Why we left Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa

Several readers have asked me why we left Calvary Chapel several years ago. This was a difficult post to write since I hold a warm, affectionate debt of gratitude to this church which was, for a few years, a place of spiritual triage and healing in the wake of us leaving our imploded fundamentalist cult. The purpose of this post, then, is not to repudiate or criticize Calvary Chapel, but merely to serve as an explanation for why we eventually moved on.

Some of the wonderful things we experienced at CCCM had to do with the freedom and zero-pressure atmosphere of the church. We could come. We could go. We could wear jeans. We could clap or not clap. There was an openness of spirit and an enthusiastic worshipfulness that had been so entirely lacking from our fundamentalist church. There was a lot of great, expositional Bible teaching and awesome children’s ministries. For the most part it was a positive experience.

But after about two years at CCCM, we began to notice some unsettling trends in the church which were uncomfortably familiar:

  1. This was “Chuck’s church.” CCCM was indelibly imprinted with Chuck’s personality, way of doing things, opinions and even his particular interpretation of Scripture. We began to realize CCCM really was a non-denominational denomination, headed by a central personality. Even people we met outside the church referred to it as “Chuck’s church.” And although there were “independent” Calvary Chapels all over the place, each of the pastors were approved by Chuck. So, whether or not CCCM ever admitted it, for all practical purposes, it was the denomination of Chuck.
  2. No children allowed. Although we sincerely appreciated the children’s Sunday School ministry, occasionally we preferred taking our children into church with us. But every time we attempted to bring our children with us–we were stopped at the door and asked if our children would “disrupt” the service. Eventually we realized this was code for: Will Your Child Cry When Chuck Is Preaching And Perhaps Ruin Our Audio Taping/Live Radio Broadcast Today? Our children were accustomed to 3 hour Sunday meetings. We assured the ushers/bouncers that our kids would be fine for a one hour meeting. Once, a young mother brought her baby into the service and the baby started crying. She left and as she did so, Chuck stopped his message and said: “Yes, babies are like New Year’s resolutions. They ought to be carried out.” Everyone laughed at this but I felt really bad for that embarrassed mother. The emphasis on keeping kids out of “Big Church” seemed contrary to the admonition of Jesus: “Permit the children to come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.” (Lk. 18:16, NASB)
  3. Elitism. On many occasions, Chuck made disparaging remarks about Catholics and other Christian denominations. This was nothing new since I’d grown up with that kind of perspective. But I knew from experience that the We Know Better attitude is a contagious poison–even if you ARE right. “We’re a church that relies on the Holy Spirit,” Chuck said one Sunday morning. “We’re not the church that relies on a Purpose Driven Life.” The entire congregation laughed at this. And then? They clapped. I dunno. That kind of attitude struck fear into my heart because we used to talk like that all the time. And our church ended in absolute disaster.
  4. Locked in a time-warp. The incredible work of revival accomplished through CCCM in the 70′s and 80′s seemed to have settled into a sort of apathetic stubbornness. In lots of little ways, we saw resistance and a refusal to acknowledge that the Holy Spirit could, perhaps, still be working in all those “dead” denominations. The de-facto conclusion seemed to be that the “Calvary Chapel Way” was the Right Way because it had rendered so many personal decisions for Christ in the 70′s, 80′s and 90′s. I think what eventually troubled me was the idea that the Holy Spirit worked exclusively within the Calvary Chapel ministry.
  5. End Times Prophecy. One of the final turn-offs was CCCM’s preoccupation with prophecy. I had been born and bred on this kind of stuff. I could quote Daniel, Ezekiel and Revelation with the best of ‘em. This was nothing new. However, it troubled me that CCCM devoted so much time and attention to what can only be described as speculative conspiracy theories. For all the talk of us not knowing the day or the hour of Christ’s return, CCCM spent a lot of time dissecting news headlines and trying to piece together “signs” that would foretell the Great Tribulation, the rapture, etc. The problem with doing this is that it whips people up into a frenzy only to discover that there’s NOTHING you can do about it. Obsessing, analyzing, speculating and stockpiling food isn’t going to help one bit if, in fact, the End is Near. I guess I just didn’t see the point of working ourselves up over stuff that we have no control over. It seemed like a waste of time and emotional energy. And I just didn’t have energy to spare.

I’ll always hold a debt of gratitude in my heart toward CCCM and the healing role it played in my life. I’m also grateful that when it was time for us to move on, no-one harassed us, called us or tried to get us to stay. For that gracious freedom alone, I will remain forever grateful.

  • http://apprising.org Ken Silva

    “Chuck made disparaging remarks about Catholics and other Christian denominations.”

    I’m not a fan of Calvary Chapel, but concerning the apostata Roman Catholic Church, do you remember the Protestant Reformation?

    • http://www.elizabethesther.com elizabeth

      Ken, this is a pretty mean-spirited comment. But I’m letting it stand b/c I think it unfortunately represents the POV and misconceptions of many Christians.

      1. “concerning the apostata Roman Catholic Church”….Well, considering that I’m Catholic, your premise endangers you of becoming persona non-grata. 2. “do you remember the Protestant Reformation?” Why yes! I do remember the Protestant Reformation! (Thanks for the condescension. I hadn’t gotten my daily dose of it, yet).

      • Mark S.

        Oh my. I am a Roman Catholic Christian. I know I am loved by the God, that His only Son, Jesus Christ died for me and rose from the dead. He taught us to love one another and to show that love by serving one another. I am sad that there appear to be some Christians who have forgotten what Jesus commanded.

        • http://www.elizabethesther.com elizabeth

          which is why, Mark, I try to write about these things as honestly (and gently!) as I can. It’s important to examine what we’re doing and why. Thank you for being a faithful Catholic. And for always extending grace, mercy and truth. You encourage me, friend!

      • http://faithandfood.morizot.net/ Scott Morizot

        Congratulations. You’ve attracted Ken Silva’s attention. Must mean you’re on the right track. ;)

  • http://parentingthetiniestofmiracles.blogspot.com JessieLeigh

    I think it’s extremely dangerous and shaky ground any time we start trying to build ourselves up by belittling other denominations. I simply cannot believe that Christ intended us to pit ourselves against each other in some petty spitting contest. Not one among us is infallible and I think it is arrogant to assume that we “know it all.” I most certainly cannot speak for all Catholic churches, but one thing I’ve loved about mine is the lack of time spent labeling ourselves as superior. I would so much rather gather in faith and communion.

  • Lisa

    Well, what would you expect from Ken Silva, Elizabeth?

    Funny, but I would think that the group *breaking off* from the body instituted by Christ would be the definition of “apostate,” but that’s just me.

    Face it, Ken – you’re a gnostic, pure and simple. How do you *know* your version is right? Because you say so, right? But the guy down the street with the same Bible-only views thinks *he’s* right…

    oh dear…

    God bless you Elizabeth.

  • http://www.momssharpeningmoms.com Kristen Strong

    Elizabeth…great article! We’ve found some of your points to be true as well. When my twins were 2 we visited a Calvary Chapel in Albuquerque a couple times. The preaching was phenomenal but the no-kids-in-the-sanctuary didn’t sit well with us. Plus, both times we visited the childcare was full, so we had to sit out in the back 40 tent and watch the program on screens. However, we also attended a Calvary Chapel while living on Maui and they let the kids dance and sing up and down the aisles! Totally different feel. We moved from Hawaii about 6 months ago and we STILL miss that church! The Albuquerque CC pastor was recorded, but so was our Maui pastor. However…the Maui one may not have been as big of a rock star as the Albuquerque one!? Ha!

  • http://chroniclesofachristianheretic.blogspot.com Sandra

    EE, your post is an excellent example of how so many mainstream and “moderate” evangelical churches can still be personality cults even if they don’t exhibit the extremes of the super-fundy movement. I think every church I can remember attending fostered the same cult-tendencies as you describe–the more “successful” the church, the more cultic the tendencies.

    Yet, you point out something often forgotten: that despite these cultic group behaviors, this (any many other) churches are and can continue to be safe and healing places for many people. At least for a time.

  • Adam

    I was really interested to read this, as I’ve heard a lo of different things about CCCM. I’m totally with you on some of these points, I too have a problem with churches that don’t let children in the sanctuary, mariners did the same thing actually asking us to leave when my wife had a baby sleeping on her. Totally rubbed us the wrong way, especially when viewed against Jesus stance on children and the the need for us to become just like them. The other thing I find interesting is the personality centric side of things. I’ve seen quite a few pastors step down from their roles because it was becoming too much about them, Mike Erre and Francis Chan to name a couple. But Pastor Chuck never did, I’m not sure he ever saw it that way.

    Thanks for sharing E.

    • http://www.elizabethesther.com elizabeth

      You know, I have true respect for men who are humble enough to see when their congregation is becoming too reliant on their particular personality. It takes a lot of courage to step down when you’ve built a thriving ministry. I guess that gets to the crux of it, right? Whose ministry is it? Chan’s? Chuck’s? Or God’s? If more pastors were able to detach themselves from building their “own” ministry/church/worldwide influence, perhaps things would be much, much different. The cult of personality is a bad deal ANYWHERE, but esp. in the church.

  • http://www.somuchshoutingsomuchlaughter.com suzannah @ShoutLaughLove

    churches treating children like they should be seen and not heard is heartbreaking (and so victorian!). the best children/teen/young adult ministries can miss the point. how can we BE the body of Christ if we’re all segregated into generational/demographic ghettos?

    those would be deal breakers for me, too. it’s so hard to find the right place to worship and serve, and to figure out what you can live with and what is non-negotiable.

    • http://www.elizabethesther.com elizabeth

      “Generational/demographic ghettos.” EXCELLENT description! Sometimes I crack up at how segmented church programs have become. There’s a church program for every demographic! Kids, Teens, College, Twice-Divorced-With-Three-Kids-And-A-Dog! Whatever happened to the church universal? :)

  • http://www.frenzy-tracy.blogspot.com tracy

    Wow, I get this. Just read this to my husband! We identify! I grew up in Orange County, a pk (pastor’s kid) of a very “stringent” denomination. As you describe this church (which I was very familiar with at the time) I can see our own church in many of your reasons for leaving. Most of todays church must grieve the Holy Spirit with what man has made it to be…and I am just as guilty! Forgive us Lord!

  • http://www.tuckedintohim.blogspot.com Karen

    Elizabeth!

    Wow! I think I need to just write a blog post of my own titled “How I Survived My First Twenty Years at Calvary Chapel.” But saving that for another day, I’ll thank you for your honest post.

