This past Thursday, October 3, Pastor Chuck Smith went home to the Lord. His passing left tens of thousands of Christians around the world stunned as we reflected on the sheer breadth and depth of his ministry. If ever there was a man in modern times who poured himself out daily before the Lord it was Pastor Chuck.
Among the many Godly qualities and Christian virtues that were part of his daily life, the one that stands out to me is faithfulness. Pastor Chuck learned early in his service to the Lord that God is ever faithful. Assured of The Lord’s faithfulness, Chuck must have purposed in his heart that to his utmost he would in turn be faithful to his calling and obedient to the leading of the Holy Spirit, in full confidence that all of the promises of God are true.
I know this not because I was a close associate of Pastor Chuck (I wasn’t) but because like so many others, I was a beneficiary of his faithfulness. I am a “third generation” Calvary Pastor. I was baptized by one of Chuck’s original students, Bil Galatin. My Christian growth accelerated to a point where I could even imagine serving God full time under the teaching of Sandy Adams, another man who was guided and shaped by Chuck’s ministry. Chuck’s example of building up young men in the Word of God and then sending them out to build churches (and repeat the process) has built a legacy of almost 2000 churches world-wide that emphasize a systematic teaching through the whole council of God, a ministry philosophy that is becoming alarmingly rare in our day. It was this process that made my church, Calvary Chapel of Chapel Hill, possible.
Pastor Chuck took seriously the direction that the Apostle Paul spoke of to Timothy in 2 Timothy 2:2: “And the things that you have heard from me among many witnesses, commit these to faithful men who will be able to teach others also.” Both Paul and Pastor Chuck knew that the present vitality and future growth of the true church depends on the pastors of today preparing faithful young men to whom the teaching of the Word may be entrusted to feed the future generations of the church. This faithful and humble approach stands in stark contrast to the trend of our day. Today, many pastors who have been blessed by God to build large churches in their community choose to expand the reach of their ministry, not by sending out other faithful men as Chuck did, but by placing “video sanctuaries” in the nearby town. Instead of multiplying the ministry through others, technology is used to multiply themselves. I fear that this approach is eroding the institution of the local church, where the sheep are taught by the same man who hears their troubles, rejoices in their successes and provides Godly council to them everyday, not just on Sunday. I fear also that the future ranks of faithful teachers of the Word will be stunted for lack of opportunity. This was not Chuck’s way, because it was not God’s intention for His church.
Pastor Chuck’s passing has spawned many prayers in my heart in these last few days. I pray for Chuck’s family, for his flock in Costa Mesa and for the many, many churches around the world who grieve at the interruption of fellowship with one of the greatest Christians of the 20th century. I also pray for the greater church, which seems determined to retreat from the integrity, simplicity and humility of Biblical ministry that Pastor Chuck Smith taught us.