Pastor Lloyd Pulley of Calvary Chapel Old Bridge, NJ: Memories & Lessons of Ministry—Part 3
Photos courtesy of Calvary Chapel Old Bridge, NJ, and Lloyd Pulley
Following is Part 3 of a four-part interview conducted recently by Pastor Don McClure with Lloyd Pulley, senior pastor of Calvary Chapel Old Bridge, NJ. 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 3, the pastors discuss how CC Old Bridge chose a radio ministry and a Christian school over growing its physical campus. Look for Part 4 soon. To reads Parts 1 and 2, click here.
Senior Pastor Lloyd Pulley in his Calvary Chapel Old Bridge, NJ, office approximately 20 years ago. Lloyd, sent out by Raul Ries, then senior pastor of CC West Covina, CA, planted the church in 1984.
Don McClure: When did you move to your present location in Old Bridge, NJ?
Lloyd Pulley: In 1989, I believe, was when we acquired our original leased place. It was only one-tenth of the building for offices and a mid-week study. We moved from the school a year later when we acquired a total of four-tenths and built a sanctuary and children’s area and more offices. We kept adding until eventually we had all of the building by 1994. We even added a floor over one section, and so we got 110% of the building.
Our big plan came when we bought 110 acres and were ready to build a larger facility to accommodate a church and school campus. But we had also acquired a local radio station. Then we got three more buildings on the same street. We ended up staying in the same place. Then an opportunity to acquire a station that reached New Jersey, New York, and some of Pennsylvania became available. At that point our board said, “Look, we’ve got 110 acres. You have this building planned, you have this large radio network planned. You’re going to have to pick which one. You can’t do all.” They were right!
Lloyd and Karen attend a pastors’ conference at Sandy Cove, MD, approximately 20-25 years ago. They are in the first row, far right, just behind Calvary Chapel founder Chuck Smith. Lloyd remarked that even as he aged, Chuck would be one of the first to volunteer to kneel so that others could remain standing during a photo shoot with pastors.
But the Lord convicted me. If we build this big campus for ourselves (and we had our plans already drawn up), will we ever have another opportunity to reach this whole mission of radio to reach metro New York and soften the ground with good Bible teaching for future church planting? At one point I was trying to get Pastor Chuck to buy the big network out here that now we call The Bridge. He was going through CSN challenges at the time, so he wasn’t interested. So when he passed on it, I really had a crisis moment: Do I build this big building or do we reach potentially millions of people in metro New York? The Lord convicted me, and I talked to the board. We ended up buying the network and selling the land. The Lord blessed it because we ended up making a lot of money on that land and converted it into building our school out as well as the radio station. The Lord blessed, but there were painful trials ahead.
Lloyd speaks during a 9/11 memorial at the PNC Banks Arts Center in New Jersey in October 2001, just one month after the attacks. CC Old Bridge put on one of the few memorial services that was not sponsored by the government; around 3,000 people attended and heard the Goods News of Jesus Christ.
Don: The church has done incredibly well in your facility. You’ve been allowed to grow with it as the church grew, getting more buildings. With that, you’ve also added a school. What grades are the school?
Lloyd: Well, we started at K through 5, and then added Pre-K, and each year we’ve added a grade. That’s 14 years ago, so we’ve already had our fifth graduating class, Pre-K through 12. During COVID, when we really went down in enrollment, it looked like it was unsustainable to continue the school. But the Lord convicted us to ride this out and take the hit that year knowing it will cost us dearly, and to see if He would provide to continue. But the Lord just blessed us staying open with so many new families who were impressed how we handled COVID-19 and who were frustrated with the public-school system. We are going to have to find room for kids because we are going to be all full this next year.
Lloyd is among numerous CC pastors at the 2000 Budapest, Hungary, conference. From left to right, in the top row, are pastors Randy Wall, Bob Grenier, Jimmy Orate, Lance Cook, and Lloyd. In the bottom row are Raul Ries, Ken Graves, Ray Fagan (Lloyd’s assistant pastor at the time), and John Milhouse.
Don: How important that is with what’s going on in the educational system in the U.S. Nobody saw it getting as radical as it has in the last year or so. Parents desperately need a place for their children because now the country is becoming incredibly aware of how corrupt the educational system is. Now, how many people do you feel that you are able to reach through the radio?
Lloyd: Well, we know that the potential population count is about 8 million that can hear the station clearly with the radio network signals. We had expanded by getting on the Trump Tower in Manhattan, and we are able to reach all of Brooklyn now and a lot of Manhattan. That’s been a huge blessing. We are also reaching out to Poughkeepsie, up in the southern portion of New York state, and into the southern portion of Pennsylvania.
Pastor Lloyd teaches at the beach during one of the earliest Bridgefest celebrations, approximately 13 years ago, for listeners of The Bridge radio station.
We can only guestimate because you can only have certain figures. But during certain times we are stronger than a lot of the Christian stations out here. We have a good guess that we have 150,000 listeners every day. The blessing is that it far exceeds what we could have done if we were still constructing our new building. We still have a building; we don’t have all the fancy bells and whistles, and that’s OK, because God is using the radio to touch people.
We also have an annual big Bridgefest, gathering together the people who are listening to the Bridge radio for a festival in Old Grove, NJ, at the ocean. We’ve had one of our largest gatherings now, post-COVID, in June. It was amazing! The auditorium seats 5,000—it was pretty much filled, and people standing outside. All day Friday and Saturday, people were lined up for standing room only in some of the smaller venues every 20 minutes to hear a different Bible teaching from a different pastor. We saw some 250 baptized that Saturday. The spiritual hunger is huge and really encouraging.
In 2015, Pastor Lloyd visits Mount Arbel in Israel, overlooking the Sea of Galilee.
Don: I know that Chuck Smith felt that his radio work was one of the most important things he ever did because it helped encourage churches. Out of that came being able to plant churches where people could hear the radio. They’d start listening to teaching and realizing, “What do we have to do to get a Calvary Chapel in our area? We love this kind of teaching.” Are you sensing that same thing back in New Jersey and New York?
Lloyd: The people who come to Bridgefest are looking for churches that are really teaching the Scriptures. They are questioning their pastors: “Why don’t you go through the Bible?” It’s impacting a lot of ministries that aren’t even Calvary Chapels; plus, we’re planting a few churches that are in those areas. People are coming from Brooklyn to go to Bridgefest and are finding out that there is a Brooklyn church plant. They are so excited because they’ve been praying.
Lloyd, his wife Karen, and two children moved to this apartment their first month in New Jersey.
Pastor Bobby Hargraves up in Poughkeepsie [CC Hudson Valley, NY] says most of his church found them from the radio. He mentioned to me last month he meets a new family every week who found him from the radio station. We as well find many will listen to us for months before finally coming to visit and then get plugged in.
Karen Pulley serves as a Sunday school teacher in the early days of CCOB. Lloyd explained, “Pastors’ wives do it all.”
Karen plays the piano. Lloyd described her as “an early worship leader” when CCOB was meeting in the Pulleys’ home when the church was planted in 1984.
This small sign identified CCOB’s new location, when the fellowship first met in a building in 1985.
Lloyd on his high school wrestling team. Lloyd is on the second row, fourth to the right. He excelled in the sport in junior and high school and continued to wrestle while attending Michigan State University. A fellow student on that college team shared the Gospel with Lloyd; in 1976 Lloyd surrendered his life to Jesus.
Lloyd (right) as a teenager. He described the photo as “my backslidden high school summer party days,” adding that all the young men in the photo are now believers.
All verses above are quoted from the New King James Version, unless otherwise noted.
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