Remembering Pastor Chuck Smith

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A Mother’s Secret Promise—Part 2
Broken & Surrendered

Story by Debra Smith
Photos courtesy of CC Costa Mesa, CA

Part 2 of this series continues our remembrance of Calvary Chapel founder, Pastor Chuck Smith. Today, we explore his spiritual and pastoral journey after receiving his call to ministry. This story first ran in Issue 58, Winter 2014.

Click to read Part 1 of  "A Mother's Secret Promise"

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In 1945, Chuck moved one hour northwestward to study at Los Angeles’ L.I.F.E. Bible College. In addition to gaining preaching experience and growing in awareness of the Lord’s nearness while there, he began to recognize how his values and beliefs differed from the Foursquare Church—the Pentecostal denomination in which he was raised and educated. After graduating, though, Chuck felt confused and aimless. He didn’t feel ready for the responsibilities of a senior pastorate, but he saw no other opportunities for Christian service. So he got a job and stayed near the Bible school, hoping his presence would remind professors and others of his availability should any vocational ministry opportunities arise.

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Soon, he met Kay—first noticing her at a Sunday night church service, then speaking to her at a ball game the next week. Her beauty attracted him; her devotion to Christ interested him deeply. Six weeks later, they were married.

In a few weeks, the Smiths moved to Arizona. Kay’s sister had arranged for Chuck to pastor a new Foursquare church plant, which could pay only $15 weekly—a scant amount, even in 1948. In hindsight, they were grateful for the opportunity to learn to live on little. Handling money with wisdom and integrity, Chuck reflected, would become essential in the ministry to come.

After pastoring two different churches in Arizona for a total of nearly four years, the couple moved with their two children to Corona, CA. Chuck became overconfident, he said: Rapid church growth in Tucson, AZ, had left him with self-assurance that he had the ability to build a thriving ministry anywhere. But in Corona, he and Kay found themselves unable to build the same rapport they had enjoyed with those in Arizona. Adding to his sense of defeat, he soon lost the full-time grocery store job he also worked in order to make ends meet. Chuck resigned and left the church, feeling crushed. In his mind, he was done not just with that particular fellowship—but with vocational ministry altogether.

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Chuck was a bored and restless delivery-truck driver about three months later when he received a phone call from Dr. Van Cleave. A Bible college professor whom Chuck greatly respected, Van Cleave believed that learning to serve God effectively consisted primarily of failing—in order to be broken of self-reliance and come to the beginning of God-reliance.

As one of Chuck’s biblical heroes, the apostle Paul, said:
A thorn in the flesh was given to me, a messenger of Satan to buffet me, lest I be exalted above measure. … And He [the Lord] said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for My strength is made perfect in weakness.”  2 Corinthians 12:7b

Dr. Van Cleave encouraged Chuck to apply for a pastorate in nearby Huntington Beach, CA, and the opportunity led the Smiths into years of fulfilling ministry. There Chuck used a commentary on the Gospel of John to begin preparing sermons that became different than anything he had previously experienced: expositional Bible teaching.


Click to read Part 1 of  "A Mother's Secret Promise"

(To learn more about U-Turn for Christ, visit their website)

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

© 2022 Calvary Chapel Magazine (CCM). All rights reserved. Articles or photographs may not be reproduced without the written permission of CCM. All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated, are taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.® Used by permission.