    My parents were a young married couple in the seventies who helped plant Calvary Chapel of Ontario (now Chino Hills – Pastor David Rosales). Ten years later, they moved out of California, but helped with a local Calvary Chapel in the area I grew up in. My father literally and spiritually helped build that church. Like you, I must say that Calvary Chapel matured my parents, and grew my childhood faith wonderfully. But I left of my own accord in my teen years, and my parents followed me soon after leaving. My own criticisms echo many of yours. I would add one other major one for me:

    Calvary Chapels usually are a one-man show. If you don’t like the pastor, then you can leave. If you try to hold him accountable, you’re asked to leave, much like the bouncers who escort mothers and children out of church. I know this from watching my father – a humble, brave man who loves Jesus and was a church elder for many years – confront a Calvary Chapel pastor, asking for more than a head chief, perhaps an elder board that actually DOES something (like vote!). Instead, he was asked to step down from leadership. After that pastor was found guilty of stealing from the church, my father was asked to return to the board. The cycle started over again, five years later, when he again asked that the elder board be more than a novel token. Only this time, the entire board of elders voiced their agreement with my father. The result? The entire board was dissolved!!!

    One time, there was a funeral at the church – a man who had been a member of the church for twenty-plus years – and they would not allow the funeral because it was an open casket. Apparently, this is too “Catholic” for Calvary Chapels!

    Another time, I recall my parents being told to never buy soda at the grocery store because it was on the same aisle as the alcohol and we must be above reproof! Whuh??!

    I’m very thankful for the formative spiritual lessons I learned at Calvary Chapel, but the idea of abiding by a one-man show with no accountability makes me cringe.

    Thank you for your courage in writing this post… God is so gracious to accept us all – the Calvary Chapel folks and the Catholics and the Protestant Reformers, the denominationals and the denominational-nondenominationals!

    Resting Here,
    Karen

    • http://www.elizabethesther.com elizabeth

      Thanks for sharing your insight, Karen. I think your experience is, unfortunately, not entirely uncommon. I think the problem here lies in the way the Calvary Chapel authority structure is set up. The elder board is made up of men handpicked by the pastor. In other words, the pastor can hire and fire his board at will. In this kind of setup, it’s very easy for the pastor to choose a band of “yes-men” who have difficulty holding him accountable; ie. your example: if they DO try to hold him accountable, the board is dissolved. The pastor is the final word for everything. Frankly, this is seems like nothing short of absolute power: a bad idea for even the best and holiest of men.

      • http://www.joyinthisjourney.com Joy

        I agree completely, but I’m puzzled by something.
        I hope I can express myself as asking an honest
        question, not picking or trying to make trouble.
        How does the Catholic Church see the Pope? Is
        he a personality leading a denomination alone?
        I have no idea how the Church is governed. Do
        the cardinals constitute a board that helps lead?
        How do we create a structure that really works?

        • http://www.blessedisthekingdom.com Fr. Christian Mathis

          Joy,

          Elizabeth asked me to respond to your question about the Pope as she felt I have a bit more background on this topic. I will do my best to answer though it is always difficult to really have a complete answer via a comment box.

          The Pope is the Bishop of Rome and Patriarch of the West. Early in the history of the Church, five cities came to take on a special role of leadership in the Church, they were Rome, Constantinople, Antioch, Alexandria and Jerusalem. Of these, the Bishop of Rome took on the role as first among equals when it comes to bishops. Rome got this role because historically they were seen as a Church that demonstrated great love to others and were more often than not correct when it came to early theological controversies. Because of this, many would come to Rome when there were disputes to be settled. Rome is also the place where both Peter and Paul played significant roles and where both are said to have been martyred.

          When the first major Christian division occurred with the break between East and West, the Bishop of Rome became the only Patriarch in the Western Church. Over time the Pope gained more authority.

          Today, the Vatican, under leadership of the Pope, appoints bishops throughout the world. Each of these bishops has his own authority in his diocese (geographical area). The College of Cardinals are a group of men appointed by the Pope to be his advisors and when the Pope dies, they are the ones who gather to elect the next Pope. The majority of Cardinals are bishops, but not all. The recently deceased Fr. Avery Dulles, who was from the United States was a Cardinal, but not a bishop.

          At any rate, perhaps the best way to describe the Pope is the spiritual head of the Catholic Church.

          I hope this is a helpful explanation, but don’t hesitate to ask more if you would like. There may be others out there reading this blog that can respond with even more clarity than I.

          • http://www.energeticprocession.wordpress.com Perry Robinson

            Fr. Matthias,

            I found your description very apt and in line with an Orthodox take on the deelopment of the papacy. I think most theologically educated Catholics I know would object to it.

        • http://www.joyinthisjourney.com Joy

          Fr. Mathis, thank you so much for taking some time to answer. I’ve spent my entire life in Protestant churches, so I have very little knowledge of how the Catholic church functions. I just know that in non-denominational churches, the buck stops with the senior pastor and your only recourse is to leave if you can’t find resolution with him. There is no appeal beyond him. This issue has pushed my parents back into a denomination — they are now Presbyterians.

          Do I understand correct that most of the leadership of individual churches resides in the priest/priests serving there and in the bishop overseeing the diocese in which the church is located? Do the bishops help mediate or settle issues that arise in individual churches? How does leader accountability work (or perhaps I should say, how SHOULD it work, since we all know it has broken down tragically over the years… to be fair, as it has in every branch of Christendom)?

          EE, if this is too many questions for your blog, I’m happy to correspond with Fr. Mathis over email — don’t want to hijack your site. :)

          • http://www.blessedisthekingdom.com Fr. Christian Mathis

            Hello again Joy.

            Priests who are pastors, like myself, ultimately have quite a bit of authority in their own parishes, but the bishops are ultimately the ones with the authority to appoint pastors and to remove them if necessary. They do need to have a good reason to do so, however. This could be due to some sort of abuse, or simply that the priest is needed for a specific pastoral situation in another place.

            Bishops are technically not under the direct authority of the Pope, but in reality the Pope has a great deal of authority when it comes to bishops. Each bishop must meet every few years to report on what is happening in his own diocese. I suppose one could say that similar to pastors, bishops have quite a bit of authority that comes with simply being a bishop, but the Pope can step in for certain things in order to correct.

            When things work the way they are supposed to the heirarchy can be quite a good tool for keeping things moving in the right direction. Of course it can also harm for the same reasons.

  • http://Www.chadmarkley.com chad markley

    Liz, outstanding post. So well articulated and not bitter at all.

    Proud of you for seeing the good and the bad of a thing. It’s sometimes hard to look back at something that was hard and still see good in it. You strike an excellent balance in your post.

    Well done lady :)

    • http://www.elizabethesther.com elizabeth

      Thanks, Chad. It’s nice to see some of my IRL friends chiming in. I know you “get” this, bro. Thanks for always keepin’ it real, yo.

  • frogla

    I really appreciate you sharing your reasons for leaving calvary chapel. It’s given me ideas of what I don’t want as my safe place to land. Is going to “church” like calvary necessary for our growth in Christ? We need the body of Christ right? I keep hearing ppl say that we (my good girlfriend & I) need to be in a church for support fellowship while being married to dh’s in cults. I’m so not motivated to find one by myself. the last church we were in my girlfriend & I found 2gether & dh actually liked it
    when he was still going. Also, the pastor gossiped to another member about mine & dh’s counseling session so
    that ended. & the church where dh & I met had all your reasons except the end times one. I know noone has the
    answers & sry to go on & on. but your posts about church helps me. Thnx for putting yourself out there! (hug)

  • http://faithandfood.morizot.net/ Scott Morizot

    Never been to Calvary Chapel, though we have one pretty close to us. Probably won’t ever go, either. My teen intersection/encounter with Christianity ended when, as a young teen father, I was asked from the pulpit to remove my sleeping daughter because she was “disturbing” the good people in the congregation. It was some 12-13 years before I reached a point where I was ready to think that perhaps Christianity wasn’t what I thought it was and it might just deserve a second look. I find the idea of a church that doesn’t welcome and appreciate children disturbs me even now, even though that wasn’t really the reason I was asked to leave.

  • http://www.richardtgarner.com Rick Garner

    Thanks for sharing this. I’ve often compared church attendance to employment. Decades ago, working for one company for decades was normal or at least a goal. Many worked for one company their entire vocational life. Church in some circles seems the same. Some grow up in the same church, get married there, raise their own family, and nearly have their own memorial pew.

    There’s nothing wrong with being at the same church for most or all of one’s life. Just like there’s nothing wrong with having the privileged of working the same job or living in the town of your birth. Everyone’s story is different and their choices are uniquely special.

    To me, the litmus test is simple: is Jesus being glorified? Is He the focus? Am I being fed AND I am able to feed/serve? If the answer is no to any of those, the church is off focus.

    I’ve feared being a church-hopper at times but I think it’s crucial to visit other congregations from time to time. It’s educational to see how others are doing it. Plus, it’s educational to be the newbie.

    Ultimately, where my family worships, when, and for how long is between us and Christ. Others may have an opinion but that’s nothing I can control nor concern myself with.

    To God be the glory! :)

    • Donna

      Good comment. The church I go to (Anglican/Presbyterian mix) doesn’t meet any of the criteria you list, but is the only church in the area. We are trying to change it from the inside, while keeping ourselves alive by attending a great (non-denominational) Bible-study group, and praying for our church a lot! Any thoughts that might help get some change happening?

  • http://simply-rea.blogspot.com Rea

    Excellent post. I happen to think that it is a good thing to sit down sometimes to lovingly evaluate the body of believers that we are affiliated with to decide if there are any changes that need to be made. Sometimes that means being more vocal, gracefully giving input into something we see that bothers us. Sometimes it means knowing when to move on.

  • http://www.acts17verse28.blogspot.com/ NCSue

    Our Lord called for us to be a unified church. Denigrating other faiths is antithetical to this call. The essential thing is recognizing Jesus as Lord and realizing our own brokenness.

    Just as Scripture tells us we all have different gifts (i.e. teaching, preaching, etc.), so our churches have different gifts. Some people are called to be Methodists, some Catholics, some Episcopalians, and some Lutheran. I’ve belonged to each of these denominations at one point or another in my life, and each answered a need I had at the moment. I followed the spirit’s leading, which we all should do. I respect each of these denominations although I am currently a Catholic.

    Folks like the first commenter forget that throughout the Bible we are told NOT to judge but to leave that job to God. I choose to ignore his barbs, which seem out of synch with the do-not-judge command.

  • http://www.hopefulleigh.blogspot.com HopefulLeigh

    I commend you and your husband for being aware that this church was no longer the right place for you, even though it sounds like it was a great transitional place initially.

    I really resonated with all you said about end times prophecy. I’ve been exposed to some bad teaching and every time anyone brings up Revelation, I want to yell, “but we’re not going to know the time or the place!” My Bible study group is going through a Revelation study now and persuaded me to keep at it so I’m reluctantly going along for the ride on the off chance that it will be studying the book itself and not end times prophecy. I just don’t see the point in all the conjecture. And if I’m just in denial? Well, I’m OK with that.

  • KatR

    I read a quote somewhere that said something like this “The liturgy exists to protect the church from the pastor”.

