What kind of church is Calvary Chapel?

During the counterculture revolution of the sixties and early seventies, new hippie churches sprang up in what has been called the Jesus Movement. These churches targeted younger people, many of whom grew up as members of traditional churches, but who were rebelling against establishments which included organized religion. Three of the primary churches were Calvary Chapel, Hope Chapel, and Vineyard Chapel. Evangelical and non-denominational in nature, they were loosely organized charismatic churches and coffee houses with God's love and acceptance for all as their creeds. Radical, contemporary Christian music was a hallmark of the movement and many churches began their own recording studios. Calvary Chapel was founded in 1965 by a former Foursquare Gospel minister, Chuck Smith, in Costa Mesa, CA. Today, there are hundreds of Calvary Chapel churches nationwide, with nearly 250 in California alone, and thousands of affiliated churches worldwide. Church services are marked by casual attire, contemporary music, emotional experiences, guidance by the Holy Spirit, and fundamental, Bible-based teaching. The following excerpts are taken from the article "What Calvary Chapel Teaches, A Brief Explanation of the Doctrine of the Calvary Chapel Movement" by Larry Taylor, available from Calvary Chapel's website (http://calvarychapel.com/library/taylor-larry/text/wcct.htm):

"In a broad general sense, Calvary Chapel is the middle ground between fundamentalism and Pentecostalism in modern Protestant theology. In fact, we believe that this is at least part of the reason why God has raised up this ministry. Fundamentalism is that portion of Protestantism which holds to the literal interpretation of the Scriptures, believing that they are divinely inspired and inerrant. Hence, the "fundamentals" of the faith are emphasized. Although the modem news media and the liberal church scorn fundamentalists as backwards and stupid, the truth is that fundamentalism has preserved the integrity of God's Word and held on to the essential doctrines of the orthodox faith. Pentecostalism as a modern movement grew out of the Azusa Street revival in Los Angeles at the turn of the 20th century, and spawned denominations that emphasize the fullness of the Holy Spirit and the exercise of spiritual and Scriptural gifts of the Spirit which had fallen dormant in the main line churches. Also criticized by the liberal church and news media as being emotionally driven, Pentecostalism restored to the church the importance of gifts of the Spirit and the power of God for the believer today. Over the years, however, fundamentalism, while it clung to the integrity of God's Word, tended to become rigid, legalistic, and unaccepting of spiritual gifts. Similarly, Pentecostalism became enthusiastic and emotional at the expense of the teaching of God's Word. Calvary Chapel is the balance between the two. At Calvary Chapel we believe in the gifts of the Holy Spirit mentioned in the Bible, and we encourage their exercise, but always decently and in order, and with the primary emphasis on the Word of God which we look to as our primary rule of faith."

"At Calvary Chapel we believe in all the fundamental doctrines of the evangelical Protestant church. For example, we believe in the inerrancy of Scripture, that the Bible, Old and New Testaments, is the inspired, infallible Word of God. We believe that God is eternally existent in three separate persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We believe that God the father is the personal, transcendent, and sovereign creator of all things. We believe that Jesus Christ is fully God and fully human, that He was born of a virgin, lived a sinless life, provided for the atonement of our sins by His vicarious death on the Cross, was bodily resurrected by the power of the Holy Spirit, ascended back to the right hand of God the father, and ever lives to make intercession for us. After He ascended to Heaven, Jesus poured out His Holy Spirit on the believers in Jerusalem, enabling them to fulfill His command to preach the Gospel to the entire world, an obligation shared by all believers today. We believe that all people are by nature separated from God and responsible for their own sin, but that salvation, redemption, and forgiveness of sin are freely offered to all by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ. When a person repents of sin and accepts Jesus Christ as personal Savior and Lord, trusting Him to save, that person is immediately born again and sealed by the Holy Spirit, all his/her sins are forgiven, and that person becomes a child of God, destined to spend eternity with the Lord. As we previously mentioned, we believe in the proper Scriptural exercise of all the gifts of the Holy Spirit in the Bible, the greatest gift of all being God's love. At Calvary Chapel, we await the pre-tribulation rapture of the church. Calvary Chapel is strongly committed to a belief that the church will be raptured before the seven year tribulation period described in Revelation chapters 6 through 18. We recognize that other believers hold a different view, but this is the way we see the Scripture's teaching on this subject. We believe that the second coming of Jesus Christ with His saints to rule on the earth will be personal, pre-millennial, and visible. This motivates us to heartfelt worship, committed service, diligent study of God's Word, regular fellowship with other Christians, and participation in both adult baptism by immersion and in Holy Communion. Calvary Chapel rejects the teaching of "amillennialism" which spiritualizes Scripture and denies the literal 1,000 year reign of Christ on the earth as described in Revelation chapter 20."

