Pastor Lloyd Pulley Interview

Pastor Lloyd Pulley Interview
Pastor Lloyd Pulley Interview

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Pastor Lloyd Pulley of Calvary Chapel Old Bridge, NJ: Memories & Lessons of Ministry—Part 2

Photos by Tom Price unless otherwise noted

Following is Part 2 of a four-part interview conducted recently by Pastor Don McClure with Lloyd Pulley, senior pastor of Calvary Chapel Old Bridge, NJ. Pastor Don has been serving in the Calvary Chapel movement since 1971; he is a leader in the Calvary Chapel Association and he and his wife Jean now lead the Calvary Way teaching ministry. In Part 2, the pastors discuss how Lloyd planted CC Old Bridge. Look for Part 3 soon. To read Part 1, click here.

Man talking to crowd

Calvary Chapel Old Bridge Senior Pastor Lloyd Pulley (front left) addresses a very packed church in Cuba. His then-Assistant Pastor Luis Solis, a Spanish speaker, translates for him. Luis later planted CC Kearny, NJ, but has turned the church over to another pastor.

Don McClure: You’re on staff at Calvary Chapel of West Covina, you fall in love, and get married. What caused you to start looking outside for ministry, or particularly at New Jersey?

Lloyd Pulley: I would say it was a holy discontentment. There was nothing that I didn’t absolutely love about what I was doing. We were doing outreach; Raul had such amazing vision. He was always doing something new, something different, something crazy. Everything was just exciting—seeing thousands of people coming to the Lord, discipling them, building them up, meeting new people. After a year of marriage, we already acquired a small home and by ‘82 had two children. It was like a dream. Close to her family, the church, and my family, but for some reason I felt that something was wrong, something was missing. And so, I just began to pray, What am I doing? I don’t want to leave here. But honestly, I knew that I was an underdog, though I was the first intern they ordained and was still just entrusted with the grunt work aside from the ministry I developed. It wasn’t until decades later I found out why.

My first thought was to return to my hometown in Michigan and plant a church. But the more I looked into that, it seemed like the Lord gave me no peace. That peace came when Raul came back from the East Coast—his radio program was being blessed and he saw there was such a [spiritual] hunger there. It was like the Holy Spirit said to me, “That’s where I want you.” Immediately I started making plans to move out to New Jersey. It was in early ’84 that I told Raul of my plans; by June of ’84, we packed up and went for it. We were given a month’s salary, and that was that. I got a job in construction and provided for my family, started a couple of Bible studies, and the Lord added daily those who were being saved.

Men in Africa

Lloyd (center) on a mission trip to Uganda in 1989. The man to the left of Lloyd is George, a Kenyan who had been to CC Old Bridge and was the original connection that brought the mission team to Africa. At the time, expositional Bible teaching was unheard of in this part of Africa. Photo courtesy of CC Old Bridge, NJ

Don: So where actually did you first move? When you got to New Jersey, you rented a house?

Lloyd: There was a couple who listened to Raul’s radio program and had requested a Calvary-style ministry. We began to communicate with them, and he was able to get me connected to a drywall union to get a job lined up. We rented an apartment between their house and another radio listener’s house where we did Bible studies in each home each week. Eventually we began to meet on Sunday in our apartment in Old Bridge and by ‘85 we had services in a school, eventually renting a building in ‘89. The school doors opened miraculously since the superintendent told me there was no way he was going to allow a church in the school. That was a rough season before laws gave us rights. But after speaking with me and peppering me with questions on the Bible, science, and history, I guess I left a good impression and we were approved.

Don: Raul, it sounds like, was pretty much the same kind of church planter as Chuck Smith. When he brought someone in, he would find a role for them in an internship or on staff, to watch them and see them grow. When he felt it was time, Chuck would kind of say, “Well, here’s your last check. I’ll be praying for you; we love you …” But at the same time, right out of the chute, you had to be looking to the Lord—not Calvary Chapel—to take care of you.

Lloyd: Look, that’s the way it was. I wasn’t even expecting that one check. When I finished my last day, it was like, “That’s it. See you guys. God Bless You!” When I was out in New Jersey, I got that check [from the church] in the mail. I called back and said, “You guys made a mistake. I’m off staff.” They were like, “No, we are supporting you for a month.” I was like, “Really, you don’t have to do that!” And the guy said, “Well, then send it back.” Then I said, “No, I’m not going to do that!” I needed it!

Man talking

Lloyd (right) shares God’s Word in Cuba as Luis Solis, his assistant pastor, translates.

Don: Still, it was important to you to go out this way?

Lloyd: I know that it was just a part of getting immersed in the culture. When I got the job out here, it was hard. I’ll tell you that I wanted to do more ministry, and I was now back in construction. Getting back into a very physical job again was difficult. It also limited what I could do ministry-wise. But then it also helped me understand the culture in New Jersey.

I think work is important, though admittedly we will help more young pastors get established in places that are very expensive. We are now planting a church in Brooklyn and are allowing [the pastor] to raise a lot of resources because it is very expensive. He’s got a family of five to take into Brooklyn, and that’s not easy. So, I told him that I think it’s still important that he get a part-time job there, maybe work in a coffee shop getting used to the culture. Some church planters are removing all the risk. The focus I have heard often nowadays is the need to raise two years’ worth of resources before they start. I think there has to be more personal sacrifice, or roots won’t go down as deep in prayer.

