A Second Wind

There arose another generation after them, which knew not the “Jesus People,” nor yet the works which they had done…

My three and a half year-old son, Ethan, is nearly four feet tall. Over the last month his voracious appetite has returned and he’s been in need of an afternoon nap again too. Last week he woke up complaining of pain in his legs; he refused to walk and wanted to be carried for much of the day. It’s not easy lugging a 50 pounder up and down stairs, nor explaining to him that he’s experiencing growing pains. Every Christian movement (denomination) has growing pains too. As a matter of fact, every organization experiences transitional tension.

I was completely unaware, when I stepped into the ministry 14 years ago, that the movement with which I’m associated was entering the throes of just such a time. In actuality, it’s unavoidable. Growth, in life, is inevitable; and if vitality is to be maintained, it must be welcomed. But in such times, when pains begin to emerge, the initial reaction of those at the top is the impulse to engage restricting mechanisms. They are tempted to employ means to moderate the discomfort of change, but if they are not careful they will effectively amputate the budding new growth of future life. Practically speaking, they will force the new life to find fertile ground for growth elsewhere. This happens both in the microcosm of a local church as well as on the larger scale of an entire denomination (In fact, this is how our movement got it’s start).

At this moment in church history, this is a fresh reality for the Calvary Chapel Movement. We are confronted with the difficult truth that the man whom God elected as the forebearer of this movement will, at some point, be called home to glory. It is absolutely certain that he has run the race well, and that there is now laid up for him a crown of righteousness as well as a “well done thou good and faithful servant” from the Lord. But it is also certain that those that have been called at this point to administrate this transition find themselves in a difficult position that requires delicate handling.

The temptation to “bronze the movement” and take this opportunity to identify, clarify and codify just what it means to “be Calvary” is very apparent. Steps have been taken in the last months to forestall such a move, but there are many questions that remain — and perhaps rightly so — unanswered. But in the midst of all this is the present reality that there is a significant demographic in the ranks of Calvary Chapel that do not share the common history of the Jesus Movement, nor the exciting things that defined it. They’ve grown up in an established church, with established structures (bible colleges, radio ministries, conference centers, youth camps, etc…). They, myself included, know nothing of a time before “The Word For Today,” “A New Beginning,” “Harvest Crusades,” “Murrieta Hot Springs” and “Chuck Tracks” vs. “Chuck Tapes.”

We want to see in our generation what we hear of only as anecdotal accounts of yesteryear from others. We desperately desire to run our leg of the relay, but feel hindered by those who began doing so at 18 and now in their 60’s look at us in our 30’s and question whether or not we’re ready to do so. The great oaks of our movement are in danger of stifling the life of those under them.

I’ll readily admit that we may seem a bit brash. Indeed, at times we may completely drive our older brothers crazy. We might come across irreverent or disrespectful. Please understand, we — perhaps I should say “I” — mean no disrespect and truly do esteem those that have pioneered the paths of pastoral ministry in our movement.

Yes, there may be some among our ranks that are “reformed friendly.” We may question the apparent fear of Calvin, but that does not in any way mean that hold a reformed soteriology. True, we may not speak as often of the rapture or hold prophecy conferences and end-times updates, but that does not represent a departure from a traditional Calvary Chapel eschatological position. Indeed, we “do ministry” differently than perhaps has been done over the last 30 years, but if it wasn’t emergent to be barefoot, in a tent, listening to Lonnie Frisbee, then neither are we.

I’ve been told I’m controversial. I recognize that I’ve ruffled a few feathers. My desire is not mere controversy; my intent is not to be critical; my only aim is to stir my brothers up to further love and good works. Should the Lord tarry, I pray that Calvary Chapel continues it’s run. But as an inside observer, I think we’re in need of a second wind.

10 replies
  1. Nancy Allen
    Nancy Allen says:

    Miles,
    I think you are doing the right thing to speak out. A lot of us who are older agree with you. The generational mission is just as complex as cross cultural ministry. In fact, it really is cross cultural ministry even though it may be to people who live in the same homes. We need a missions focus that reaches our own unreached people groups whether they be the elderly, the outcasts or the young.

    I think the key question is whether or not we want a movement that is alive and growing that leaves plenty of space for the new generation to work or a structure with a fixed set of rules that leaves the older generation in charge long after they have departed this earth.

    Reply
  2. Ralph Gaily
    Ralph Gaily says:

    The solution to the “generational/cultural problem” within the Church, is to maintain the priority of God’s Word properly taught and cherished among us. This requires teachers gifted as such by the Holy Spirit, and not necessarily merely certified with a piece of paper from an institution. Many of our so-called seminaries are graduating culturally over-sensitive ministers vomiting out watered-down interpretation of
    God’s Bible, and generating watered-down ministry, if not outright heresy. It seems to me, the “culture”, as we like to refer to it, is the biggest roadblock to the clear hearing and understanding of God’s Good News. This is nothing new, I know, but things have intensified greatly in these last days. The entertainment industry, present political dilemma, and school systems are hard at work for the heart and minds of our children. Parents need to take a long, hard look at the culture and take a firm stand. This includes encouraging and supporting our church leadership to speak clearly about what is happening around us. The Church is in need of leadership we can both trust and look up to, and can point to and say to our kids, and grandkids, “…that man is a man of God… we can trust him to teach us the Bible true”.