"At Calvary Chapel, we reject some popular doctrines of some Christian groups because we believe them to be in error Scripturally. This does not mean that we will not fellowship with those holding these views, it simply means that such views are outside the boundaries of what constitutes a Calvary Chapel church. For example, we reject, as we have already mentioned, "amillennialism", post-millennialism, as well as a mid or post-tribulation rapture view. At Calvary Chapel, we are strongly pre-millennialists and pre-tribulation rapturists. We also reject the belief, held by some Pentecostals and charismatics, that Christians can be demon possessed. The Scripture says "greater is He that is in you than he who is in the world" which makes no sense if a believer can be simultaneously indwelt by both the Holy Spirit and evil spirits. Christians can be attacked by demons, but they cannot be possessed or controlled by them. In addition, we reject "5-point Calvinism". For a deeper understanding of what Calvinism is, see my book Calvinism versus Arminianism, but for our purposes here, suffice it to say that Calvary Chapel rejects two of the five points of five point Calvinism. First, Calvinism teaches that Jesus' atonement on the Cross was limited, that is, that He died only for a chosen group, His "elect", not for the sins of the entire world. At Calvary Chapel, we believe that Jesus died on the Cross for all the sins of all people, and that anyone who wants to can accept Him as Lord and savior and be born again. Strict five point Calvinists believe that only the elect can be saved and that God has elected others to spend eternity in hell."

"Secondly, we reject the Calvinistic teaching called "irresistible grace", which is the belief that man cannot, even if he wants to, resist the wooing and calling of God to salvation. Instead, at Calvary Chapel we believe that man has a free will and he can resist the call of God if he chooses to do so. Therefore, those who hold to five point Calvinism are outside of the borders of what defines Calvary Chapel. At Calvary Chapel, we also reject the teaching of "positive confession" which is the doctrine put forth by the faith movement teachers that says that we as human beings can have unlimited health and wealth because we, like God, have the ability to create our own reality by the confession of our lips. These people teach that if a person will confess health and wealth consistently, then that is what they will have, and, conversely, the Christian living in sickness or poverty is settling for less than his full inheritance in Christ. At Calvary Chapel, we believe that many believers both in the Bible and in daily life are often afflicted not because their confession is wrong, but simply because we live in a foreign world. We believe that the health and prosperity doctrine is a perversion of Scripture and is often used to fleece the flock of God. We do not believe that God can be commanded by man to heal or provide, but that we must always submit to His perfect will even in affliction."

