Things I Think…
1. The Calvary Global Network’s annual conference begins today in Costa Mesa, CA. I suspect it may be one of the last ones this side of Calvary Chapel split holds. The reason is so simple that no one sees it. Simply, this group has failed to develop a unique and compelling identity. For any organization to prosper it must define itself in the marketplace and have clear reasons why people should join and be identified with it. As evidenced by the lineup at this conference, CGN has failed to do so…
2. Interestingly, another one of the reasons CGN will fail is that it has not developed high profile personalities to represent the brand. If you’re going to compete in the evangelical marketplace, you have to develop human symbols that represent you. The ghost of Chuck Smith has been appropriated by the Calvary Chapel Association…
3. This lack of identity is afflicting Christianity as a whole. As traditional denominations drop their distinctive characteristics to try to appeal to the unwashed masses, they end up with nothing to appeal to them at all…
4. When those traditional means of identification are lost, the only churches that flourish have big personalities running them with all the mess that brings…CGN would have to rent one to have one…
5. As much as I might have disagreed with the old Calvary Chapel when Chuck Smith was alive, at least you knew what a Calvary Chapel was. Same with a group like the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. You know who they are, what they believe, and what they expect from congregants. When you lose those markers, you eventually lose your reason for existence…
6. One of the alternatives to having distinctive theological markers is to identify with a political group as many evangelicals have done. Your market then becomes a voting block and your existence depends on that group holding power. You also expose yourself to backlash from those who disagree with the politics…
7. None of this is particularly good news for the other side of the Calvary Chapel split. They held on to the theology of the united CC, but they also held on to the practices that caused the split and their leadership is aged and failing. They have ties that will hold them together a little longer than CGN…but those ties will also choke the life out of them as well…
8. The notion that Jesus identifies with either political party or even this country…is blasphemy…
9. The moral of the story? Be who you are to the glory of God and not in a vain grasp for numbers…
10. I’m pretty sure I’m right, but I might not be…
#8…amen. CharismaNews engages in blasphemy on a daily basis.
I think that for many decades, Christians found their identity in para-church organizations, since their churches belonged to a plain-vanilla denomination or were independent congregations that had no larger presence.
So maybe that is what we need to stand out in this world: be proud of being a PhxP fanatic! But then that leads to more questions:
Does that make us readers Phoenix Preacherists?
Will we need to sport Michael Newnham tats?
Is cat ownership a requirement for membership in this elite group?
So many questions…
“Marketplace”… “Identity”… “Big Personalities”… all things that are NOT in the language of Jesus’ ministry and example, but in fact, they are cancerous tumors in the Body of Christ. The absence of LOVE in the leadership of Calvary Chapel added with the leaven of ‘competitiveness’ is why Calvary Chapel is on ‘hospice care’ as a ‘movement’. I don’t believe CC is ‘moving’ much at all, except by the remnant of faithful pastors who have determined within themselves to not be contaminated by those leading them within CCA and/or CGN.
Yours truly may well be accused (and found guilty) of being a “one-note-poster”, but that’s okay. I submit that since they did not “clean out the camp” and thereby showed affinity for the sins committed under the CC banner, both sides deserve what they get. I believe in my heart that God is always willing to come down among His people. He does have terms, however. Since He’s God and we’re not–that’s the way it is. Since the present leaders on both sides of the split have refused to do the right thing and prepare a proper place for a Holy God to come down and fellowship–they and their mediocre offerings deserve extinction. They are actually hurting people. Not helping. As for me, I left the camp and the constraints of a dead system quite some time ago. Oh how much one can see from a distance! We need structure and we need fellowship. However, we do not need to put up with the slobber of deluded, self-anointed men when God has something better.
You have been right on the mark, Michael, when you have made many implications that the people who occupy the pews essentially get what they put up with–and what they financially support.
And so it will be.
I suspect Calvary Chapels will continue on as they have been, more or less functioning as a plain vanilla evangelical church with decreasing interest in Chuck Smith and the glory days of the Jesus Movement. Maybe they will tone down the Rapture stuff, which would be a plus. I suspect many of them are promoting a certain type of politics, which is a minus, IMO. CC itself, or at least Pastor Chuck, came out of the Four Square church founded by the flamboyant Aimee Semple MacPherson and you hardly ever heard about Sister Aimee and her glory days. I think the memory of Chuck will fade into the past because I just don’t think young people care much about all that. All to say, I think local CC’s with youngish pastors will carry on as usual and won’t involve themselves too much with the rival factions. I suspect a lot of the CC pastors are grieved by the whole split business and resent having to choose sides. Maybe if local churches distance themselves from the fray they will turn to the other churches in their communities and maybe they can work together for good (but not for politics, hopefully).