    Even though I’m no longer going to chuch, the only one that I was able to sit through with minimum anxiety was the Episcopal Church. I’m sure I would have found that experience in the Catholic Church as well. I just know that there is a much smaller chance that I’m going to be (even inadvertently) attacked from the pulpit during a liturgical service.

    Now, I’m very aware that priests can abuse in liturgical churches. But the rock star mentality that seemed to be present with even well meaning evangelical churches just seems minimized with a liturgy, because the the personality of the minister is just not as important.

    • http://phariseefreed.blogspot.com/ Susan

      Hear, hear!

    • http://www.ayoungmomsmusings.blogspot.com Young Mom

      Liturgical services also go a long way in protecting the pastor from the people. As a minister’s wife, I’ve observed no end to the people who have non-constructive, critical and ad hominem attacks against the pastor for mundane reasons (like he didn’t preach their pet-peeve item exactly word for word the way they would have) The more liturgical the service, the more people know what to expect and have less room to attack.

      • http://www.elizabethesther.com elizabeth

        Such a great insight, Young Mom. Once again, I think your point and Kat’s point show the beauty and genius of liturgical worship.

      • KatR

        I never thought about that, but its an EXCELLENT point.

        I think it also protects the pastor from having to fill a role no person can fill. At the Episcopal Church I’ve attended, the lead priest took a sabbatical for a year. One year. Church missed him, but seemed to chug along just fine.

      • http://www.energeticprocession.wordpress.com Perry Robinson

        In the other direction, a liturgy protects the people since the minister has very little room to insert his own ideas. A fixed form of worship protects the people as well.

  • Holly

    I’ve been following your bog for several months with great interest. I really appreciate your open honesty; these things have to be spoken about no matter how uncomfortable it may be. It’s all been shielded in silence for too long.
    I grew up attending more mainline denominational churches, and as a young woman moved away from these because of the problems I saw, and my husband and I attended two different non-denominational churches in the early years of our marriage, hoping that the lack of a denomination would provide a more free environment.
    In both churches we found not freedom, but extreme bondage and legalism, each with a pastor who seemed to have more control than the Pope in Rome ever dreamed of. Both had those tell-tale markings of a cult, to the point that it took over a year after beginning to realize that there were serious problems at each church for us to feel like we could break away. Those who have been involved in a cult-like situation will understand that.
    We attended one more denominational church after that, one that is less recognized, but yet again found all of the same old things. So, after a life time of Protestantism, I have come to the place of realizing that Protestantism is very, very broken, and it continues to splinter and fracture with every passing day. The mental image of the body of Christ scattered into a million pieces is one that I find very disturbing.
    At this point my husband and I are very prayerfully studying and reading about both Catholicism and Orthodoxy. I won’t be going back to a Protestant church. I pray that you will find healing from the things you have experienced, as well as all of the rest of us. You are one among many. Please, keep speaking!

  • http://www.madamerubies.com Heather

    One of my favorite things about our church is the whole-family experience. My kids go to Sunday school, yes, but not until after they go to worship with us.

  • http://apprising.org Ken Silva

    So, the Protestant Reformers were wrong?

    And when the Council of Trent placed its anathema upon the Gospel, i.e. salvation is by God’s grace alone, through faith alone in the finished work of Christ on the Cross alone, they were correct?

    • http://faithandfood.morizot.net/ Scott Morizot

      Yes, the Catholic Church had developed some serious abuses and needed correction by the high medieval period. And yes, the Protestant Reformers were also wrong and largely made things worse, not better. The wars, oppression, persecutions, and cruelties that flames across Europe as a result are just as much a blot on Christianity as the medieval Crusades. Further, a fair amount of Protestant theology actually worsened and intensified the medieval errors of the Roman Catholic Church rather than correcting. And quite a bit more of their theology actually helped create and capitulated to what has become modern secularism.

      Those are not mutually exclusive categories, Ken. One doesn’t have to be right just because the other was wrong. They can both be wrong, and in this case they were. Today, though it’s hardly problem free, I would say the Catholic Church has reformed to the point where it is more “right” than just about anything you’ll find in modern Protestantism.

      (And yes, I know I shouldn’t engage, but I have my weak moments too.)

      • carriejoy

        Scott, I’m interested in learning more about what you’re saying about the Reformers and Protestants. Do you have any basic sources you can point me toward? Thanks!

    • http://brambleberrygrace.blogspot.com/ Katie S.

      I don’t think you are able to see the heart of this through your opinion.

    • http://faithandfood.morizot.net/ Scott Morizot

      And actually, according to the New Testament, the “gospel” is that Jesus is Lord. An euvangelion is a particular sort of “good news.” It’s the good news of a king who has defeated all the enemies and his people now have peace and deliverance from those enemies. He has saved them, again with a particular sort of salvation from the enemies that beset. The extent to which many Protestants redefine a word as well-defined and understood in Scripture as “gospel” does irk me.

      And whether the council of Trent was “correct,” or not I can’t say and largely don’t care, but the Protestant Reformers were certainly wrong when they changed the Holy Scriptures themselves (as well as all the teaching of the Church from the earliest recorded writings) by repeatedly inserting the word “alone” or sola into statements from and about Scripture where it does not exist in the text itself.

    • http://www.acts17verse28.blogspot.com/ NCSue

      Yes.
      The Protestant reformers were wrong in that they threw out the baby with the bath water. They became fractious and divided the one church into more than 20,000 denominations, many of which arose from splitting hairs into the size of neutrons.
      As to the Council of Trent, Catholics believe that we are saved by faith alone, but we also believe that IF we truly have faith, our lives will be changed. We will more and more conform ourselves to the will of God, which will manifest itself in our works. “Works” aren’t required – none of can ever deserve God’s salvation – but they will begin to happen as the result of the actions of the Holy Spirit in and through us.

    • http://www.energeticprocession.wordpress.com Perry Robinson

      Ken,

      If the idea that faith alone is the formal cause of salvation is THE gospel, then not even Augustine believed it and so practically no one till the Reformation knew the gospel. The kind of renders your claim a bit less plausible.

  • http://brambleberrygrace.blogspot.com/ Katie S.

    EE, I found your blog through Molly Piper’s a long while ago. My experience is nothing like yours…no pain to endure, but difficult in its own way. I so appreciate the way I am forced to evaluate and contemplate…God is using your words. Thank you.

  • Gail Brightbill

    We visited A Calvary Chapel church many years ago to hear about the medical mission trip our friend had been on. We never went back because in the bulletin printed very clearly was something to the effect that any child under the 7th grade would not be welcome in the worship service. That grieved us then and it grieves us now. When children get to heaven they will not be shipped off to heaven’s nursery. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me and forbid them not for such is the kingdom of heaven.”

    • Nedra Patton

      AMEN

  • http://apprising.org Ken Silva

    Website Owner’s Note: Ken, I have edited your comment because I do not allow personal attacks on my readers. As always, questions and different viewpoints are welcome, but if you continue to use attacking language, you will be banned from commenting here. EE.

    I outlined the Biblical Gospel, which the RCC anathematized. Care to prove me wrong from Scripture?

    • http://faithandfood.morizot.net/ Scott Morizot

      Yes, I’ve searched through the entire New Testament for every instance where gospel is used and nowhere does it have the meaning you gave it. Everywhere it is used and defined, it carries the meaning I listed.

      Every. Single. Time.

      I’m not even sure what there is to defend or argue. You have a baseless position. There’s no place in scripture where it talks about grace alone and the only place it talks about faith alone is in James. Certainly we are saved by grace through faith in Jesus the Christ. There’s no issue there. The problems arise when you insert the unscriptural word “alone” in a way that it simply isn’t used. You are forcing an interpretive lens on the text that runs contrary to what it actually says. Christian salvation is not some magic trick performed by God. It’s the healing of the human nature. But we can only be healed to the extent we desire healing — to the extent we desire God. We all will experience the fullness of the unveiled, uncreated love of God. Death has been defeated and the common human nature has been joined to God already in Christ. Christ has won salvation for all humanity. He has defeated the powers. The only question which remains for each of us is whether or not we want God. Will we experience the fire of his love as warmth and comfort? Or will we experience it as pain and torment — as the very fires of hell — because we don’t want God? And that’s a question that can only be answered over the course of our entire lives. That’s why every time the New Testament references the final judgment, it’s a judgment that encompasses the totality of our lives — all that we are.

      I’m quite familiar with the image of the God you worship, Ken. It doesn’t look anything like the God I worship.

      With that said, I have little interest in defending Roman Catholicism either. I think they began to go astray more than a millenium ago and though they are in a vastly better place today than they were at the height of the middle ages, I think they still rely too much on an image of the Passion of Christ as somehow satisfying the Father or something that God needed. (I could quibble in other places, but that’s my central objection to modern Catholicism.) Still, I would take them any day over your particular brand of Christianity. It’s not even a contest.

      I have little interest in tossing individual texts around. That’s a pointless endeavour. The Holy Scriptures are the tiles of mosaic that can be put together to form any image a person desires. I find the way you construct the mosaic forms the image of devouring lion rather than an image of Christ.

      My “weak moments” are those, like this, when I react. I aspire to the goal, “Do not react. Do not resent. Keep inner stillness.” Unfortunately, as my comments on this thread illustrate, I’m not sure I’ll ever get there.

  • http://faithandfood.morizot.net/ Scott Morizot

    Ok. I’ll be quiet now Elizabeth. Sometimes I ‘react’ even when I know that’s exactly what I’m doing and that I shouldn’t.

    • http://www.elizabethesther.com elizabeth

      You did a fine job, my friend. Thank you for explaining that better than I ever could. :)

    • http://www.madamerubies.com Heather

      I enjoyed your response and learned something new from the discussion. When people can debate without being mean-spirited, we call all learn.

  • Katy-Anne

    This post is awesome, and it outline many of the reasons that I’m very frustrated with Independent Baptists right now. I’m not sure that I could be Catholic just because there are many things I disagree with there too even though I’m not “against” Catholics. But I’ve been doing a lot of searching in the Bible lately because of my frustration in Independent Baptist churches, a lot of it to do with what you posted…one man show, no kids, end times stuff and for us, too political also, and more worried about their “rights” and keeping their money than loving others.

    Honestly, I think I might be starting to lean Pentecostal more than I like. I don’t know if I will ever be entirely comfortable with that. I would also love to visit a non-denominational church, one where worship is a little more…”vibrant”…than in Independent Baptist churches. I would like to see a mixture of hymns and modern praise and worship music. But of course, IFB’s can’t do that because it’s “worldly” (even though the Bible indicates VIBRANT and LOUD worship). I would like to see…gasp…DANCING in worship because the Bible actually commands that even though it makes me kind of uncomfortable. I don’t want to ignore parts of the Bible that I’m not “comfortable” with.

