In 1965, Pastor Chuck Smith began his ministry at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa with just twenty-five people.

At a pivotal time in history, Pastor Chuck welcomed all, young and old, without judgment, into the local church. With a sincere concern for the lost, Pastor Chuck and Kay Smith made room in the church and their home for a generation of hippies and surfers, serving in the midst of a powerful movement of the Holy Spirit that spread from the West Coast to the East Coast and throughout the world.

In his ministry, he emphasized the teaching of the Word of God. In the wake of that move of the Holy Spirit, what began as a small local church grew into an international family of over 1700 churches around the world. Pastor Chuck’s simple, yet sound, expositional approach to teaching the Bible has helped millions better understand God’s Word.

Early 1960s:
The Birth of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa

It all started when several elderly women asked beloved pastor Floyd Nelson to lead their informal nondenominational congregation.

So in the spring of 1961, they met in a trailer court recreation room on Newport Boulevard in Costa Mesa because they wanted to bring church to their friend, Maude who lived there.

It was in 1965, after the 25-member congregation purchased the little church on Church Street in Costa Mesa, that Pastor Nelson took a leave of absence. He invited Pastor Chuck Smith to assist him as the teaching pastor at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa. A year later Pastor Chuck became the senior pastor.

Spring, 1961

Humble Beginnings

CCCM begins by gathering in a trailer park’s recreation room, located on Newport Blvd in Costa Mesa, California. Reverend Floyd Nelson is invited to start an informal nondenominational fellowship. After 3 weeks, the 25-member congregation moves to the Girls Club on Plummer Street in Costa Mesa.

December 21, 1961

The articles of incorporation of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa are filed.

April 22, 1962

A New Home

CCCM purchases the old Church of Christ building on Church Street in Costa Mesa.

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October, 1965

Pastor Chuck

Reverend Nelson invites Pastor Chuck Smith to speak at CCCM.

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November 18, 1965

The church votes for Pastor Chuck Smith to become the assistant/teaching pastor of CCCM.

Late November, 1965

Kay Smith begins a weekly women’s prayer meeting at Kay Madison’s house. It soon moves to the church and continues to this day.

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December 5, 1965

Expository Preaching

Pastor Chuck Smith gives his first official Sunday sermon, with 50 people in attendance. Beginning in Genesis, the congregation reads 10 chapters each week. Sunday morning sermons are topical messages from those chapters. The Sunday evening study is a verse-by-verse study of those same chapters.

December 9, 1965

Trusting For Provision

Rather than focusing on money problems at the board meeting, Pastor Chuck says, “Why don’t we concern ourselves with the spirituality of the church. You know, when God guides, He provides.”

September 14, 1966

Pastor Chuck Smith becomes the senior pastor of CCCM.

January, 1967

Pastor Chuck requests the congregation close their family meal prayer with “And God bless Calvary Chapel,” …and He does!

April 29, 1967

The first wedding is held at CCCM, joining Margaret and Albert Hsieh in matrimony.

October 8, 1967

Two church services are held (9:30 am and 11:00 am) to meet the needs of the growing congregation.

August 1967

A Sunday night radio broadcast of Pastor Chuck’s Sunday evening verse-by-verse study begins on KGER.

Late 1967

Looking to the Future

Pastor Chuck sells the Church Street property. A prophecy is given at a home Bible study regarding CCCM moving to a new location: “It will be on a bluff overlooking the bay.”

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Late 1960s – 1970s:
The Jesus People Movement

What a shock it was to the conservative, middle-class congregation when the hippies arrived! Parents were deeply concerned about the Hippie influence on their children and the criticism of their neighbors and other churches in the area.

But the Hippies passion for Jesus and their love for their neighbors broke through. The church kept growing out of its buildings till the property on Sunflower and Fairview in Santa Ana was purchased and a circus tent erected that expanded to fit the 2000+ people in attendance.

Summer of 1967

Reaching The Hippies

During the “Summer of Love“, Chuck and Kay Smith reach out to the Hippies. The ministry rapidly grows, and Chuck finds himself carrying out mass baptisms – sometimes 500 at a time – in the Pacific Ocean at Pirates Cove in Corona del Mar.

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Early 1968

The Hippies arrive!

At first, congregants are concerned the Hippies will negatively influence their children. In addition, they fear neighbors will criticize CCCM for allowing Hippies to attend the church and the home Bible studies.

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March 1968

A New Start

CCCM starts a Sunday afternoon service at the Newport Harbor Lutheran Church on Cliff Drive — overlooking Newport Bay. The cost is $150 per week. Rather than decreasing in size, church attendance increases.

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Spring 1968

An Unexpected Co-Laborer

Pastor Chuck invites Lonnie Frisbee to be a part of the House of Miracles commune. Lonnie becomes a popular speaker at CCCM, with hundreds of young people crowding his weekly studies at the church.

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May 15, 1968

A New Location

CCCM purchases the Greenville School at the corner of Greenville and Sunflower in Santa Ana for $55,050. The congregation, plus the Hippies, recycle old materials to build the new sanctuary.

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June 1969

The Greenville Chapel

The 300-seat Sunflower/Greenville Chapel is completed, and 2 services are held each week. By 1971, the walls are expanded outward, 3 services are held, and 500 chairs are set up outside.

In 1970

Lonnie Comes on Staff

Lonnie is given a small salary to teach the Wednesday and Friday night services. He serves at CCCM until 1971. (In 1993, Lonnie Frisbee passes.)

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February 11, 1970

The CCCM cassette tape ministry begins. Pastor Chuck’s teachings are recorded, duplicated, and sold.

March 5, 1970

Romaine Joins The Team

The board decides to hire Laverne Romaine as assistant pastor. Romaine served at CCCM for 32 years. (January 23, 2002, Laverne Romaine passes.)

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September 20, 1970

The Property on Sunflower and Fairview

CCCM prepares to purchase the property on the corner of Sunflower and Fairview from the Shell Oil Company. The loan is paid off.

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In 1971

The Tent Revivals

CCCM moves into a circus tent Pastor Chuck found. The congregation grows from 800 to over 2,000.

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March 7, 1972

Visiting The Holy Land

CCCM embarks on their first trip to Israel, with a group of 46 congregants in attendance.

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September 11, 1973

A School

Maranatha Christian Academy opens its doors to 400 students.

In 1973

Women’s Ministry

Kay Smith and friends begin the women’s ministry at CCCM – Joyful Life.

January 1975

The First Bible College

The Calvary Chapel Bible College meets on the grounds for 20 years until the college relocates to Murrieta Hot Springs in 1996

In 1977

The CCCM men’s all-night prayer watch begins.

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More To Come…

We are so thankful for the amazing legacy of Chuck Smith and the work God did through his life and story to begin Calvary Chapel.

There is still more of the story to be told. Keep your eye on this page as we continue to share the things the Lord did in the History of Calvary Chapel, from the late 70’s to the present day!

– The CalvaryChapel.com team.