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From the Archives | Chuck Smith: Man of Impact Part 2

A New Beginning / Greg Laurie
The Truth Network Radio
July 31, 2021 3:00 am

From the Archives | Chuck Smith: Man of Impact Part 2

A New Beginning / Greg Laurie

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July 31, 2021 3:00 am

In this episode, we continue this short series from the archives of Pastor Greg Laurie’s special interview with Pastor Chuck Smith, founder of the Calvary Chapel network of churches. Pastor Greg begins by sharing his story of how their first interaction led to the production and distribution of the popular Living Water tract (to watch a video on the tract’s history, click here).

This discussion features many details of Pastor Chuck’s life, including:

Tragedy in Pastor Chuck’s family

How he moved from a growing church to a fledgling church in Costa Mesa, CA

The birth and the beginning of the Jesus Movement

How his church grew and outgrew several of their buildings

This interview originally took place in 2012 and aired on radio that same year. Pastor Chuck Smith went to be with the Lord on October 3, 2013. 


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Hey everybody, Greg Laurie here. You're listening to the Greg Laurie Podcast, and my objective is to deliver, hopefully, compelling practical insights in faith, culture, and current events from a biblical perspective. To find out more about our ministry, just go to our website, So thanks for joining me for this podcast. Well, Pastor Chuck has been a mentor of yours for many years, and it all started on his front porch when you were a teenager, didn't it? Yeah, it really did, Dave.

I was 17 years old, I was newly converted, and I was attending the church where Chuck is the pastor, Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, and he did a sermon one Sunday morning on John 4 with a woman at the well, you know, where Jesus said to her, if you drink of this water, you'll thirst again, but if you drink of the water I give, you'll never thirst again. So I had this idea for a cartoon strip. Now, understand that my background is graphic design. Pretty much throughout my childhood, I was a cartoonist. I was submitting my cartoons to various publications.

Some had already been published. I mean, my whole goal in life was to be a professional cartoonist. And so when I heard this message, it kind of went through the filter of my cartoonist brain, if you will, and I reinterpreted it and made a little booklet out of it, or a track as we sometimes call them, and I called it Living Water.

So on the cover of the words Living Water, and as you open it up, there's a little cartoon character, and he's got a hole in his heart, and he's trying to fill with various things, and in the end, like, water's coming out of his heart. And so I was in high school still at the time, and in my art class, the assignment was draw a cartoon strip. Well, for me, that's the easiest thing I could do. I did it all the time. But I thought, I'm going to illustrate Pastor Chuck's sermon on the woman at the well. And so I came up with this Living Water, Chuck, and I decided after I was done, I'm going to go show Chuck.

And I found out where he lived, and I knocked on the front door, and he opens it up, and there I'm standing before him. Hello, Chuck, I'm Greg Laurie, and I'm a cartoonist, and I go to school here not far from your house. And I drew this little booklet called Living Water, and I showed it to him, and he was looking it over, and I saw a little smile come on his face, and he said, Greg, I really like this. And Chuck had the idea of taking this little booklet and printing it out. And so he said, why don't you redraw it again, but do it in this size format, and then we'll make them into little booklets and hand them out. And so I went back and redrew it and brought it back to him, and then it was printed.

I think they did 10,000 the first time out, and then maybe 100,000 the second time out. By the time it was all done, there were well over a million of those crazy little things that went all around the world. But that was my first meeting with Pastor Chuck Smith. But what I saw from the very beginning was this is a guy who had vision. This is a guy who wanted to reach my generation. You know, I was young at the time. He wanted to reach us in a way that we understood and speak in our language, and I think that's a great quality for any leader to have is we want to continue to reach the next generation.

Absolutely. Well, let's go ahead and listen to this rare personal interview with Pastor Chuck Smith. Here's Pastor Greg. You know what I think what people don't know about you, Chuck, is you've had a lot of ups and downs in life. You know, because you're such an optimistic person, people may think, oh, he's had a really happy life.

