Last week I traveled to the East Coast as a representative of the Calvary Church Planting Network at a Calvary Chapel Pastor’s Conference in Florida. In so doing I was honestly amazed by the scope of the Calvary Chapel family of churches. Walking onto the campus at Calvary Merritt Island was — quite honestly — like walking into a room full of strangers. Although southern hospitality was truly on display, I [personally] knew only about 6 people at the conference, and 3 of them were representing ministries from my church. This was a totally foreign experience for me, as every conference I attend on the West Coast is like a family reunion. In fact, I’d say that the primary reason I attend such conferences is to interact and fellowship with brothers I do not get a chance to see often. Those are wonderfully refreshing times. The South East Calvary Chapel Pastor’s Conference was a refreshing time too, but in a different way.
I was genuinely refreshed by the breadth of Calvary Chapel. There are hundreds and hundreds of Calvary churches throughout the nation (and the world), many, if not most of them are very small community fellowships. Their pastors are down-to-earth normal guys who stepped into the ministry as unlikely candidates for pastoral work. Their backgrounds typically have more to do with manual labor than ministry training, but by God’s grace and the work of the His Spirit, these men have become shepherds of God-seekers who are growing in the grace and knowledge of the Lord and Savior.
I was also struck by the importance of reaching out to those who may not know anyone or are significantly disconnected from others, with like DNA, in ministry. In San Diego County (where I serve as a pastor) there are upwards of 50 Calvary Chapel’s. Fellowship with others in the work is not just a phone-call away, but a 5 or 10 minute drive away too.
While there I met Pastor Fred, from Calvary Chapel Okeechobee. He and his wife started the church and when looking for a house in Okeechobee they happened upon an old church with a parsonage that was right in their price range. So, they bought a home and with it a meeting place for the church that [literally] is their home. They serve in a community with more cows than people, or so they said. I’m sure it’s true too. It’s there on the north shore of Lake Okeechobee — a lake you cannot swim in cause the gators would get you. I had no idea there was such a place as Okeechobee, or a Calvary there, but there is; and I’m sure there are hundreds of other Okeechobee’s and Pastor Fred’s in Calvary. They’ll probably never speak at a conference, and probably wouldn’t want to if they were asked asked, but they are faithfully serving and laying down their lives for Christ’s Bride.
For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do.
– Hebrews 6:10
The great strength of the Calvary Chapel movement is the way it has drawn men into church planting who through normal channels—seminary, etc—would never get there. I pray that God will use CCPN to nourish and sustain these new works. We need to do all we can to support these tender shoots that God is planting.
Question: In looking at the “about” page of CCPN, I don’t see a history of when it started, how it came into being or how it is connected to past efforts. Is someone working on that?
I agree. I very much appreciate the open doors into ministry available in Calvary.
Great Point about CCPN… I’ll post that. Thanks for the thought.
Encouraging post Miles, I’m so glad that you can step out & meet yet unknown brothers, co-laborers in Christ and be renewed in your common love for God
And people. Father knit our hearts together in unity of spirit and give us a passion to reach the unsaved for Your Names sake.
I love those thoughts, Miles … as well as the idea of Calvary Chapels, how they begin, and for the open opportunity for anyone who is called of God to lead one.
When I pastored in a small community of less than 6,000, a friend recommended a book entitled “No Little Places: The Untapped Potential of the Small-Town Church” by Ron Klassen and John Koessler.
Reading that book deepened my appreciation of and respect for men like Pastor Fred. Their faithfulness to their call is exemplary. They are often models of the ministry of the shepherd, Jesus-style.
Miles — I had a similar experience at the Deep South Pastors Conference in Georgia last year. I met so many wonderful brothers who pastored faithfully where the Lord had called them. It was such a refreshing reminder that the movement, and more importantly the Spirit Who leads it, is still alive and well and working in and through the lives of faithful individuals within our collective.
I couldn’t help but think of the below passage from 1 Corinthians 12 when I read about Fred and CC Lake Okeechobee, because I see so many of the folks in the HopeKeepers ministry in the same passage. I thank God for your heart for those who on the outside may appear to be but small members of His body.
22 No, much rather, those members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary.
23 And those members of the body which we think to be less honorable, on these we bestow greater honor; and our unpresentable parts have greater modesty,
24 but our presentable parts have no need. But God composed the body, having given greater honor to that part which lacks it,
25 that there should be no schism in the body, but that the members should have the same care for one another.
Most of the churches back east are smaller communities, when I was in Hartland Ct was part part of Praise Christian Fellowship, they started with 8 people! The church is now over 100, but it took years of steady and slow growth. Pastor Warren and his wife Cindy came to serve with no promises, just the faithfulness of our Lord. I have such admiration for God’s workers who demonstrate their faith each day as they trust our Lord to provide. Blessings to you and your family as well as the staff of Cross-Connection. God has richly blessed my family!