Rev. Lloyd Pulley Reflects on ‘The Man Behind the Jesus Movement’

By Pastor Lloyd Pulley

Quietly, in his sleep, on October 3, Pastor Chuck Smith succumbed to the lung cancer he had been battling for the past two years. Pastor Chuck, who is considered the father of the Jesus Movement, stepped into God’s presence at 3:25 am (PST).

When I heard the news, my heart was immediately flooded with memories and many of the words of wisdom that he had imparted to us, during his ministry. He will be sorely missed.

“Healthy sheep beget healthy sheep” was one of the many sayings he passed on to the more than 1500 Calvary Chapels and churches that are part of the Calvary Chapel Association. His exhortation was simple: Feed the flock of God and they will multiply.

Chuck Smith learned this as a struggling pastor and evangelist in the early 60’s when he admittedly “stumbled” upon the concept of expository preaching. He decided to take his then small congregation, Calvary Chapel, through the Bible verse-by-verse. The result was exponential growth. With a heart now enlarged by the Word of God, this growing group of believers began reaching out to the thousands of hippies in Southern California, and the Jesus Movement was born.

If a congregation has contemporary worship and teaches through the Bible in a culturally relevant way and people of all walks of life feel loved and welcome to come, they owe this to Chuck Smith’s pioneering work.

Personally, I am greatly indebted to him. He was not only a tremendous example and mentor, but also a friend who was never too busy to take my calls. I can still hear his deep voice now say when I would call him for advice on some issue, “It’s just a bump in road!” Some of my favorite Chuck-isms are, “Where God guides, God provides!” And, “If you have to strive to obtain it you will have to strive to maintain it. Just trust the Lord.”

Most of all, I am grateful to him for my wife, Karen. In the midst of her teenage rebellion, she visited Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa to hear him speak in the late 70’s, in her mini-skirt and boyfriend in tow.  Pierced by the Word of God and the love she felt there she then devoted her life to the Lord. I wouldn’t be the man I am today without her godly influence.

Over the last forty-five years, Chuck has kept the course despite various winds of doctrine that have blown through the nation and the church. His keen discernment and steady leadership not only kept Calvary Chapel grounded in truth, but propelled it into becoming one of the fastest growing church movements in history. Chuck attributed that to the power of the Word of God. “Most pastors teach from the Bible, he said,  “but few teach the Bible.” He charged us to make sure our people were well taught and well loved. In the documentary, Venture in Faith, Pastor Chuck describes in his own words the movement’s beginnings and philosophy. He exhorts pastors, “Simply teach the Word of God simply!” and, “You cannot finish in the flesh what was started in the Spirit” as a warning against replacing a simple dependence upon the Holy Spirit with clever new strategies.

His passion for the Word led him to launch KWVE, a Christian radio station reaching millions in Southern California. He was also a huge influence behind the ministry of The Bridge Christian Radio, our local New York/New Jersey FM station(bridgefm.org).

When people would try to put him on a pedestal he would reply, “I am just a spectator watching God work through His Word.” It would not be uncommon to find him walking the grounds at the church either dialoging with students at their Christian school or praying with a distraught couple.  But when arriving back to his office he would empty his pocket full of trash he picked up along the way.

He became a father figure to many fatherless men, like Greg Laurie, Raul Ries, and many others, including myself. He knew that every soul was precious in the eyes of the Father.

That was the true heart of the pastor we lost. Pastor Chuck reached us because he loved us like Jesus!  That is his legacy!

Lloyd Pulley is the senior pastor of Calvary Chapel in Old Bridge, NJ.

 

 

 

 

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