Understanding the Times
Understanding the Times

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Six Calvary Chapel Pastors Weigh in on the issues and challenges that the church is facing in the world today

Compiled from teachings and interviews

Pastor Joe Focht: Racial Reconciliation

Pastor Joe FochtA reconciliation has to take place between the sinner and the Savior first before it can take place on any other level. So I’m going to continue to do what the Lord has called me to do—If you love Me [Jesus], feed My sheep—that’s my call. I’m not evangelist, I’m not a prophet. I’m a pastor, I’m a shepherd, and I will continue to do that.

I love our church—I love the fact that we have people from all different national backgrounds here. I want them always to be comfortable here, and I want every one of them to know that this is important to me personally and to the pastoral staff. We’ve talked about it. We can be a light on the hill. We can stand and be a completely different culture than the culture that we’re living in.

I think now is a great time for us to embrace the things that are going on around us—to ask some genuine questions, to grow in these things instead of just acting like the world. Because the world hasn’t experienced the primary reconciliation that needs to take place between the sinner and Christ, it will never get any other part of reconciliation correct.

Through wisdom a house is built, and by understanding it is established; by knowledge the rooms are filled with all precious and pleasant riches. Proverbs 24:3-4

We’re working, we’re building the Lord’s house, and certainly wisdom, understanding, and knowledge are so important—that’s treasure, that’s filling the house with all that’s pleasant and precious. Racial reconciliation is something America is facing nationally. There are African Americans who fought in the Revolutionary War, they fought in the Civil War, and the Emancipation took place—but those freedoms didn’t come the way they were supposed to come after the emancipation was made. Black men and women fought in World War I and World War II; they shed their blood for freedoms they were supposed to enjoy. I think that out of this insanity something good can come— as we look at one another and understand one another.

There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. Galatians 3:28

Paul is saying that the preeminent motivation—the preeminent glue between us—is Jesus Christ. When we flip into eternity, this [life]will be the dream, the illusion, like it really didn’t happen. Forever and ever, and ever and ever, we will stand around the throne—from every race, every kindred, and every tongue. That is what we were made for.

And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, and to open its seals; for You were slain, and have redeemed us to God by Your blood out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, and have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth.” Revelation 5:9-10

That’s our future, that’s our destiny, that will be eternal. People are saying we need to be colorblind; I believe that in the sense that we shouldn’t be prejudiced, but on the other side of that, I don’t think God wants us to be colorblind, because He’s made us all different. Whether we’re Asian, or Hispanic, or African American, or African, or Jamaican, or European—that’s all part of His creative genius. And I think He wants us to see that and love that, not to be colorblind. Cultures, people, and families—it’s wonderful to have tradition and have difference. There’s no room in the church for prejudice to be attached to any part of that.

I want to find the heart of Christ in this. I want to be the kind of shepherd that makes the flock—whatever their background—aware of one another. We can understand each other better. And the more we understand each other, the more we love each other. We’re hoping that it’s healing, it’s honest. Brutal where it needs to be brutal—but brutal love. That’s the kind of honesty that the church needs to embrace.

Mike McClure: Pastors Must Lead the Way

Mike McClurePeople are literally dying out here from suicide and alcoholism. Child abuse is up, domestic violence is up—the churches aren’t being good shepherds. When I originally said we are going to remain open, it wasn’t about defying the governor. We are the hospital. We’ve just forgotten God. We’ve forgotten the importance of the church.

We’ve forgotten how essential the church is—the only reason we are “non-essential” is because we have allowed them to put us in that non-essential bracket. We have to say “No, we aren’t going to do that anymore.” Are we going to sit back and let rioters damage the streets—and hurt people and businesses—under a flag of protesting? I’ve had to put up with people at the state level telling us what we can’t do for years. I think they are wrong. This isn’t political anymore, this is biblical. Like Chuck Smith used to say, “These aren’t political times—we are entering into biblical times.”

At the end of this, we are going to have to offend somebody. If you don’t open up, you’re going to run into the problem of nobody showing up to your church on Sunday when you finally do. If you do open up, going against the mandate of the governor, you may get fined or do jail time, but at least you’re obeying God.