    I don’t know if this is something you understand, but in wanting to pull away from the IFB movement I am frustrated. Why can’t I just deal with it and be happy? People think that I have an “authority problem” because I don’t automatically go along with everything the pastor thinks is wonderful. I don’t like being misjudged, gossiped about, lied about etc. But it’s part of the deal. If frustrates me that I can’t just be “satisfied” where I’m at. Why do I have to hunger after knowledge that will make people hate me?

    • http://wokcooking.blogspot.com L

      Hi Katy-Anne,
      Just want to encourage you to step out. It will be hard at first; people will think you’ve gone crazy. But it is well-worth the courageous journey–although sometimes it may seem like you are all alone—you are not. Run what people say through the ‘truth’ filter. If what they say doesn’t stand up to what the Book says, then you don’t need to accept it as truth. People are afraid of what they don’t know, and scared to venture away from what they’ve always been taught and examine the heart of what they personally believe. Every person has to go through some kind of ‘rebellion’ to grow up…in life and in faith. It is the way a thinking person behaves. Find a few friends who can encourage you along the way.

  • http://www.amberpeace.com Amber-Lee

    I have found that many (I suppose I cannot say most) Evangelical churches I have visited or been a part of are one man shows on Sunday mornings. My personal opinion on this is the focus of the worship being on the sermon, and not the Eucharist. I say that as an Anglo-Catholic who wants better homiletics :)
    Some of them are also one man shows when it comes to decisions. The deacons and elders are just rubber stamps for the pastor’s approval. I have come to greatly appreciate denominations that use vestry boards or that the minister is under the approval of the elder board. No, it’s not perfect, but I like it better.

  • http://stitchingandneedling.blogspot.com/ Sarah

    The no kids in church thing would bother me no end. While I’m quite happy for my 6yr old to go off to sunday school, because I know he cannot control himself long enough to not cause a disturbance in church, I love knowing that it’s ME who has the problem with letting him stay, not my church. And as for my now 2yr old, the first time I attended services at my current church, the minister came over before service started, and after introducing himself, said “just so you know, we love having kids in here with us, most of us have children and we arent bothered by the noise, but if you feel uncomfortable or think she’s getting too upset, there is a creche room that you’re quite welcome to use, with a tv so you can still follow the service.” She walks around giving people her doll, shouts AH-MEEN!! at the end of prayers, and claps loudly, yelling YAY!!!!!!!!!! at the end of the sermon, and I have never once recieved a comment other than “she’s so cute!”

  • http://vox-nova.com/ Radical Catholic Mom

    The Cult of Personality is so easy to fall into, even for Catholics. It is the main reason priests are moved every few years from their parishes. For Catholics it is about the parish, not the priest, though now it is so common for Catholics to hunt for a priest they like.

  • http://vox-nova.com/ Radical Catholic Mom

    Another thought hit me regarding children in church services. I worked on a military post on Sundays doing child care. During the Catholic service we had a a grand total of zero kids. During the Protestant services we were booked to the maximum. The Prot moms would always comment on why Catholics didn’t use the daycare and I said “Because we take our children to church with us.”
    To be fair, the focus is SO different in a Catholic service than a Prot service. For Catholics it is about The Word and Christ Present/Eucharist. For Prots it is about Praise Music and The Sermon.

  • brooke

    I know your comment section turned into Catholics against Protestants against Don’t Know What I Believes as well as people kind of going against CC … but I just wanted to affirm to you that you didn’t have a bad tone to your post.

    I was cringing when I read that you were going to explain why you left. I thought that would be awful. But then I thought you handled it pretty well and explained that it was a safe place for you and you eventually chose to leave, …. But I think sometimes as Americans we get so caught up in what we “can” or “could” have that we fail to see the good in front of us. One of my old pastors always said, “You’ll never find the perfect church. But if you do, don’t go, because then it won’t be perfect.” I know God guides us and we changed churches once … but we do have to be so careful that we are not searching for perfection. We need to be guided by God and live our life rightly wherever He places us.

  • http://whitewashedfeminist.wordpress.com Jennifer

    Hey Elizabeth! Here’s another IRL friend chiming in :-)

    My husband I both did time in Calvary Chapels while we were growing up. I even attended big Calvary (CCCM) for a while. I agree with everything you’ve said in your post here. I could add more about corruption within the leadership of the church and shady financial dealings, but I won’t. A simple google search will yield plenty of results.

    I would like to say one thing (well, more like a few things). I grew up a happy Protestant. I closed my eyes, held my hands in the air, and sang passionate love songs to Jesus. When I grew up a little, I put my intellectual hat on and fell in love with the Reformed Faith. I studied and I learned and I intellectualized every. thing.

    And I never knew the love of God.

    That is, until I became an Orthodox Christian. I actually have a personal relationship with the Holy Trinity now. I know that God loves me. I found God’s love in Orthodoxy (much as you have found it in Catholicism). Finally, my Christian faith is being lived out in a way that glorifies God. Finally, I am learning to love others and to serve others and to cast aside my own desires.

    And that is what Chuck Smith calls dead orthodoxy. CC claims that Catholics and Orthodox (on the whole) are not Christians. Well, then I don’t know what a Christian looks like. Because if living a life of prayer, a life in service to others, and life of worship and communion with the Holy Trinity, (in other words, the life I see lived out in others from my parish), then I don’t know what a Christian is.

    • Maggie Dee

      Amen! I grew up hearing that Catholics weren’t “real” Christians too. But that is where I found the love of God and service to others as well. The Cathlic faith to me is very much alive and not dead at all, imagine my shock!

    • http://www.energeticprocession.wordpress.com Perry Robinson

      Jennifer,

      Christ in our midst!

      How strange to find someone whose path is similar to my own. I went from being raised Anglican to CC and then to the Reformed tradition and eventgually to Orthodoxy.

  • http://www.halfpinthouse.com Megan

    We left Rocky Mountain Calvary Chapel in Colorado Springs for similar reasons. Here’s my church story: http://www.halfpinthouse.com/2009/03/here-is-the-church-and-here-is-the-steeple.html

  • Emily

    “For Catholics it is about The Word and Christ Present/Eucharist. For Prots it is about Praise Music and The Sermon.”

    I’ve only attended one Catholic service in my life and I was only seven at the time so I don’t remember much. Do Catholic services include a sermon? Do they include worship through music? Or are these things specific to Protestant services?

    Radical Catholic Mom, are you saying praise music and a sermon are bad while The Word and Eucharist are good, or are you just pointing out differences?

    I’m not trying to be snaky here, but am genuinely interested.

    Thanks!

    • http://milehimama.com Milehimama

      Cath0lic worship services include worshipping through music, reading Scripture, greeting each other in peace, and usually a sermon of 20-40 minutes. However, worship centers around the Eucharist. The music, the Scripture, the prayers, all lead to the Eucharist (that is, the sermon isn’t the high point). Most regular Masses are 60 minutes or so. A high mass, which is entirely sung and includes incense, takes 90 minutes or longer though.

      • Emily

        Thanks for the info. This is interesting.

        Within the Protestant churches I’ve attended taking communion is generally looked at as a time to reflect on Jesus’ sacrifice (broken body, shed blood) for us, but I get the feeling based on my admittedly minimal knowledge that in the Catholic church receiving Eucharist is more about receiving Christ in that moment and experiencing his presence. Would this be an accurate statement? If not, would you mind explaining how Eucharist is viewed in the Catholic church?

        Again, thanks for the info!

        • http://milehimama.com Milehimama

          Catholics believe that the Eucharist IS the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Christ (per John ch. 6, or you can find many more Scriptural references here: http://scripturecatholic.com/the_eucharist.html)

          It is the center of our faith and our worship. Catholics don’t believe it is merely a symbol or ceremony to show unity.

          It’s way too much for a simple comment- whole libraries could be filled with what the Eucharist means to Catholics! But I am happy to answer any questions and I’ll see if I can find some articles that explain it better.

          Here’s from the Catechism, the official teaching of the Catholic church:
          http://www.scborromeo.org/ccc/p2s2c1a3.htm

          Which, I admit, can be pretty dry but has good footnotes.

    • http://vox-nova.com/ Radical Catholic Mom

      Emily,
      Great question. The Liturgy is divided into two parts, the first half is The Word which includes and Old Testament reading, a Psalm, a New Testament and then the Gospel. During the first half we use music to glorify God, but it is not the same focus as Praise & Worship is in an Evangelical church. The second half is Eucharist which we believe is Christ: body, blood, soul, divinity. We worship Him. So, though, most Catholic homilies are imo not great, it doesn’t really matter because it is about God in His Word and God Present. There is also music but it is almost there as a background not a main focus.

  • http://conthis.blogspot.com Joe Sewell

    I didn’t “grow up in church.” I’ve attended 3 churches in my life. One was a Disciples of Christ church that was high liturgy, stuck on form, but no answer to the question “so what?” One was Calvary Chapel, Melbourne (FL), a mega-multi-site church that started well, but fell into some of the same traps you describe. Our current one is another Calvary Chapel, Surfside (Indian Harbour Beach, FL), which has a good balance between the issues.

    I’ll want to write more about each of your points soon, but I don’t have time now. Instead, let me chime in on the “no kids” issue. I can understand how that can affect parents, but please understand how it can affect some of us. I have hyper-acute hearing. I’ve heard dog whistles before. A child screaming, or using their high-pitch “eeeeee” voice, is like taking a long, sharp needle, heated to white-hotness, and driving it through one ear, through my skull, and out the other. Actually, any loud volume — including the “worship” music — can leave me with an intense migraine that won’t go away as long as I’m exposed to the volume (and that happened with earplugs rated for 32dB sound reduction!). I can’t be around children. That doesn’t even cover the parents who shirk their responsibilities as parents and let their kids run through the facilities, knocking over & injuring people (I’ve seen it twice, one receiving serious head injuries) without the parents/guardians interceding at all.

    Each of us needs to find the right environment for worship. Some need the high liturgy, while others of us get drawn away from God by it. Some need the “one man at the head” organization, as long as that man is constantly performing Spirit-checks on his own attitudes. I know my spiritual life would shrivel & die in a Catholic church, or Episcopal or Methodist or Southern Baptist, even though I know of individual congregations and leaders in all of those denominations who are completely “sold out” to Christ. I’m not bashing members of those denominations! I’m just saying it’s not for me.

    If that doesn’t put me into the same pile as Ken Silva, I’d like to go into further detail when I have adequate time.

    • Katy-Anne

      But…it’s not the children’s fault that you can’t tolerate them. You are one person, they are many. YOU as the adult and the one person with a problem is the one that needs to adjust. Kids belong in worship and if you can’t handle that, YOU need to find another option.

      • http://conthis.blogspot.com Joe Sewell

        Hmmm… this somehow got dropped on the floor. Sorry for the length of time in responding.

