the Baptist says:

    Ahh, sounds like they are following a trajectory about 25 years behind SBC. Our Enemies have ALWAYS been our own members.

  30. Disillusioned says:

    Michael, I concur.

    The CC we attended was well-established, though smallish, and definitely married to whatever came out of Rome, er, Costa Mesa.

    The whole “us vs. them” was a technique propagated almost every week, so that we were even discouraged from making friends who were not “born-again Christians.”. Or if we did, it would only be for the purpose of evangelization. Talk about hypocrisy.
    Love! Where is this LOVE Jesus spoke about? I find it shockingly absent in many CC teachings.

  31. Michael says:

    When Paul Smith was the head of the Calvary Chapel Outreach Fellowship he loved to play doctrinal police against the affiliates.
    When he got canned and the office disbanded that effort slowed down considerably and when Chuck died it came to a halt.
    Brodsersen was much more open to a wider theological base.

    That seems to have reversed lately…

  32. Andrew says:

    Nothing wrong with having convictions on certain beliefs. Every denomination does that. I thought this was the purpose of the CC “Distinctives” that Chuck Smith wrote. But the elephant in the room is that many CCs now want to distance themselves as far as possible from the “Distinctives” so not to alienate the broader audience. So what are the the real unspoken “Distinctives” in CC? In my opinion, the secret of a successful CC is where the numbers speak for themselves. CC will always be successful because their real “distinctives” are to be a chameleon blending in and changing with their environment (culture).

  33. Josh the Baptist says:

    ” CC will always be successful because their real “distinctives” are to be a chameleon blending in and changing with their environment (culture).”

    I think, in a sense, that is the defining characteristic of this “evangelicalism” we always talk about.

  34. Andrew says:

    Josh, I think you are right and I think CC epitomizes the American “evangelicalism” to a large extent.

  35. Jess says:

    Look how many churches out there are exploding with growth, and have no affiliation with any denomination or movement. If the desire is “exploding growth”, then going completely independent and unaffiliated is the way. Avoiding CC or SBC or any brand name, is the way to go. I know plenty of people that will not attend a church if they found out it is CC or SBC or whatever. Lots of baggage for some people in that regard, that is their view. But with an independent name, no baggage for anybody. That is actually ironic, because, in the CC Distinctives, Chuck Smith actually promoted that concept of why someone would try out a CC. Now, CC has baggage of its own for many people out there.

  36. Andrew says:

    Jess, you have a very good point. Some churches just change their name and hide their affiliation but organizationally nothing has changed. Chuck Smith wanted to have it both ways. He wanted to be free from the denominational barriers and keep the autonomy of the local church yet at the same time wanted to keep his affiliates united and organized around a brand. A brand that has come off as so arrogant that at times thinks its the only “true church”. The glue that holds the local church together in CC is the personality of the local celebrity pastor. The glue that holds the entire brand together was Chuck Smith but is now the glue of the collective of these celebrity personalities. Independent churches that want large growth should re-consider and look at the examples of CC, SGM, SBC, Mars Hill, etc.. The stories are remarkable similar and what many all have in common is the idolatry of the celebrity pastor. I think CC has illustrated this best with their over used slogan “Touch Not God’s anointed”.

  37. Josh the Baptist says:

    According to Outreach magazine, in the largest churches in the country list 3 of the top 6 are SBC. 6 of the top 15. Just scanning through, I see a few more in the top 20/30.

    Not that I would judge large churches as being better, or more correct than small ones. Just pointing out that affiliation doesn’t necessarily hold back growth.

  38. Andrew says:

    Josh, Of those top largest churches in the country, would you say most of them have celebrity pastors? It would be interesting to note whether the large size creates the celebrity or the charismatic celebrity draws in the crowds. I think there are a few exceptions of there being a large church with no charismatic celebrity pastor but these are not as common.

  39. Josh the Baptist says:

    I’m guessing they are all celebrities to some extent, Andrew. The top ten are all over 20,000 attenders, and with those kind of numbers the church culture is going to make you a celebrity even if you don’t want it.

    Now, out of the top 20, I only see 7 that I would call legit celebrities, or celebs in the evangelical world at least. The other 13 I wouldn’t know if they walked up and introduced themselves right now. 20-30 has Matt Chandler (SBC), Skip (CC), and Stovall Weems, so that’s three more celebrities.

