That voice…that beaming smile…that sparkle in his eyes. Even after a decade has gone by, who could forget the man that thousands upon thousands have called, “Pastor Chuck.” To this day, I can still hear those distinct words, “Let’s turn in our Bibles to…” and his simple “Oh!”
What an honor and privilege it was to grow up in my formidable years under Chuck’s teaching ministry. He was my very first pastor and my earliest spiritual influence when I first visited Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa as a young 10 year old boy. With only a child-like faith and a few vivid pictures in my head from my illustrated children’s Bible, I was deeply impacted by the Word of God being taught and explained in what I would later understand as the work of the Holy Spirit.
Chuck commanded an immediate respect because he was a strong, yet gentle…unwavering, yet flexible kind of man who taught the pure Word of God as the one and only main course with no side dishes or artificial additives. Chuck was calculated with his words and knew precisely who he was and why God had placed him on this earth, namely, to teach and preach the Word of God simply, systematically, and exegetically through the books of the Bible and to encourage a few generations of pastors to do the same.
There was no flashiness to his ministry or fleshly concocted plans to manipulate people or force things to happen. After many early challenges, failures, and disappointments, he left his prime years of life to enter into his primary years of life, where he came to believe that “whatever was used to win people would have to be used to keep them.” Chuck was a true servant who went from cleaning the toilets or doing some building repairs to faithfully feeding the flock of God by simply teaching the Word and loving people with a shepherd’s heart.
I believe he was a faithful example of what Jeremiah the prophet said in his day,
“And I will give you shepherds according to My heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding.” (Jer. 3:15 NKJV).
What was seen and heard was just a humble openness to the Spirit and a burley, unforgettable voice which resonated in a slow rhythmic pace as he worked his way through the Scriptures, verse by verse, adding just enough wit and a whole lot of weight to every word that he preached. All ages were riveted and a great many souls were hearing God call them to live a sanctified life that would store up treasure in heaven.
To this day, there is something very special and unique about hearing Chuck’s voice that still resonates with those who are hungering for the pure, unadulterated Word. He was open to the Spirit’s leading but was not going to stand for anything that contradicted the written Word or misrepresented the character of God.
In Chuck’s classical way, with his ‘built in Selah,’ he would have these dramatic pauses…that left you wondering if he went somewhere else for a short time…but he was yielding to the Spirit and allowing his hearers just enough time for personal reflection and mediation on whatever passage he was teaching from. Chuck had a simple but stern way to get your attention when he wanted to drive his points home…to such a degree that there were many times on the drive home, I wondered whether we would even make it home before the Lord came to take up His church since he loved to remind people of Christ’s imminent return.
Pastor Chuck unintentionally became the founder and public figurehead of a spiritual movement that became known as “The Jesus People Movement,” which was highlighted this past year around the world in the movie entitled, “Jesus Revolution.” Chuck baptized me in those very waters at Pirate’s Cove as shown in the movie. For all who knew or served with Chuck, he was just a simple, ordinary guy with an extraordinary God, who loves to choose “the foolish things of the world to put to shame the wise … and the weak things of the world to put to shame the things which are mighty” (1 Cor. 1:27).
I began hearing the call of God on my life around 12 years of age and I still remember when Chuck called me into his office after I graduated from Chapman University while leading a campus ministry and serving in the high school ministry to ask me to join Mike Harris as an assistant youth pastor. I think the salary was the same as it had been for the past 30 years but this was an open door that I believed God led me to go through so after praying about it I answered the call of God to serve the Lord to reach the next generation for Christ.
As a very zealous and inexperienced pastor on Chuck’s staff, I was so thankful for every moment that I could glean and learn from someone who had been used so greatly and who loved the Scriptures and the sheep so deeply. Chuck was actually quite introverted and so I remember needing to drive the conversation when sitting down with Chuck. One time, he asked me to take a drive with him in his classic powder blue Cadillac to pick up a son of another pastor. It was great driving with Chuck but it was mostly quiet in the moments that I was not talking. However, even in the silence I felt very loved by Chuck whenever in his company.