        Indeed, what I described is my problem. But I’m not alone. As for adjusting, as soon as somebody can tell me how, I’ll give it a try. What I described is a physical condition, not something I can decide to “cope with.” Well, there is one way to cope with it: by avoiding situations with unruly kids. (By the way, the “one vs. many” idea doesn’t justify anything; if it did, any & all sin could be justified, since there are more sinners than non-sinners.)

    • KatR

      Thanks for your perspective, Joe. I’m sorry you have such a problem with headaches. I get the occasional migraine, I can’t imagine what that must be like to deal with on a more frequent basis.

  • http://1peter34.wordpress.com Erin P

    Well done, Elizabeth!

    I left the RCC last year because there was a non-denom church that is the largest in our community, and I have a lot of friends that attend there. I was swept away by the awesomely warm welcome I received. The music was contemporary and VERY well done. I could show up in my jeans and not feel weird. I started the membership classes and got to the part where they go through the church’s “vision”. Week after week I noticed that it was truly a one man show. I never witnessed any ill will towards Catholicism, or other denominations, but it truly was his deal. He was head of the missions, he was producing a movie (national). One day he said “No church is perfect. If it is, you’re in the wrong place”. That made me reflect. The RCC wasn’t perfect- that’s why I left. This non-denominational church was seeming too perfect… even the interior was designer… and I asked myself why I was attending there… and why I left the RCC. And which one won out?

    I’ve been back attending mass since then.

  • Maggie Dee

    Ironically, the New Testament scripture at Mass yesterday was about the one man show. I’m too lazy to get up and look, but it’s the one where Paul talks about, you say you are with Appollo, you say you are with Cephas, etc. And Paul is saying no, we are all with Christ. He is the head. We are all of him.

    I think that is the danger of a one-man show. If you are surrounded by people telling you how great you are all the time, you begin to believe the hype. Eventually, the church does become about you. And every vain imagination is a word from the Lord.

  • Margaret

    Elizabeth, I love how you addressed your issues and did so with *grace* and not condemnation. That was beautiful.

    We left a church a few years back with some issues that were similar or were headed in the direction of being similar. I have nothing but love for the people there, and the pastor, and years worth of wonderful memories. It was a good place to be, when I was there. But it reached a point that we knew we needed to leave before we *needed* to leave. So we left on good terms and I’m glad we did.

  • http://milehimama.com Milehimama

    Fully admit to not having read through all the comments yet. Yes, I’m *that* commenter.

    But I really agreed with this article. I am Catholic, but my husband is not. I guess my church must be the opposite of elite because my priest advised me to go to Mass and then go to church with my husband at his church – a Calvary Chapel (not in CA, in another state). That particular church was headed by a man with a popular local “ask the Bibleman” radio show. And it was definitely “G’s Church”.

    One of the things that bothered me so much was the kid thing. I have difficulty worshipping where children – even little nurslings- are not welcome. Nursing moms were asked to step into the nursing room – dimly lit, small room with 2 rocking chairs in the back. It was alienating (and husbands were NOT encouraged to join their wives) So on Sunday each kid would be in their classroom gluing macaroni or whatever, husband would be in the main sanctuary, I’d be by myself in the little room. HATED it.

    (also they had a starbucks in the narthex, which I just hated for no real reason. It just seemed so “money changer in the temple” to me- the after church socializing taking place over $4 lattes. I have nothing against Starbucks.

    • Katy-Anne

      You know, I have never understood why it is the pastors decision whether your children get to go to church or not. That’s a family decision and for the pastor to make it is out of his bounds. Our church does it too, but it’s not right.

  • Smoochagator

    “a non-denominational denomination”

    THANK YOU. I know nothing about CCCM, but I’m rather annoyed when non-denominational denominations turn their noses up at mainline denominations. *grrr*

    I am glad that you found a church that was helpful to you as a triage center, and that you were able to leave peacefully when your time there was done. As you said, those two gifts on their own are invaluable.

  • KR

    Thank you for your candid honesty, while be completely respectful and not attempting to bash the church. I think your observations are really something each pastor should consider, thank you again for sharing this.

  • http://thehomespunlife.com Sisterlisa

    Quite a comment section, Elizabeth. I have been seeing a serious division between CC’s and other churches lately. It is a sad thing that they seem to be so filled with fear of the ‘end times’ (as they view it)..where is their faith?

    For me.. I’ll never ‘join’ a church ever again. I believe in the church as Christ sees it.. He is the Head and Ultimate Authority.. I believe the church is world wide.. the word ‘catholic’ as a lowercase ‘c’ is universal..that is what I believe… as the hierarchy “Catholic” church with the upper case ‘C’.. to each his own.. if you find grace there.. I am very happy for you.. it’s just not my cup of tea. But I happen to love you because of who YOU are..not which church you go to.. just as some have a hard time reading the bible after leaving a cult..some just can’t ever go back to embracing the structured church. I love to read and study the Bible… but church just isn’t my thing anymore. I occasionally visit churches, but I will never allow any one ‘church’ to ‘rule’ over my life ever again.

  • http://www.calvarychapelabuse.com Alex Grenier

    Interesting article and insights. As a step-son PK of Calvary Chapel Pastor Bob Grenier…and having grown up in Calvary Chapel (my mom and real dad were both “saved” on the beaches of SoCal during the Jesus Movement in Chuck Smith’s tent)…and having lived at the Shiloh Commune in Dexter, Oregon…only later to be Abused by my step-dad Calvary Chapel Pastor for many many years (as well as my brothers and mother)…I can say there is a very BIG problem with the “one man show” Moses Model form of “ministry” that Chuck Smith propagates. Many aren’t so lucky to figure out there’s something not quite right, as you have. Many are hurt spiritually…and sometimes worse, physically, sexually and emotionally…by Calvary Chapel Pastors. Then, when the issues are confronted the Calvary Chapel Stone Wall goes up and the Pastors cover-over and protect their own. I’ve personally reached out to Chuck Smith, Brian Brodersen, Dave Rolph, Raul Ries (Board member of at my step-dad’s CC), David Rosales (Board member at my step-dad’s CC) and Gary Ruff (Board member at my step-dad’s CC)…all Calvary Chapel Pastors…for help. Nothing. Just “go your way and don’t touch God’s anointed”. I also reported the many abuses to Roger Wing and CCOF…nothing. Click on my name, there’s a link to my website CalvaryChapelAbuse.com. There are many many sad stories…past and present. Many hurt people. Still no accountability, no venue for Victims and/or Whistle-blowers to address grievances, no proper Checks and Balances…and a lot of Pride from the Leadership at CC and ignoring and often times covering-over known abuses…which condones abuse, IMO.

    • Diane Cole

      Alex, did you actually sit down and talk to Chuck Smith? Or just attempt to contact him?

      If you did sit down, what exactly did he tell you?

      I’m so sorry for your pain and hurt.

  • ( |o )====:::

    Very kind.
    Very honest.
    Very gracious.
    Very forthright.
    …and very much needed to be said.

    Thank you, Elizabeth.

  • ( |o )====:::

    Sad that this has swerved into a Catholic bash.
    This needs to remain about CCCM and Elizabeth’s article.
    ( |o )====:::

  • http://calvarychapel.pbworks.com/ Doug Gilliland

    Great post. Been there, done that. Calvary Chapel, as a denomination does have serious issues, many of which you have outlined here. As to the comparisons between CCCM and CC there are parallels and differences. Yes, Chuck Smith operates, in many ways, like the Pope of Calvary Chapel. But the difference is that if you have an issue with your local priest, there are avenues in the RCC that let you deal with the issues. At the very least you can appeal to the Bishop, who is the priest’s “boss”. At Calvary Chapel there’s no recourse when problems happen. They call this the “Moses Principle” where the pastor exercises the authority of Moses in the Old Testament (and the authority of Aaron the High Priest for that matter).

    This exodus from CCCM has happened in waves over the years. When Chuck Smith’s predictions that Jesus would return in 1981 failed, there was an exodus. When David Hocking was taken in after being excommunicated from another local church there was an exodus. But let’s face it, there’s a revolving door there and someone else will come in to fill that spot on the pew.

    The real question of succession remains. What will happen when the standard bearer is no longer around? If everything is judged by one man and that one man dies (as all men do) will the church survive it? There may be a replacement in mind for CCCM, but there’s no replacement in mind for the head of CC itself. There can’t be one since to be a CC is to be in alignment with Chuck Smith.

    There’s the big difference. As great a Pope as JP2 was, the church lived on after he shuffled off this mortal coil.

  • Lutheran

    Elizabeth, Thanks for a clear and focused article on your experience with Calvary Chapel.

    I’ve heard other conservative Christians say, “Well, all these types of churches are like that.” But I think that’s a half truth.

    Each church has a “culture” to it that promote some traits and discourage others (for example: asking questions when you’re not sure about something, never feeling like you’re ‘good enough,’ performance-based acceptance). I’ve found a book called “Tired of Trying to Measure Up” by Jeff Vanvonderen to be very helpful in identifying church cultures that are grace based and those that are based on judgment and shame.

  • Elaine

    I spent some time in a few churches as a child that were like this, but not CC churches. One finally kicked my parents out for disagreeing with the pastor.

    We moved to a Conservative Baptist church – great place. When we interviewed with the pastor and told him what we were looking for in a church, he suggested about five other churches of different denominations in town that may also be a fit for us. We stayed there, and enjoyed the fact that our church frequently worked with other churches on events and projects. The pastor was a very humble man with a good set of elders to keep him accountable and he often shared the preaching with older men in the congregation who also had much to say.

    When we moved again, we joined a Sovereign Grace church. Again we like the church. I miss the music and more lively worship that was in our CB church, but it is a good church, too. We were looking specifically for a church where our kids would be encouraged to join, like in our CB church. We found that many churches scheduled Sunday School during the service, so kids were away from their parents. This church had Sunday school first for the adults and children, and then whole families sit in service together. We’ve had a few interruptions of screaming babies – if it is really bad, the pastor will pause and smile as the child is carried out.

    Another thing that is special is that the pastor will talk to the kids in the service to help get and keep their attention. If he is talking about a gift, he may ask, “Kids, what was your favorite last birthday gift?” and wait for two or three answers before he moves on. Or, “Who knows the story of two women who came to Solomon with a question? Do you know what they asked?” and he will let a kid tell the story briefly.

    The funniest thing was once when he bungled an illustration badly and was trying to recover, a little kid said in his loud whisper, “Mom, I don’t know what he is talking about!” The whole church laughed, and the pastor said, “That is probably what everyone, including me, is thinking right now!”

    Quite a change from a church we went to for a brief time where I was told that my child was a tool of the devil to distract people – we was a nursing baby who needed to be with me!