    So I don’t know if there is a clear correlation, but again, I’d bet all those guys are famous to some extent.

  40. Disillusioned says:

    A pastor doesn’t have to be famous for the attendees to idolize him.

  41. Josh the Baptist says:

    That’s true, and it can happen at a small church as well as large.

  42. Kevin H says:

    As many of you know, I attend a megachurch CC. The pastor of the church is well known in CC circles but he is not a celebrity to the evangelical world. As far as anything I’ve ever seen, he does not carry himself like a celebrity nor does he try to bring about such status.

    However, as already has been said here, that does not mean that the people of the church do not view him as such. While certainly not nearly everyone, I have seen and heard more than enough people speak about him in a manner that borders on, if not completely crosses the threshold of celebrity love. It is one thing to hold your pastor in high regard. It is another thing to fawn at his every word, to have that awe-struck tone when speaking about him, to always hold up his words as the final authority on any said subject, or to despair about what would ever happen to the church if he were to ever leave.

    It is a downfall of our current Western culture that unfortunately many times infiltrates the church. I have seen it in smaller churches, too. But at least in my limited experience, it is much more prevalent in the large church.

  43. Andrew says:

    Kevin, I used to attend that church and I have friends there. I like Joe. I used to idolize him because he seemed like such a spiritual giant to me. Not so much anymore when I started to become a Christian thinker myself. I do wonder what would happen if he were ever to leave the church though. CC just doesn’t seem to be set up to be able to smoothly pass the torch onto the next generation. With no membership, how can you? I remember when Joe personally had to sign for a million dollar loan for their new building. When the assets were wrapped up into one person like that, it does make for a shaky transition. Hopefully he has divested some of his personal liability by now but all you have to do is look at Costa Mesa and the lawsuits that began shortly after Chuck’s passing to understand the problem.

  44. Jess says:

    Josh, I didn’t say there were no large SBC places. I only said that I know plenty of people that would never go to a place, if they found out it was SBC. There are way far more “big” churches that are not SBC, than those that are. But that’s beside the point. My point was that Chuck Smith actually used that methodology as a way to build a “big church”, to have no connections. And it works. But over time, it stops working with some people, and ends up having a negative effect. If that weren’t so, then why are there many SBC places that actually hide their affiliation (some CC places do this too)? Rick Warren, the king of SBC, actually pointed that out in his books, that’s why he hid it in the early years.

  45. Kevin H says:


    I have no knowledge whatsoever of what the financial arrangements were for the new building. This pre-dates me, anyway. But I do know I have heard Joe say on at least a couple occasions that the building is completely paid off and the church is mortgage-free.

  46. Steve Wright says:

    I’m not sure what Jess is talking about re: CC. Just sayin’ Especially as to Chuck and I think I am pretty clear on just about everything he ever taught when it comes to church planting and growth

    The best (and just about only) way to hide one’s CC affiliation is to remove yourself from the database, but the thing is, why would one not just be independent? Why affiliate and then disassociate?

    I think that the majority of new CC plants have Calvary Chapel of… in the name, except in those areas where there already is a CC of as a neighbor and they have to have a different name.

  47. Michael says:

    Here is a reality check.

    Most churches in this country have less than 100 people.
    Most pastors have the the same personal and financial problems everyone else has.

  48. Michael says:

    None of the CC’s here have Calvary Chapel in the name.
    They are all (name) Christian Fellowships.

  49. Steve Wright says:

    I will add that some of the larger CCs out there (at least in So Calif.) have changed their names over the years to remove the CC out of the title. However, they mostly started with the CC in the name and only after they became huge did they change it..which sort of goes against the theory presented that hiding the name is the path to growth.

    That said, what CC did (and is still doing) is now replicated by dozens of churches, many wholly independent, and so I think the only way the name means anything is if a CC person moves to a new city. I know that is what we see at our place, most new people don’t know a thing about CC or any such “movement” and then there are those who say they just moved into town from OC where they were at CC xyz for 20 years.