Whether it was a pastor’s meeting or a youth retreat, Chuck tried to be as personal as possible but he was the most comfortable in the pulpit. It is worth adding that he could hold his own on the basketball court and was quite competitive when pitching a softball. He had a great mantle of ministry and had so many thousands of people to feed and so he counted on his pastoral team to help tend to the needs of the body. But despite the high volumes of people and various ministries happening throughout the week, do not think for a moment that Chuck did not know what was going on in the church. He kept himself very informed and was aware of what was happening in the lives of people and all the different ministries.
I will never forget the time that I was sitting on one of the pews on the left side of the sanctuary during a midweek Bible study through the book of Acts when Chuck all of a sudden started talking about me in his sermon when he was describing the enthusiasm and zeal of Apollos in Acts 18. I was surprised to see all of these heads immediately turn around among those who knew I was sitting in that area and was quite honored that Chuck would even think to use me as an example in this way. The Holy Spirit kept me humbled as I immediately noticed in the text how Apollos still had much to learn and was even pulled aside by a more seasoned couple to be taught the ways of God more accurately.
One of my fondest memories of Pastor Chuck came at a critical time in my life after I was serving for a couple of years in youth ministry and various changes and developments were taking place in the church, which left my future role in the church uncertain. It was during this time that I went through what was the most difficult and dark time of my life as my wife Tiffany, who was pregnant with our first child, showed signs of toxemia, and something more serious called HELLP syndrome, a variant of preeclampsia, which led to an emergency c-section in her 29th week. Our precious daughter Madelyn was born weighing only 1 lb, 15 ounces, and my wife almost died after the delivery due to her liver and kidneys rapidly failing.
We were in the hospital for the next 64 days, where we saw the Lord heal and restore my wife and bring our daughter through every obstacle and difficulty. The power of prayer was palpable and the presence of God was so intimate to me during this season of my life. Once I knew my family was doing well enough in their health, it finally dawned on me that all of this was going to cost an enormous amount of money. I told my wife one night that we have no idea whether our health insurance was going to cover this so we prayed about this new burden together. The very next day when I drove to the church, I was greeted by Pastor Chuck who came over to me and asked me how Madelyn and Tiffany and I were doing. After I shared the update about everyone’s well being, Chuck put his arm around me in a very fatherly way and without knowing my prayer or thoughts the night before, tenderly said “Joey, don’t worry about the finances of this whole thing. Whatever the insurance doesn’t cover, it will be taken care of.”
I felt like my Father in heaven was speaking directly to me through Chuck. To this day, I don’t know exactly what was meant by that but I knew that Chuck was reassuring me that God was going to take care of me every step of the way, whether by His divine hand or through Chuck’s generosity. I still well up with tears whenever I think upon this moment with my pastor.
Shortly after this, I went on to eventually assist Pastor Chuck and Brian Brodersen, who after seeing me go through that trial with my family, chose to give me more responsibilities in the church, from praying with the body after services to counseling appointments and guest speaking opportunities and leading an evangelism ministry called “Soul Winners.”
Chuck was always available for me to talk to whenever I had a Bible or ministry question, even when I went on to serve at another Calvary Chapel on the east coast and then eventually on the mission field in England where we planted and pastored a church in Cambridge for over 10 years. He lit up whenever the Bible was brought up and I am so very thankful to have been spiritually raised up by his faithful ministry.
Today, Chuck is cherished, remembered, and respected by pastors within the Calvary Chapel family of churches and from churches across the denominations around the world. He taught the Word almost to his dying breath but the words he taught are still life giving to those who listen to his simple yet weighty teaching on the “Word for Today.” I will never forget the many years of hearing him teach, his contagious joy, his belting out of old hymns, and of course the Aaronic blessing at the end of every service as he would walk down the aisle singing, “THE LORD BLESS THEE…” I am indeed blessed by my spiritual heritage and pray that my life will impact the world in some degree as Chuck did when my race is complete.