God chooses some people to have a great impact on the world and for His kingdom. When choosing King David, God pointed out to Samuel the prophet, "Man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart." (1 Sam. 16:7)
Although they are chosen for a specific purpose, not all finish well. I want to share about someone who was faithful to God and His call to his last breath. Pastor Chuck Smith was the first pastor my wife and I knew, and his impact on our life endures beyond his passing. (Click to Tweet)
A shepherd for lost sheep
We were raised up and established in our own calling to ministry through Pastor Chuck's leadership at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa. It was the early days of the Jesus People Movement. Chuck was not the initiator of this movement, but he was a major influence in it, as attested by others. Pastor Chuck did establish Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, which became the hub of a still-expanding association of churches and ministries. But this was not his great achievement. As he would say, " I was only a spectator."
Jesus saw the people as sheep without a shepherd, harassed and helpless (Matt. 9:36). It was Chuck's wife, Kay, who helped him catch a similar vision for the wandering, searching mass of young people called hippies. They never lost sight of that vision.
Kay was a powerful and fruitful leader for many young women, especially the wives of young pastors. She knew the pressures and pitfalls of ministry. She knew how to encourage and guide women, young and old.
Chuck was a father-figure to a multitude of young people, then and now, and my wife and I experienced the inclusive manner of his father-like care. (Click to Tweet) Plenty of posts, articles and videos cover more than I can share in this post. I want to share what impacted me as an enduring legacy of Pastor Chuck's life.
His smile expressed a lot—his joy in the Lord, and a gracious and genuine love and concern for others. It was disarming. He was a presence wherever he went. He was a good-sized and strong man, unafraid of hard work. He could be stern and direct when needed. He was a genuine father.
He was honest and humble, which suited him well for the mantle of ministry laid upon his shoulders. (Click to Tweet) He was clear that it was not his ministry or burden, but the Lord's (Matt. 11:28-29). He was the Lord's servant.
His legacy in my life and others
Teaching. A cornerstone of Pastor Chuck's ministry and discipleship was teaching through the Scriptures, the Word of God. "Simply teach the Word simply," a saying he coined, sums it up. (Click to Tweet) I remember his Sunday morning messages, teaching on Sunday nights, and in-depth studies during the week. It all lined up and pointed us to Jesus, the Living Word made human. Jesus was the cornerstone of his exposition of God's Word, and he had an expectation for Jesus' return at any moment.
Grace. This was the core of Chuck's perspective on everything. It permeated his teaching, life, and service. It was the basis of relationship with Jesus, and relationships with others. Some critics faulted him for this. His response was that he would rather err on the side of grace than legalism and condemnation.
Love. Many of the early choruses we sung (especially during the "tent days") were about God's love. It went hand in hand with the emphasis on grace. But this wasn't a cheap grace or "sloppy agape" type of love, it was genuine. It was the love we saw in Jesus and the early church.
The teaching, with its emphasis on grace and love, established a firm foundation in our lives, and the natural, unforced result was personal evangelism and discipleship. (Click to Tweet) As described later, it was caught not just taught.
Worship. The style of worship characterizing the early Jesus People Movement was simple, yet powerful. No overhead or video projectors were needed. We didn't use songbooks. On Sunday nights, Pastor Chuck would lead the church a cappella (no instruments, no praise band) for 45 minutes before teaching for an hour and a half. Worship was one of the cornerstones of each service and an integral part of discipleship. This emphasis led to a flourishing music ministry that grew into an industry all its own.
Leadership. Chuck's leadership wasn't based on a set method or scheme, it was by example. (Click to Tweet) He listened a lot, was incredibly patient with many impetuous young people (who later became leaders themselves), and yet he held people accountable. He expected a lot from those he discipled and entrusted with ministry. His genuine honesty and integrity marked his example as a leader. Not just in teaching and pastoral ministry, but in laying sod, swinging a hammer, cleaning toilets, or whatever was needed to be done. Again, it was caught not just taught.
When I heard of Chuck's passing, a sadness set in. I loved and respected him. But my sadness moved into reflection, and then to joy. I know he would like that. He said that when he passed from this life, he would just be moving from one place to another.
He always pointed us towards Jesus. It was always about Jesus. Not Chuck, nor Calvary Chapel, only Jesus. (Click to Tweet)
Yes, he was a father figure. Perhaps the only true father many young people knew.
But he was still a child of God, and God's servant. A father of a movement may have died, but the son, the child of God, lives on—now in the presence of the Jesus he proclaimed.
Here are some links if you'd like to know more about Pastor Chuck's life and ministry—
http://goo.gl/xH9KBk (blog post of my friend Pastor Bill Holdridge)
http://goo.gl/ReNkLZ (a post from Pastor Bob Coy)
http://goo.gl/7UtB3G (a post and interview with Pastor Greg Laurie)