By the time I accepted Christ in high school, the “hippie” movement was in full swing, as was the “Jesus movement” – a dynamic uprising of young Christians whose style and manner of worship was pretty unconventional, at least compared with that of the prior generation. Where I lived, many of these new believers were surfers and beach people. They were hungry for the Lord, but they didn’t have much interest in anything traditional – especially getting all gussied up for Sunday church in neatly pressed suits and dress clothes.
At the time, I attended Calvary Chapel in Southern California, which was pastored by Chuck Smith. By now you may have heard that Chuck died yesterday morning at the age of 86 after a battle with lung cancer. I mourn his passing, but I thank God for the time I had with him and for the positive influence he had on my life.
Chuck’s background always intrigued me. In 1965, years before we met, Chuck was the pastor of a small church in Newport Beach. He and his wife, Kay, would drive around the streets of Newport and Laguna Beach and watch the passing parade of young people, many of whom were on drugs and, quite literally and figuratively, lost. At first, Chuck became mad at the sight of them, lamenting what a waste of human potential they represented. But Kay’s reaction was much different, and it convicted her young husband.
“You know, they are so desperately in need of Jesus,” she said to him one day.
Chuck and Kay began to witness to some of the very hippies stumbling by and before long, his church was filled with them. Calvary Chapel quickly outgrew their space and decided to build a new facility.
As you might imagine, not everyone felt entirely comfortable worshipping beside long-haired men and women with BO. Some of the young people even came in their bare feet, which especially irked some of the traditionalists in the congregation. Many of them complained the non-conformists were dragging sand in the church and ruining the carpet.
He pulled up the carpet.
Pastor Smith was never one to worry unnecessarily about worldly distractions. He was practical when it came to temporal affairs, always with his eyes on the eternal.
Chuck strived to see things as God saw them, something of a challenging task for a mere mortal, however grounded you are in God’s Word. “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror,” wrote Paul, “then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known” (1 Cor. 13:12).
For Chuck, the “then” is now – today even, and though many of us will miss him, we know for certain that we will see him again soon.
Visit Pastor Chuck Smith’s tribute page online to learn more about him and share an encouragement to his family.