Calvary Chapel pastors are different.
Calvary Chapel pastors are the same.
And both statements are true. To prove my point just look at how we’re all reacting to the coronavirus…
On Sunday, March 15th our Calvary Chapel did online services. We decided to cooperate with the CDC and our governor to address what we considered a public health crisis.
That same Sunday a well-respected pastor in another part of the country told his Calvary Chapel they weren’t going to succumb to fear. His Calvary Chapel was open for worship! The implication was that those who went online had succumbed.
The week after, I saw where another Calvary Chapel pastor (again, one I highly respect) posted to the internet that the coronavirus was a leftist plot to take down our President.
A day later I was speaking to a fourth Calvary Chapel pastor who referred to the coronavirus as an apocalyptic plague – a judgment from God and a sure sign of the end times.
It might have been an hour later when I read an insightful article posted by another Calvary Chapel pastor that insisted the coronavirus was God’s way of removing our idols of sports and entertainment, and reminding the church that He is all that matters.
And still another pastor I know suggested that his Calvary Chapel’s forced online services might be creating in His people a deeper gratitude for their more normal worship times that they’ve long been taking for granted.
It was amazing, I wasn’t listening to different news channels, or to blogging pastors from different denominations. I was tuned to Calvary Chapel pastors only, and the result was six very different explanations for the same crisis.
Calvary Chapel is a group of pastors who hold to a set of distinctives. We consider them non-negotiable. I like this about us. I know where you stand and you know where I stand. And people who leave my Calvary Chapel and come to yours are not shocked by surprises. We agree on verse by verse teaching, the baptism of the Holy Spirit, a balanced theology, servant leadership, an emphasis on God’s grace, and the pre-Trib rapture of the Church. These are principles that color us all with one brush. But on other subjects, like the coronavirus, we think differently and often radically so.
Calvary Chapel is not a monolithic movement. We share a set of commonalities, but we enjoy great freedom to think according to our own conscience and convictions. Sometimes we agree. Sometimes not so much. But I for one, appreciate the fact that we are free to be different. I’m sure you’ve heard the old saying, “Find two people who always hold the same opinion, and you know that one of them is not thinking.”
As a Calvary Chapel pastor I expect my fellow pastors to be committed to the distinctives that have always characterized us as a movement. But just as importantly, I also expect you to think for yourself. Protestants have always held high the priesthood of the believer. You don’t lead me, and I don’t lead you. Jesus is our great High Priest, and it’s His desire to lead both you and me by His Holy Spirit. And what tests our belief in that doctrine is when our thoughts differ, and divergent opinions form. Do we respect or reject each other? A Scripture verse comes to mind, “Judge not, that you be not judged.”
The coronavirus has upset our world and retooled our ministry the last few weeks. But it’s also got me thinking… six different explanations of the same crisis; and yet as I thought it through I saw some truth in each perspective. It reminded me that I’m happy to be part of a family of pastors made up of very diverse and colorful characters who think alike on vital points, but who see other things very differently. There’s another old saying, “Find two people who think alike on everything, and one of them is unnecessary.”
And there’s one more reason why this observation is so important. In the Bible the anointing of God’s Spirit isn’t restricted to the orthodox. God once spoke through a soothsayer named Balaam. Neither does the Holy Spirit limit His power to only the pure. Samson is the poster boy for a compromised vessel who was used mightily by God. But it seems to me that what the Spirit of God most often anoints is authenticity and sincerity. He chooses men with conviction, not who parrot the party line.
This is why I admire men who face a crisis, drop to their knees, and seek the will of God for their church, and then do what they’ve been told. This is the type of man people want to lead them, not a person who checks his inbox or calls human headquarters for instructions.
Pastor, here’s my encouragement for you in light of the coronavirus (as well as any other crisis). We may be moving into uncharted waters that none of us have ever navigated. Seek God for what He wants you and your church to be about in this time. Be wise, but climb your prayer mountain and don’t come down without a word from Him. Then when you get it, do it!