  50. Andrew says:

    Kevin, I attended there before they moved into their new building when they met in the mall. Joe personally took on the liability with the new building which they renovated from an old “meter” factory. Glad its paid off now. This was Joe’s vision for the church and long before I heard the term vision casting. There used to be strip club right next to the church called “Double Visions”. When the church came in, it cleaned up the place a lot. You can’t argue with that. But it went from “Double Visions” to Joe’s vision which some claim was God’s vision. The building may be paid off but who owns it? Who owns their other building in the Poconos? These are the the questions I think every attendee should ask themselves.

  51. Steve Wright says:

    None of the CC’s here have Calvary Chapel in the name.
    Well, I obviously don’t doubt you depending on how “here” is defined but in looking at the CCA church locator for the entire state of Oregon I see far more Calvary Chapel of… churches than any other name. And in a couple cases where there is another name they are in the same town as an existing Calvary Chapel of… church.

  52. Steve Wright says:

    type in “Oregon” and hit search (above)

  53. Jess says:

    Steve, it was Chuck Smith that said in the CC Disctinctives, that a person would say, “What is Calvary Chapel? Let’s go check it out! But when you are Methodist, Presbyterian, Baptist, they know what you are, and they know they don’t need to go to you”. That’s a close enough paraphrase to what he said in the book. Chuck Smith said it. And my point was, again, that there are plenty of people I know now that would never attend a CC if they knew it was a CC (ironic considering Chuck’s own statement on the matter). Not everybody goes looking on the CCA website to see if there is any affiliation or not.

  54. Michael says:

    Here as in the Rogue Valley…where I actually live…where there are at least half a dozen.

  55. Kevin H says:

    Andrew, I also have no idea on the financial arrangements of the Pocono building. As is apparently common with many CC’s, financials are not something spoken too much nor is financial information made readily accessible.

  56. Andrew says:

    Kevin, my best guess is the entire operation from the school to the church building to the Poccono building to the book store to the recording studio business is probably personally owned by Joe or in some kind of legal entity that he has personal control over. Attendees rightfully so should be deeply concerned about what would happen if Joe leaves.

  57. Michael says:


    No one can” personally own” facilities in a non profit.
    They can act like they do, but they don’t.

  58. Andrew says:

    Michael, I’m not sure its non profit or even organized as a non prophet. Not sure how one can personally sign for a million dollar loan in a non profit business but supposedly thats what happened. And can a private school that is part of the CC church building be considered non-profit? I’m not a tax attorney so I have no clue. But I thought that the only schools that could be considered non profit were public ones. Anyway, as Kevin said the financials are hard to come by.

  59. Josh the Baptist says:

    I’m certain that I can buy a building and let a church meet there without having to give up ownership of my property.

  60. Michael says:


    Do you have any idea how many years I’ve put into this kind of reporting?

    Do you have any idea how much more difficult it is to report on real financial and other types of abuse when people keep repeating the same misinformation over and over again?

    Yes, financial information is hard to come by.
    Yes, some pastors use their churches as ATMs…but they have to do so according to the federal and state laws that govern this type of non profit organization.

    Yes, private schools can and do operate as non profit organizations or under the umbrella of a non profit.

    Yes, the legal head of a non profit can sign for loans and other financial matters.

    If we are to be credible, we have to keep our facts straight.

  61. Josh the Baptist says:

    “If the desire is “exploding growth”, then going completely independent and unaffiliated is the way. Avoiding CC or SBC or any brand name, is the way to go”

    Jess, this is statement I took issue with. The facts just don’t line up with your theory.
    No biggie.

    Now, I am personally not big on megachurches. My church has less than 200.

  62. Jess says:

    Josh, you left out the part I said about many people turned off by SBC, CC, and so on. That was my point. I never said that using connections won’t grow a place. I only said that it is often a disadvantage, and there are many people that won’t go to a place, based on its connections, and even Chuck Smith believed that.

  63. Jess says:

    In reality, if you want the place to *really* grow, just give everyone the same vaguely encouraging speech week after week about “how God will give you the victory”, and deny Jesus being the only way to heaven, while being interviewed on CNN. There is a place like that, at the top of that list you were looking at. Such a place makes every other place look like a small home group.

  64. Josh the Baptist says:

    Jess – @63 I just disagree, and think that facts back me up. I also know people who will ONLY go to SBC, or CC, or LCMS…or whatever.

    Now you #64 I totally agree. Water it down. Make it entertaining. You’ll have people fighting to get in.

