Chuck Smith passed away at age 86 in Newport Beach, California on October 3 after his 2 year battle with lung cancer. He left behind a loving family; his wife Kay and their four children.
Chuck Smith was a monumental instrument in influencing the Jesus Movement during the 60’s and 70’s. He led a new generation of Christians to Christ. Throughout his life, Smith influenced many church pastors and leaders still relevant today. Some would argue that he has been the most influential figure in modern Christianity.
Chuck Smith started Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, a church with 25 members in 1965 that has now grown to over 1,000 churches across the United States and hundreds more overseas. Smith focused on engaging the community and planting churches. He had been the senior pastor at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa for more then 4 decades.
Smith did not care what background his congregation came from: he welcomed hippies, dropouts, and drug addicts. He did not care what his congregation wore to church or how long their facial hair was. Smith wanted to bring together a worshiping community with a “come-as-you-are” mentality, focused on the development of a personal relationship with Christ.
Smith wore Hawaiian shirts and a big smile. He had a heart of love for the people and he became known as “Papa Chuck” by many. Worship services at Calvary Chapel were played with electric guitars, which was radical for churches in the early years of the Jesus Movement.
When preaching, Smith would teach verse by verse, covering Genesis to Revelations. “He was the first minister I ever saw who I thought wasn’t putting on an act,” said Dave Rolph, a longtime friend and fellow Calvary Chapel pastor. “Chuck showed you can do ministry and be a real person. There was no acting, there was no performance… He was a regular guy.” stated Rolph.
In recent months, Smith’s health had prevented him from attending church. However, last Sunday, just a few days before he passed away, he came to church with an oxygen tank. “I think people could sense this was probably the goodbye they were getting from their pastor.” said Rolph to the Los Angeles Times.
Pastor Chuck will be dearly missed here in the Southern California community as well as the worldwide Christian community. His legacy is living on through the churches that he helped to plant and the ministries that are changing lives all over the world.