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The Calvary Chapel Movement and the Sinking of the Titanic

Commentary by Roger Oakland
Understand The Times International: Roger Oakland Ministries
www.understandthetimes.org
1.800.689.1888

For printer friendly version, please click here
 

Recently, a letter posted by the Calvary Chapel Association (CAA) was signed by fourteen senior pastors and sent out to clarify what the Calvary Chapel movement represents. This letter has been widely circulated around the world. These well-known leaders in the Calvary Chapel Association council emerged following Pastor Chuck Smith’s death. It appears their goal is to provide a collective directive for those in the movement who are accustomed to receiving their instructions from human authority. 

Long before Chuck Smith died, many were asking and wondering who would replace him as head of the movement when he died. It was also a wide concern as to whether Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa would remain the Mecca of the movement. To see and hear a discussion over this issue, please click on the following link that presents comments made by a panel at the 2012 Murrieta Calvary Chapel Pastor’s conference:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xygUvRX0MsQ&list=PLJ72RIrPC41QUv51fVT9-GWeWrZBGzvP1&index=5

One of the major concerns at the time of the Murietta Conference was that the Calvary Chapel movement was being infiltrated by the emerging church fueled by postmodernism and that the authority and infallibility of the Bible was being undermined from outside sources. If you listen to this discussion by the panel, you will hear the thoughts being discussed. Bob Coy, who is no longer a Calvary Chapel pastor, was very vocal in this discussion as was Greg Laurie and Brian Brodersen. Coy recommended that “getting out of the boat” was the natural expression for modifying a biblical message for our times that would help reinvent Calvary. It is also obvious that Brian Brodersen was already assuming he would be Chuck Smith’s replacement at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa and the new head of the movement and that change was around the corner.

So, what has happened to the Calvary Chapel movement since the Murrieta Pastor’s Conference panel discussion in 2012? At the end of the discussion, the camera shifted from the platform and focused on Chuck Smith who was asked the question: who will be the head of Calvary Chapel in the future? He pointed out that the Church belongs to “Jesus,” and no man should be given the position of pope. It seems apparent that the question was asked to put Chuck on the spot and force him to name a human successor to replace him as the head of Calvary.

It is also apparent that even before Chuck Smith died, the Calvary Chapel movement was in turmoil and beginning to unfold. There were clear signs there was a shift underway and that postmodernism and purpose-driven church-growth ecumenical propaganda associated with Peter Drucker was shaking the foundation. Before Chuck Smith died, Chuck’s brother Paul did all that he could to warn Calvary Chapel pastors that the Titanic was sinking. This was to no avail. He was fired at a Calvary Chapel meeting in May of 2009 by a motion from Brian Brodersen, seconded by Roger Wing. Chuck sat by and said nothing. Why? Only God and those who are privy to the inner workings of CCCM know why. [1]

A few years later, Paul Smith was barred from attending a Calvary Chapel Pastor’s conference after Chuck’s death. This was held at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa under the headship of Brian Brodersen.  Don Mc Lure, a member of CCA, told Paul that even though he was registered for the conference, he was not allowed to attend because he would be “divisive.” To this day, Paul has been put out to pasture by CCA, shunned and neglected. Why would that be so? Does it have something to do with the book he wrote titled New Evangelism: The New World Order? Was Paul Smith aware of the problems the movement was facing and the apostasy that was well underway as it was being drawn into Rick Warren’s ecumenical kingdom associated with Rome?

The Writing is on the Wall

Since the death of Chuck Smith and the takeover at CCCM by the Brodersen team, the modernization and the reinvention of Calvary Chapel have been very clear. Over the years, the changes implemented at Costa Mesa have been obvious to many, and the numbers who once attended there have dwindled. Brodersen has become more and more outspoken regarding the new direction he wants to go, and his words and actions have led the way for what is called the “New Calvary.”

Some of these changes include:

·    No longer is there an emphasis on Bible prophecy

·    Women are given a place in the leadership and allowed to teach men

·    No longer verse by verse Bible teaching which is now called idolatry

·    Old Testament teachings are no longer relevant

·    Sunday morning messages present topical thoughts

·    “Worship” music promotes sensual stimulation with lights and smoke

·    Promotion of Purpose-Driven methods promoting ecumenical unity

·    A definite tendency to reach the youth at the expense of the truth

Over the past few years, a number of Calvary Chapel pastors have been expressing their concerns about these major changes they see happening in the Calvary Chapel movement. The message there is unrest in the camp is clear and has reverberated around the world. The well-known senior pastors who claim to be the ones speaking on behalf of the movement have been strangely silent. This is in spite of the fact that a few outspoken Calvary pastors have been labelled as heretics and removed from the movement for rocking the boat by asking very pertinent questions.