Sorry, kind of a ramble.
I don’t think we can pull that off… 🙂
Unfortunately, that model continues elsewhere…
The lack of a singular identity will almost always lead to finding a new one.
That’s why many CC’s are looking toward the SBC as a new home…
CCA is only a half generation behind CGN from their own extinction. Once the celebrities die off, it will be a poorly run family business with large empty buildings in desparare need of repair. #1 and #2 fit together like and hand and glove and neither one is what Jesus taught us. So I don’t think this is a failure but rather maybe God’s intention.
I think you’re right on both counts…we’ve already seen some “transitions” crash and burn…
Michael, who are the speakers? I can’t find the list online.
The list is…eclectic…
Michael, you probably know some of them already.
Gerry Breshears is a theologian who worked with Driscoll for years.
McPherson played for the Chargers and pastors a mega church in San Diego.
Two are definitely Reformed…Ray Ortlund and Jared Wilson.
The others are representative of local pastors and CCCM people.
I think the obits for Calvary Chapel are rather premature. Here in SoCal there is a plethora of CCs and their odd bag of beliefs and practices saturate so much of Evangelicalism in the area. No matter your Evangelical denomination, in SoCal you have to interact with that CC influence. I doubt that will change anytime soon, whether those CC congregations officially associate with CCGN, CCA, SBC, ARC, or any other acronym. The CC culture will remain strong here for many years to come, as it will in certain other pockets around the country.
It’s an odd mix…even have an Anglican there…
I’m looking 5-10 years down the road…
Huh… I see the pastor of my old CC is not a speaker and I think he was a speaker in the past.
I can’t see him ditching CC and I really can’t see him joining the Baptists so I wonder what he’s thinking about these days.
That Anglican speaker… Boy, that’s gonna get the old timers worked up and Mrs. ODM too, I’m sure.
I don’t understand (sincerely),
1) has Brian been abandoned because of his supposedly blasphemy against “The Distinctives,” fear of The Don, both, or something else I’m missing?
2) This apparent anathema by what seems to be at least a large portion of “the movement” is nothing like I’ve seen on such a large scale to date. Isn’t it strange when all the other stuff was going on (CC Pastor convicted of manslaughter – link below, and ALOT more over the years) and the silence from the movement was deafening? I’m being serious, MUCH evil has happened and we don’t hear bubkiss, Brian supposedly violates some paperback (which you’ll NEVER hear of in heaven) and Brian now sits with crickets? What?
I feel like Joshua (no I’m not comparing myself to his faithfulness) coming down the mountain after communing with Jesus, seeing the congregation carrying a gold-plated chuck holding a gold-plated paperback, scratching my head.
Except…”the people” want to attack Brian – the guy CHUCK appointed!!!
I’ve written about this extensively.
The old guard believed that Costa Mesa should be pastored by someone who was able to draw large crowds and fully embraced the CC Distinctives, written and otherwise.
They have never liked Brodersen.
The younger ones who grew up around other influences like him a lot.
The problem is that they have yet to create a real identity for that group…and time (and money) are running out.
In Matthew 4:4; Jesus (God) said “It is written that men shall not live by bread alone; but by every word that proceeded from the mouth of God.” Calvary chapel with the guidance of the late Pastor Chuck Smith reaches the whole Bible (book by book , chapter by chapter and verse bay verse). Proohecy update is also shared. Because of Pastor Chuck Smith, Calvary chapel non-denomination churches is a goof example of the church of Philadelphia spoken in the book of Revelation. As you can see I am not a writer, a Pastor or someone who authors biblical books. Close to 40 years ago God Almighty and remove me from Roman Catholism I a divine appointment with a former Roman Catholic and later a brother in Christ who lead me to a relationship with Christ from a religious one as a Catholic. Little was I aware off, this brother in Christ was a Worship Leader for our local Calvary Chapel. Phoenix preacher now I would like to know what is your disgreement with Pastor Chuck Smith?
Speaking of running out of money, whatever happened in the The Word for Today and elder abuse lawsuit filed by Chuck’s daughter Janette Manderson?
Recently I have visited, several times, the biggest CC in my area. Over the years I visited there occasionally as I like the pastors teaching and invariably when I visit there the message he teaches seems to be just what I need to currently hear. The pastor is nearly 80 and is a regional head in CCA, one of the old guard. I was a bit surprised at the current state of things there. This place used to be packed, now its about 1/3 the size of attendees. I was also surprised how dead it feels, no one is friendly, not much singing along by the congregation, no one smiles. The pastor disappears after the message, no tables in the foyer with ministry info…yet they currently are pushing an outreach to invite people to the church. I feel like thats spiffy but once they visit why would they want to stay…when I left last time I could have sworn I heard someone whisper in my ear, Ichabod.