Jesus said to him, “‘You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind.’ This is the first and great commandment. And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets.” Matthew 22:37-40

If you look at the two commandments Jesus has given us, the first says we are to love Him. That is a command—that’s what He tells us to do. Then secondarily, He says to take that same love and use it to love one another. This is the golden rule. I have just been treating everyone like a guest when they come [to our fellowship]. Half of the people attending our church on Sunday are from other churches in town. The police did come—but they only came for church, to attend.

We don’t look to government to tell us how to worship. The government can’t help people and love people—that’s what shepherds are supposed to do. The Gospel is still powerful enough to deal with any problem. We just need to get it out—we need a great awakening. The Gospel was what brought about this country and we forget that—it was pastors leading the way.

Mark Abrams: Christ Takes Diversity and Makes Unity Out of It

Mark AbramsI think any tragedy such as what happened to George Floyd affects every human being. In my particular fellowship, because we are mainly a diversified church—really diverse—it’s a spectrum of emotion. If you grew up in the African-American community, this wasn’t something totally uncommon, it’s just been caught on camera. For me, growing up in the inner city where there was violence, a lot of gunfire daily, these things were common, but not public. Maybe because it’s published now, I think people see it so much differently. It affects people in all different ways, but I think for the African American it may affect us in a deeper way—that could have easily been one of us.

Wherever you have people from different walks, different nationalities, and different ethnic groups gather anywhere, everybody has a viewpoint. There isn’t just one pill to fix this. I think it’s more of us learning that everybody is made in the image of God. I think in the church we can learn—especially as pastors—that God didn’t call us to segregate the church, or to minister to one group versus another group. He just called us to Shepherd the flock of God which is among you (1 Peter 5:2a). And so I think that’s loving and nourishing them. Learn that people are different—that blacks and whites are not the same. Christ takes diversity and makes unity out of it.

He is the Rock, His work is perfect; for all His ways are justice, a God of truth and without injustice; righteous and upright is He. Deuteronomy 32:4

The root of all injustice is the father of all lies, which is the devil. We’ll know perfect justice when we get to heaven, but I think that the church could do better at being more of a praying church regarding these things—really being broken over the condition of our nation, on our knees before the Lord, and through prayer tapped into the Lord’s throne room. Some things can happen in prayer that could never happen through legislation: We have access to the Lord, He delights in the prayer of the upright, and we can come to Him. Most of us are responders and doers, and prayer might seem like the long way, but I think prayer is the right way to really come together and seek God’s face for the injustice in this country. I think that we will hear from heaven.

You think of the urban areas, where me and a friend of mine, Buddy Osborn, see so many opportunities. I love foreign missions, I believe in foreign missions, but in the inner cities of America, I think the church as a whole—urban, suburban, rural, wherever the churches are—can come together. Because Paul went into metropolitan areas: Corinth, Ephesus, Galatia, and Thessalonica. They were urban kind of places. He went in, and they were changed by the Gospel.

After these things I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no one could number, of all nations, tribes, peoples, and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, with palm branches in their hands, and crying out with a loud voice, saying, “Salvation belongs to our God who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb!” Revelation 7:9-10

Every tribe, every tongue, every kindred, and so forth, are around God’s throne. It doesn’t seem like God’s going to change our color when we get to heaven. Whatever you are on earth, you’re probably the same complexion in heaven. All of those colors are genius, because that’s the body of Christ.

We’re His feet, His hands. God is the one who will use us, and I think He will use us through grace. We can be those people who look at hurt in the way that Christ would look at hurt. Look at the suffering of some hurt person, somebody who’s filled with anger because of injustice, and you can do it full of grace and truth. I think it has to be both, and it has to be through love. It has to be through a very strong, listening ear. I think that people do want to be heard, so I really believe that listening is the key to hear people’s hearts. Whether you agree with it or not, listen.

José Hernandez: The Issue is the Heart

José HernandezAs a pastor in a community like Watts, I am against injustice because God is against injustice, but I can’t be for something that is done outside of God’s Word. Yes, we’ll stand when we need to stand when something is wrong; but at the same time, we have to pray and we have to pray some more, because it is only God who is going to change the heart. And that’s where the issue is at—the heart.

I’ve buried black kids, sat in their classrooms, and gone to their graduations. In some cases, God has called us to be fathers to the fatherless. Our youth ministry consists of about 40–50 kids and about 90% of those kids, especially the boys, don’t have a father showing them how to be men. The wrong kind of men on the streets—the gangs, the dope dealers, the pimps—are going to show them how to be men. These kids lack a father figure, community, and affirmation, and they are willing to do what most of us are not willing to do to get it.

