Revival in Orange County, CA

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Faith Over Fear: Revival in Orange County, CA

Story by Christmas Beeler
Photos by Josh Larson unless otherwise noted

Despite California’s past restrictive lockdowns, Calvary Chapel San Juan Capistrano, now known as Calvary South OC (Orange County), has continued to share the hope of Christ over the past two years. As they ministered to the hurting, corporately fasted and prayed, and shared the Gospel weekly in an outdoor space, God poured out His Spirit: Hundreds journeyed to receive Christ as Savior. Now God has provided a new campus to accommodate the growth—which leaders attribute to teaching the Word, to the Holy Spirit, and to prayer.

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John Randall, lead pastor of Calvary South Orange County (Calvary South OC), teaches from a stage that needed to be constructed and subsequently torn down each Sunday at the Outlet Malls of San Clemente, CA. The church started meeting in the parking lot during the COVID-19 shutdowns. Formerly Calvary Chapel San Juan Capistrano, they purchased a large property nearby and moved there this May.

The day after Christmas 2021, salty chilly winds from the North Pacific coast whipped through a crowd of worshipers in the parking lot at the San Clemente outlet mall. Bundled in a dark grey pea coat, Pastor John Randall’s voice rang out clearly in the open air: “Friend, there’s a real heaven; there’s a real hell. And Jesus died so that you could go to heaven; that’s how much He loves you. If you recognize that you’re a sinner and you need Him, humble yourself; come to Jesus today. He’s waiting for you.”

People left their folding chairs and came forward as the worship team sang about God’s love. Pastor John led a prayer of repentance: “Lord, I exchange my plans for Your plans; I’m not going to fight You. I’m going to surrender to You. Lord, have Your way in my life … draw me close to You. Be my Savior and my Lord.” Believers applauded for those who had just turned from spiritual death to eternal life.

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Pastor John prays with a small group after a service. More than 5,000 people made this outdoor facility their church home, some driving up to two hours each way.

Souls have been getting saved in this public-turned-sacred space every Sunday morning since May of 2020.

After the governor’s lockdown orders, recounted Pastor John, “We decided that we were not going to close. We were going to take a stand. People were hurting. We couldn’t close. God honored that step of faith, and He blessed it—far above what we could have imagined.”

Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus. Ephesians 3:20-21a

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A couple holds hands as they follow along with the verse-by-verse teaching. Many attendees brought lawn chairs, blankets, and tents as they enjoyed the outdoor venue.

John’s wife Michelle recalled, “We saw that our church was a hospital. Would you close the hospital doors with people suffering just outside? The only people who would deem a church as ‘nonessential’ are those who don’t go to church.” She added, “God will do whatever He deems fit to get us back to where we need to be.”

The Calvary South OC congregation gathered on Sunday mornings at the outlets instead of their building a few miles away—at first because of state lockdown orders, but then continuing as a necessity due to crowds of up to 5,000 people, some from two hours away.

So many people came that they couldn’t fit in the church’s old 500-capacity sanctuary. Changing their name from CC San Juan Capistrano to Calvary South OC, the church recently purchased a larger property in San Clemente. Still, Pastor John appreciates the unique door that God has opened at the mall.

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Hundreds of people drove many miles every Sunday during the pandemic to gather for the teaching and fellowship at Calvary South OC. Photo courtesy of Calvary South OC

“Being able to share the Gospel in a public place has been a great opportunity,” reflected Pastor John. “We set up a trough and baptized hundreds of people over the last year and a half. This has become its own outreach to the community—a place where we share the Word and people can bring their unsaved friends to hear the Gospel. It’s been amazing—so many people getting right with the Lord and realizing their need for Him.”

For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes. Romans 1:16a

Associate pastor and worship leader Bryan Malolot believes God has brought a revival, spurred by the desperation of the pandemic. He reflected, “There is a hunger and desire for God, His Word, and fellowship like no other time I’ve seen.” Those affected range “from little children and teenagers coming forward for the first time, to grown adults who have strayed away from the Lord for decades.”

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Churchgoers worship the Lord during an outdoor service at the San Clemente Outlets.