And really what we've talked about so far has been a really happy life. I mean, you know, born in Ventura, living around the beach, great times. You know, but but you've had your hard times as well. You know, not all of your churches were successful. People think of Chuck Smith, pastor of Calvary Chapel, huge church, head of a movement, et cetera. But when you were in Corona, your attendance fell from 57 to 26.

So you've had your discouragement. But I remember I was with you in Hawaii once. We were doing a Harvest Crusade there, remember?

And we were one night in and all of a sudden we get called early in the morning. There's a hurricane coming, Hurricane Iniki. And they're telling us that this was in the wake of Hurricane Andrew, which had devastating effects there. And so Dennis Eguigenian was there and he said, buddy, I saw the the ruin from Hurricane Andrew and we got to strap your family on the post and hold on it. And I was getting all worked up and I went into a panic and I went into town. Everything was closed. So I went to Subway and bought 20 sandwiches.

I don't really know what I would have done with 20 sandwiches. But so, you know, I go over to where you're staying. We had a little place right next to each other and you're just cooking a stew. You're as calm as could be. And we all kind of calm down.

And then I recall we had a little tennis game. Remember that? Right.

I do. I mean, how can you be calm? OK, we'll use that as a metaphor. That was a literal hurricane. But you're calm in the middle of a lot of storms.

And we're going to talk about a storm you're in right now. But in your book, A Memoir of Grace, you write, quote, Grace does not shield the cruel realities of a world damaged by the fall. We're not in heaven yet. And God does not spare us from the crushing blows that come to everyone. We lose people we love. We suffer. We grieve. We journey on. But we're not abandoned. And Chuck, an unimaginable tragedy happened to you when your father and your brother were killed in a plane crash.

Yes. Where were you when you heard that news and how did you react to such a horrific thing? Well, my brother had started a motorcycle shop up in Victorville. And he had a plane.

And my dad had retired and went up to help him because my dad was real sharp in business and accounting and all. And so they were going to fly on down to Orange County and from Victorville and my brother's plane. It was a stormy night. And so we went out to the Orange County airport to pick them up and figured all the time they'd be there. And they didn't show up. We waited an hour.

And it became a little apprehensive. So we went on home. We were living in a beach at the time. And we got the call from them. And they were my brother had just gotten his license and really wasn't that familiar with flying. But he had gotten on the wrong vector and had landed in San Diego rather than Orange County. And so they were going to refuel and fly on up to Orange County. And so we went back out to the airport. But the storm, they came right into the center of the storm and the plane was a small plane. And it just had run out of fuel when they were over San Ofri area. And they crashed down there.

And they both were killed in the crash. And so, you know, it was an interesting thing that was extremely hard for me to handle because it was so sudden. You're not prepared for it.

You're not ready for it. And it's a shock that just really hits you right, you know, in the guts. And so I had a hard, hard time. I would after that dream that my dad and brother, we did a lot of things together that, you know, we would be out and I would be so excited in my dream, you know, that here we are having this great time, water skiing or whatever. And then you wake up to the reality.

You know, they're not there. And I mean, it was just so hard. Took me a long time to actually, you know, get over that. But with my mom, who I was really closer to than my dad. But yet when she went, she had been ill for a while and it was easier to let her go, though I was closer to her because, you know, you realize, well, no more pain. And, you know, of course, after my dad and brother, she lost her will to live, actually, because that was all that she had at home.

And so it was a hard experience. But yet the Lord was with us and I actually did the funeral service for them. I'm sure it's given you a greater compassion.

Oh, my, yes. And Graham said God doesn't comfort us to make us comfortable but to make us comforters. And you've been a comforter to so many. When our son Christopher was killed in an automobile accident, you came to my home and we sat and talked.

And I remember one thing that you said to me that was one of the most helpful things of all. You said never trade what you do know for what you don't know. And I think, and I don't want to, you know, you can explain it, but my understanding was what do I know? Well, I know that God loves me. I know that my son loved the Lord. I know he's in heaven.