Chuck Smith seemed to be gifted in making our triune God real and personal to folk who had never been exposed to a personal God… I cannot deny him his due
Bit i do wonder if those folk might have then depended on Pastor Chuck as if he were their link to their redemption? ? ?
#10 the old parting caveat
Haven’t seen so much about CC in awhile. It’s good that way. I’m sure they appreciate the silence as well.
For as much as you eschew “branding,” your post seems to promote it, even if reluctantly.
I’m big on identity.
I think to be a player in free market religion you have to be clear about who you are, what you believe, and why people should join you.
If you don’t have an identity or foolishly fritter one away…you will have little success in staying a recognized group.
I’m not sure what happened with that and I believe the records are sealed.
“Phoenix preacher now I would like to know what is your disgreement with Pastor Chuck Smith?”
I don’t have one…he’s dead.
I was in OC a couple of weeks ago and went to Pacific Hills where Dave Rolph is the Pastor. He did an outstanding job and I couldn’t help but notice that he was not towing the line in regards to what he was teaching. In fact, I was surprised at one point when he didn’t condemn people who drink to hell like many in that tribe teach. It was refreshing and I was blessed by his teaching.
What if Brodersen is just trying to take celebrity out of the equation? Maybe his aim is beyond remaining a player in the religious market …
Nevermind, a little digging reveals that isn’t the case.
As others here have pointed out, Brian was right there even all the shenanigans was a hap’nin’. If he wanted to make a stink he could have. Apparently the ecumenical move was a battle worth picking over accountability in CC’s.
Michael,. I’m not big on church identify but I’m willing to listen. What do you think of “Will Mancini” and “”church unique”? He is big into visionary leadership. Like I said, I’m not onboard with this philosophy but I’m willing to listen to what you have to say and if this is kind of what you are talking about.
Ok, there’s some confusion here on what I mean by identity.
That probably means that I have written poorly.
I’ll expand on this in a bit…
#3 “As traditional denominations drop their distinctive characteristics to try to appeal to the unwashed masses, they end up with nothing to appeal to them at all…”
As an Anglican, there was an identity in the past. It could be visual – the red door of the church; or wearing cassock, surplice, scarf and hood for the Offices. It could be in our practices – the use of the Book of Common Prayer; the traditional marriage service (like you saw in all the movies); Anglican hymnody and the prevalence of choral music. It was behavioral – there was an emphasis on being well mannered even when there were disagreements. The clergy were expected to be “learned” as well as socially able, even if a little eccentric. The identity was made up of a hundred different signs and symbols…
That is now largely gone. In any given Anglican church, it is often hard to know what to expect. Moreover, when the identity changes with each new priest (a traditionalist, a “new age” type, a feminist, a LGBTQ supporter, an evangelical, etc.) there is little loyalty to “the brand”, because “the brand” has been lost. This is what I think Michael was saying about CC…
I’ve had four distinct religious identities in my life.
Identities are ways of communicating who you are to yourself and others.
I was part of the Assemblies of God…a Pentecostal.
In that day we could just say say “like Jimmy Swaggart”.
We were a unique part of the Body of Christ and our distinctions were easy to describe.
I then came to Calvary Chapel.
A conservative charismatic church led by Chuck Smith, with an emphasis on end times, casual attire, contemporary worship and evangelism.
We used a dove as our symbol and carried our Bibles everywhere.
We had a definable history in the Jesus Movement and recited our history early and often.
Then I became a Calvinist.
We had a highly defined history, highly defined theology, and the accidental founder gave his name unintentionally to the group.
We knew who we were and you did too.
Now, my last stop is Anglicanism.
The recognizable distinctives of Anglicanism are liturgical worship performed by clergy with proper vestments, centered on The Book of Common Prayer.
When you remove any of those peculiarities you become less recognizable and less sure of who you are, and less able to communicate why it would behoove anyone to join with you.
CGN has removed so many that they are simply a generic evangelical group. That has little to commend it to people looking for an identity…
Xenia June 24, 2019 at 12:05 pm
Huh… I see the pastor of my old CC is not a speaker and I think he was a speaker in the past.
Your old CC pastor was never a main speaker and has only occasionally spoken at some workshops in the past…
That list of speakers sort of proves the critics of Brian true, though doesn’t it?
Xenia said …” at I can’t see him ditching CC and I really can’t see him joining the Baptists so I wonder what he’s thinking about these days.”