"Additionally, we reject the teaching that uses human prophecy to supersede the Word of God. There are some Christian groups around which claim to have prophets and apostles of equal validity with those who wrote the Bible. Moreover, they claim that the prophetic utterances from these people take precedence over the Word of God. At Calvary Chapel, we believe that the Bible is the final authority and the complete Word of God for His church today, and that no prophecy or teaching can ever supersede it. Some churches have incorporated human secular psychology and philosophy into their teaching programs, creating sermons that are more based on secular humanistic theory than on the Word of God. While we respect our fellow believers who work in mental health related fields, we at Calvary Chapel believe that the central mission of the church is to proclaim God's Word to a lost and hurting world. Moreover, it has been our experience that humanistic psychology and philosophy often do more harm than good, and people respond best when God's Word is proclaimed in the power and love of the Holy Spirit. It is God's Word that changes lives for the better. At Calvary Chapels our services remain centered on the teaching of the Bible. This is not to imply that we object to the work of the many dedicated Christian mental health professionals; conversely, we thank God for them. Our point is simply that in our church services, we emphasize the teaching of God's Word."

"And finally, as we have mentioned before, Calvary Chapel rejects the over-emphasis of spiritual gifts and experiential signs and wonders to the exclusion of Biblical teaching. Again, we are a Bible based ministry that avoids programs and gimmicks in favor of the simple teaching of the Word of God in love to His people. In our services, we focus on a personal relationship with God through worship, prayer, and the teaching of the Word of God. We offer both expository and topical studies; we do not allow speaking in tongues loudly during services because we do not believe that the Holy Spirit Would interrupt Himself."

        "Sing joyfully to the LORD, you righteous; it is fitting for the upright to praise him. Praise the LORD with the harp; make music to him on the ten-stringed lyre. Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for joy." (Psalm 33:1-3)
        "Your procession has come into view, O God, the procession of my God and King into the sanctuary. In front are the singers, after them the musicians; with them are the maidens playing tambourines. Praise God in the great congregation; praise the LORD in the assembly of Israel." (Psalm 68:24-26)

Alamo Christian Ministries Online

"The Alamo Christian Ministries believe, teach, and preach that Jesus Christ is the Son of the Living God, that He died on the cross and shed His blood for our sins, that He rose from the dead, ascended into the heavens, and took His seat beside God the Father, becoming the high priest, and the propitiation for our sins. We believe Christ is alive, that He lives forevermore and is coming back to earth very soon. We believe, as the Bible says, that you must be born again, it is a commandment of God that we repent of our sins and ask Christ to come into our hearts and make us a new creature, that old things must pass away and all things, all lives, become new in Him."

The Beardsley's Homepage - Chuck Smith

"Calvary Chapel's charismatic doctrine is often referred to as being "moderately charismatic." This is because Calvary Chapels do not teach nor believe in many of the blatant errors of the hyper-Charismatics. Chuck Smith, founder of Calvary Chapel, does not believe that a Christian can be demon-possessed or that a person under the Holy Spirit's influence should be out of control or behave in an undignified manner. He teaches against practices such as "being slain in the spirit," and barking or laughing uncontrollably. Calvary's stance thus seems sensible and orderly, but this combination of truth and error is what makes these doctrines so seductive and confusing."

Blessed Quietness Journal - Calvary Chapel

"When we move away from the essential doctrines to those that are less essential we risk setting barriers up in the church, something we at Calvary Chapel have no desire to do. Still, Calvary Chapel is distinct from denominational churches and other Protestant groups and people want to know what those distinctions are. That is the purpose of this little booklet. It is not our purpose to cause division or discord in the Body of Christ, conversely, we long for unity among God's people of all persuasions, and we allow for a great deal of flexibility even within our own ranks. Calvary Chapel pastors are not clones who all believe exactly the same thing. Still, there are distinctives that make Calvary Chapel unique and which define our mission."

