Remembering Pastor Chuck Smith

Early this morning, Pastor Chuck Smith went home to be with Jesus, after a nearly two year battle with cancer. In thinking about Pastor Chuck, a few thoughts come to mind.

In about May or June of this year I tasked one of our staff members at CCEsco with clearing out an onsite storage area that had become nothing more than an archive of Bible teaching cassette tapes. With more than 32 to years as a church, you can probably imagine that there were quite a few archived tapes. A couple days into the process I walked into my office to find a cassette sitting on my desk. It was a teaching from Pastor Chuck Smith at a Calvary Chapel youth camp at Green Valley lake, from July, 1996. The guys who were clearing out the storage area had no idea what that camp and that teaching series by Pastor Chuck meant to me; it was no less than God’s sovereignty that the tape ended up on my desk.

I remember that youth camp very well. It was the first time I’d attended a Calvary Chapel youth camp. When I, as a sophomore in High School, journeyed up to Green Valley Lake that July I honestly had no idea that Calvary Chapel was any larger than the Calvary Chapel I attended (Calvary Chapel of Escondido), nor did I know the name Chuck Smith. The camp that year was themed “In Christ” and was based completely in the book of Ephesians.

As the sessions opened on Monday, July 22, 1996, Pastor Chuck Smith came to the pulpit and 400 high schoolers sat almost completely silent—aside from occasional laughter at his jokes—through three, 1-hour long studies in the book of Ephesians. One of those teachings (unfortunately not the one on the tape the guys found) I still remember to this day, for it was a defining moment in my life. No, I didn’t give my life to the Lord that day, I had done that many years before, but I am completely certain that I first sensed a call to ministry on that day.

Pastor Chuck, speaking from Ephesians 1, exhorted the room full of 15 — 18 year-olds to not waste their lives. He challenged us to not “meander through life,” but to follow and serve the Lord. I remember wrestling with the thought of what it was that he was teaching. I distinctly remember thinking, “If I do what this man is encouraging me to do, then God is going to call me to do something crazy or send me somewhere I do not want to go.”

Quite honestly, I resettled with that thought and that teaching for 2 more years through High School. But looking back, 17 years later, I’m absolutely convinced that that 1 hour teaching by Pastor Chuck, in Ephesians chapter 1, on Monday, July 22, 1996, completely changed the course of my life, and for that I will always be extremely grateful to Pastor Chuck Smith.

One more thing…

In my lifetime I think I’ve had no more than 5 or 6 personal interactions with Pastor Chuck. I’d like to share about two of them.

On that same Monday night in July of 1996, as Pastor Chuck walked to his car, following the eking Bible study, I followed him out the door and asked, “Pastor Chuck, will you sign my Bible?” Yes, it makes me laugh a little now. Yes, it was a little odd. In my defense (although I don’t need one) I wasn’t the only one who asked. Chuck, with the smile I don’t think he ever was without, kindly took my Bible and pen, sighed his name and a verse reference. Of course I immediately looked up the verse, which is likely the answer for Chuck’s enduring smile.

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.

— 3 John 1:4

The second interaction happened two and a half years later, as I was attending Calvary Chapel Bible College in Murrieta, California. Following Pastor Chuck’s weekly Friday chapel session, I was talking with a few of my friends in one of the patio areas at the Bible College, when Pastor Chuck pulled up in a golf cart, jumped out, grabbed a broom and dust-pan from passenger seat and greeting us as he passed by us, he began sweeping up some leaves and dirt 5 feet from us. Several of us asked Pastor Chuck if we could help, he of course said “No, no,” and continued on his way.

While it is certain that Pastor Chuck was a huge heavy-weight in 20th and early 21st century, American Christianity, he never carried himself as such. Over the next several weeks I’m sure a lot of stories, like this one, will be told about Pastor Chuck, as he was exceedingly humble and walked in such a way as though nothing was below him. Truly, if anyone could say it, Pastor Chuck could declare, “Imitate me as I imitate Christ.”