An excellent post by Berean Research lays out this scenario in detail and exposes many concerns regarding the changes that are underway. You can check out this link and also read the articles that document the situation that has developed at:

http://bereanresearch.org/calvary-chapels-brian-brodersen-instructs-pastors-tone-youth/

On October 31, 2016, the long period of silence was broken by a letter issued by the Calvary Chapel Association (as mentioned in the first paragraph of this commentary). The letter was signed by fourteen senior pastors who are well known in the Calvary Chapel movement. Below, please read this letter which appears to be a genuine attempt to prevent the Titanic from sinking. While there seems to be an effort to stop the Titanic from sinking, the question is, are the corrections that have been suggested too little, too late, or even the wrong ones? Following the letter, we will respond with some comments and questions that come to mind.

Letter from CCA Oct 31, 2016 at 8:15 PM Letter to the Movement

Dear Calvary Chapel Pastors,

1.Recently, a group of the Calvary Chapel Association Council members gathered together in the Pocono mountains in Pennsylvania for a few days to seek the Lord, worship, and ask Him for direction as to the Calvary Family. Our time was truly blessed with a great unity, a rich sense of the Lord’s presence, a fresh sense of direction, and a peace together like we have not experienced in years. There were a number of issues that we discussed that we want to pass on to the movement.

2. As we discussed our foundation and core values as a family of churches we realized that along the way, through the years, there have been those that have decided that their values were different, and they have gone on with another group such as the Pentecostals, or Acts 29, or Gospel Coalition, or Vineyard, or Hillsong, and that is truly fine. All these ministry families have their core values just as we do, and Pastor Chuck often simply looked at these situations as an opportunity for churches to find their most comfortable environment.

3. Since Chuck’s passing there may be pastors who have thought about some of our values, such as expository teaching, and no longer hold to the Calvary Chapel approach. There may be pastors who no longer embrace our leadership style, or our view of the Lord’s soon appearing and our emphasis on preaching about the rapture of the church, or our view of male leadership and the New Testament’s prohibition of women teaching men, or the errors associated with prosperity theology, or our need for the Baptism of the Holy Spirit and the gifts being for today, or any other core values that we have held.  Corinthians 1:12 reads, “See that you all speak the same thing.” One of the great blessings of our family has always been a likemindedness toward our distinctives. When someone goes to a Calvary Chapel affiliate church there are things they go looking for. Just as when someone goes to a Pentecostal church, or a Hillsong church, or an Acts 29 church, or a Lutheran church. We completely respect their family’s philosophy of ministry, and we also love ours.

4. For the past three years, the Council has taken the time to seek the Lord together and try to move forward in unity. As individual pastors we have spoken in support of our core values, but we now feel the need for the Council members to speak with one voice. As our signatures to this letter attest, we are steadfastly committed to our roots, and want to clear up any confusion caused by those who have questioned the Calvary Chapel doctrine and philosophy of ministry statements.

5. To further speak to these issues we have scheduled an International Senior Pastors and Wives Conference, November 6-8, 2017 at Calvary Chapel St. Petersburg, Florida. The conference speakers will be the members of the Council and we want to reaffirm our core values, seek the Lord for a fresh outpouring of the Holy Spirit upon us, and look forward to His coming. As the ministry of Calvary Chapel has grown to over 1600 affiliate churches around the world, we realize that there are many second, third, and fourth generation ministries that have joined our family, and we need to clarify what makes us Calvary Chapel. Above all, we are seeking the Lord to give us what we so deeply need and desire, a fresh filling of His Spirit.

Our Conference will focus on:

•     Our Sure Foundation (Remembering our DNA)

•     Our Fresh Expectancy (Desiring His Outpouring)

•     Our Glorious Hope (Looking For Him)

So, please hold the November dates and we will be getting back to you with all the information regarding the conference.

