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Keeping Jesus At The Center – Ray Ortlund

My wife Jani and I were at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa on New Year’s Eve 1971, going into 1972. The service was held in the big tent, of course.

We arrived early enough to get seats in the center of the front row.

Love Song played. Chuck preached. And then we took Communion. It was wonderful.

But the most unforgettable moment for me occurred right after the service. Chuck was still standing just behind the Communion table. And one of the young people greeting him, giving him a big hug, accidentally knocked over a stack of Communion trays.

What struck me was how quickly and genuinely Chuck reassured him and set him at ease: “Oh, that’s okay! No problem at all.” I thought, “Chuck is a wise pastor.

Any non-churchy kid could come in here and be accepted. Jesus is the only issue here.”

That memory has helped me in my own pastoral ministry all these years.

Thank you, Chuck.


Even When The Crowd Is Quite Small – Nicky Gumbel

I first met Chuck Smith in around 1978. At that time, Calvary Chapel was already a huge church, yet he was willing to come and speak to about five of us at HTB (Holy Trinity Brompton in London).

I still remember the talk he gave on “Healthy Sheep Multiply.” I was struck by his sheer stamina! He spoke for about three hours with hardly a pause.

Later I had the privilege of visiting Calvary Chapel, in around 1985, and heard him preach—expounding the Bible with great authority and humour.

Chuck Smith has rightly been called “one of the most influential figures in modern American Christianity.”

Learning To Love God’s Word – Elaine O’Connor

God used Pastor Chuck to introduce me to the inexhaustible insights and wisdom His Word has to offer.

It all began with my noticing that Pastor Chuck saw the world and others differently.

He saw humanity as precious, created by God for a relationship with Himself. He saw events as under the watchful gaze of a loving God.

The second thing I noticed was that Pastor Chuck cherished God’s Word, every single bit of it. He would get excited to read and study the Bible. I had only seen that depth of excitement at bakeries or sporting events.

It seemed logical that the two were connected. Therefore, wanting that same loving kindness-fueled perspective myself, I also began to read and study the Bible.

Through the years, I have experienced both bitter and sweet times.

Difficult as the bitter times have been, I have known with absolute confidence that God loves me and sees what is happening. I have known with astounding certainty that I can trust Him. No one can purchase this knowledge, even with access to the finest of stores. It is a gift from God.

There is something about one’s roots growing deep into God’s love—via His Word—that enables even the frailest tree to stand … and offer shade to others. The words of Psalm 1 are perfect and true.

“Your words were found, and I ate them, and your words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart, for I am called by your name, O Lord, God of hosts,” writes the prophet Jeremiah. Pastor Chuck felt the same way.

God used Pastor Chuck to instill in me that same sense of appreciation for Him and His Word, and that has made all the difference.


A Humble, Simple Love For The Word – Daniel Hamlin

I first started attending Calvary Chapel in the mid 1990’s. What stood out to me the most and what kept me coming back was the priority given to the Word of God. Not long after high school I went off to Calvary Chapel Bible College in Murrieta, California. Pastor Chuck would periodically come out to the college to preach, and it was during one of these sermons I discovered something about him that left a profound impact on me.

He was teaching through the book of Ruth and asked us to follow along as he read. Everyone’s head was down as they read along with him, but I happened to look up for a moment. I glanced at Pastor Chuck and noticed he wasn’t looking at his Bible. He was reciting the text correctly, but his eyes were off to the side. I realized he was reciting it from memory. We read through multiple chapters of Ruth that day and Pastor Chuck seemed to recite it all from memory. He didn’t do it for show, he didn’t draw any attention to himself about it, he just quietly recited it as if he were reading it. Had I not happened to glance up at him, I wouldn’t have known.

It was then I realized what a tremendous love for God’s Word he had. It challenged my own devotion to reading Scripture and inspired me to continue in my pursuit of studying the Bible. In that moment I realized this wasn’t something he just picked up along the way by accident. It was the result of a lifetime devoted to studying and taking to heart God’s precious Word.

To me, Pastor Chuck is a reminder of what the Lord can do through someone with nothing more than a humble, simple love for the Word and the Spirit. I never met Pastor Chuck personally, but his impact on my life and ministry was profound.

From Bahrain With Gratitude – James Travis

I had never heard the name Chuck Smith until I moved to Bahrain in 2013. The pastor of the church we joined on arrival was (and is still very much) a Calvary Chapel guy and I remember him talking about Pastor Chuck a lot.

I got a brief history of the movement, his understanding of the motivation behind the movement, the philosophy of ministry which my mentor saw (and appreciated) in Pastor Chuck, and was finally presented with a copy of Calvary Chapel Distinctives where I could hear from the man himself. The book was
something I devoured as I learnt and trained for ministry, and was later a key text during at least one of my M.Div classes with Calvary Chapel University.

All of that to say, Chuck Smith has had a deep and meaningful impact on my life
and ministry despite the two of us having never met. I’ve learnt a great deal
from his own writings but perhaps more so from those who spent time with
him. Those men and women would be horrified to read their own names here in
what is a tribute to the vicarious legacy of Chuck but, in summary, I’m grateful
for Chuck Smith. I’m grateful for and to the people he impacted and their
continuing impact on the lives of others.

It is a testament to him that ten years on from his death, he is still ministering life and its Author to others, through others.

Calvary Global Network (CGN) is a family of churches working together to proclaim the Gospel, make disciples, and plant churches.

Ray Ortlund (ThM, Dallas Theological Seminary; MA, University of California, Berkeley; PhD, University of Aberdeen, Scotland) is president of Renewal Ministries and an Emeritus Council member of The Gospel Coalition. He is the founder of Immanuel Church in Nashville, Tennessee and is author of numerous books.

Nicky is the pioneer of Alpha, pastor of Holy Trinity Brompton, author of many books including Questions of Life and Searching Issues, and the author of the free Bible reading app, Bible in One Year.

Elaine O’Connor lives in Southern California and is the copy editor at CGN.

Daniel Hamlin holds a degree in Biblical Studies and currently serves as the Youth Pastor at Calvary Chapel Santa Maria. He’s written for The Christian Post, Our Daily Bread, Today’s Christian Living, Premier Christianity, Mysterious Ways Magazine and many others. As a surfer, Daniel's writing has appeared in numerous surfing publications including, SURFER, and The Surfer’s Journal. Daniel is also the author of When Oceans Rise: Scriptural Truths To Anchor The Soul, and In His Presence: Thirty Contemplations from Walking with Jesus. To learn more, visit

For over a decade, James Travis and his wife Robyn have been in Bahrain where he serves as Pastor of Saar Fellowship ( Their two boys were born there, and they have family history in Bahrain dating back to the 1960s! James is Calvary Chapel University's first M.Div graduate. Reach out to James by visiting his website at