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Calvary Chapel Distinctives: The Call to Ministry

by randy on June 15th, 2010

This is my summary and response to the “The Call to Ministry” chapter in Chuck Smith’s book, “Calvary Chapel Distinctives.”


This chapter highlights Chuck Smith’s view of what it means to be “called to ministry” and how to know whether such calling applies to you. Smith builds his thesis on the premise that the call to ministry is not a matter of profession, but of calling. Therefore, the minister must know whether or not he is indeed called. He follows that if one is indeed called, the desire to preach the gospel and serve the flock of God will so well up inside of you that you will view the act of ministering as a matter of “necessity” or obligation, not as a mere option. He follows that even in difficult times when you may be tempted to give up ministry, the vision for serving the Lord will continue burning in your heart. “So,” he says, “it takes a sense of calling (pg. 4).”

Smith goes on to describe what true Christian ministry looks like. The word “minister” means servant and true Christian ministry is a life of serving others. He emphasizes the difficulty it may entail financially, the thankless nature and the temptation to grow bitter. We must remember that we are ultimately serving the Lord.

Lastly, Smith also states that those called to ministry must also be committed to God’s word, believe the Bible to be inspired and always be studying it; as he says, “the learning process is never ending (pg. 8).”


As I read this chapter I really did agree with much of what he said. However, I was left wondering why he never used the pastoral epistles which were written to deal with this very topic. There are objective, scriptural, qualifications for an elder. Why doesn’t Chuck cite them? Scripture also  indicates the Church’s role in nurturing, identifying, examining, laying hands on and sending out the future minister. Why does Chuck choose the individualistic approach instead? Smith mentions none of these things and over-emphasizes a, subjective, internal call. In building his case he quotes several verses out of context: “the bible tells us to make our calling and election sure” and “no man taketh this honour unto himself, but he that is called of God (pg. 3)…”

Later, Chuck Smith privies us to an alarming conversation in which he had with “God” during a period of internal strife. Smith indicates that God had a real conversation with him in which he told Chuck Smith to, “quit your griping” and just serve (pg. 7). It becomes apparent that the internal calling that Smith seems to advocate is more than a passionate desire for sharing the gospel. God communicates extra-Biblical directives to Chuck Smith. The internal call and mystical nature of God speaking becomes Smith’s standard for discerning the will and call of God. We will see that his view manifests sour fruit throughout his life and ministry.

You may think I am being harsh, drawing inaccurate conclusions or being too critical in my assessment of this chapter. However, it has become clear throughout the history of Calvary Chapel that Chuck Smith has no concern for the Biblical qualifications of elders or pastors. In 2007 Christianity Today published an article concerning the moral decay of Calvary Chapel. We find therein a statement from Chuck Smith concerning the reinstatement of several pastors who have committed sexual sin. Smith says he practices restoration and that pastors who have been restored to ministry after sexual sin have gone on to run successful ministries (Rob Moll, Christianity Today, “Day of Reckoning“). Christianity Today documents several situations where this has been the case as well as other alarming words from Chuck Smith.

Smith’s failure to use scripture to formulate his understanding of “calling” has resulted in quite the catastrophe for Calvary Chapel. No surprise considering the chapter seems to encourage the lone-ranger, individualistic, be led by the “spirit,” self evaluation mentality. We’ll see in later chapters that this mentality coupled with a pseudo-episcopal (bishop) form of church government (pg. 26) actually results in a pope more powerful than Rome. One who stands apart from and cannot be contained by scripture OR history.

  1. Mike M. permalink

    Great stuff Randy! I completely agree. Most would not have caught the non-use of the Pastoral Letters. Keep doing what you’re doing.

  2. Scott F. permalink

    “We’ll see in later chapters … a pseudo-episcopal (bishop) form of church government”. I just heard him recently (w/in the past couple of months) on “Pastor’s Perspective” radio show reaffirm the “Moses model” of church government that he favors. I didn’t hear the caller’s question or his whole response but he did say quite plainly that while the NT model for church leadership “does seem to be” (his words) a plurality of elders he simply dismisses that in favor of the “buck-stops-with-the-pastor” style that he personally prefers and has used for the CC model.

    While the NT has some specifics for church gov’t/organization, I personally don’t see a clear mandate for 1 specific implementation (Congregational, Presby, Episcopal, etc.) of those specifics. So I’m OK with different forms of church gov we see today. But to disregard the aspects that are clear in the NT b/c he simply prefers the OT “model” is a different story.

  3. Ed T. permalink

    The internal call needs the confirmation of the church’s external call.

  4. Raymond V. permalink

    As an former Calvary Pastor, all I can say is that part of my ordaining process was the meting the qualifications from 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1. Each Calvary being autonomous, at KF, we always operated on a plurality of elders basis when it came to making decisions, as we still do. Please pray for me/us, that we would always sek to confirm what God has ordained and be faithful to His will…thank you. All glory and honor to Jesus

  5. randy permalink

    Ray! Yes, some CCs were better than others; but the fact that you are not CC anymore is telling that it isn’t true for all. I do know that in Costa Mesa, when someone wants to be a missionary they typically go out and do their own thing (prior to being ordained) and if it works- that is their confirmation. Later they receive the approval of the church in ordination if the work they started has enough people to sustain itself.

    In places where ecclesiology is taken more seriously, typically the minister is examined, ordained and sent out prior to beginning a work. Because the church is involved, it also opens up the opportunity for support and aid in the difficult beginning stages. The success of the work is not left up to an individual. The church as a whole shares the burden.

    Granted, not all CC’s are the same. But these are Chuck’s views and ideas. He fleshes them out in later chapters.

  6. randy permalink

    FYI… I didn’t mean to make it out to be a matter of pragmatism. While the individualistic mode of ecclesiology does have practical problems, it can also end up working as well. We should never take it “working” as God’s stamp of approval however.

    I would probably disagree with some of the others in these comments concerning the clarity of church government. I don’t think we could proof text it, but I do think the model is laid out for us in scripture with much clarity.

  7. Raymond V. permalink

    I simply wanted to point out that from my experience and type of church government, not one size fit all and we had the freedom to operate as such.
    Will you be doing reviews of other deominations and their processes, pro’s and con’s as well? Blessing to you and Crystal

  8. randy permalink

    Ray. I think of all modern evangelical churches, Calvary Chapel is probably one of the best choices. There are varying degrees of exceptions. There are terrible CCs and there are excellent ones. Crystal insists that KF was one of the more excellent ones and I agree.

    I think a lot of folks leave Calvary Chapel bitter towards CC, never to set foot inside again. They don’t realize what makes it wrong. So they go to another church that has the same modern assumptions about scripture, church, life, worldview, etc..

    But it’s the fundamental presuppositions modern evangelicalism brings to scripture that are unbiblical. The purpose of these posts and my blog is point out those invisible foundations and ideas.

    I don’t want people to just agree with me that Calvary Chapel is wrong. I want people to see WHY it is wrong so that they don’t jump to another CC in spirit but not in name. People are recognizing the problems with CC all over.

    The problem isn’t CC though. It’s an unscriptural approach to church, Christianity, life, the history of redemption (and where the church fits in), etc..

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