Pastor Lloyd Pulley Interview

Pastor Lloyd Pulley Interview
Pastor Lloyd Pulley Interview

Lloyd speaks to a crowd in New York City.

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Pastor Lloyd Pulley of Calvary Chapel Old Bridge, NJ: Memories & Lessons of Ministry—Part 1

Photos courtesy of CC Old Bridge, NJ

Lloyd Pulley laughed as he recalled the first day he served on the staff of Raul Ries, now the senior pastor of Calvary Chapel Golden Springs, CA. “It was a funny start. Raul was not in the office on my very first day as a 20-year-old intern. I just thought, Hey, well, we’re all just brothers in the Lord. So, I went into his office, and I’m sitting in his chair with my feet on his desk, reading his books, and I’m thinking, This [ministry] is the life! Then Raul walks in unexpectedly and sees me there. He leaves and then sends his assistant in, who says, ‘What are you doing up here? Get out of his office!’ So, I became infamous for modeling what not to do for all the new staff for the next three decades.”

Then new in the ministry and without an office, he is now the senior pastor of Calvary Chapel Old Bridge, NJ.

Following is Part 1 of a four-part interview conducted recently by Pastor Don McClure with Lloyd Pulley, senior pastor of Calvary Chapel Old Bridge. 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 1, the pastors discuss how Lloyd came to faith in Christ and was called into ministry. Look for Part 2 soon.

Baptism

Pastor Lloyd Pulley baptizes a woman at Calvary Chapel Old Bridge (CCOB). Like many Calvary Chapels, CCOB started as a home Bible study. One year later, the fellowship had grown to 150.

Don McClure: How did you come to Christ?

Lloyd Pulley: My experience began early with my grandmother. My dad left when I was 3, my mom died when I was 4, and my grandmother took my three older sisters and me in and raised us. She took us to a small Baptist church, which was the first encounter I had had with things of God. She also enrolled me in a Bible Hour which was similar to a Good News Club once a week, and I was learning a lot about the Bible; I was memorizing Scriptures, and it was powerful. So, I grew up with a real longing to know God and to walk with Him. But by the time I hit 13, I was caught up in the drug culture, having a relative I looked up to who smoked marijuana. Soon I lost interest in the Bible and walked away from God.

In junior high and high school, I did escape the ravages of drugs by getting into wrestling. I excelled in high school and was seated number one in the state of Michigan for my weight class.

I received a full scholarship for Chemical Engineering at Michigan State University, and also continued on the wrestling team. In college, I had my first real encounter with God that rocked me. Adjusting to challenging college classes and three hours a night in the wrestling room left me plagued with depression. A fellow student on the wrestling team told me who it was that gave him such peace—it was Jesus. The name of Jesus and the hope that He could change my heart was all I needed; so I cried out to the Lord and my life was dramatically changed that wintry night in 1976.

Man and woman posing

Lloyd and Karen have been married since 1980. Raul Ries sent them out from Calvary Chapel West Covina, CA, to plant a church in New Jersey in 1984.

Don: Did you go ahead and graduate in Chemical Engineering?

Lloyd: I loved the sciences, and I was a great student, but when I became a Christian, my love for everything else took a back seat to the Gospel. I couldn’t get enough of the Bible. I was going to Fellowship of Christian Athletes meetings, to Campus Crusade for Christ meetings, and I was reading my Bible. One Saturday, as a young believer, I started reading in Matthew, and 13 hours later I finished the New Testament, along with three pots of coffee. I was just [spiritually] hungry.

With this newfound passion, my grades started to suffer because I couldn’t focus on my academics. I knew that the Lord had put a call on my life, but I tried my best to complete my studies. While taking classes in the spring of ‘78 in England, I asked God, Do you want me to go back and finish my degree, or do you want me to go out to Southern California and get involved in Calvary Chapel West Covina, where my sister attends?

She had told me about CC West Covina where Pastor Raul Ries pastored at the time. I didn’t know anything about him or Calvary Chapel but felt compelled by the Lord to go. Everybody thought I was crazy when I did not enroll for the fall classes but moved out to Southern California in the summer of ’78 and joined a Campus Crusade project for the summer in Newport Beach. I had my first visit at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa and eventually got plugged into CC West Covina.

Don: What was the project in Newport Beach?

Lloyd: Campus Crusade had projects for people who were in their college programs, and you could pick a summer, in various places of the country. You roomed with people and would go out evangelizing—it was intense evangelism. That was what we did. We spent days on the beaches of Southern California in the summer of ’78 sharing our faith. After that summer, then I went up to join Pastor Raul in West Covina.

People smiling at camera

Early ministry days for Lloyd Pulley.

Don: Were you attending Calvary West Covina at the same time or were you down in Newport Beach all that same time?

Lloyd: We were encouraged to visit churches that needed some encouragement and to serve in some capacity. I remember visiting CC Costa Mesa and thinking, Oh, my Lord, this is amazing. But I did go to other churches and from time to time. But in the fall when I visited Calvary Chapel West Covina and heard Raul Ries, I knew it was my home—I knew I was in the right place as soon as I walked into church.

Don: When did you sense that the Lord was specifically calling you into the pastorate and equipping you for that?