6. We also need to clear up any confusion regarding calvarychapelassociation.com and calvarychapel.com. These are completely different websites and are on different servers. Any matters that relate to Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa should be referred to calvarychapel.com.  Any matters having to do with the movement as a whole, or church information changes and affiliation matters need to contact The Calvary Chapel Association at admin@calvarychapelassociation.com

We have been overhauling the CCA website and will be adding a library of information, monthly messages from the Council members, adding a Calvary Chapel Pastors’ Wives page, adding messages from Pastors Conferences, as well as expanding the existing pages.

Please be in genuine prayer for us. We have a treasured heritage, a sure foundation, a solid family, and so much more.

Yours in Christ,

Joe Focht, Jeff Johnson, Lloyd Pulley, David Guzik, Sandy Adams, Bill Stonebraker, David Rosales, Don McClure, Mike MacIntosh, Raul Ries, Malcolm Wild, Damian Kyle, Wayne Taylor, Jack Hibbs

Serious Questions Demanding Answers from CCA

  • While the letter signed by the fourteen Calvary Chapel senior pastors on the CCA council indicates there is a consensus to move back to the “Stay the Course” philosophy advocated by founder Pastor Chuck Smith, there is an obvious problem.  What seems to be evident is the names of council leaders whose names are missing. For example, Skip Heitzig, Ricky Ryan, Bob Caldwell, Brian Brodersen, Tom Stype, and Ray Bentley.  Were these pastors absent from the Pocono Conference, or were there other reasons they did not sign?
     
  • While it is also evident that these fourteen council members seem to be separating themselves from being accountable to Brian Brodersen and CCCM, the line of separation is somewhat clouded at best. Brian Brodersen and his recent widely circulated statements about the New Calvary directives are not mentioned as a departure from the Calvary Chapel foundations of faith. If one was not aware of the situation that has developed in the movement, it would be difficult to understand the point that the CCA council is making. Does this mean a fault line has formed and has weakened the foundation of the Calvary Chapel movement? If so, then why is that not stated clearly?
     
  • It is noteworthy that an International Conference has been called in Florida for November, 2017 to discuss certain issues that have developed and that a line has been drawn in the sand by those who have signed the CCA declaration. Questions that relate to CCCM are to be addressed to CCCM while CCA seems to have made the decision to become a separate entity with their own guidelines. Again, the reasons for this remain unclear and are only partially referred to in point number 3 of the document.
     
  • Point 4 indicates that the Calvary Chapel Association has been monitoring this departure from the roots of Calvary Chapel for over three years but now the council has determined this is the time to speak out. While the objective is to bring unity to the movement, it is quite obvious that the Costa Mesa leadership team may be an obstacle. Does this mean that a declaration for a separation has been made, and if so, what will the Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa response be?
     
  • It is also interesting that the Calvary Chapel International Conference to be held in Florida will not happen until one year after the CCA edict was issued. This seems to be a long period before a public resolution is declared for such serious issues. How many of the 1600 or so Calvary Chapels around the world are asking questions about what they see happening now? How many of the sheep in the congregations are asking their pastors questions and demanding answers now? Doesn’t this seem like a long time to wait to clear the fog?
     
  • Are the sheep in many churches getting frustrated and looking for pastors and churches who boldly teach the Word of God? Would this be one of the reasons that an edict has finally been declared even though it does not clearly lay out the reasons why a split in the Calvary movement is underway?
     
  • Greg Laurie and his close association with Rick Warren was not mentioned in the edict. Nor was the connection of Rick Warren with CCCM, which is very evident. Nor is one word mentioned about the association of Rick Warren and Mark Driscoll at the Chuck Smith Memorial Service along with the photo op that included several of the council members who signed the edict. What is their position on the church-growth movement and its connection with postmodernism and the emerging church? This important question demands an answer. Where does the CCA council stand on ecumenism and the emerging church? How can such an important issue be ignored?
     
  • Also, at what point does a church become a business and not a church? Is the goal of a church to build a megachurch, or is the goal to equip the sheep with the truth of the Word of God by equipping them for sharing the gospel?
     
  • Finally, what will the CCA do with men like Paul Smith who has been shunned and buried in an unmarked grave?  When warnings were issued years ago by Paul and others that the spirit of God had departed from the Calvary Chapel movement, they were scoffed at, lied about, and discredited. Will CCA make a public statement explaining why their self-appointed group of cardinals remained silent then, and what changed so that they are speaking up now?