Pastor John cited Isaiah 43:19 which says, “Behold, I will do a new thing, now it shall spring forth … I will even make a road in the wilderness and rivers in the desert.” The senior pastor added, “God is doing something new. I’m doing things as a pastor I never thought about before, things outside of the box. This has totally changed the paradigm of what church is for me: It’s not a building; it’s His people.”

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Michelle Randall (left), wife of Pastor John, enjoys fellowship and offers encouragement after a service.

Ventures of Faith
Following God into the unknown is nothing new for Pastor John and his wife Michelle. After they met and married at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, CA, John and Michelle felt God tugging them to plant a church in Florida. 

Both recalled their initial visit to Florida as “a disaster,” with Michelle getting injured and other problems. And as John loaded a truck with their furniture in California for the actual move, he got a call that the rental home in Florida had fallen through. Again sensing God’s call to step out in faith, he drove with a friend for three days to Florida. Within 24 hours of arrival, he found another home, unpacked his family’s belongings, and taught a Bible study in a friend’s living room with three people.

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Two friends embrace one another after a heartfelt time of prayer.

After she arrived, Michelle put up handmade posters and handed out flyers at the bank. She chuckled, “I was so inexperienced in those early days, yet people came. We were so amazed. We still are.” John recounted, “The first converts in our church were our next-door neighbors, who are still in that church today, serving the Lord faithfully. It’s amazing—we think we know what it will look like, and then God does it His own way, and He gets all the glory.” Early days are hard, a pruning process, he said: “God has to do a work in us before He does a work through us. We have to be broken before we can be truly used by the Lord.” The church grew, and—after years of meeting in a rec center, nail salon, and other available spaces—Pastor Chuck Smith helped them purchase a building.

                  

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Life in Florida was good: The church was growing, they owned a home, and John’s family had moved to Florida to be near the children. Then, in 2006, as John recalled, “The Lord started moving on my heart, a sort of divine unrest.” The Randalls were drawn to San Clemente, CA, which God confirmed through several people—including John’s assistant pastor, whose wife had received a word from the Lord seven years before that her husband would take over a church.

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Michelle Randall teaches, taking women at Calvary South OC through the Bible twice a week.

“We knew that this was God, and that we were leaving our church in good hands,” Michelle recounted. “Still, it was the hardest thing we had ever done; it was like leaving your kids behind. We had seen many of these people get saved. John had baptized them and their children—even married some of their kids. It was difficult to make that move, leaving our family and coming back to—well, really, nothing.”

After their Florida home sold, John received a call that a Calvary in San Juan Capistrano needed a pastor. The church body was less than 100 people. Another pastor warned John that he was “inheriting a church split.” Many of the flock were hurt, disgruntled, or resistant. As time went on, only five of the original families remained.

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Ladies worship the Lord during the mid-week women’s study.

“Taking over a fellowship is much harder than planting a church,” Michelle reflected. When John or Michelle would get discouraged, one would remind the other that God had called them. “The Lord stripped us of everything in order to work through us. He [made us] a united team, tough, more tenacious. We tell everybody who’s going out to plant what Pastor Chuck taught us: Give it two years, because the first two years are so hard. But then in Year Three, you begin to see fruit,” she said. “As hard as everything was, I wouldn’t take it back.”

Fifteen years later, the church is thriving: Believers eagerly flock to Bible studies, prayer meetings, mission trips, and outreaches. Michelle gives all glory to God. “We just had to order 700 books for our upcoming ladies’ Bible study. For our women’s Christmas dinner, we had to break it into three nights, serving 900 ladies.”

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Hundreds of men attend the SoCal Men’s Conference at Calvary South OC.

Prayer, Fasting, Repentance, & Revival
When they started meeting at the outlets, Calvary South OC also launched 30 days of prayer for revival. “That’s when it [revival] all began,” Michelle Randall noted. This often-quoted Scripture “became real to us,” she said: “If My people who are called by My name will humble themselves, and pray and seek My face, and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and will forgive their sin and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14

Michelle added, “So often, we will do three of those four things—humble ourselves, pray, and seek His face—but we neglect to turn from [our] wicked ways. We got on our knees, asking, Lord, is there any wicked way in me? Not just our staff, but the whole church. And God began to work.” Then they did 30 days of directed fasting, something she had never done in her 33 years as a Christian. “I feel that whatever wasn’t purged during our 30 days of prayer was [purged] in the fasting.”

