Story by Debra Smith
As the Jesus Revolution movie grows in popularity, Calvary Chapel Magazine continues its remembrances of CC founder Pastor Chuck Smith. This story looks back at the music that energized the movement’s early days.
Pastor Chuck Smith, 42, sat on the platform steps in a mostly empty sanctuary and began weeping as he listened. “I was so touched; their music moved my heart,” remembered Chuck of the 1969 Monday afternoon at the small church he led, Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, CA. Mostly long-haired and tattered looking, the young men had dropped in asking to play at the church because several of them had recently come to know Jesus as Savior and Lord there. “Their brand-new love for the Lord was so inspiring,” Chuck remarked. “That ‘first love’ shone through, and I was touched by its beauty and freshness.”
The band called themselves Love Song, and they were one of many musical groups who began leading worship and giving frequent concerts at Calvary Chapel in the late 1960s and ’70s. “Eventually, we had more than a dozen groups and individual musicians exercising their gifts and blessing the church,” Chuck stated in the summer of 2013. “Their music sounds so soft and easy now, but it was radical then. Soon we began sending them out to share in different venues along the coast. Eventually, many of them ended up developing new churches in various cities where they gave concerts. That’s how Calvary Chapel began to expand from one fellowship into an entire movement—it was as much through the music as the actual pastors going out to plant churches.”
As interest in the new style of music grew, Chuck personally paid for a compilation album to be recorded. The collection was the first of what came to be a series of praise cassettes, which eventually grew into Maranatha! Music. The label influenced the development of contemporary Christian music.
Maranatha! Music and More
One after another, Chinese table servers spontaneously slowed their movements and lined the regal dining room’s walls to listen. Several government chefs in white hats soon emerged from the kitchen and joined the waiters—they too wanted to hear words from this strange book, the Bible. Though the American visitor spoke no Mandarin, the staff members’ grasp of English was strong enough to hold their attention throughout the impromptu sermon.
O Lord, our Lord, how excellent is Your name in all the earth! … I consider the heavens, the work of Your fingers, the moon and the stars, which You have ordained. Psalm 8:1b, 3
“It was an amazing moment,” Pastor Mike MacIntosh later said. “They all listened as Chuck proclaimed God the Creator to them.” Mike, Chuck, and others were in China because “Chuck had been invited by the Chinese government to the statehouse,” Mike stated. “It’s a huge, beautiful compound where they entertain foreign dignitaries. To be invited is a high honor.” Ever since the Jesus Movement, Mike explained, Chuck had been internationally renowned as an icon of ethics—and integrity was of concern to the Chinese government as the nation’s morals seemed to disintegrate.
Desiring to get Chuck talking—“He was actually kind of shy,” Mike commented—“I said loudly to someone, ‘In our psalms, we have a Scripture that says, …’ and I purposely paraphrased Psalm 8. Chuck responded, ‘Oh, Mike, that verse is … ”, and he took it from there.”
Another day on that 1990 trip, Mike and others exited an office and discovered Chuck sitting on a curb surrounded by young children. “They were all giggling together,” Mike recollected. “Chuck had a handkerchief tied in knots so it looked like a little mouse. After asking a kid to pet it, he would pull on an attached string to make it ‘run’ up his arm. Each time, the kids roared with laughter.”
When Mike and Chuck met in 1970, Mike’s mind had been so ravaged by drugs that “I had no hope of ever being a normal person,” Mike testified. But while living in a group home for young believers, he flourished. Soon given leadership of the Maranatha! Music label, Mike scoured Southern California persuading shops to stock the new albums. He also began leading a Bible study in San Diego that grew into the church Mike led until 2015: Horizon Christian Fellowship.
Read our previous story, “They Called It the Jesus Movement,” here.
Stay tuned for our next installment describing how the newly saved hippies grew in their faith and started planting Calvary Chapels around the country.
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