There are other questions that will be asked in the future. We fully suspect the struggle for power and control will continue within the Calvary Chapel movement before God blows it up and starts over from the ashes. Sadly, rather than pointing the sheep to the Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ, men with their carnal ambitions continue to seek after power and control for themselves.  Sad to say, expect jealousy for power and control to become more and more evident.

Before concluding, it is important to present a letter sent out by Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa leadership dated November 2, 2016. Apparently, this was a rebuttal to the edict from the Calvary Chapel Association. This letter seems to indicate that Costa Mesa is still holding on to power and does not intend to bow to CCA pressure. Here is the letter:

Subject: Clarification Regarding Updating Information on CalvaryChapel.com Sent Wednesday, November 02, 2016 3:57 PM

Dear Calvary Chapel Pastor,

You may have recently received an email with instructions about updating your church information and new affiliation requests with Calvary Chapel Association. There has been some confusion over these instructions because it did not address updates to the church locator on
CalvaryChapel.com
.

As you can see in the graphic below, every weekend, thousands of people from around the world visit CalvaryChapel.com to find a local church. Additionally, hundreds of individuals have filled out the Church Plant request form on that page, if there is no Calvary Chapel in the area where they are looking.

Our team wants to serve your church by providing the public with the most up-to-date information about where you meet and the new churches you have helped plant.
 
Moving forward, if you would like to have your information updated on
CalvaryChapel.com or if you would like to submit an affiliation request that will show up on CalvaryChapel.com, you will need to send that information to us directly. Information about upcoming conferences will also need to be sent directly to us.

You can submit these updates and new affiliation requests to mailto:contact@calvarchapel.com or by completing the form here:

Blessings,
The
CalvaryChapel.com Team

 

So, the battle for power and control of the Calvary Chapel empire is underway. Hold on to your hat. I don’t think we have seen anything yet. One thing that is certain, the Calvary Chapel Titanic is in the process of sinking. We look forward to what God will do to raise up others to replace the ruins.

The Recent Brian Brodersen Declaration of Power

Just before this commentary was published, Brian Brodersen responded to CCA by a letter addressing pastors in the Calvary Chapel movement worldwide. To document his declaration of authority, this letter is presented beneath so our readers can see for themselves the lines being drawn in the sand. Here is the letter:

From: Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa

Sent: Sunday, November 06, 2016 4:59 PM

Subject: A Note from Pastor Brian Brodersen

To:         Calvary Chapel Pastors
From:    Brian Brodersen
Date:     Sunday, November 6, 2016

Dear Pastor,

The prophet Amos asked the question: “Can two people walk together without agreeing on the direction?” The implied answer is, no, they can’t.

For the past three years and more, a group of men known to you as the CCA Council have sought to lead Calvary Chapel into the future. For some in the group, there has always been the question of whether this was even possible. All of us grew up and learned much of what we know about ministry under the leadership of Pastor Chuck Smith. We were all pastors of our own churches and leaders over our own ministries, and all of us were, and still are, fiercely independent.

Our common bond, apart from our relationship with Jesus, was Pastor Chuck. When the Lord took him home, we all agreed that we would try to work together and collectively lead the ministry of Calvary Chapel. After three years of attempting to do that, we find ourselves, at least from my point of view, at an impasse. We are not agreed on the direction that the ministry is to go. Some want to, in my opinion, dwell in the past. Some want to move ahead into the future, being thankful for our past but not bound to it or feeling a need to continually revisit it.

Doctrinally we are all in agreement with a few minor differences on a few secondary issues. No one has, in any way, deviated from historic biblical doctrine, or from what might be called Calvary’s core values or from what we know as the Calvary Distinctives. Our areas of disagreement are NOT theological or doctrinal; they are more methodological and practical, yet they are real disagreements. These disagreements have not only hindered us from moving forward in the work of the kingdom of Christ, they have created confusion, contention, and some division within the body of Christ.

It is for these reasons that I have decided to resign my position as a member of the CCA Council. I do believe that this is the best way forward for us all. I maintain a love and close friendship with many of the CCA Council members and trust that we will continue, in many ways, to co-labor together for the kingdom. To some degree, this comes down to a difference of vision. The goal is the same—the glory of Christ and the furtherance of His kingdom on earth. But we differ on how we accomplish that goal.