We know in a spiritual sense that the only solution is Jesus, but in a practical way, how do we build bridges into these communities that are all over the country? It’s an investment. You have to count the costs. You have to realize that it’s just not a weekend mission trip. I literally started with a case of water on the basketball court at the park where the church now meets. Then six months later, we planted the church and started to invite other Calvary Chapels from South Orange County to assist. What God has been able to do in Watts through our ministry is to bring down walls, because sometimes it’s not that people are racists, it’s just that they don’t understand one another.

During our outreaches in the community, a lot of the time we get to partner with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). These men and women are actively participating in, and doing, great things in the community. A lot of people who are screaming to “defund the police” don’t know that the LAPD has a special unit called Community Safety Partnership, and these men and women are responsible for creating programs in the inner city that serve the kids.

The LAPD and Hope Central Watts came together eight years ago to start the first-ever Father-Daughter dance in Watts; it’s now annual. We had little [5th-grade] girls who don’t have a father in their life be escorted to the dance by a police officer. We went to five schools, and about 500-600 girls have since attended this dance. Some officers go into their own personal wallets to fill the needs of some of the kids.

After growing up in Watts, I never wanted to go back. God is faithful, because here we are nine years later, and God is still growing us in ways that I would have never thought. All we do have are a few loaves and a few fishes, because we’re a little church in Watts, and we don’t have very much. But God takes that, and He multiplies it every single time. For the past nine weeks, 100 families each week had food on their tables, because God decided to put us in a place where I never wanted to go back to.

“Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.” Matthew 5:16

David Rosales: When It’s Darkest, God’s Light Shines Brightest

David RosalesAs we look at our day with the violence, fear, and uncertainty, we can believe that it is the worst time that our nation has ever had, but this obviously isn’t true. The simple fact is that in the 1960s, America was in turmoil. The decade was filled with turbulence, anger, and revolution.

In the ‘60s, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, TX, and Jack Ruby killed his assassin, J. Harvey Oswald, on TV before a live audience. Racial riots broke out in Watts, Boston, Washington D.C., Newark, Detroit, and at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago. Raised fists and cries of “Burn, baby, burn!” rang out in America. Martin Luther King Jr. courageously led marches for social justice, and his reward was being gunned down in Memphis in 1968. Later, John F. Kennedy’s younger brother, Bobby, was assassinated.

UC Berkley, Harvard, San Francisco State, and other institutions of higher learning were occupied in protests against the war in Vietnam. Four university students were gunned down by National Guardsmen at Kent State. Anger at law enforcement was high, and young people began to cry, “Kill the pigs!”

In the midst of this turmoil, “hippies” came into existence, invading San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district. Drugs, alcohol, love-ins, and free sex became the lifestyle of many of the younger generation. Psychologist guru Timothy Leary encouraged youth everywhere to take acid. Our mottos became, “Tune in, turn on, drop out,” and, “If it feels good, do it”—as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else. The “British Invasion,” led by the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, the Animals, and the Who invaded America, sweeping the youth into counter-cultural lifestyles and anti-Christ philosophies. I can still recall when John Lennon stated, “The Beatles are more popular than Jesus Christ.” Though it caused outrage, at that time I agreed with him.

Contrary to our selective memory and revisionist historians, the ‘60s were anything but happy. We were rightly described by singer Don McClean as “a generation lost in space.” The Apostle Paul describes it better in Ephesians 4:18-19, Having their understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God, because of the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart; who, being past feeling, have given themselves over to lewdness, to work all uncleanness with greediness.

In the midst of those days, in spite of the moral darkness, God began to move powerfully. Many hippies began to see in Jesus, the ultimate hippie, the preeminent revolutionary—His message of love, community, faith, and forgiveness began reaching my generation. The kids who had been written off as angry, filled with rage and hate, were getting saved. A youth movement hit the United States, and the press quickly called us “Jesus People.”