Lloyd: I remember volunteering at the church and serving in any way that I could. Working for my brother-in-law, who got me into the drywall trade, supplied my needs, and then I was able to serve the Lord.

I served in helping some construction on the new building and had an opportunity to take over leading evangelism teams to Hollywood Boulevard every Saturday night. It was at a time when Christian night clubs were in vogue. Every Saturday afternoon, I did not feel like missing my friends’ activities and did not want to go evangelizing. But I'd made a commitment and that commitment rescued me from many a compromise, I learned later. I remember having a hunger to be in full-time ministry and one Friday day took off work to set up an appointment to go and meet (for the first time) Pastor Raul after being there for a year.

I remember telling him, “One of these days, I’d like to get trained in ministry, to one day get sent out as a pastor.” I was 20 years old when I said that to him, and he was like, “Maybe one day you can come on as a pastoral intern.” I went down to get my truck and leave thinking, Wow, in four or five years from now, I will have that opportunity! I was shocked when Raul came out to my truck to meet me before I left, and said something like, “I’ve had an eye on you, and the Lord told me to let you know that you can start any time.” I called my boss that day and he let me go, and I started on Monday as a young intern under Raul. That was a wild experience.

Man talking to woman

Lloyd prepares to baptize a woman in CCOB’s early days.

Don: You joined the staff as an intern. What kind of things were you doing? Were you, all of a sudden, preaching on Sunday mornings?

Lloyd: (Laughing) No, I was just a grunt. I just did anything they needed. I didn’t have an office. I fixed the copy machine, I made copies, I’d go on errands … mainly told to just find my ministry. I did continue to take teams out evangelizing in Hollywood. I went down to the local Department of Motor Vehicles and set up tables with free tracts and cult information pamphlets and would engage with people and invite them to the church. I started going out and doing street evangelism, going to the beaches. Really did anything that was needed, such as a lot of counseling. I couldn’t have been happier.

My first counseling session was with a 45-year-old man whose wife was going to leave him, and whose kids hated him [because of a bizarre addiction]. I thought, I have no idea what I am doing. I’m sure that I had a pimple on my face at that time; here I am, just this young kid. I just gave him some simple advice about reading the Word of God, prayer, and fellowship. The Lord got ahold of this man’s heart, and he brought his whole family to church. They totally turned on-fire for the Lord, and he attributed it to me; I didn’t know what I was saying … but only God.

When I came to the church, there were about 600 people at the time. In those five years that I was there, the church grew to about 4,000 to 5,000. It was off-the-charts, amazing growth.

Man in Africa

Pastor Lloyd takes a water break on a mission trip to Africa. CCOB has emphasized missions over the years.

Don: A portion of your time there was just doing deacon work, essentially; whatever it was they wanted you to do: maintenance, going to the copy machine, getting this done, setting up tables …

Lloyd: Yep, put this thing together, fix this, clean this, take this missionary back to the airport ... etc., including evangelism, teaching new believers’ classes. But then I took over a singles ministry and began exercising my gift of teaching. It was really amazing because the Lord was blessing everything at that church at that time. It was pastoring now 150 to 200 singles. We would mobilize them to go out evangelizing; we started a helps ministry, helping older men and women, older widows. We did outreaches and retreats. We started a chuch newspaper. It was a lot of fun and I enjoyed it.

Just before I went on staff, I had met Karen, and within six months into this flurry of ministry we had, we knew it was God putting us together and we got married. Our dating experience was very short because I didn’t have much time—I’m working 70 hours a week in ministry. Four nights out of the week and six full days I was at the church. I loved it, though. When we got married and had children it was a little harder.

Man at microphone

Lloyd speaks at a 9/11 ministry event. He became very involved in post-9/11 ministry.

Don: Where did you meet Karen?

Lloyd: Somehow, I volunteered to lead a group down to San Diego to help a mission shortly before I was on staff. We were to serve in a kid’s home, I think, and then have a little beach time. The cars to pool us all were few and I was able to squeeze one more person in my tiny pickup truck along with another couple. “I can fit her,” I pointed to Karen. It seemed like from then the Lord kind of just bound us together in a great way—it was really amazing. She rededicated her life on that trip visiting Mike MacIntosh at Horizon Christian Fellowship. That was August of ’79, and we were married in March of ’80. It was very quick.

Don: So, you obviously saw in Karen not only somebody who you were personally falling in love with, but you also realized that she had a great love for the Lord and wanted to serve Him, too.

Lloyd: That was key for her. I even tried to scare her away, telling her, “I think I’m going to Michigan to be a pastor there.” I’m just trying to do everything I can to let her know that I am following the Lord. She knew; she told me later, “The day I met you, the Lord told me, ‘You are going to marry him.’” I had no idea. I was a little slower to figure that out.

At one point, I was thinking, I don’t want to get involved in a relationship. I was so busy in ministry. But she was distracting because she’s beautiful and she loved the Lord so much. I was like, Lord, help me! And He responded, “Look, this is the one that I’ve called for you.” And I’m like, “All right!” So we started going together as boyfriend and girlfriend, but that didn’t last long because that was even more distracting. I was almost ready to break it off because of temptation, but I felt like the Lord said, “Listen, I told you that this is the one—what are you waiting for?” So, I asked her to marry me three months after we met, and three months later we were married.

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

© 2020 Calvary Chapel Magazine. 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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