The Calvary Chapel Movement
Calvary Chapel began in the late 1960’s as a small non-denominational church of 25 members led by Chuck Smith. This was a time when most traditional churches were turning away the next generation because of the length of their hair and the counter-culture lifestyle they practiced. Driven by a burden for that generation, Chuck reached out to them with love and understanding, and without compromise of Christian principles. A result of this outreach was the birthing of the “Jesus Movement”.
Today, with around 1,000 churches and ministries all over the world, Calvary Chapels are still reaching out to the lost and attempting to love the unlovable. They are best known for their strong emphasis on the teaching of God’s Word and the application of that Word to every day life. High importance is also placed upon worship, designed to put the believer in a place of intimate communion with God and ready their heart for His Word.
In a broad sense, Calvary Chapel is the middle ground between Fundamentalism and Pentecostalism in modern Protestant theology. Fundamentalism is that position which holds to the literal interpretation of the Scriptures, believing that they are divinely inspired and without error. Although the modern 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 during the early 1900’s, 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 mainline churches. Also criticized by the liberal church and the news media as being emotionally driven, Pentecostalism restores to the church the importance of the gifts of the Spirit and the power of God for the believer today.
Over the years Fundamentalism, while clinging 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.
Because of this balance many Pentecostals think Calvary Chapel is not emotional enough, and many Fundamentalists think Calvary Chapel is too emotional. This is perhaps a sign that we are right where God wants us to be.