From the Jesus Movement to Planting Calvary Chapels

Hippies discipled by Pastor Chuck begin to pioneer a growing movement of new churches

Story by Jessica Russell, Debra Smith, and Tom Price

This installment highlights the stories of just three of the many new pastors who planted and spread Calvary Chapels around the country and even to the world.

John Milhouse and his wife, passionate about Jesus and God’s Word, started a home Bible study in Moreno Valley, CA. With Pastor Chuck Smith’s approval and support, that church became CC Moreno Valley.

Pioneering a Network

John Milhouse was one of the many hippies who submitted to Christ’s authority during the Jesus Movement and began a new life passionate about the Lord and His Word. “We didn’t think about going to the movies or on dates,” said John of his and his wife’s days at Calvary Chapel in the early 1970s. “If we were going to do something, we thought, Let’s go to church or go tell people about Jesus. We would go to Huntington Beach Pier to witness.” Personally, John added, “I got involved in everything I could at Calvary. Looking back, I see that for many of us, Chuck’s teaching was our seminary.” By averaging 10 chapters a week, Chuck was then leading the congregation through the entire Bible in about two years.

By the early 1980s, John said, “The hippie scene had played its course. Many young people who were saved in the ’70s had become parents with families and responsibilities—we weren’t kids anymore.” In 1982, when the Bible study in a friend’s living room in Moreno Valley, CA, outgrew the house, John asked Chuck if he could start a church affiliated with Calvary Chapel. “Welcome aboard!” was Chuck’s resounding answer, and through the coming years, John would often look to Chuck for pastoral advice. “In those days, I didn’t have anyone else to call; everyone was so young,” John recalled. “Chuck would always take my phone calls, getting on the phone with a booming, ‘Hello, John,’ and make me feel that my call was the most important conversation of his day. He didn’t always give answers; he directed me to the Lord.”

Pastor Chuck Smith teaches young believers, many from the hippie movement, God’s Word, verse by verse and chapter by chapter.

The story kept repeating itself: As children of the Jesus Movement grew in the Lord, relocated to various cities, and began home Bible studies that grew into churches, Calvary Chapels popped up throughout Southern California and then the rest of the nation. Over the years, Chuck and Kay cared for this increasing number of new pastors and their wives—many of whom were thrust into a ministry they hadn’t envisioned.

Bob Chappell (second from left) moved from California to plant CC Greece, NY. Although he has passed away, his two sons now lead the church. Micah is the senior pastor and Andrew is assistant pastor. Bob’s wife Sandi is still involved as director of Calvary Kids & Abide Women.

Sandi Chappell, after moving with her husband Robert from California to New York to plant churches, remembers a time at an early leaders’ conference when her young children were tired and cranky. As she quieted them in the hall, Chuck walked by. Seeing Sandi’s frustration, she recalled, “He turned around and smiled, as if to say, ‘These kids will grow up faster than you realize, so take this time to enjoy it.’ It was such good advice. His life affected us even though we lived 3,000 miles from Costa Mesa.”

Hal and Sharon Fischer in their last photo taken with Chuck, who joked that this was indeed “an illustration of a rose between two thorns.” They were among Chuck’s original members in the early days of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa. Sharon reflected, “We can certainly give Chuck tribute for his obedience—coming to this little church, loving us, and teaching us …. But having so many ministries on so many continents is a miracle of God. Pastor Chuck would be the first to say, ‘Amen; all the glory goes to the Lord!’”

Sharon Fischer’s husband Hal, one of the original church board members who hired Chuck in 1965, was also the police chief for the nearby city of Placentia, CA. As such, he witnessed the Lord changing the lives of Calvary Chapel’s young believers in ways he knew no jail sentence ever could.

One day, a police officer who attended the fellowship asked Hal: “Would it be a conflict of interest for me to begin a Bible study in my home?” The chief, who had been noticing the young employee’s growth in Christ, replied, “That is perfectly fine, but I hate to lose one of my best officers.” Confused, the man clarified that he had no intention of resigning. Hal simply smiled and gave him his blessing. The young believer was Bob Kopeny, and Hal’s prediction soon became reality—the study blossomed into CC East Anaheim, CA, and Bob became a full-time pastor.

Chuck was always quick to remember that the Lord Jesus Christ was responsible for all of the increase—he was just thankful to be allowed to be part of what God did.

Sheep Beget Sheep

“Shepherds don’t beget sheep. Sheep beget sheep,” Sharon Fischer remembered Chuck telling the congregation in the early days. “Chuck always told us that we were the ones who were to carry this message into the world. There are now more than 1,500 Calvary Chapel churches, Bible colleges, and conference centers worldwide. We can certainly give Chuck tribute for his obedience—coming to this little church, loving us, and teaching us 10 Bible chapters verse by verse every Sunday. But having so many ministries on so many continents is a miracle of God. Pastor Chuck would be the first to say, ‘Amen; all the glory goes to the Lord!’”


Read our previous stories about Pastor Chuck and the Jesus Movement at: “They Called It the Jesus Movement,” and “Music that Moved a Nation


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© 2023 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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