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Chuck Smith (pastor)

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Chuck Smith
Charles Ward Smith

(1927-06-25)June 25, 1927
DiedOctober 3, 2013(2013-10-03) (aged 86)
Newport Beach, California, U.S.[1]
EducationLife Pacific College
Alma materLife Pacific College, 1946
Years active1965–2013
Known forPastor and founder of Calvary Chapel
Notable workLove, The More Excellent Way
TelevisionA Venture In Faith (Documentary) What God Hath Wrought (Documentary)
Kay Johnson
(m. 1947)

Charles Ward "Chuck" Smith (June 25, 1927 – October 3, 2013) was an American pastor who founded the Calvary Chapel movement. Beginning with the 25-person Costa Mesa congregation in 1965, Smith's influence now extends to "more than 1,000 churches nationwide and hundreds more overseas",[2] some of which are among the largest churches in the United States. He has been called "one of the most influential figures in modern American Christianity."[2] The founding of Calvary Chapel is depicted in the 2023 film Jesus Revolution, with Smith being portrayed by Kelsey Grammer.

Early life and career[edit]

Charles Ward Smith was born on June 25, 1927, in Ventura, California, to Charles and Maude Smith.[3] He was the second of four children.

After graduating from Santa Ana High School in 1945, Smith graduated from Life Bible College and was ordained as a pastor for the International Church of the Foursquare Gospel.[4] In the late 1950s, Smith was the campaign manager and worship director for healing evangelist Paul Cain.[5] After being a pastor for a different denomination, he left his denomination to pastor a non-denominational church plant in Corona, California, and eventually moved to a small pre-existing church called Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, California in December 1965.[6]

Calvary Chapel[edit]

In March 1968, Smith brought into his home the then-18-year-old pentecostal evangelist Lonnie Frisbee with his wife Connie. Smith paired him with John Higgins who already had a Bible study going for youth; they started a Christian commune called "The House of Miracles". Higgins and Frisbee went into the community to reach youth with the gospel during the early days of the Jesus movement.[7]

The Costa Mesa church, led by Smith, grew and as of 2006, was attended by 35,000 people and had spawned over 1,000 churches that have branched out as part of the Calvary Chapel Association. Smith has been called "one of the most influential Christian pastors in Southern California"[8] who "is known for training other prominent ministers."[9] Notable ministers who have been mentored by Smith include Skip Heitzig, Mike MacIntosh, and Greg Laurie.[10] [11] Smith also launched the radio program, The Word for Today.[12] At its beginning, Calvary Chapel operated as a cross-cultural missions organization that bridged the "generation gap" as it existed during the Vietnam War period. Calvary Chapel was a hub of the "Jesus People" phenomenon that existed at that time and was featured in Time magazine for its success among "hippies" and young people. Calvary Chapel pioneered a contemporary and less formal approach in its worship and public meetings; for example, it did outreaches on the beach, and baptisms in the Pacific Ocean.[13] Much of contemporary Christian music has its roots in Calvary Chapel worship music. Calvary Chapel's rolling commentary-style of preaching kept the Calvary Chapels close to the text of the Bible and was readily understandable by many hearers. Calvary Chapel developed its own internal training early for multiplication of church leaders and pastors; by pioneering a more informal and contemporary style in its church practices, Calvary Chapel reached large numbers in Costa Mesa and expanded easily by adding many pastors and new congregations in many locations. The impact of Chuck Smith and Calvary Chapel on evangelical Christianity is profound, widespread, and largely unheralded. Rather than being a teacher of systems and methods of growing large churches (elements of which frustrated him in his denominational experience), Chuck Smith taught his personal brand of leadership at pastors' conferences which included one single male leader, who held the majority of the power, with a group of elders who served primarily as figure heads to reinforce pastoral authority.[citation needed]

A self-made documentary, What God Hath Wrought, produced by Screen Savers Entertainment in collaboration with Smith, tells the story of Smith's life, the Calvary Chapel movement and its influence on modern-day Christianity.[14] In the film A Conversation with Chuck Smith (2013) Chuck Smith talks about his battle with lung cancer and other personal topics.