    Reply
    • Miles DeBenedictis
      Miles DeBenedictis says:

      Ralph,

      A lot of what you say is true, but it is not representative of the Calvary Chapel Movement. Calvary’s are certainly known for their uncompromised preaching and teaching of the Scriptures. It is unfortunate just how many churches in America preach a politically correct, watered-down gospel, but I don’t think many Calvary Chapel could be lumped into that category. 

      Reply
  3. Trip Kimball
    Trip Kimball says:

    Miles…a hearty amen from someone who was “there before”. I came to the Lord, was baptized and started in ministry when there was only 1 Calvary Chapel.

    It is time to either step back so others can step forward, or be left wondering what happened when the Lord chooses to do something different without those of us who are “veterans.”

    The verse that comes to mind is, “unless a kernel of wheat falls into the ground and dies…”, also, the parable of new wine needing to be in a new wine skin (one of our bywords in years gone by). It’s not that us “old guys” are useless, we just need to come alongside and step aside to raise up another generation. Either that or “wander in the wilderness” of what was before.
    Trip

    Reply
  4. Bill Holdridge
    Bill Holdridge says:

    Miles,

    I suppose I’m an “oak,” and have to say that I clearly want to help, not hinder, you younger guys. I thank God for you!

    As the father of one of the younger CC pastors (Nate at Calvary Monterey), I have been blessed by not only his holding forth tHe truth of God, but also by those he hangs out with that are doing the same. I love hearing and leaning from them, and I love it that they allow themselves to learn from guys like me.

    All I can say is, keep going in the Lord, minister in the power and leading of the Holy Spirit, let the Bible be the test of all things, and go for it!

    I and the rest of the Poimen pastors are with you guys. It’s pure joy to watch the Lord work freshly through your lives.

    Reply
  5. Matt Kottman
    Matt Kottman says:

    As a movement we certainly must be careful that we are seeking to continue in the spirit of the movement, and not necessarily all the forms. Certain forms are implemented based on the context within which we find ourselves. If we are not careful, we can cherish the form (or wine skin), to the neglect of that which the form held… I.e. that which is essentially/intrigal.

    One day this acorn may grow into an oak, and when that happens, I pray my branches will not stifle saplings, but rather serve as an encourager and an enabler to help those younger to grow well in the soil in which they are planted. They will look different from me in form, but in substance, an oak is an oak.

    Thanks Miles for being ‘controversial’ 🙂

    Reply
  6. Eric Johansen
    Eric Johansen says:

    Excellent perspective. Praying that we look more and more to what God is doing and where He is leading, than looking back at what He did in the tent days.

    If we take an honest look at the state of the moment – are we still a vital move of the Spirit, or have we become formulaic, trying to emulate what “worked” in the 70’s? One example: it wasn’t all about the word, verse-by-verse teaching in the 60’s and 70’s of Calvary. It was all about Jesus. The word of God was a means to and end. Has the “verse-by-verse” style become an end in itself now? I’m not for jettisoning the style, but when I listen to the guys on the radio, I often here the word lifted up more than the Author. And based on the trite illustrations I hear repeated over and over, I wonder if some of those guys are even spending much time in the word… There are other denominations that at one point (perhaps still) were as committed to the Bible as CC. RCA, PCUSA, United Methodist, the Anglican Church. Are we on a similar trajectory?

    My two cents, rant over. Amen to Miles post here, we need a second wind, or all of our distinctives are just another church creed, another footnote in church history.

    Reply
  7. Craig Quam
    Craig Quam says:

    Hi Miles
    You wrote “We desperately desire to run our leg of the relay, but feel hindered by those who began doing so at 18 and now in their 60′s look at us in our 30′s and question whether or not we’re ready to do so. The great oaks of our movement are in danger of stifling the life of those under them”.
    I’ve been hearing a lot of similar things from some of the younger guys within CC movement and I would ask you and others who is hindering you? Every CC is an independent self governing Fellowship and in my 16 yrs as Senior Pastor of CC Montebelluna nobody’s ever tried to hinder me. When Pastor Chuck laid hands on me 16 yrs ago his parting words to me were. “God bless you Craig go reach those Italians for Jesus” since that time nobody has ever told me how to run the ministry over here unless I personally invited their input. Maybe your experience has been different? AS far as I’ve seen it doesn’t seem like any of the Oaks are worried about style or way of doing ministry but more a watering down on Doctrinal issues and I would agree with them, even though I’m neither an Oak or an Acorn but one of the middle generation guys. If we in CC don’t have a common Doctrine what holds us together? nothing in my opinion. I know some would like to see reformed guys welcomed within Calvary’s but I think that would be the beginning of the end for he CC movement.

    Reply

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