  65. Jess says:

    Josh, actually I still stand with my point. I actually agree with what Chuck Smith said way back, that the name brands are more of a liability than a help. Yes, there are partisan people out there that will only go with their brand. But the general public isn’t like that on the whole. And again, Rick Warren is the model for SBC, and avoided letting on that he was SBC, in order to grow the place. How many SBC’s on your list, use “Baptist” in the name? Some do, and some don’t. RW told us why he doesn’t. Read the #6 post in this thread. If what they say there is true, then Heitzig changed from one position to another. Not a name change away from using CC in his case, but another change in a different way that is “distinctly” not CC. Every group is Osteening (can I make up that word?) in their own way, to get growth.

  66. Josh the Baptist says:

    “Josh, actually I still stand with my point.”

    In America, you are free to be wrong.

    🙂 I’m just kidding with you. All good.

  67. Michael says:

    If watering down the Gospel were the key to success the Methodists and other mainlines would be bulging at the seams.

    They’re not.
    They’re dying.

    We need to think deeper and more clearly about these issues.

  68. Jess says:

    Josh, I don’t believe that I’m wrong. 🙂

    Michael, the Methodists and others aren’t teaching the same message every week (maybe some are, but, I doubt most do). I see it from Osteen and his types, men and women every day on my Facebook feed that people share from these guys/gals. The same one message is, “You have BIG problems! But God is BIIGGEERR!! And this is your year that God brings you, yes you, the victory!!!”. While I attest to its validity on some level, there’s more to God than that, right? But for the average person, that’s what they want, apparently. Mainline groups don’t just do that. Osteen and his kind, do.

  69. Josh the Baptist says:

    Michael, you must water it down AND make it more entertaining. Now, that is not the only path to growth, but it does work.

  70. Josh the Baptist says:

    Jess – It’s good to believe things.

    You are right on about the motivational messages.

  71. Jess says:

    The main thing I see is, it’s a question of marketing. America (and this is really spreading everywhere in the world) is based upon, who can put out the best product. It obviously shouldn’t be that way with matters of the Bible and spiritual life. But, the flesh is still around, and the enemy is still around, and so it has to be contended with. The word/faith guys and gals market a “good” product. “You will have all your dreams come true”. How can we wonder why people are flocking to hear it. But there is another way to grow a work, as Josh said, there is another way. Standing up for truth will attract people. It will just be different people. 1 Cor 11:19

  72. SJ says:

    Funny the discussion here is the exact scenario of a friends church. Met a little old lady at the dog park. Helped her with her rescue dog. Found out she was a sister.

    She is at a baptist church (SBC??) where the leaders are talking about removing the “baptist” to have more youth draw.

    On another note, with the whole Verizon killing legacy email accounts, she lost all her prayer chain contacts for a load of missionaries the church supports. Bummer. Fighting it out with Verizon to get them back.

  73. Andrew says:

    Michael @ 61. I am not spreading misinformation. I am asking questions. It seems you know more about a church I attended for 10 years than I do. I’m glad you are reporting what you are reporting and I learned much on this blog about how CC operates. It just goes to show how clueless attendees can be in CC when they trust their guru with everything.

  74. Michael says:


    For the most part, people are clueless because they choose to be.

  75. Andrew says:

    Michael, I was one of those people. I’m not proud of it. But I do think the CC power brokers definitely take advantage of the ignorance of most folks.

  76. Jess says:

    SJ, we saw that in a church in Oklahoma, that was connected to a denomination. They changed the name, and overhauled the entire building and sanctuary. They felt that they were going to die, so they made a marketing decision. It didn’t end up working for them. They closed up last year. But they also had a “weak” speaker, some perceived. As some posts pointed out above, the teacher in the place has to build a “following”, I guess, for the marketing approach to really work. People have to want to hear whoever is doing all the speaking. Throwing in a killer band and lights and smoke doesn’t hurt, of course. Especially if you want the youth. Sooner or later people have to rebel against this stuff, right?

  77. Surfer51 says:

    I predict that Pastor Chuck Smith saw the full extent of his Calvary Chapel family with his own eyes.

    And now that he is gone Calvary Chapel is past its peak.

    Especially in light of the division’s currently happening on several levels there.

    Jesus nailed it when He said:

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