I know because I've put my faith in Christ, I'll be in heaven someday and I'll be reunited with him. And I don't know why this happened, you know. We don't know why your father and your brother were killed in that horrible accident. And there's just unanswerable questions. But, you know, for somebody maybe that is watching this or hearing this, maybe this has just happened. You know, they just lost a loved one unexpectedly.

What would you say to them? Well, again, don't give up what you know for what you don't know. Because the question is always why. You know, and that question will haunt you and make you crazy trying to figure out why did this happen and so forth.

But I don't know why. But what I do know is, you know, that God is good and God loves me and God's working out his perfect plan in my life. And so I'm just content with that. You've said that many times that whatever we go through is preparation for something else. Everything that you went through, even your failures in church and in other areas, you know, prepared you for unbelievable success that was to come.

Who would have ever dreamed that you would play a role. And I think now that we have some years that have passed by, we can look back objectively at the Jesus movement and call it what it was. It was a genuine full-blown revival. That's very true.

I think most historians pretty much agree with this. You know, what was happening, you know, maybe at least I didn't know what it was. You probably had a much better perspective. But God used you in a revival. But I want to talk a little bit about what happened at Calvary Chapel and how God was getting you ready. Did the Lord come to you one morning and, you know, maybe the Mission Impossible theme song began to play and a voice said to you, hello, Charles Ward Smith, should you decide to accept this mission, you know, if not this cassette tape will self-detract in 10 seconds.

It will be a cassette tape because that was the technology of the day. I'm referring to Mission Impossible. But you didn't know it was coming, did you? No, I surely didn't. So you're pastoring these different churches. Your most successful church to date was Corona, California. Things are really crankin', but you get this invitation to come to Costa Mesa to a fledging little congregation called Calvary Chapel. And I don't think Kay was real excited about it, but you said, I feel this is what the Lord wants me to do, right?

Very interesting how that worked out because basically that's the gist of the story. This was the second time that we were in Corona and a group of guys out there said, you know, how about starting an independent church with us here in Corona? And I've been with the denomination for many years and I wasn't really happy.

I didn't really fit. And so the opportunity to start an independent church was very exciting to me. And so we went out to Corona.

We had a home in Newport Beach and we had leased that out and we went on out to Corona. And we bought a brand new home in Corona in the new subdivision and it was just really great and God was blessing. The church was just really growing like everything and just, you know, just sort of a dream fulfilled. Yet it was interesting because a fellow who had been in the church that I pastored in Huntington Beach was going to this little church, Calvary Chapel. And he was saying, you know, our pastor is resigning and we need a pastor to take over and why don't you, you know, come on or think about coming on down? And I said, well, you know, I've always liked living down in that area and so I would, you know, prayerfully consider it. And so I started praying about it and I mentioned it to Kay and she said, you've got to be kidding. You know, we've got this new home out here and the church is growing.

People love you here. Why in the world would you even think of going down, you know, there to that little church down there? And I said, well, honey, all I said was I was going to pray about it. I didn't say I was going to go. Well, she said, you don't have to pray about something like that. You know that God wouldn't call you, you know, to go to something like that when he's blessing the ministry here.

And I said, well, honey, I just said I would pray. And so we really couldn't talk about it. This is the negotiating you were talking about earlier with the marriage. Right. The successful long marriage. This is one of those.

A little give and take there. So I was teaching a Bible study down here in a home in Costa Mesa and the people in the Bible study were encouraging me to come on down. And I went home from the Bible study that I had here in Costa Mesa, got home about midnight and Kate was up. And she met me at the door, which had never happened before.

Not at that time of the night. And so I could tell that she'd been crying. And I said, are the kids OK?

You know, are the kids all right? And she said, yeah. And I said, well, you've been crying. She said, yes.

I said, well, what's what what is it? She said, well, the Lord has been speaking to me. And I said, well, what's he telling you? And she said, he is telling me that you are the husband and you are the one that is the minister. And you are the one that has to listen to the Lord about the ministry. And if the Lord is calling you, I can't really stand in the way.

