COSTA MESA, CA Pastor Chuck Smith, 86, senior pastor of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, California, died early Thursday, October 3, after a long battle with lung cancer.
Smith first went public with his diagnosis on New Year's Day 2012 in an announcement during worship services at his mega church. Long considered the father of the Jesus People Revolution in Southern California, Smith said he had never smoked. The cancer was discovered during routine blood testing.
He had been undergoing treatments for cancer off and on since then and continued to maintain a full schedule of preaching both from the pulpit at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa and on a radio talk show heard nationwide. In July the doctors upgraded his condition to Stage 4.
Smith began pastoring at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa in 1965. The church grew to more than 9,500 in attendance making Outreach's mega church listing. But his legacy is far more sweeping. Bucking the 20th-century practice of building bigger to hold the flock, Smith stayed true to his outside-the-box thinking and opted to plant more churches. Each of these congregations, now numbering more than 1,500 nationwide, is affiliated with Calvary Chapel, but the local congregations are autonomous.
"Papa Chuck," as he was affectionately called, became well-known in the late '60s and early '70s when hippies started flocking to his church and a tent was erected nearby which became packed with hippies.
The resulting "Jesus People Revival" transformed worship music and birthed the rise of the Calvary Chapel movement. Smith also reasoned that believers would bring their own lives in line with the Scriptures without guilt-ridden, grace-squelched browbeating from the pulpit. So he began teaching Romans from the pulpit, verse by verse.
Many of those early hippie converts went on to pastor some of America's largest churches, including Greg Laurie and Mike MacIntosh.
Smith, authored a series of books on Christian living, apologetics, prophecy and prayer including "Why Grace Changes Everything," "How Can a Man Be Born Again?," "What The World Is Coming To," "The Gospel According to Grace," "The Final Act" and "Standing Up in a Fallen World."
" Rarely does a man come along that impacts a generation, but Chuck Smith was that man," Greg Laurie wrote on his Facebook page.
"Chuck is now in Heaven, and he will certainly hear the Lord say, "Well done, good and faithful servant. . . Now enter the joy of the Lord! (Matt.25:23)," Laurie continued.Smith passed away in Southern California where he had lived with his wife, Kay, for most of his life.
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