The Calvary Chapel Chronicles
Thus far, I’ve contended that in the period of the late 1960’s and 70’s that the Holy Spirit did a sovereign work of revival called the “Jesus Movement” and that Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa became the Southern California epicenter of that act of God.
My research over the years showed three primary instruments that God used at CCCM…the musicians, the mystic Lonnie Frisbee, and Chuck Smith.
Today we’ll begin looking at Chuck Smith, his influence, and how he used it.
It is especially important that we note one dynamic in particular, one that many CC pastors have described to me themselves.
They call it “re-parenting”.
I came to understand this dynamic very early on in the life of this blog.
I was told that some CC pastors would perhaps listen to my critiques of various aspects of their movement, so long as I never, ever, criticized Smith.
Generally speaking that dynamic held true, even after his death.
In the explosive revival that took place at CCCM there soon came the need for additional clergy to deal with the crowds there, then later, the desire to export the revival to other places.
Smith often chose these new clergymen out of the recently converted, a large portion of which came from broken homes and negative family relationships.
They “re-parented”… with Smith becoming the father figure to these men and the legend of “Papa Chuck” was born.
Those new clergy with the earliest and closest affiliation to Smith became the favored sons in the eyes of those who followed them and also “re-parented”.
Those who weren’t close enough to call him “Papa” spent much effort to emphasize that he was their “pastor”…even though their time spent with him was minimal and fleeting.
These “early adopters” (so to speak) are still the leaders in both wings of the movement today, particularly in the Calvary Chapel Association.
The problem with this (that led to other issues) was that Chuck Smith seems to have been ill suited to parenting at all.
Though at times as warm and wise as his reputation suggests, Smith could also be volatile and was known by insiders to have a fearsome temper.
He could be territorial, jealous,and petty…and his approval was often momentary and temporary.
Still, his approval was what many desperately sought and that desire echoes through admonitions today to “stay the course’…the course that “Papa” set.
His own natural family (particularly the boys) suffered from the demands on his time of first the revival, then the burgeoning movement.
Thus, Chuck Smith was the patriarch of two dysfunctional families.
Before we criticize him too harshly I think it imperative to remember that Smith was the man God chose to lead this part of the revival and his guidance led to the fruit remaining some half a century later.
None of us would have been up to that task…
Still, we must continue to examine the movement and it’s leaders holistically, lest we miss the lessons needed to navigate the next move of God…and there will be a next.
Understanding the power of the “re-parenting” dynamic will help us understand all that follows.