  • http://www.emahlou.blogspot.com Elizabeth Mahlou

    Your description of the crying baby brought to mind a Mass I attended in LA with Fr. Tony (of Fr. Tony fame). There were easily a couple thousand people there. A baby started crying, and the mother got up to leave. Fr. Tony caught the motion somehow, stopped his homily, and said, “Don’t you leave with that baby. You may walk the baby in the aisle, but please do not take the baby away from here. Jesus did not send children away from his mountaintop talks and neither will I send a child out of my Mass.” Quite a different attitude, huh? Our little mission church is stuffed with children. We have catechism classes, but during Mass, children are where most people here think they belong: with their families. Sometimes it gets a bit noisy, but the priest has a mike. We can all hear.

  • http://priestxmanuk.blogspot.com/ John Leal

    I am a pastor in England. I followed a man who served this parish for 30 years and left a deep mark on this church which is still living in the 19th century! Making any kind of change here has been almost impossible if not impossible. The cult of personality that St Paul warned the Corinthian Christians about is alive and well. The more things change the more they stay the same. Very good and timely article.

    Blessings,
    John+

  • Tammy

    Wow, I thought I was the only former Calvary Chapel person to ever become Roman Catholic. I was raised in a non-Christian home and was saved as a teen into Evangelicalism. I married a Catholic and tried to “save” him, but the more I prayed for him to become evangelical , the more Catholic I became.

    For anyone out there who has grown up hearing endless arguments against Catholicism, please know that there are specific Biblical reasons behind every single teaching…nothing is imposed from above without clear open teaching. I fully believe that anything that is true will withstand scrutiny…we welcome questions and scrutiny. Just be prepared to be surprised by what you discover !

    As I read about CC churches, it strikes me so odd that Evangelicals condemn Catholics for having a leader (the Pope) then they establish little popes all over the place.

    I love the faith more all the time and I have been given wonderful opportunities to serve Jesus in my job as a nurse, as a Hospital Chaplaincy student and in my vocation running a hospice for the dying unborn.

    People like me who have experienced both Evangelicalism and Catholicism can be a bridge to our Christian brethren…Im glad to have had this experience.

  • Mike Christenson

    Elizabeth, you say at the beginning of this blog that you are not criticizing Chuck Smith or Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, yet what is the bleeting of sheep and the lowing of cattle I hear from you throughout this blog?

    As a born again believer of over 35 years I find a basic truth in Jesus Christ. He died so we could become new creations that no longer live according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. He came to replace the hard self-centered heart Satan cultivated in us with a heart of love from God. In Romans 13:8-10 we read (NKJV) 8 Owe no one anything except to love one another, for he who loves another has fulfilled the law. 9 For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not bear false witness,” “You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, are all summed up in this saying, namely, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no harm to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. Jesus further defines love for us in 1 Corinthians 13:1-7 (NKJV) 1 Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become sounding brass or a clanging cymbal. 2 And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 And though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor, and though I give my body to be burned, but have not love, it profits me nothing. 4 Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; 5 does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; 6 does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; 7 bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

    In His infinite wisdom God has provided believers with a variety of churches and Spirit filled overseers, each ministering to the unique needs of a particular group of believers, yet we are all part of one body – the body of Jesus Christ. Praise God! If a particular pastor and church doesn’t fit, we can try another, and another, and another, until we find one that does. If we fail to find a church we like, is it possible that God is trying to direct us to a church that needs something we have to offer to strengthen it, and is calling us to minister rather than be ministered to? Rather than finding fault, would we not be best served by thanking God for these wonderful pastors, priests, and churches, and imploring God to lead, direct, strengthen, anoint, and bless them?

    I have had the pleasure of knowing Chuck Smith for over 35 years. I know he is a Spirit filled loving pastor who seeks nothing more or less than to fulfill the commission God has given him. I can’t begin to imagine what a horrendous task that is, given the size of the flock God has put under him. There are things about Chuck and Calvary Chapel that I don’t like, but they pale in the face of the great things of God that are going on there.

    Elizabeth, can you honestly say in your heart of hearts that this blog expresses the love of Jesus Christ to Chuck Smith and Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, and encourages unity and the love of Jesus Christ in the body of Christ?

    Numbers 6:24-26

  • http://theoldadam.wordpress.com Steve Martin

    When I was at Calvary Chapel, I fely as though I was never quite there (as a Christian).

    They were always holding out more for you to do or to be or to feel…before you could ever think that you really were a “true Christian”.

    In this way, I found them more Roman than the Roman Catholics.

    I did find a lovely grace based church not too far from there in the Newport Beach area. Here, because of Christ and His work FOR ME…I have arrived.

    Thanks, very much.

    • Diane Cole

      Steve, never for a minute did I ever get that sense from the Calvary Chapel fellowship, and I was there for 22 years (I’m sorry–I mis-spoke in my post below). I always received encouragement and support from my dear, dear friends at Calvary. No one that I knew were prideful or lorded over anyone. I’m sure that some of that must be there–man is fallable–but that’s something that Pastor Chuck was very sensitive to and would have addressed.

  • BC

    The “Moses Principle” of Calvary Chapel sets up pastors to fall into the sin of pride as they ” lord it over the people”. I was in the CC system for 15 years..I won’t go into ALL the details of what I say but your article hits on many but not all of the problems within CC. The “Moses principle” is not fair and condusive to good spiritual growth for the pastor himself. It sets up in his mind that HE is just a little higher up the receiving and hearing from God then his sheeple. Sure they will tell you if you feel God is putting something on your heart ( such as a ministry etc.) to pray about it and see what the Lord tells. But then you have to take it to the pastor and HE will pray about it and if God tells him no, then its no.
    The whole CC system was built on pride from the beginning. Chuck Smith “created” Calvary Chapel because he was tired of having to answer to a board and others. So he wanted to do things his way-so he made his own church where he did not have to answer to anyone, about anything. Of course he will tell you he has to answer to God. But this structure sets up sinful men (which we all are) to pride. Especially young pastors. And Calvary Chapel does have a habit of “raising up” young pastors..often in their early 20′s. Place a young guy like that in a situation where he is the boss answerable to no one except ” elders” he appoints-who are his buddies and you have a recipe for troubles.

    • Diane Cole

      BC, I was a part of CCCM for 30 years. I knew many of the pastor’s and never saw the “pride” that you speak of. I was a part of a ministry and, even though I am a woman, the pastor that was leading the ministry did not “micro-manage” what was going on. Truly, the Holy Spirit was leading it, the pastor could see it and we just let the Holy Spirit lead us.

      I do hope that it hasn’t changed much over the years. Actually, it’s a marvelous thing to see that a ministry started from 25 people about 45 years ago has grown into perhaps 10,000+ fellowships all over the world, and that the pastors and members have stayed so close to the simple message of God’s Word.

      God help any of Calvary Chapel pastors that have or are in the process of falling into self-promotion and teaching false doctrine(s). I’m sure that that is a possibility in any church group or denomination.

      God is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all we ask or think… let’s not forget that. Hallelujah!

  • Lee

    Thanks for all the comments and information. I often wondered if I was all alone in seeking for a church that taught the Word of God. I considered a Calvary Chapel in my city but, after reading all of this, I think I will continue my search….what’s another year of looking. Forgive your church, dear Lord !!
    Lee

  • Diane Cole

    Elizabeth, I appreciate the gracious spirit in which you explained your reasons for leaving CCCM. Thank you for that.

    Alex Grenier, your accusations are extremely serious and detailed and do not belong in this blog. You should have gone to legal authorities if what you say is true. But you are accusing pastors and others of crimes in a forum in which they cannot respond and/or defend themselves. Just as so many men and women have gone to the authorities and gone to court to report and try sexual abuses by Catholic Priests–that’s where your accusations belong as well.

    I attended CCCM for about 30 years. I was very involved in several church ministries and attended tens of 1,000′s of hours of Bible Studies led by a number of pastors–besides as much study of the Bible on my own. I moved from the area some time ago, so I am not familiar with the present week-to-week goings on, but from what you say, Pastor Chuck continues to focus his heart and soul on loving God and Jesus, worshipping God and faithfully teaching God’s Word.

    No man could have created what has happened through the ministry of CCCM. It is a work of God. Yes, Pastor Chuck watches over the flock that God has given him. Yes, he checks out the pastors who want to start a Calvary Chapel. But that is why the Calvary Chapels out there (and there are 1,000′s of them all over the world) have stayed true to the Gospel of Christ and the plain truth of God’s Word. And if they don’t, they cannot be called a “Calvary Chapel”.

    Pastor Chuck exudes so much joy. He loves God so much that it inspires and uplifts his flock (the one that God has drawn to him) to love and worship and serve God. God’s people do need a leader. And Pastor Chuck has been extremely faithful through the years. Not perfect, but faithful and striving to be all that God wants him to be.

    Pastor Chuck has never intentionally chosen someone to take his place. It is disconcerting to some, but Pastor Chuck wants God to raise that man up. If CCCM loses members, as far as Pastor Chuck is concerned–so be it. God is in control and God alone will continue to nurture and keep His Church going. Pastor Chuck knows that that’s not his job–it’s God’s.

    Anyway, the reason that CCCM is still going strong is that Pastor Chuck keeps a light hand on things. He wants God to be in charge. He wants the Holy Spirit to be the one who is working in his flock’s hearts. He wants the spiritual growth in his flock to be the work of the Holy Spirit.

    For Pastor Chuck, feeding the sheep is his primary calling. When you have a church of 200, there is probably (on any given Sunday) only a few younger children. But when you have 2,000+ people who’ve come to worship and hear God’s Word, talking children, crying children, children running up and down the aisles would be bedlam and no one could worship or be focused on the Word.

    Paul told the “women to remain silent”. What Pastor Chuck seeks to accomplish is “order” in God’s house. If a family came in with several children and they all started talking amongst themselves, it’s extremely distracting to everyone around them. I love children, but in such a huge gathering of people, it’s just better that small children don’t distract people’s hearts and minds away from worshipping and learning about God.

    Calvary has wonderful Sunday School classes for all ages where kids can learn about God and just be themselves. Pastor Chuck loves children, but he doesn’t want children to have to sit silently for 1.5 hours fidgeting and upset because they can’t get up and run around. He has made sure that kids have a wonderful place to go where they can have fun and see “church” as a place to go and be free and learn about God.

    Pastor Chuck has always said that if he ever thought that he overshadowed God or the Holy Spirit, he would leave in a heart beat. While I attended Calvary Chapel, I marvelled at the work that God had done in Pastor Chuck, but I always knew (partly because Pastor Chuck always reminded us) that what was happening was God at work among men–it had nothing to do with Pastor Chuck or anyone. Praise God for that.

    Each of us feels confortable in different kinds of situations. It’s OK to feel that a Calvary Chapel just isn’t a good fit for you or your family. Pastor Chuck is the first to tell you that he would want you to go find a place where you feel a oneness with the fellowship and feel “at home”. Calvary Chapel’s aren’t a one-size-fits-all kind of church fellowships. For me, fellowship with other Christians is very important–but being fed God’s Word and worshipping Him come first. And that’s what I loved about CCCM.