I've got to submit to you in this. And I said, oh, honey, that's great, because I said at the at the class tonight, they were pressing me to see if I would make the decision to come on down. And so she said, don't talk to me. Don't tell me anything about it. I don't want to hear it.

I'm not I didn't say I was ready to move. I said, I'm ready to submit, but don't press me any further than that. And so she did submit and we came on down and it's just been the rest of its history. And let's give and let's give her. Now, let's give her her just do. K. Smith, I think, is the unsung hero of the Jesus movement.

I mean, everyone knows about your role and and another fellow we're going to talk about in a moment. But but K, your wife had a heart, a burden, I should say, for these hippie kids. And where you guys lived, there would be little hippie kids that would walk back and forth in front of your house. And they were on drugs and she prayed for them. And, you know, what I told her years later, when I found out where you live, I said, K, I was one of those kids.

I literally was this kid that I knew we used to go get high in his house and we would walk right by your house. We didn't know who you were. And your wife was praying for us.

And and the Lord gave you this burden. But you didn't know any hippies. So your daughter, Jan, met a genuine hippie named John. And he hooked you up with with the super hippie Lonnie Frisbee. And some people have maybe heard Lonnie's name. And Lonnie was an unusual character.

I've never met anyone like him. Lonnie was a guy who was preaching when I came to faith on my high school campus. But Lonnie to me in many ways was sort of like he was nitro to your glycerin.

You know, the two of you were an explosive combination. And I think kids came for Lonnie, but they stayed for you. You sustained things, you know, because Lonnie came. He had a powerful ministry and then he moved in a different direction. He was only there. He was sort of almost like the guy that God used to help explode this movement because he was a Christian.

And so I'm I'm sort of just running ahead. But tell us a little bit of your reflections on Lonnie Frisbee and the role he played in the Jesus movement at Calvary Chapel. Well, of course, as you mentioned, our daughter was in her first year of college. And our sons were both in high school at the time at Harbor High. And so it was, you know, that's the thing that really caused Kay real concern, because all of these hippies in this area and such a use of drugs and free use of drugs. Of course, the drug of the time was acid. And, you know, the kids were getting high. And of course, she just was concerned for her own children and just kept saying, you know, we've got to reach these kids. They're they just need the Lord, honey. And I said, no, they're dirty hippies and on. They need a bath, you know, but she kept pressing. Well, she said, we've got to reach them somehow.

We've got to reach them. Well, when Jan started going with John, he wasn't a hippie. He straightened up. He was going to Bible college. And that's where she met him at Southern California College there. And so he was, you know, short hair and cleaned up kid. And we didn't know his background. But then when we started reading when Lonnie came in and all, then he showed his driver's license and he had the long hair, beard and the whole thing.

And we were sort of shocked. But he was he was a real soul winner. He was driving down Fairview, past Orange Coast College, and he saw this hippie kid hitchhiking. And whenever he saw them hitchhiking, he picked them up so he could witness to them about the Lord. And so he picked up this kid, started to witness to him. And he said, where are you going? He said, I'm not going anywhere.

He said, I just hitchhike so I can witness to whoever picks me up. And that was Lonnie Frisbee. That was Lonnie Frisbee. And so he said, well, there's a guy that I need to introduce you to. And that's you.

That was me. And so he brought him over to the house and he reached out his hand. And, you know, he introduced me and he reached out and firm grip.

And, you know, he had a charisma to him, you know. And so we invited him in and we sat down and talked. And he actually then moved into the house and was living there for a couple of weeks. And he'd bring kids over to baptize them in our doughboy pool in the backyard. And then you introduced him to your congregation, Calvary Chapel. You were doing a series on the end times and it was growing. And you bring Lonnie in and you have him share with his wife, Connie. And now kids are coming to, the young hippies are coming to Calvary Chapel.