Chuck Smith is the author and co-author of several books; titles of his books include Answers for Today; Calvary Chapel Distinctives; Calvinism, Arminianism & The Word of God; Charisma vs. Charismania; Comfort for Those Who Mourn; Effective Prayer Life; Harvest; Living Water; The Claims of Christ; The Gospel According to Grace; The Philosophy of Ministry of Calvary Chapel; Why Grace Changes Everything; Love: The More Excellent Way; The Final Act; and others.[15]


In his 1978 book End Times, Smith incorrectly predicted the generation of 1948 would be the last generation, and that the world would end by 1981 at the latest.[16] Smith supported his convictions again in his 1980 manuscript "Future Survival", postulating that from his "understanding of biblical prophecies… [I am] convinced that the Lord [will come] for His Church before the end of 1981." He identified that he "could be wrong" but continued in the same sentence that "it's a deep conviction in my heart, and all my plans are predicated upon that belief."[17] Calvary Chapel held a New Year's Eve service in 1981 for their followers to wait for the end to occur in accordance with Smith's prediction. When the world failed to end, many disillusioned followers left the Calvary Chapel movement.[18][19][20][21][22] Years later, Smith issued what journalist Gustavo Arellano described as a "wimpy non-apology" for the prediction, saying that setting dates for the end of the world was wrong and he "came close" to doing that.[18]

Smith attracted criticism for drawing connections between disasters such as the September 11 attacks and divine wrath against homosexuality and abortion.[22][23]

Smith has also been criticized publicly with allegations that he has tolerated financial[24] and sexual[25] improprieties within the Calvary Chapel movement.

In 2006, Smith was instrumental in removing his son, Chuck Smith Jr., from ministry in the Calvary Chapel movement. The Los Angeles Times reported that Smith Jr. was dismissed when he raised questions about his father's theological beliefs and philosophy of ministry.[22]


In April 2012, Smith received the Men of Character Award from the Orange County Council of the Boy Scouts of America.[citation needed]

Personal life[edit]

On June 19, 1947, Smith married Kay Johnson. She served as director of the women's ministry at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa for many years. They had four children together.[1]

On December 27, 2009, Smith suffered a minor stroke in his home and was immediately hospitalized.[9][26][27] He recovered and returned to the ministry.[28]

Smith announced during the New Years Day 2012 service that he had lung cancer.[8] In June 2013, Smith's doctors found that his lung cancer had advanced from stage three to stage four.[29]


Smith died from lung cancer on October 3, 2013, at his home in Newport Beach, California, at the age of 86.[30][31] He was interred at Fairhaven Memorial Park in Santa Ana, California. After he was buried, his funeral was held at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California, where more than 200 churches worldwide planned to show his tribute, live via webcast.[32]