I can say with certainty that your ex-pastor is in the ‘neutral zone’ concerning CCA and CGN… and he is a debtor to no man. In fact, he loves ministering to any ‘like-minded’ church outside of CCA & CGN. He is connected to the overall Body of Christ and has been blessed by God in his calling.
If the critics complaint is that he’s not Chuck…yes.
I commend him for trying to be part of the greater Body of Christ, but not for the failure to construct a new identity.
Michael – Keep in mind, I am not CC, a critic of Brian, and I think the lineup for the conference looks pretty good.
That said, the thing I most heard from his enemies a few years ago was that he was too ecumenical and he was friendly with the reformed. There was lots of denial at the time…but they were right.
I obviously allowed subjective preference on Brian’s “side” to override my better judgement.
While reading your comment, it also reminded me of a time when I was just becoming aware of how dangerous the Caesar-model of church governance can be, including for the guy with issues thinking having whatever power he feels owed will someone complete him. However, I liked his personality, so I deserved the reality-check (again) when his power went to his head.
You’re absolutely correct, Brian is also culpable.
Though the entire debacle reflects the “chickens have come home to roost” thing, it’s still sad to watch it play out.
I would hope the entire thing crashes and burns quickly for everyone’s sake, but I’m afraid of what take’s its place.
I’ve started to take comfort in incremental improvements – like when a leader makes a statement on something we’ve all been thinking for years.
Just as a reality check, look at the websites for the churches pastored by the speakers. To my way of thinking, they are generic evangelical… almost any evangelical (including yourself) would be comfortable.
I’m not sure that Brian has really crossed any lines. If he has, the lines are almost invisible…
Yes, I’d be fine with the speakers I know. At least 2 are Southern Baptist and reformed. Of course, there’s the Anglican guy. My contention is not that Brian or these guys are bad, but that this was the fear. I’ve never paid much attention to the CC conference, but would Chuck have brought such a diverse group?
You are correct that some would consider the lineup scandalously ecumenical…
You have me at a disadvantage as you seem to know me but I don’t know who you are.
But I think I know who you might be. 🙂
Anyway, I am confident that the Lord is blessing my old church and its pastor. He is wise to stay out of the fray.
All the best to you,
If you’re at the conference, then you know that the speakers have been doing a magnificent job. Nobody is touting their brand, everyone is clearly teaching what is contained in the word. The “Brian’s critics were right” mentality, the “way too ecumenical” criticism is so fundamentally childish and suffocating. As if CC guys are going to be somehow be poisoned and lose their faith through these brothers in Christ. What are people afraid of? Why the fear of hearing men from other “tribes”? As one guy said today, in the body of Christ, there is no “us and them”. I am thankful for the non-CC speakers, they bring fresh insights accompanied by humility and grace.
As one guy said today, in the body of Christ, there is no “us and them”. I love that DavidM. Sadly it is something we have done poorly at living out for the world to see.
Do I dare and say it?
Say it Muff…
Calvary Chapel has become a lot like Game of Thrones.
I’ve had enough of this crap
Y’all gotta hear this Game of Thrones cover! It’s worth the seven minutes.
Maybe Brian realizes he’s like the kid at the soda fountain; he can’t choose a flavor and figures they all taste so good they must taste wonderful all mixed together! I bet in 5 years he takes CGN in the liturgical direction. It’ll be a Hawaiian print cassock, polo shirt, shorts, flip flops, and the Eucharist.
Maybe Brian isn’t super concerned about having an “identity”. It seems like the emphasis on “identity” is what has led to a lot of the power struggles. If the work is centered on the person and work of Jesus Christ, there’s no room for a “we vs them” mentality anyway, and it refreshingly seems like this is what Brian is working towards….I find it extremely rich to see and hear teachers from other “tribes” as it lends a depth and robustness to my own faith.
As an outsider, I’m just trying to assess the situation. I love Jared Wilson. He’s Southern Baptist, has done fantastic work at Midwestern Seminary, is a great writer, and follows the Russel Moore path politically. And he is a Calvinist.
My assumption is that he would not have been invited while Chuck Smith was alive. Am I wrong?
Because the criticism I heard of Brian during the power struggle was that he would take CC away from Chuck Smith’s direction. It does seem (no matter how childish), that those criticisms were correct.
I *personally* like the new direction better. However, I don’t remember Brian being very forthcoming about his intention to move in this direction. In that sense, he appears to have tried to foster good will with the Chuck-ites while secretly leading them in a different direction. That doesn’t seem right either.
I think this is a great direction if the group already had an established identity.
I don’t think Brian was duplicitous in where he was headed…it was that where he was headed the Chuckites didn’t want to go.