This is something nobody else was doing. Because you yourself have been very candid about the fact that you were, you know, resistant at first, the dirty hippies. But you opened your heart.

You overcame your prejudices. You let the kids in. And pretty soon these crazy kids show up with guitars. And they've written these songs.

One of them was serving time in jail on the weekends. And they called themselves love songs. And you let them go on the platform and sing for your congregation.

And what was happening was an explosion. You know where a whole new genre of music was being born, really. Contemporary Christian music. Contemporary praise and worship was about to be born in the wake of that. So Calvary Chapel just, it wasn't overnight, was it?

No. When would you pinpoint it historically? Like what year when you said you would say this is when it was really starting to take off? Well, actually about in 1970 I would say that we had to move, our little church on Church Street in Costa Mesa, we outgrew it. So we had to find another place to have services. And so we actually thought that we were going to get a lot over on Church Street from Theodore Robbins Ford there. They had an extra lot. We were going to buy it and build our church there. And so we went to the city and they looked at the plans and said, oh, this looks good. But then when we went before the planning commission, they said, well, you don't have enough parking.

And so, you know, you've got to provide off-street parking. And so the neighbors that were there, when they heard that, the prices of their lots or their houses all went up. And so we just couldn't afford it. And so we just had to back out of that one. But in the meantime, we'd sold our little church on Church Street. And so we had to figure out a place to move. And so we knew that the Lutheran Church on the bluff was actually going to build a new church. And so we went down to the pastor and we made arrangements. The state had bought, they were going to put a freeway through there and the state had bought the property. And so we knew they were going to move. And so we made arrangements with the state and with them that when they moved out, at least we could move in for a little while until the property was, you know, used for the freeway they were going to put down below on Pacific Coast Highway.

And so it was an interesting thing because we were going to use, in the meantime, of course, we had to move. And so we made arrangements with the Lutheran Church to meet in the afternoons on Sunday. And so, as Dwight Moody said, never have Sunday afternoon meetings. The people are full of beef and unbelief.

And, you know, it's just not a good time to have a meeting. So we thought, well, you know, we've been growing and the Lord's been blessing. And so if we can just maintain during this time until the Lutherans moved out and we could take over the building completely, if we could just maintain and then when we could go back to regular services, we can, you know, start expanding again. But while we were there in the Lutheran Church, we actually began to outgrow it. And people were sitting in the choir loft upstairs and so forth.

And so it was at that time that we bought the Little Country School out in Greenville right off of Fairview. And that's, you know, we started then building our own church because we didn't have room in the Lutheran Church anymore. So that's where we... That's when I came. I came in 1970 and I walked into that Little Country Church that's made of been immortal by that song that we all know. Little Country Church on the edge of time. By 1972, critics were saying, well, this whole Jesus movement is over with. But it was just getting started because now it's sort of like a set of waves. We had the first wave, the explosion at your church, a whole new kind of music, praise and worship choruses.

Well, guess what? Bunch of guys are getting saved and they're feeling called to serve the Lord. So a guy named Raul Reese, who's a martial arts expert, goes and starts a Bible study in his dojo where he's teaching students. A guy named Jeff Johnson goes up to Downey.

Another guy named Mike McIntosh goes down to San Diego, Steve Mays, off to South Bay. And on the list goes. And I went off to Riverside. And, you know, some time when these little Bible studies grew and all of a sudden in John Corson to Oregon. And before you know it, we we have churches sprouting up. And next thing you know, they're big churches. And next thing you know, there's 30, there's 40, there's 100, there's 200. Now there's 1400 churches.

And that is in the U.S., of course, when you look at the missions, it just even more, even much more. Yeah. Hey everybody, Greg Laurie here. Thanks for listening to our podcast. And to learn more about Harvest Ministries, please subscribe and consider supporting this show. Just go to And by the way, if you want to find out how to come into a personal relationship with God, go to That's K-N-O-W-G-O-D dot org.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-09-18 17:44:33 / 2023-09-18 17:55:24 / 11

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