The first time I set foot in Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa was on Easter morning. The air was full of electricity as thousands of people swarmed around me like bees in a hive, looking for a place to sit. We chose a pew that was fairly empty, and fairly uncomfortable as well. For all the excitement in the room, I would have thought the seats would be more comfortable. The year was 1990 and I was thirty years old.
Shortly after we sat down, a middle-aged man walked onto the platform and stood behind the pulpit. He waved his hands to get our attention and ordered everyone to do the “Calvary Crunch.” Suddenly everyone became scooting toward the center of the pews to make room for those still swarming. I would later discover this man’s name was Pastor Romain. When he said move, we all moved.
Our wide-open pew was no longer empty. Now, we were cramped and uncomfortable, squished between total strangers. What in the world are we doing here? I thought. Then, another man, also middle-aged, wearing a light gray, polyester suit stepped out onto the platform. He stood behind the pulpit leaning over it with both arms resting on either side.
We watched as he turned his head to scan the room, revealing the backside of his bald head to us as he turned. As he continued to glance around the room, he turned toward us, a huge smile gracing his face. He was glowing!
It seemed he was done looking around as he stared directly at us, still smiling. My eyes began to burn. I couldn’t look at him. After what seemed an awkwardly long pause, he opened his mouth and, still smiling, bellowed, “GLORIOUS!”
Not long after that glorious day, I received Jesus Christ as my Lord and Savior.
Everything changed. My wife and I started going to church every Sunday morning. We went to Israel with Pastor Chuck and five hundred of his closest friends. A few months later, I enrolled in the School of Ministry. We began attending Sunday nights and Wednesday nights. We served in the high school ministry. I was asked to come on staff as the College and Career pastor. Then, in 2005, we planted a church in Newport Beach, California.
Everything had changed.
Now, ten years after Pastor Chuck’s passing from this life into the next, I find myself wondering, How did I get here?The funny thing is, my story is not an unusual one.
Thousands of others have similar testimonies.
One day we walked into Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa and watched Pastor Chuck glow as he taught through the Bible verse-by-verse. There are now thousands of Calvary Chapels around the world pastored by individuals who were transformed by Jesus through Pastor Chuck’s ministry. You can ask any one of them and they’ll tell you the same thing: Pastor Chuck was glowing.
The Glory of the Lord
“When Moses came down Mount Sinai carrying the two stone tablets inscribed with the terms of the covenant, he wasn’t aware that his face had become radiant because he had spoken to the Lord. So when Aaron and the people of Israel saw the radiance of Moses’ face, they were afraid to come near him” (Ex. 34:29-30).
It seems to me that both Pastor Chuck and Moses radiated the glory of the Lord. But what was it that caused this radiance?
In Numbers 12:3, we read that Moses wasn’t even aware that his face had become radiant. I love what Charles Spurgeon wrote regarding Moses’ humility. “We are always praying, ‘Lord, make my face to shine’; but Moses never had such a wish; and, therefore, when it did shine, he did not know it. He had not laid his plans for such an honor. Let us not set traps for personal reputation, or even glance a thought that way.” What a beautiful depiction of true humility. The Book of Numbers goes on to say the same, “Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth” (Nu. 12:3).
Like Moses, Pastor Chuck was a humble man. He didn’t set out to pastor a church of thousands, nor was he looking to build his own reputation. In fact, when the early success of CCCM led to a cover feature in Time Magazine, and people began asking about the secret of his success, he would often respond, “When they ask about this I feel like a bystander. I remind them it’s not Chuck Smith at work. It’s God through His Holy Spirit turning people on” (The Reproducers, Chuck Smith and Hugh Steven, page 9).
Pastor Chuck’s face, like Moses, radiated God’s glory because of a humility that only comes from proximity.
Reading through the book of Exodus we find Moses climbing Mt. Sinai eight times to meet with the Lord (Ex. 19-34). It was on Mt. Sinai where Moses received the covenant, the Ten Commandments, and the instructions to build the tabernacle and the ark of the covenant. It was on Mt. Sinai where Moses began to intercede on behalf of the children of Israel. It was on Mt. Sinai where the Lord would speak to Moses before Moses would descend from the mountain to speak with the people.
The events on Mt. Sinai were monumental in the history of the world. It’s where the Lord revealed His desire to forge a relationship with the children of Israel; a wonderful picture of the intercession of Christ and sinners.
Likewise, the events of the Jesus Movement were also monumental. Through the Jesus Movement, the Lord revealed His desire to forge a relationship with the hippies through an ordinary man. Pastor Chuck’s proximity with Jesus and his great humility caused God’s glory to radiate through his face and countenance welcoming and inviting thousands of lost souls like me into the eternal love of God.
I am so thankful for the ministry of Pastor Chuck Smith. His example reminds me that God can use ordinary people to do extraordinary work in the world as we radiate God’s love. Like Pastor Chuck said, “it’s not Chuck Smith at work. It’s God through His Holy Spirit turning people on.”