7 replies
  1. Jeanne DeBenedictis
    Jeanne DeBenedictis says:

    Thank you Miles for sharing a couple of your personal memories of Pastor Chuck. As you said, there will be many thousands as so many people were impacted by his life and ministry of the expository teaching of God’s Word. My life has been forever changed by his clear e position of the Holy Scriptures, as he influenced and taught so many great Bible teachers to do also.
    Remember when you and I went to Costa Mesa on a Sunday night to hear him finish Revelation, at the end of a 16 year journey through the Bible. What a great night of rejoicing it was.
    I’m praying God’s comfort for all his family and closest friends, it will no doubt be a season of grieving for them. But for Pastor Chuck Smith, my heart is rejoicing, knowing that He is truly bodily in His presence where there is fullness of joy & pleasures forevermore. “Precious is the sight of The Lord is the death of His saints.”
    Thank you Lord for this great saint, thank you Pastor Chuck for your faithfulness to heed His call.

  2. Duff Joy
    Duff Joy says:

    Thank you for sharing your thoughts on Pastor Chuck. I was blessed to see him serve God as a servant. At Bible College he would stop by on his way to youth camp, building and working hard with his hands. There was no job he was unwilling to do, no job that was beneath him! He would be asked to teach us after a hards day work, and he would say let me get my bible in the car. Then proceed to to teach us from Ephesians, the best expository teaching I ever heard for over an hour!
    I witnessed him after to church wait through lines of people wanting to talk or pray with him, he did 3 services in the AM, then he would say hi to a young man with Down Syndrome, making him feel as important as any other person. Remembering the young man’s name, I was amazed!
    Pastor Chuck loved Jesus and he loved to serve. My prayers go to his family, friends and the church.
    May God Bless them us in this time of loss and hope

  3. Donna Amis Davis
    Donna Amis Davis says:

    Miles, This is a beautiful tribute. I have had no personal interactions with Chuck Smith, but he’s impacted my life and ministry in countless ways – through the encouragement and support of so many who trace their Christian growth back to his teachings.

  4. Jason Falzarano
    Jason Falzarano says:

    Well spoken Miles,
    Its a bittersweet day for all of us – what a legacy Pastor Chuck left… He’s beaten “all” of us to the finish line. He’s now in glory and I for one, choose to glorify Christ for a life well lived! It’s funny if you think about, as fully devoted followers of Jesus, we can morn the loss of Chuck and at the very same time be joyous that he went home… He will be missed!


  5. mil damayo
    mil damayo says:

    We know Chuck through Pastor Jeff Jackson in 1987 or 1988. We have not seen him in person but until now we listen to his recorded expositions of the Bible, at least one session every day. This man influenced so much our preference on how the Bible should be taught. If the Bible is not taught the way like Chuck Smith is doing it, get out from it (that’s how we always feel every time we come into other fellowships).

    I remember listening to him one day when he said (not verbatim): One day Chuck will move out from the old tent he is now in and transfer to an everlasting house prepared for him by the Lord Jesus. Chuck did not die, he just moved out.

  6. Kelly Kierstead
    Kelly Kierstead says:

    What a legacy Pastor Chuck left, oh that we would invest in the things that will last for all eternity, . . . people.

    In 1979 I was at family camp at Twin Peaks with the original Calvary Chapel Escondido and Pastor John Lai. It was the first time seeing Pastor Chuck in person. He closed out the week with the Communion message. On that day I understood more clearly the price Jesus paid for my sins. The trajectory of my life was changed. I committed my future, all that I hope to do and be, would be for the end purpose of serving God. My life was never the same from that day.

    I am so thankful to the main Pastors in my life that have invested in me and helped me to see Jesus more clearly each and every they share the Word. Thank you Pastor Mike and John, Pat and Jeff and Miles and dear Pastor Chuck.

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