    May God continue to use Pastor Chuck to feed His sheep and lead His people into worship and a passion for God and His Word–worshipping Him and coming into a deeply personal, living relationship with God, the Father and Jesus, His Son. And may that loving relationship with God just oooze from their pores to touch the lives of everyone they come into contact with–spreading the Love of God to the ends of the earth. Selah..

  • Suzette

    I think it best for anyone considering a Calvary Chapel should read “Calvary Distinctives” by Chuck Smith first. It’s a short read and you can see what he believes from his own mouth. If you compare his thoughts to scripture you may have some reservations about the movement. I think this is a good article describing your reasons for leaving, but as a Christian I would have like more scriptural reasons for your choice. I don’t have a problem discussing other denominations in church as long as God’s Word is the final authority and the discussion is for clarity. As for all the questions about what Catholics believe, you can also buy the Catholic Catechism and you will get official church beliefs. I’m a big proponent of ” hearing from the horses mouth” so to speak! I’m a reformed baptist and I don’t appreciate gossip when it comes to my church so I can appreciate a Calvary Chapel member not wanting to be misunderstood.

    Thanks for your thoughts!

    • Diane Cole

      Suzette, would you please quote the part of the book that you question.

      I went through the Bible under Pastor Chuck’s teaching from Genesis to the Revelation 4 times (rarely missing a study), studied many books in depth–for 2 years a book–including John, Genesis, Daniel, Mark, Acts, Romans, Ephesians, I, II, III John, and many more. I’ve spend thousands of hours studying the Bible and reading hundreds of books related to the Bible and Christian living and when balancing the whole of scripture against what Pastor Chuck taught found very little to disagree about. Pastor Chuck’s approach is comparing Scripture with and against Scripture to determine or ascertain God’s intentional meaning. If he ever “speculated” and/or gave his personal “opinion” or understanding, he always pointed that out. Certainly, the basic premises of Bible truths, basic church doctrine and personal Christian walk and living–he was as close to Biblical teachings as anyone could be. He told us often to read the scriptures for ourselves and not to just be spoon fed.

      No church fellowship is perfect. No pastoral teaching is perfect, but Pastor Chuck has no agenda of his own. His calling is to bring Glory to God and to feed God’s sheep. And that he has done faithfully and without gile for about 60 years.

      Please quote the part of the book you read that you question. I was present and listened to 1,000′s of hours of very in depth Bible studies, I found nothing in all that time that contradicted the basic premises of God’s Word–and I did study God’s Word for myself–1,000′s of hours myself.

  • http://conthis.blogspot.com Joe Sewell

    Okay, I did say I would address each point, at least from my own perspective, and I slacked off. Since I’ve never been west of San Antonio, TX (and that only due to a conference there almost a decade ago), I cannot comment on CCCM directly. What I cando, though, is look at my experiences with the two Calvary Chapels I have attended: Calvary Chapel, Melbourne, FL (CCM), a multi-site megachurch with senior pastor Mark Balmer, and associate & site pastors Dave Folkerts, Dean Corns, Norm Holm, Eric Ward, Matt Helmintoller, and Beau Difrenna (and perhaps others that may have been added since we left in 2008); and Calvary Chapel Surfside (CCS), Indian Harbor Beach, FL, a smaller congregation with sole pastor John Forsythe. For completeness I may also refer to my only other church experience, First Christian Church (Disciples of Christ) of Melbourne, FL (FCCM), as an example of a more “high church” and “congregationally-run” idea, though my experiences with them ended 11 years ago.

    Oh, I’ll use CC herein to refer to Calvary Chapel, not the Catholic Church; for them, I’ll spell it out, though I intend to make my comments about them to a minimum, as too much has already been said in the comments.

    Until shortly before we left CCM, we saw the opposite of the “this is [the pastor's] church” there. Mark and the other pastors made a point to discourage such attitudes, although that occurred more often when Mark was away on vacation or at a conference and one of the associates filled in, and attendance dropped. I want to think that this really was not a reflection of the idea that attendance was all that mattered, though now I truly cannot defend that position. That attitude has decreased with the additional video campuses and Mark’s more frequent trips to Singapore, India, and various other parts of the world. Again, I want to think that the expansion is what may have “corrupted” the ideal, but I’m not confident there.

    John, on the other hand, is a truly humble man. He takes advice from his former pastor at Calvary Chapel, Houston (TX). Right now he’s a “one man show,” but only because we’re not big enough for a second pastor, and God simply has not raised one up. John saw some of the trials with the megachurch concept at CCM (he was on staff there for 2 years prior to starting CCS, as he wanted to partner with CCM first if they were willing). John doesn’t want a large congregation, as it would interfere with what he feels God has called him to do: reach the beach area with the Word. (FYI, the church is within walking distance of the Atlantic Ocean.) He has gone on vacation and to conferences, and the substitute speakers have been great. The only “formal” church “board meeting” is shown in a picture of 4 of the main “leaders” of the church, plus the son of one of them, with their surfboards behind them, ready to hit the waves. :)

    FCCM, constrained both by the denomination and by the church board (not the surfing kind), rarely has anyone other than an ordained minister speaking there. Once, at the “less formal” early service (which no longer exists), I was allowed to speak when the pastor was out of town and the substitute was only prepared for the “real” service later that morning. In their case the church was never the pastor’s, to a fault. If a pastor had an idea on how to reach out to the community, the church board and/or long-time congregation members would make the old boy suffer. FCCM’s first associate pastor, fresh out of seminary, almost bailed on the “ministry” entirely due to the lack of clear leadership.

    My personal opinion is that the Calvary Chapel model is one that is closer to being Scriptural than FCCM’s. There is no good example in the Bible of a “democratic” group of believers. Sheep aren’t democratic; they need a solid leader. It’s the leader’s responsibility to make sure he doesn’t go astray himself (or leadership … themselves, in a more “presbyterian” method), and the CC method of having a balance between pastors and elders is the best I’ve seen to date. I agree that having elders picked by the senior pastor isn’t necessarily the best way to go, but I’m uncertain where else to get them. It really comes down to the serious responsibility a pastor/teacher/shepherd/leader has, a responsibility that is shirked way too often in all groups.
    I addressed the kids-in-service thing back in January, but allow me to offer up some other thoughts. Some people get distracted more easily than others, and the idea presented by Calvary Chapel Distinctives is to minimize distraction in favor of teaching. Consider it similar in concept to college. Few colleges allow kids to run rampant in class, because it distracts the students. The CC model focuses on teaching in a fashion very similar to that found in school.

    I’ll leave this topic with one thought: if parents would stop shirking their own responsibility of teaching their children to avoid inappropriate behaviors, CC’s wouldn’t need the “no kids” rule.

    Oh, FYI, CCS had all but toddlers in regular service from the beginning. Older kids go off after worship on their own to be taught at their level, and, sometimes, so they won’t hear some of the more “adult” themes that arise on occasion. My wife started the children’s ministry there, so I find knocking children’s ministry a bit offensive.
    I refuse to get drawn into the Catholic vs. Protestant vs. Reformed argument that has already taken more comment space here than it needs (that excludes the informative conversations, including the one Catholic father whom Elisabeth called in). Allow me to put it this way: religion never saved a soul! Too many Catholics and Protestants think that just “belonging to the church” is all that’s necessary for entrance into Heaven. From both CCM and CCS pulpits, the only anti-Catholic mentions I’ve heard are mentions against some of the less Biblical teachings they offer, including the idea of praying to saints, Papal inerrancy, and other teachings that take away roles from Jesus and place them on individuals in the church hierarchy. (Yes, that’s the pot calling the kettle black in some instances, but that doesn’t change the darkness of either.) I’ve also heard CC pastors call out Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons, and other organizations that deny basic teachings about Christ. CCM has numerous former and current Catholics who attend CCM as well. They see no real issue, as they see the practices, not the church/denomination/organization, being spoken against. Sometimes rebuke is necessary.
    I have never seen the idea that the Holy Spirit works only through CC’s in either one I’ve attended. Pastor Mark Balmer of CCM, in fact, repeats that there are many churches in our area who teach the Bible faithfully. Pastor John Forsythe hasn’t felt the need to address this as strongly, due to a different congregational dynamic, but he has no problem with other churches whatsoever. CCS, in fact, works with other local churches and parachurch organizations. As I’ve never been to Costa Mesa, I cannot speak on that congregation, but I can say that the idea of the Holy Spirit residing only within a CC is not systemic.
    When we started at CCM, they were halfway through going through the book of Revelation. CCS is in the same mode right now. CCM has addressed the topic on occasion beyond studies in the prophetic books, mainly because of congregational interest and an attempt to balance out the stories heard too frequently in the news. CC’s do have a particular way of looking at end-times prophecies, and that’s one case where a CC pastor needs to “fall in line” out of consistency and/or unity. Even then, though, some flexibility is OK, and a person isn’t going to be run out of the church if he doesn’t subscribe to a pre-Tribulation mostly-Dispensational point of view.

    One of the CC Distinctives is that they go through the entire Bible, avoiding no part of it that may be considered “uncomfortable.” Because of that each one has to deal with end-times prophecies at some point, unless that particular congregation doesn’t last very long.

    Since both local CC’s have gone through Revelation and/or Daniel during my time there, I probably cannot speak credibly beyond this.

    Like you, Elisabeth, my wife and I found great healing in Calvary Chapels, healing from bad teaching and spiritual abuse that we happened to find in more denominational environments. My wife was raised Pentecostal Holiness, and I was raised unchurched and un-Christian; as I said in an earlier comment and earlier here, my first “church” experience was in a church that wanted to be nothing more than a feel-good social club. CCM caused some additional hurt, but God has been working through John and CCS to heal that as well. I don’t condemn you, or anyone else, for leaving CCCM, nor do I condemn you for becoming a Catholic. Different people come at God from a different angle. If a church is a hospital for the spiritually sick, each of us needs different specialists for our healing.

    • http://conthis.blogspot.com Joe Sewell

      Nuts. I had the points numbered based on your original numbering, but I guess your blog software doesn’t support that aspect of HTML. Hopefully I was clear enough so that it won’t matter. Sorry about that, and sorry I misspelled your name, Elizabeth.

  • Michael M

    As an American-Asian, I felt very uncomfortable at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, to be completely truthful. Despite the fact that I’m very easy-going and fun to be around, I would always get the cold shoulder whenever I volunteered for anything.
    I finally realized one day (after being at Calvary Chapel for 5 years) that it wasn’t me.
    I then went to New Song church in Irvine (mostly curved-eyed people like myself) and had a blast. I joined fellowship groups, met tons of friends (who are lifetime friends) and became a much stronger, more mature Believer.
    One day over lunch with my good friend (a Caucasian pastor), I told him my experience with Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa and I got a very illuminating insight:

    1) Calvary Chapel is a ‘listener’s church. People are taught to listen and go. It’s that simple. You’ve listened – now leave. And maybe have a little prayer afterwards. Then leave. Now.