Calvary Chapel Homepage

"Our greatest desire is for people to come to know God personally. The simple truth is that there is a God who created you and loves you very much. (Genesis 1:1) He gave us life and deserves our gratitude and love. We, however, have chosen to disobey Him and sin against Him; all of us have done wrong and failed to do what is right. (Romans 3:23) We may not be more sinful than our neighbor, or we may be far worse than anyone we know, it does not matter. Either way, we are guilty before God. (1 John 1:8) God is perfect, completely good, always right and fair. He cannot tolerate sin. He cannot simply overlook the fact that we have chosen to disobey Him. The Bible says "the wages of sin is death." (Romans 6:23) This means that the fair payment for our rebellion against God is death. It is the punishment that we deserve. Jesus, the one and only Son of God, came to earth and lived a perfect sinless life. He was crucified even though He was completely innocent. He received the punishment that we deserved. He was the perfect sacrifice, He was put into our place and took on Himself the sentence of death that should have been ours. (Romans 5:8) Jesus did not, however, remain dead. After three days, He rose from the grave and later ascended into heaven. He will return for all those who are trusting in Him as their Savior."

Fundamental Evangelistic Association - Some Reflections on the Calvary Chapel Movement

"Chuck Smith bases his belief that one must pray in tongues while bypassing his intellect on Romans 8:26 which states, "Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." This is a misunderstanding and misapplication of this verse. First, it is not we who are praying or making intercession; the verse clearly states that "the Spirit itself maketh intercession." We have nothing to do with His intercession on our behalf. Second, the Holy Spirit makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered." This rules out speaking or groaning out loud in public or in private. Chuck Smith teaches the same error that extreme Pentecostals and Charismatics use to justify praying in unintelligible gibberish. Chuck Smith also believes that if an individual doubts that he is speaking in tongues because he has the ability to stop, Satan must be behind it."


"Welcome to the JesusPeople Online Christian Community website, a pictorial history and a place where you will be able to find information on what many regard as one of the most intriguing facets of contemporary church history... The Jesus Movement of the 60's and 70's brought a much-needed revival among the nation's youth. Hippies sought after something higher, wanting to increase their spiritual consciousness. Some found exactly what they were looking for´┐Ż in Jesus Christ. And another facet of the counter-culture was born. Hippies were getting turned on to Jesus faster than they could get their hair cut. Around 1968, the Jesus Movement exploded, and suddenly Jesus People were everywhere. Many church leaders of the time were not willing to reach out to the hippie culture. Chuck Smith, Pastor of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa saw the need for a church where these hippie Jesus People were not looked down upon for their long hair, vivid vocabulary, and fresh ideas. New converts were taught The Way and hit the streets to tell others the Good News about Jesus. Coffee houses like His Place, The Fire Escape, and The Living Room were opened and became havens for people who wanted to know more about Jesus and their new found faith. Jesus Communes were also put into place. These became crash houses for hippies and people who just had nowhere else to go."

Looksmart - Calvary Chapel

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Religious Movements Homepage: Calvary Chapel

"Calvary Chapel was founded by Chuck Smith... In the early sixties, Smith started the Corona Christian Center which grew rapidly (Miller, 1997, p. 32). Small Bible study groups held in Smith's home carried a Christian message that was easily understood and was applicable to people's everyday lives. These groups grew in number and size because they met the mundane needs of those who attended (Burgess & McGee, 1998, p. 792). During his ministry at the Corona Christian Center in 1965, Smith was invited to pastor a small church with only 25 members called Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, California. The growth rate exploded following Smith's acceptance to minister to this church. In just two year there were almost 2,000 members overflowing the church (McGraw, 1997). Membership constantly outgrew itself. Radios broadcasted Smith's sermons but this was halted because the church could not accommodate all the new members Smith was attracting. Three years after Smith had joined the congregation, the church grew to a larger church in Newport Beach in order to accommodate the increasing membership. Yet, soon this church was also outgrown. In response, Calvary Chapel constructed a place of worship on 11 acres in Costa Mesa, California. Costa Mesa is still the location of the original Calvary Chapel. In the past three decades the church has grown from only 25 to 25,000 (Burgess & McGee, 1988, p. 792). The future of Calvary Chapel was dramatically changed by Chuck Smith's decision to spread his ministry to the "hippies" at the beaches surrounding Costa Mesa. At the time, Smith and his wife Kay had three teenage children who were encountering the drug culture. Through his college age daughter, Smith began to meet some of the hippies who were early converts of the Jesus Movement. These young people who were called "Jesus Freaks," were experiencing great inner transformations and expressed an excitement for sharing their new faith (Miller, 1997, p. 33). The open atmosphere fit them perfectly at Calvary Chapel, filling them with religious energy."

