Let me reflect upon “Pastor Chuck” (Smith) and how the Lord used him in my life personally (as He has in so many people’s lives over the years). This reflection is obviously motivated (if you have heard anyway) by Chuck’s death and translation to the Lord’s presence today (October 3rd, 2013). He was a great man of God (and still is!). I just want to reflect though on, again, how he impacted me, personally.
It was 1995, three years out of high school (class of 92), so I was 21 years old at that point; the Lord got a hold of my life through some tough circumstances (I won’t index those here). Suffice it to say, I went into a state of depression and dark season of the soul. And growing up, as I was, in Southern California, the reach of K-Wave 107.9 was ubiquitous. K-Wave is Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, California’s radio station, and prominently featured, of course, on this station was (and is) Pastor Chuck. Growing up as I did as the son of a Conservative Baptist pastor (at that point in North Long Beach, CA), I really didn’t know too much about Calvary Chapel and Chuck. But as I entered this season of my life the Lord began to use Chuck Smith’s reassuring calm and slow voice to minister the Word of God into my life. And at the time, I drove a delivery truck, and so I would listen to K-Wave and Pastor Chuck daily. As the Lord continued to work in my life, this led me to start attending Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa (daily, they had services every evening, and so I went!); this also led me to enroll and attend Calvary Chapel Bible College in the years 1996-97. At this point, I really got drenched with Chuck; we had to listen to him preach through the Bible for one of our classes, and take notes. Suffice it to say, I knew Chuck backwards and forwards (and at “triple speed” or “chipmunk” speed on my tape player), at least insofar as how he understood the Scriptures. After a year at the Bible College, my best friend from the Bible College, Steven Gil, enrolled at Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa School of Ministry; and so did I. Steven lived with the director (who still is) of the SoM, Carl Westerlund, and so I got to know Carl, a bit, and have an even closer contact with Pastor Chuck’s ‘inner circle’ (so to speak). Things progressed, my friend Steven, finished off his time at the SoM, but I never actually ended up attending; instead I headed to the Pacific Northwest to attend Multnomah Bible College and Multnomah Biblical Seminary. At this point I began to move away from Calvary Chapel, kind’ve.
It has been years now, but that time was such a formative and impactful time in my life. And the Lord used Chuck Smith in his ministry in my life in untold ways. I can remember just experiencing times of utter angst (and this was all deeply spiritual stuff for me). My mom and dad gave me a whole bunch of tapes and preaching series from Chuck Smith having to do with spiritual warfare and other things. The Lord used those to minister to me in, again, untold ways. I say all of the above just to try and highlight the fact that I have a deep history with Chuck Smith. Now, as many of you can surmise I have moved away from some of the theological moorings that fund Pastor Chuck’s approach; but something that serves as the common bond that never broke (and this is true between all Christians), is the sweet love of Christ. Surely, Chuck Smith was just a man, and a man with faults, sins, and failures; but one thing is clear, Chuck loved Jesus deeply and in a sweet and simple way–in a way that so many who have been influenced by Chuck want to immolate.
I will miss Chuck Smith, it is hard to believe that he is gone, for now (from us). I will pray that the vacuum created by his loss will only be filled with constructive and fruitful things in the Calvary Chapel movement. But at the moment, Pastor Chuck will be deeply missed, he represents an era of a certain style of evangelical Christians who are going home to be with the Lord right now; an era that cannot be replaced. But the Good News is that Jesus Christ is the ground of all that is good and life giving and hope-filled. Chuck participated in that, as did many countless others from his era. My prayer is that men and women boys and girls across all Christian denominations will rise up and spread the goodness of Jesus Christ by the Spirit’s recreative power as we all participate in the Triune life of God in and through Jesus Christ. Chuck Smith, just moved from faith to sight–to use Pauline language–we all have this great hope, with no partiality.
I pray for Chuck’s family and his wife, Kay today.
PS. We still attend a Calvary Chapel, I just cannot escape the lasting impact that CC and Chuck made on me, even as I have expanded theologically in some unique ways.