It was Chuck Smith, Pastor of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa that turned me into a Calvinist. Not directly, of course, as he hated Calvinism. But Pastor Chuck taught me to read my Bible and pray for the Holy Spirit to teach me through His word. So I did. And in doing so, I found that I disagreed with Pastor Chuck on a great many things. Except for the first premise-read your Bible. I know that I am not alone, as I would imagine that Pastor Chuck has created about as many Calvinists as any other Bible teacher in America. I am not kidding.
Pastor Chuck died yesterday. He was 86 and had been battling lung cancer (never smoked but grew up in some of the worse smog this country has produced) for over 2 years. Like John Calvin, he needed help just to get into the pulpit on Sunday, his final trip. His text was Romans 4 on how Abraham was justified by faith. Awesome. About 15 years ago, my wife and I were attending his Sunday night service and he started a series on Romans. About 30 minutes in, his microphone went out. He did not skip a beat, as his slow baritone was more than able to reach the 2000+ attendees.
His anti-intellectual brand of Christianity drove me crazy. His love for the rapture and all-things eschatology did as well. But, he loved God’s word. And he preached God’s word, faithfully: verse-by-verse for over 40 years. He started in Genesis and covered every single verse until he complete Revelation. Then he started over and did it again. I believe, all told, he took his congregation through the entire Word some 8 or 9 times.
I attended Calvary Chapel Bible College for 18 months where part of the curriculum was to listen to the 5000 series of Chuck’s messages through the Bible. What a gift. If you know anything about the homiletic style of John Calvin, it is impossible to ignore the similarities between the great reformer and Pastor Chuck. One verse at a time, no long intro’s, no over-the-top illustrations. Just God’s word for God’s people. The bumper stickers we all had on our cars read, “Calvary Chapel, Where the Sheep Like to Eat!”.
My wife came home from picking up the kids at school and I met in her in the garage. There I shared my broken heart for the passing of the man that more than any other man, taught me to read my Bible. And I am not sure if any man I ever listened to longed for Heaven the way that Pastor Chuck did. And yesterday he went there. A big part of me is jealous, of course. He had flaws, plenty of them, but this is not the place to chronicle them. He loved our Lord, he loved His Word, and he loved His Church. And I loved him. Still do. What a ‘Glorious’ life he lived and what a ‘Glorious’ legacy he left.