Chuck Smith died this morning at his home in Newport Beach, California, at 86 years of age. He was the founder and pastor of Calvary Church in Costa Mesa, California, which began in 1965. It became one of the first mega-churches which subsequently resulted in the creation of a movement of Calvary churches which now number over 1,000. The original Calvary Church in its early years had a wide impact on the youth counter-culture of that time period in Southern California, more particularly the creation of the Jesus People movement of the late 1960s and early 1970s. Chuck was the foremost person who bridged church with the hippie generation.
For a few years during the 1970s, the PGA Tour Bible Study met in Pat and Shirley Boone’s home in Los Angeles during the week of the Los Angeles Open. (In the late 1970s, it was named the Glen Campbell Los Angeles Open.) Pat and Shirley Boone were such gracious hosts. Since they sometimes attended Calvary Church, they had Pastor Chuck Smith speak to our group on at least two occasions if I remember correctly. He was a friendly, approachable fellow who had much enthusiasm for God and Jesus. He was a regular guy who exhibited Christian life led by the Spirit. He was a pioneer through whom the Spirit of God worked powerfully in creating Christian ministries. I would say Calvary Church also bridged the divide between the Pentecostal-Charismatic movement and mainline Protestant churches. Chuck Smith was known for teaching all the way through the Bible over and over throughout his ministry.
One of those ministries of Calvary Church was the Maranatha Singers, a vocalist group begun in 1971. During the 1970s and into the 1980s, I loved to listen to their music on several of their 8-track tapes that I owned. But the Christian music artist that I loved to listen to the most, even more than super-talented Bob Dylan in Slow Train Comin’ or the much beloved Johnny Cash, was Christian songwriter and singer Larry Norman. What a talent! Whatever happened to Larry Norman? Remember “Why Does the Devil Have All the Good Music”? He was right! And he was fantastic! Then there was singer, pianist, and songwriter Keith Green of Last Days Ministries, who died an untimely death in a plane crash at age 29. His lyrics penetrated your soul. Those were the days of some great Christian pop music. Nostalgia, please forgive me. I wish we had all of them back.