Men talking

At a conference for Cuban Calvary Chapels, Pastor Lloyd (right) chats with his then-Assistant Pastor Luis Solis (center). Pastor Xavier Ries (left) of CC Pasadena, CA, prepares to teach at the Cuba conference.

Don: You were around Chuck Smith, and close to him throughout the years, watching him, as well as Raul. Chuck [shared] about how he and Kay went through so many difficult times providing for their family—yet learning practically what faith, trust, and dependence are all about. He always felt that if he robbed that lesson from anybody, then he was doing them a disservice. Raul seemed to operate much the same way. For you and Karen, God had to let you go through times working and doing ministry, wondering if you were going to make the bills. Yet, it sounds like many great lessons were happening to both you and Karen.

Lloyd: The Lord really stretched us. We were “working for peanuts” when I was on staff. I was making already three times in drywall work what Raul offered me when he offered me an internship. I never even asked him how much he was going to pay me when I said Yes. Then I got my first check, and I’m like, “Oh, boy, this is going to be tough!” It was $800 a month, gross. That was a tough amount to make a living on, especially when I got married. They raised me to $1,100 a month, before taxes, when I got married. But I think those lessons would make me pray and seek the Lord. My wife’s family helped us, too. The Lord made a way.

Three men praying

Lloyd (center) prays with Xavier Ries (right) and Xavier's assistant pastor before the start of a conference in Cuba.

Don: So, you got the Bible study going in your home between these two areas where the radio station is. How many did you have attending the initial weeks of your Bible study?

Lloyd: You know, in the beginning we were meeting in this one Bible study with a couple, and there would be five people, and then it became seven people. Then it was 12, and I would say something that would offend a few, and it would be back down to seven. Then it would go up to 15 but I’d offend somebody else, and it would go back down to 10. I was just young, exuberant, bold and would say anything, like my mentor Raul. He never held anything back. But sometimes I would talk about everything which I didn’t know much about. But I grew and kept readjusting, getting deeper in the Bible. And what seemed slow addition at first began to multiply while I learned how to relate better to people on the East Coast. Today I recall how merciful God was to bless those original 50 people, despite me!

Getting used to the East Coast was tough, but by the first year we had about 75 people coming regularly and squeezing into our apartment. The children’s ministry was in the basement—that’s when we started looking for a place to go. By September of ’85, we moved into the school with about 150 people by that point. It grew fast, although as I look back, it seemed slow. Eventually, I had to go part-time, and then full-time within about three years. By that time, we had probably almost 300 people.

People talking

Lloyd (right) is scolded by a cook at a house in Cuba after trying to throw birthday cake in the face of the birthday boy.

Don: So many people go to start a church, and they have all of their dreams; but they get 25 people and want to go full-time. It certainly doesn’t sound like you did that.

Lloyd: No, I had a good situation with my drywall trade because I could work 20 hours a week and make all the money that I needed to live on. I didn’t really want to give up that job. It gave me freedom to amply supply for my family, and I was even able to train to get a pilot’s license. But the church was growing, and I needed to go part-time for the church. I was able with a small stipend from church and my part-time drywall job to not burden the church; we were able to save church money, allowing us to eventually get into a building.

Lloyd Pulley being playful

In a moment of fun at the Cuba conference, Lloyd sneaks up to scare longtime friend Carmen Solis, wife of his assistant pastor.

Don: What was your next location when you moved out of the school?

Lloyd: We were trying to buy a building, but the Lord kind of slammed the door shut. That particular town didn’t want us because they didn’t want to lose the tax revenue. We had spent a lot of money on lawyers and traffic studies. But they voted us down for the zoning change. I was really frustrated and confused; I didn’t know how to fight any of these politics. Lord, why would you want us to waste all that money when we were not going to get that building? I felt like a foolish leader at the time, not knowing what I was doing.

But during that year attempting to get the building, the economy had dropped and prices for renting were really low, and so we leased a building. We saved hundreds of thousands of dollars on reduced lease costs due to that year delay. Then we built enough to have offices at first in mid-week, while we still met in a school. The school we were meeting at could seat around 350. We went to three services while we were working out of this mid-week place. Eventually, we ended up leasing a lot more of the building, so we were able to have Sunday morning services there as well. God knew!

People smile for camera

At the Cuba conference, Lloyd jokingly puts rabbit ears behind the head of his assistant pastor, Luis Solis.


People climbing hill in Israel

On a trip to Israel, Lloyd plays a practical joke by pretending to fall down a cliff near Nazareth, overlooking the Jezreel Valley. Although the cliff looked steep, the drop off was only a few feet. Photo courtesy of CC Old Bridge, NJ


People smile for camera

In 1993, Lloyd and his wife Karen (back left) visit Calvary Chapel Bible College Europe, which was famously held in an old castle in Millstatt, Austria, at the time. To the left of Lloyd is Fred Boshaw, who supervised the castle. At Lloyd's far right is missionary pastor Greg Opean (in denim), who served in Hungary for many years. In the front are Pastor Frank Ippolito and his late wife Tammy. Photo courtesy of CC Old Bridge, NJ


All verses above are quoted from the New King James Version, unless otherwise noted.

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