    2) Calvary Chapel does not really promote fellowship groups. It’s almost an afterthought (this is why after 5 years, I made 0 friends here. And it’s not just me. I spoke to a woman who went there for 25 years and had 0 friends too!)

    3) Calvary Chapel is taught by mainly white men (when is the last time you ever heard of a black Calvary Chapel pastor? Or even a curved-eyed pastor?)

    4) Calvary Chapel to way too political (their dogmatic stance on the Iraq War for instance – where did Jesus Christ say we are to engage in war? He could easily have told the Jews to revolt against Rome)

    5) Calvary Chapel’s unwavering support of Israel (it’s a circular argument as Elizabeth so deftly pointed out: They teach Israel will follow the anti-Christ and yet we are suppose to support poor Israel because everyone wants to destroy them? Do you see the illogic in this? Israel cannot be destroyed because their future is already pre-destined.

    Anyway, wonderful article Elizabeth – I hope this added to the discussion.

  • Dori

    The reason children are discouraged from attending “big church” at MANY CHURCHES is because Sunday School is offered to them in which they are taught biblically for their age of understanding and attention span. I would be crushed to know that a crying baby or a restless kid kept a church attender from hearing the gospel and maybe that “important” point that they needed to hear for where they are in their life. I believe Satan uses distractions to his advantage… hence… most churches tell you to turn off your cell phone, finish your food and drink outside of the sanctuary, take care of bathroom needs before service, etc. so we can FOCUS on the Lord (not a pastor) during praise, worship and teaching.

  • Whiteaswool

    I have to agree with all your points, especially the last. Back in the 70s, I was young, and younger in the faith and all thsi prophecy stuff was new, and i thought it WAS new. But now im old, and realize that this stuff is thousands of years older than I. I no longer believe in a rapture, & end-times tribulation. Once i moved away from OC, i was struck with the thought that no one else outside of OC held to a rapture viewpoint. ya gotta dig hard to find it outside of so Cal! I’ll always consider it my home church, but I need the meat of the word, not the milk any longer.

  • Ocmary

    Sounds like you’re trying to fit the Church (any Church for that matter) into your box – - if you have a dissatifaction with a church because it doesn’t fit your box, you made the right choice to leave. You will never find a perfect Church because there isn’t one. Or find the perfect leader because only CHRIST is perfect.  I can see the human side  but not the Christian side of your comments.  Because of where I lived I have had the opportunity to attended Harvest Riverside, CCSB, and now CCCM and I love it because Calvary Chapel teaches from the Bible every week straight thru and for many that is the only time they open their Bible. I don’t go to Church for socializing. It’s only one hour out of 168 hours a week that most of us are in Church supposedly studying and worshiping. I wouldn’t focus on  gossip or second hand information about what take place behind the scenes in the Church because I’m not there to hear/see it first hand.   As far as references to Pastor Chuck – he is a very responsible, dedicated MAN who has only one objective and that is to preach the WORD, and has done a tremendous job over his life time. He is well esteemed and respected by many Christian leaders in the world. Anyone who has studied the Bible will know and recognize that many of the End Time signs are starting to happen. The pastors are only bring this to our attention as a warning sign as most Christians arewalking the fence and deceiving themselves into complacency. It is the Church’s duty to warn us we are only fooling ourselves. It’s not a fairy tale  – it’s a reminder of what will happen during the Tribulation if we are not truly ready.  There is more to being a Christian than just attending Church , knowing everyone in the congregation and quoting scripture – – complacency can be deceiving – - -  you probably should dig deeper for a real understanding of Christianity.

  • Hiandy39

    Well said!  Your comments about the end-time gospel they preach is right on. I heard pastor chuck say in 1984 that he personally saw a computer in Belgium called the “beast” that was all set to help usher in the one world government.  Chuck, Hal Lindsay, LaHay and others have made a fortune with these lunatic rantings of “the end of the world”.  My dad said it best 30 years ago when I told him about the signs of the times and the end is coming – you know – earthquakes, bad economy, the EEC, one world government, etc… he said to me, ” you know Andy, I’ve heard that talk my whole life”.  Well guess what – now I can say the same thing because nothing changes.  There is nothing happening today that wasn’t happening 30 years ago and there is nothing happening 30 years ago that wasn’t happening 200 years ago.  It is however a great way to scare the crap out of people and make a lot of money.

  • Chantal

    Another way of seeing the role of the pope is as a guarder of the teachings of the past.  So the Pope can’t suddenly change something moral or theological whenever he wishes.   He guards, lives and teaches what has been learned in the years before. All are asked to live by its teachings,  The church is bigger than him.  The infallibility teaching is that there is a special grace given to him that protects against teaching in error for matters of faith and morals.  Reading your post EE makes me realize the necessity for such a guard. 

  • gethefax

    Dear Diane, Have you read these exerpts from Chuck Smith. Future Survival: 1978-published by Word for Today, pages 7,17,20,21,22,49,53,and 67? Also Snatched Away, p23,45 1976 and 1980 edition. Also End Times p.35. These books have references to the rapture of the church that Chuck Smith prophesied Jesus Christ would return and in one statement he said he would be surprised if He didnt return. I dont believe thats in scripture at all. Also, Chuck Smith buddies around with Hal Lindsey, who has been excommunicated from his home church for permiscuous affairs with women…and Chuck blamed Hal Lindsey for his mistakes…public knowledge. Anyone can read scripture verse by verse and get it right. But when one deviates and adds to or takes away from the Holy Spirit inspired word of God, then we got a problem. 

  • gethefax

    That might be so that theres no perfect church. But Jesus Christ said He will come to redeem His Church. Not Chuck Smiths Church, its the  Bride of Jesus Christ…without blemish. However, the Apostel Paul clearly admonishes the Church to rebuke those that would bring another doctrine. Though Calvary Churchs read straight from the bible, pastors (men) can also add or take away from the Holy Spirit inspired Word of God…and thats a no no… Such as Chuck Smith did in his books, Future Survival, Snatched Away, and End Times, he false prophesied the second coming of Christ Jesus. The Apostle Paul wroe to the Thessalonica Church and told them not to worry or be concerned about that…for we know he will come like a thief in the night…so what makes Chuck Smith think he can elaborate and reason and predict HIS coming??? Thats a no no. Has any of the elders in the Calvary Chapel admonished him for this…and other statements outside of biblical doctrine he might have made since??? The elders of the Church are responsible for the Church as well. God never intended the Church to be a one man show…thats why its called the Body of Christ….

  • gethefax

    Obviously Mike you have never researched Chuck Smiths past and his hangout buddy Hal Lindsey who was recently excommunicated from his own church for sexual escapades with other women..lets see how many women has he been with and married too..eeeemmm..you need to check it out Mike before you pat these guys on the back…Futhermore Chuck Smith false prophesied the second advent of Christ Jesus several times in his books…Future Survival 1978, Snatched Away 1976-1980, and Endtimes 1978. Many new converts to the Church dont know of his past and who he buddy’s with. He blamed all that on Hal Lindsey but still hangs out with him…eemmmm??? Furthermore, in the Book of Timothy the prespretary are not to lay hands suddenly on a new believer for pastorialship , deacons or pastors…for good reason…Now tell me this Mike, do you know who laid hands on Chuck Smith or Hal Lindsey??? Do your research. This isnt only happening in Calvary Churchs. Its happpening all over the world in all the churchs…and all within the body of Christ…Also the Apostle Paul encouraged the Thessalonica Church not to be alarmed because there were those (CHUCK SMITHS) teaching that Christ Jesus will return today, tomorrow or next wee or month or this year…False Teachers have been false prophecying for centuries…its nothing new…and the Apostle Paul admonished and encouraged them not to be alarmed, because He will come in the twinkling of an eye…like a thief in the night…and no man knows the hour or day…Most important, pray that the God the Holy Spirit will give Christians in the Body of Christ discernment in these matter, He has set them into the Body of Christ exactly for these purposes as well as to edify the body. Jesus Christ said thats who He shall send, and He must go away first to send Him…pray for wisdom and discernment…

  • Thrckb

    Hi
    I found your blog to be rather interesting. By all the comments I can tell its a touchy subject. I grew up CC and I didn’t know what a CC was until many years later. I was a member of a Independent Fundamental Church and they preached that churches like CC were of the devil.
    When I finally found a CC (Hawaii) I went they because I liked the teaching. As best as I know, every CC started as a bible study and in slowly grew as God would provide.
    I agree that the ‘nondenominational have become its on denomination. But thats with ALL of them, not just CC.
    I have had my ups and down with the style of leadership Calvary has. At one time I was put out of my church because I dared to disagree with something the pastor did. But I also seen how God healed and brought me back. Ok i said all that to only make a point that I am not a blind follower of CC. But I see something there that made me stay – the Holy Spirit.
    The CC distinctives of ministry speak for themselves and it not so much a right or wrong but a ‘that’s how we do it”. Everyone are free to disagree and many have. In fact if you know any of the history of CC you’ll know that they was a church break back in the beginning that started the Vineyard Movement. So I see God can use any and every thing he choices. And I am sure that many a ministries might have started that very say way. CC taught me one thing that will go with me the rest of my life. Follow God not man. Go where you believe God wants you to go. If a person don’t like a particular church or style they can leave as you did.  But I don’t believe that God would lead us to think that NO church is good enough. I thank God for CC and pastor Chuck and I respect he as I would the apostle Paul if I were alive in his day. He is God’s man for the hour and God uses those who are willing.
    I hope you find a place we you can be healed and maybe start ministering to others like yourself.

  • Agnes

    IMO, all this goes to show is that different people respond differently to different ways of expressing / learning about faith.  It doesn’t mean one denom is better than another, just that each of you found a part of the Body that fits you.  Really illustrates the diversity of the church and the people in it, huh?  Not only that, but that each part of the Body has value!  I’m very sure that considering the paths each of you has taken, someone else could very easily have taken the opposite route and found the same result.  God works in each of our hearts in ways that suit our unique personalities, I believe.

  • Harry

    Joe,
    Try earphones that you can hear with but that limit the hi pitched and/or any loud sound.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000572514878 Shanna Wright

    Coming in very late…but I don’t believe that Satan uses children as evil distractions. I was so blessed to nurse my little ones in church. My husband was the pastor and he encouraged children in worship because he could “always speak louder if he had to.” Of course, I grew up Lutheran and I am still Lutheran…..having kids in church is totally normal. There are some Lutheran churches that offer kids church, but I’ve never been to one.

    Praying as you & your family continue on the path of healing….

  • Kimberley

    Ya know, churches are like ice cream. You don’t have to eat just vanilla. You are free to go to any church you like. But when you begin to criticize and divide and tear down in this manner, quite frankly you are literally tearing at the body of Christ. My grandmother used to say, “if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
    We should build up one another in love and pray for the short comings we see in others.

    Blessings,

    Kimberley