You are right. It’s not a strong brand. That conference line-up could be SBC, or Gospel Coalition, or whatever. There is nothing about it that distinctly says CC. But if they put on a good conference, people enjoyed themselves and felt encouraged, they will probably come back next year.
That’s possible, depending on how many went this year.
My theory is that a group can’t survive without a strong identity and leaders who carry that identity.
I could be wrong…
What is the identity difference between CC and SBC? After CC quashed the public display of “the spirit” , I would challenge anyone to distinguish a difference in the corporate worship.
Neither group requires seminary training to become a pastor. The only difference I remember when I belonged to both was Hawaiian shirts vs suits and doves vs cross.
You have a point…which is why many CC guys are looking at the SBC…
Do you know how Chuck felt about the concretized state of Calvary before he died? From the conference videos shortly before he died he seemed down on its final state? Do you know Brian’s personal feelings on the matter before the split?
I wonder if Chuck appointed Brian for this reason? Maybe he wanted it to open up to other more learned traditions…
Then again, symbolically, is it just the case that as someone is dying they look to support themselves on something else, either living or inanimate? This may be what we’re witnessing today… before a seed can sprout it has to die
Many purposely flatten out identity differences. I remember in the early 90s I was golfing with my boss who was an elder at Saddleback and I was an elder in a large SBC IN Riverside.
I mentioned to him something about Saddleback being SBC and the largest contributor to the cooperative program. He denied Saddleback was SBC and we went back and forth for a while. 1991 was pre smartphones and Google, so we couldn’t settle it sitting in the golf cart. 🙂
I can answer all those questions, just not right now. 🙂
I will say that there are more than a few of us who think Chuck wanted the denomination to die with him…
If Brian would have just posted the following disclaimer, then everything probably would have been fine. 🙂
“Teaching Verse By Verse Through The Bible …except for Numbers, and Deuteronomy. And we’ll have to see about Song of Solomon.”
I’m going to send that suggestion up the ladder… 🙂
It might not make it past the first rung. 🙂
The Vision and Mission statements clearly create a brand that is action oriented and relational centered. Michael, your definition and focus of branding and success are valid but not exclusive of achieving either.
Here are the Vision and Mission statements of CGN found at : https://calvarychapel.com/cgn/calvary-global-network
Vision- A Community of churches committed to Great Commission engagement.
Mission- Engaging together in relational and strategic initiatives for gospel proclamation, disciple making and church planting among all peoples for the glory of Jesus.
The distinctive is the great commission and engaging together in that endeavor with others in a collaborative fashion.
I tried to find out what happened in that lawsuit one time and didn’t find anything either. Maybe they settled…
There are tons of SBC organizations with very similar vision and mission statements. I agree with Michael that it is too broad to be sustainable. Doesn’t mean that it is bad, and obviously if God wants it to flourish, it will flourish.
It’s just too generic.
If I’ve learned anything in almost two decades online, it’s that people need and want specific religious identities.
Speaking of Calvary Chapel….
I found this funny bit about CC:
It’s interesting reading through these comments about CGN. So many brothers pontificating about a conference they neither watched or attended. News flash! The conference was great. Speakers like the Anglican (oh my.. there you go clutching those pearls) Sam Allberry were outstanding and provided clear thinking on issues many pastors will not dare touch. Several others were very worthwhile indeed. I watch other conferences (SBC for example) and love them too, yet so many here seem far more concerned with which organization you affiliate than actually feeding your flock. It’s sad really. Guess what! I really have ZERO interest in going to a conference which just has other CC pastors as speakers. I already have access to them. I know how they think and preach. I want to hear from people who I wouldn’t normally be exposed – other clear thinkers on relevant issues facing the church and our community. The conference did that for me. Really, some of you folks need to step out of the bubble.
It seems to me (as someone who is a member and not a pastor/staff member of CCCM) that so many here are stuck in the past. I loved Pastor Chuck but some of you have created an idol of the man. Pastor Chuck did great work for the Lord and the Spirit used him to birth a movement, but the man had serious flaws – as we all have. It does not diminish him but it also does not mean we need to turn the man into an idol by doing all things the way Chuck did.
Here’s the issue. If Brodersen wants to branch out in his theological endeavors and bring in all manner of others, i.e Reformed etc. then he ought to just name HIS church something other than Calvary Chapel. Call it Modern Chapel or New Skin Calvary, whatever. Why keep the brand Calvary Chapel when you have moved yourself away from its basics and tenents. Why because he wants to keep all that comes with CC affiliation, he doesn’t want to be some unknown church as he might lose “business”. And thats what its become, business.