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Speakers at the SoCal conference included (from left to right): Jerel Hagerman of Joshua Springs CC, Josh Thompson of Legacy City Church, Art Reyes of CC Downey, and John Randall.

Facing a degree of persecution through the lockdowns, she noted, believers pressed into the Lord and had an urgency in prayer. “It lit a fire in us that hadn’t been there before—ever. Every time there was another mandate, that fire would grow.” She noted, “I’m so grateful for my husband, who hears from God and is willing to do what others would not. It’s really a good testimony when you can’t ‘explain’ how something happened: God did it.”

Despite restrictions, the staff found creative ways to minister to the hurting crowds. “We offered drive-through prayer on Tuesdays. There were lines; we spent hours praying for people,” Michelle related. Both John and Michelle, although working harder than they ever had, learned to rely on the Holy Spirit in ministry.

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John and Michelle Randall join their fellow church members in a round of country western dancing during their Calvary Country Harvest Jamboree. Children and adults alike enjoyed old-fashioned square dancing as the Gospel was shared with all attendees.

Relying on the Spirit
Pastor John declared, “We need to continually be filled and empowered with the Holy Spirit for our ministry to be anything eternal.” Whether visiting someone in the hospital or preaching before thousands, said John, “He will empower us for what He has called us to do. We need only to rely on Him.”

Gathering in person is essential. “The Holy Spirit desires to work in the midst of the church. I believe that when the body of Christ comes together to fellowship, spiritual gifts are in operation,” Pastor John said. “If we are walking in the Spirit, then we will see people using their gifts to minister to one another.”

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Children sing along to worship songs that kick-started the evening of the Calvary Country Harvest Jamboree.

And they are. Hungry for fellowship with other believers, Sandi Stauffer began attending Calvary South OC when the lockdown began. Sandi recounted, “Often, after the sermon, Pastor John would give a time for the Lord to move—we would have extended worship or times of quiet, or people would pray in groups for each other. Some would get on their knees at their seats or come forward for prayer. It felt so open for the Lord to do a healing work, and there was a real release of our burdens, for confession, and repentance. Nobody wanted to leave. We were iron sharpening iron.” The weekly women’s intercessory prayer group has seen the Lord work powerfully. The ladies pray the ACTS model of prayer (adoration, confession, thanksgiving, and supplication), lifting up needs of the church and ministering to each other.

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John shares Christ from the stage, as he did every Sunday morning during most of the COVID-19 lockdowns. Despite the California governor’s lockdown on churches when the virus began to spread in the spring of 2020, Calvary South OC leadership decided to take a stand—people were hurting and needed a place to worship God.

After Pastor John shared the book The Baptism with the Holy Spirit by R.A. Torrey, Sandi recounted, “We learned what it meant to be baptized in the Spirit.” Women prayed for the baptism of the Holy Spirit: “Some would weep, others would have so much joy that it seemed their faces were glowing, another began speaking in tongues almost immediately. It was such an assurance of His presence during such a scary time.” One young woman with a sprained ankle asked for prayer; Michelle and the women laid hands on her and prayed. “Literally, in that moment, she got up, and all the soreness and tenderness were gone. She was walking without a limp,” Sandi rejoiced. “We began to take that prayer time very seriously. We were seeing James 5:16 in action every week.”

Confess your trespasses to one another, and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much. James 5:16

                  

Learn more about Calvary South Orange County here: calvarysouthoc.com

Books by Pastor John Randall: A Daily Walk (devotional book for men); Sermon on the Mount: Field Guide for Your Faith; Love That Lasts (dating, singleness, marriage).
Purchase online at: John Randall Books

Books by Michelle Randall: A Daily Walk for Women Devotional; The Great Exchange; Pearls of Wisdom for Pastors Wives and Leaders.
Purchase online at: Michelle Randall Books
                  

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Calvary South OC moved into this beautiful building in May 2022.

This story was first published in Issue 91 (Spring 2022) of Calvary Chapel Magazine.

                  

(To learn more about Calvary Chapel University, visit their website or read our past coverage on the school)

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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.

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