Remembering the Jesus Movement

"Welcome to the Jesus Movement website, a pictorial history and a place where you will be able to find information on what many regard as one of the most intriguing facets of contemporary church history... By most accounts, the Jesus People Movement began in 1967 with the opening of a small storefront evangelical mission called the Living Room in San Francisco's Haight Ashbury district. Though other missionary type organizations had preceded them in the area, this was the first one run solely by street Christians. Within a short time of these first stirrings a number of independent Christian communities sprang up all across North America. In Seattle, the Jesus People Army was born in response to a vision experienced by evangelist Linda Meissner, who had seen an "army of teenagers marching for Jesus." On the Sunset Strip, evangelist Arthur Blessitt opened the His Place nightclub and coffeehouse as a 24 hour way station for youth. At the University of California at Berkeley, Dr. Jack Sparks and some other members of Campus Crusade decided to begin a countercultural outreach program called the Christian Liberation World Front (CWLF) directed towards reaching campus radicals. The ensuing groundswell of activity spawned a number of other developments as well. Realizing the need to open their churches to the hippie generation, many conservative pastors recruited hippie liaisons to their ministerial staff. Both Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel (in Santa Ana, California) with the recruitment of Lonnie Frisbee, and Lyle Steenis of Bethel Tabernacle (in Redondo Beach) with the recruitment of Breck Stevens found their churches radically transformed in the wake of their decisions. In order to proclaim the message of the gospel, hippie Christians simply adopted existing forms of communication. Mirroring the development of underground newspapers such as the Berkeley Barb, in 1969 evangelist Duane Pederson began publishing the Hollywood Free Paper as an evangelistic tool. Jesus papers with names like Right On!, The Fish, Street Level, and Cornerstone became a fundamental component of each street Christian community..."

The Rick A. Koss Institute - Calvary Chapel

"There has been a great amount of media exposure on religious and therapy cults, both large and small, in the past month. A real feud has developed between both the leaders and the backers of the Set Free Christian Fellowship of Anaheim, California and Chuck Smith's Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa. Calvary Chapel leaders have alleged that Set Free is involved in highly questionable activities. Calvary has made its anti-Set Free case files available to CRI (Christian Research Institute) and has reportedly asked CRI to alert inquiries of the dangers inherent in the Set Free Program. This is somewhat akin to the pot calling the kettle black. Both of these religious cult organizations have very similar programs..."

Understand the Times International

"An International Missionary Outreach Dedicated to Evangelizing the Lost and Equipping the Church for Discernment"

Unity in the Body of Christ - Chuck Smith and the Calvary Chapel Christian Revival

"These short excerpts have been taken from HARVEST to best describe the Calvary Chapel Revival. HARVEST is written by Chuck Smith and Tal Brooke. For a complete description of this awesome revival of the church of God in our modern times be sure to order HARVEST for yourself."

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        "David told the leaders of the Levites to appoint their brothers as singers to sing joyful songs, accompanied by musical instruments: lyres, harps and cymbals." (1 Chronicles 15:16)
        "All the Levites who were musicians-Asaph, Heman, Jeduthun and their sons and relatives-stood on the east side of the altar, dressed in fine linen and playing cymbals, harps and lyres. They were accompanied by 120 priests sounding trumpets." (2 Chronicles 5:12)
        "The priests took their positions, as did the Levites with the LORD's musical instruments, which King David had made for praising the LORD and which were used when he gave thanks, saying, "His love endures forever." Opposite the Levites, the priests blew their trumpets, and all the Israelites were standing." (2 Chronicles 7:6)

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