So although I have resigned from CCA, I will continue to lead, as I believe the Lord has called me to do. I will continue to pastor Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, and will also put on our annual Pastors and Leaders Conference, as well as other conferences both at home and abroad throughout the year. We will also continue to provide content and ministry resources through
CalvaryChapel.com
, as well as keeping our church locator database up for those who share our vision and want to be connected with what the Lord has done and continues to do through CCCM.

Finally, in the days ahead, because we feel a strong call to continue church planting and helping both existing ministries and those that will come along in the future, we will be establishing the Calvary Chapel Global Network, which will be a place for like-minded pastors to enjoy fellowship and be a part of something greater than our own local congregations.

Having said all that, let me make this perfectly clear: this is NOT a call to “choose sides”. There are no sides. I fully expect that there will be freedom to connect with CCCM, Calvary Chapel Global Network, and at the same time, be a part of CCA. For my part, I look forward to both the freedom that this decision brings as well as the ongoing fellowship and ministry partnership with many of the CCA Council members and many of the churches that are part of the Calvary
Chapel Association.

I do believe that our best days are ahead of us, and I pray God will grant us mercy and pour His Spirit upon us as we labor for Him, awaiting that blessed hope, the glorious appearing of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Let me close with these words from Pastor Chuck:

“Calvary Chapel started as a movement that was truly a fresh work, outside the scope of most other churches that were around at the time. God wanted to do a fresh work, so He created a new skin to pour His Spirit into, and we got to see His blessings. But if the Lord tarries, and He takes me home before the rapture, I hope no one tries to institutionalize what God has done at Calvary Chapel. I don’t want anyone going around saying, ‘When Chuck was here,’ and ‘This is the way Chuck did it.’ May God help us not to get rigid. I want to stay flexible and open. I want to see a continual movement of the Spirit of God; so I need to stay supple, flexible, and pliable. If we create a religious system, with rigid controls and traditions, then God will have to once again go outside of us in order to do a new work of His Spirit.”

Sincerely,
Brian Brodersen

 

The Meaning of the Letter

While some may think that all is well in the Calvary Chapel movement and only minor adjustments are required, insight and discernment into what actually is happening behind the scenes reveals the ship is going down and the survivors are heading for their life boats. Others refuse to accept there is a problem and continue to carry on following those who have the keys to the kingdom and the resources that were accumulated during the Chuck Smith era.

Further, there is another issue at hand that we wrote about in an earlier commentary. Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa owns the legal rights to the name Calvary Chapel and also to the dove that hangs on the altar or the pulpit of many of the churches. [2] What will happen to those who choose to remain outside of Calvary Chapel Global Network (CCGN)? Will they be asked to take down their doves? Will they be asked to change their names?

Now that Brian Brodersen considers himself the chief theologian of the Calvary Chapel movement and the one who should determine the future direction of the churches he inherited from his father-in-law,[3] how many will follow him? If he believes he is God's man for the hour, it is obvious he has a plan to take CCGN to the next level. He is playing out the very agenda many thought he would. One can only wonder, with all that has transpired, if this is really more about power and control rather than the wellbeing of the sheep who are being led down the path toward the “New Calvary Chapel.”

I expect there will be some open discussion now by various spokespersons of the Old Calvary and a lot of dirt thrown around. I expect to see the whole movement shattered into various directions. I am reminded of how God allowed confusion to come at the Tower of Babel when he saw the wrong in what man was trying to do. As for Calvary Chapel, some will form alliances believing they are reconstructing the Titanic. But that will not stop the sinking, and perhaps that is exactly what God intended should happen. Just as Chuck Smith himself said in the video, pastors need to follow Jesus, the Good Shepherd, and His Word and forget about political alliances and following men and their movements.

Time will tell, won’t it?

Email This to a friend


 

[1] “SPECIAL REPORT: Calvary Chapel Termination Has Profound Implications” May 19, 2009, http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=222.

[2] “The Ownership of the Name ‘Calvary Chapel,’ the Dove, and the Appearance of a New Symbol,” March 10, 2016, http://www.lighthousetrailsresearch.com/blog/?p=19053

[3]Sins of the Fathers, Nepotism, and Apostasy in the Church,” http://www.understandthetimes.org/commentary/c209sinsofthefathers.shtml.

 

 

 

 

 

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