With all that said, I just want to remind you that God is still on the throne. I want to remind you that, when it seems to be the darkest, God’s light shines the brightest. I also wanted to remind you that with God, all things are possible, and that God still loves the world and desires all to come to him in salvation through His Son Jesus Christ. Sometimes it can seem that there is no hope and that we should just give up. This isn’t true. A.W. Tozer once pointed out, “When the world has been in its darkest times, God has moved mightily.” And though things are difficult in our day, it is time for the church to be the church, to wake up out of sleep and to do the work of ministry. It’s not too late—hold fast, trust God, and be still. Then we shall see the salvation of the Lord.

Ken Graves : How Lovely is Your Tabernacle

Ken GravesDo not keep silent, O God! Do not hold Your peace, and do not be still, O God! For behold, Your enemies make a tumult; and those who hate You have lifted up their head. They have taken crafty counsel against Your people, and consulted together against Your sheltered ones. They have said, “Come, and let us cut them off from being a nation, that the name of Israel may be remembered no more. For they have consulted together with one consent; they form a confederacy against You: the tents of Edom and the Ishmaelites; Moab and the Hagrites; Gebal, Ammon, and Amalek; Philistia with the inhabitants of Tyre; Assyria also has joined with them; they have helped the children of Lot.” Psalm 83:1–8

In our day, the enemies of God make a tumult. All of the rioting, all of the chaos, and all of the violence that has broken out in our cities this summer—all of it is the enemies of God making a noise. Our prayer should again be likewise, as their prayer was: “God, don’t be silent,” in response to their big noise. They’re taking crafty counsel against Your people. What is going on in our nation right now to undermine our government, to undermine the people—it’s nothing new. Crafty counsel isn’t new; conspiracies are not new. They have been going on for a long time.

Here Asaph points it out to God that they consulted together against Your sheltered ones. Make no mistake about it—the conspiracy that Asaph observes is not merely against a nation. It’s against the people of God, and so it is to this very day. The conspiracy is not just to overthrow a government; the conspiracy targets the Christian and the Jew. The Judeo-Christian ethic, the Judeo-Christian worldview, a biblical perspective—all of that is being attacked. That is the reality: Their ultimate goal is to destroy Christianity.

Let us cut them off from being a nation, that the name of Israel be remembered no more. Interestingly, look on the map today, and you’ll find Israel, but you can’t find any of the 10 nations listed in Psalm 83. They don’t exist. They don’t even exist as an identifiable people group—they were assimilated, they were destroyed—they came to an end. They conspired against Israel, and they are the ones who are gone.

For they have consulted together with one consent; they form a confederacy against You. Speaking of confederacies, in Luke chapter 23, Luke mentions that two enemies came together in mutual contempt for Christ—Pilate and Herod. They had no use for each other until that day. They found common ground in their hatred and contempt for Christ. So it still is.

How lovely is Your tabernacle, O LORD of hosts! My soul longs, yes, even faints for the courts of the LORD; my heart and my flesh cry out for the living God. Psalm 84:1-2

That [verse above], brothers and sisters, is a matter of perspective. We always say, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder,” don’t we? Can you think of a time in your life when you did not put “lovely” and “church” together? Remember back when your perspective was, “No man, I love this bar.” Or maybe it was the stadium—the “temple” that was your big thing was the sports or concert arena. But a change of perspective brings us to where we can sing in agreement with each other, and with the sons of Korah, that the place I want to be—the place with the songs that have become the theme for the seasons of my life—is there in church with the people of God.

I wonder how the world can possibly get away with mocking Christians for worship. When you go to the secular, big concerts, everyone has their hands up, reaching towards some pop star—some puny little human who is going to O.D. after the show. It’s just another mortal who’s been deified with big sound, big lights, and massive production—the very influence of the massive crowd that they draw. It does become quite cultic. I instead relate to How lovely is Your tabernacle.

I have been to churches from one end of this country to the other—all different flavors of church—and I really do love them all. The places where God is worshipped are special, but what makes them lovely is what happens there. You don’t know how your soul longs or even faints for it until you’ve been cut off from it. Many of us had that experience, maybe for the first time, in the spring of 2020, when the government said, “You can’t gather.” The government forbad gathering—and we went along voluntarily for a little while; but ultimately we came back together. You could hear everybody just going “Ah,” even if they weren’t doing that out loud. Being with God, singing songs to the Lord, it was clear people did long for it—How lovely is Your Tabernacle, O LORD of hosts!

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