  1. ^ a b Vitello, Paul (October 13, 2013). "Chuck Smith, Minister Who Preached to Flower Children, Dies at 86". The New York Times. Retrieved February 24, 2014.
  2. ^ a b Goffard, Christopher (October 3, 2013). "Pastor Chuck Smith dies at 86; founder of Calvary Chapel movement". Los Angeles Times.
  3. ^ Goffard, Christopher (October 3, 2013). "Obituary: Pastor Chuck Smith, founder of Calvary Chapel movement, dies at 86". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved October 4, 2013.
  4. ^ Goldberg, Joshua A. (December 28, 2009). "Pastor Chuck Smith Hospitalized After 'Mini Stroke'". The Christian Post. Retrieved January 20, 2024.
  5. ^ "Paul Cain on Chuck Smith of Calvary Chapel". YouTube. Archived from the original on December 20, 2021. Retrieved July 10, 2021.
  6. ^ Newton, Gwen (Spring 1998). "Religious Movements Homepage: Calvary Chapel". University of Virginia New Religious Movements Archive. University of Virginia. Archived from the original on August 28, 2006. Retrieved January 12, 2012.
  7. ^ Frisbee, Lonnie; Sachs, Roger (2012). Not By Might Nor By Power. Santa Maria: Freedom Publications. ISBN 978-0978543310.
  8. ^ a b Jaimee Lynn Fletcher (January 5, 2012). "Calvary Chapel founder battling lung cancer". Orange County Register. Retrieved January 6, 2012.
  9. ^ a b "Famed Pastor Chuck Smith recovering". Archived from the original on July 23, 2011. Retrieved December 18, 2010.
  10. ^ Chuck Smith and Tal Brooke (1987), Harvest, The Word for Today Publishers.
  11. ^ Los Angeles, Times. "Jesus, drugs and rock 'n' roll: How an O.C. hippie church birthed contemporary Christian music". latimes.com. Los Angeles Times. Retrieved April 7, 2024.
  12. ^ KSGR, Radio. "Pastor Chuck Smith". ksgr.org. Retrieved April 7, 2024.
  13. ^ "The New Rebel Cry: Jesus Is Coming!". Time. June 21, 1971. Archived from the original on October 1, 2007. Retrieved April 10, 2012.
  14. ^ "IMDB Movie Reference". IMDb. Retrieved February 20, 2015.
  15. ^ "Books by Chuck Smith". Store.calvarychapel.com. Archived from the original on October 4, 2013. Retrieved October 4, 2013.
  16. ^ Smith, Chuck (January 1, 1978). End Times: A Report on Future Survival. Costa Mesa, CA: Maranatha House Publishers. pp. 35–36. ISBN 978-0-89337011-4.
  17. ^ Future Survival, Chuck Smith, 1978
  18. ^ a b Arellano, Gustavo (May 7, 2011). "Remembering When Chuck Smith Predicted the End Times—And They Didn't Happen". OC Weekly. Archived from the original on August 7, 2017. Retrieved March 18, 2012.
  19. ^ Gorenberg, Gershom (2002), The End of Days: Fundamentalism and the Struggle for the Temple Mount, Oxford University Press, p. 123, ISBN 978-0195152050.
  20. ^ Abanes, Richard (1998). End-Time Visions. New York: Four Walls Eight Windows. pp. 323–324. ISBN 978-1-56858-104-0.
  21. ^ DiSabatino, David. The Jesus People Movement: An Annotated Bibliography and General Resource. Bibliographies and Indexes in Religious Studies. p. 68
  22. ^ a b c Goffard, Christopher (September 2, 2006). "Father, Son and Holy Rift". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on January 27, 2013. Retrieved August 29, 2011.
  23. ^ Lobdell, William (September 22, 2001). "In Aftermath of Attacks, Talk of 'End Days' Soars". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on May 25, 2012. Retrieved August 23, 2011.
  24. ^ Moll, Rob (May 8, 2006). "Unaccountable at Calvary Chapel". Christianity Today. Archived from the original on July 22, 2012. Retrieved August 29, 2011.
  25. ^ Moll, Rob (February 16, 2007). "Day of Reckoning". Christianity Today. Archived from the original on July 22, 2012. Retrieved August 29, 2011.
  26. ^ "Pastor Chuck Smith Hospitalized After 'Mini Stroke'". December 28, 2009. Retrieved December 18, 2010.
  27. ^ "After suffering a couple of 'minor strokes' Chuck Smith is recovering". Archived from the original on December 25, 2010. Retrieved December 18, 2010.
  28. ^ "Feel The Love: Pastor Chuck Smith and Love Song on Tour". September 16, 2010. Archived from the original on September 24, 2010. Retrieved December 18, 2010.[dead link]
  29. ^ Alex Murashko (June 24, 2013). "Pastor Chuck Smith Suffers Setback in Battle With Lung Cancer". The Christian Post. Retrieved August 20, 2013.
  30. ^ "Charles Ward Smith". Pastorchucksmith.com. Retrieved October 3, 2013.
  31. ^ "Chuck Smith, 86, Dies After Cancer Battle". Christianitytoday.com. October 3, 2013. Retrieved October 3, 2013.
  32. ^ "Honoring Pastor Chuck Smith" Archived March 30, 2014, at the Wayback Machine, Calvary Training, October 19, 2013

External links[edit]