Core Values: Male Leadership

by cca

A core value I pray all Calvary Chapel pastors maintain is the principle of male leadership in the church and in the home. Yet I can hear someone say, “Oh, don’t be a stick in the mud. Can’t you see times are changing, what’s so wrong with a woman having a place of authority in the church?” Pastors today, and over the next few years – even Calvary Chapel pastors – are going to feel the pressure to compromise in this area.

Again, I can hear the complaints, “Even Augusta National Gold Club has admitted two female members. If a staid, venerable institution like Augusta National can adapt to the times, so can Calvary Chapel!” Well, such an accommodation may fly at the Masters, but it’s not par for the course in the Church. Our Master laid down a pattern. From the beginning of time, in the home and in the church, the Creator ordained for men to lead and women to follow.

When God created mankind, He did so male and female. The man and the woman were equal in value and status. They both were made in God’s image, and have a place of service in the Church! Women can occupy many different roles in the Body of Christ. However, “equal” does not mean “same.” God made us with distinction. He gave diverse roles to men and women.

Realize, masculinity and femininity are not just the outcome of our society’s nurturing, and educating, and the conditioning of the sexes. Male and female are the result of creation. Gender matters to God! Not only do the Biblical roles for male and female nurture and order society, they speak vital truths about God’s very nature.

From the first page of the Bible to the last, God reveals Himself in the masculine gender. He is never once called “God the Mother” or “God the Daughter.” He is always “God the Father” and “God the Son.” His people – Old Testament Israel, and the New Testament Church – are spoken of as feminine, but the Godhead is invariably portrayed as masculine. Throughout the Bible, God consistently uses gender to display His relationship with His people. Israel was God’s wife. The Church is the bride of Christ. This is why any violation of gender roles – any confusion between male and female – doesn’t just effect the individual and families involved, it mars the picture that God is painting of salvation. Marriage is a sacred snapshot. And God is serious about His wedding photos!

One of the most exciting spectacles in college football is performed by the Ohio State Buckeye Band. It’s called “Script Ohio.” It’s been a tradition since 1936. Before a packed stadium of 105,000 Buckeye fans the marching band spells the word “Ohio” on the field. The climax comes when one of the sousaphone players dots the “I”. He struts to a tuft of grass marked out by the drum major, then bows to the crowd. And if you’re watching this from the sidelines – from ground level – the band’s movements look chaotic and confusing. It’s only when you’re high in the bleachers, or in the blimp, that you see what is being spelled out on the field. And this is true with gender. We are actors in a divine drama. God has a role for women to play, and a role for men to play. By each gender’s faithfulness we spell out heavy, eternal, spiritual truths. But these roles can only be understood and appreciated from God’s vantage point. You have got to get above human logic.

Christians need to realize God has a purpose for the sexes that is embodied in the roles He has assigned to men and women, and far more than 105,000 fans are looking on. In discussing these matters with the Corinthians, Paul says we are providing lessons to the angels. The heavenly host sits in the bleachers, and watches the symbolism our relationships express on the field. When a husband loves his wife, or a man stands up to lead His church, he illustrates Christ’s care for His own. When a wife follows her husband’s leadership, or a sister in the church falls in line behind the pastor and elders, she teaches the world our attitude toward Christ. But when men don’t lead, or women refuse to let them by picking up the mantle of leadership themselves, it distorts and dilutes the Gospel message. How can we possibly think this no big deal to the Lord who saved us? God teaches big truths through gender!

And don’t let anyone tell you that the New Testament passages on male and female were meant only for ancient cultures. That’s patently false. Whenever the New Testament explains gender roles, it takes its readers back to Genesis. In 1 Timothy 2:12 when Paul writes, “I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man…” he immediately references the parents of us all, Adam and Eve. Male leadership is a creation principle, not a cultural accommodation. Gender transcends culture. Here is the issue, are we truly Bible-driven, or do we just use the Bible at our own convenience, and to support our own agenda?

Several years ago Chuck Smith was asked a question about this subject on his call-in radio show, “Pastor’s Perspective.” Pastor Chuck’s response was simple: “All we have to stand upon is the Word of God… Either it’s God’s Word or it’s not God’s Word… It’s either our guide or it’s not our guide… I don’t have to agree with it, I just need to follow it.” It really is quite simple, do we trust God’s wisdom or man’s wisdom? The opinions of men are fleeting and fickle, but God’s Word is timeless. Hopefully, we will remain committed to God’s way, regardless of how politically incorrect it might become.

In the days ahead, I am sure our biblical convictions regarding gender will be questioned, and criticized, and tested. The more mired down the Church gets in this world, the less it sees life from heaven’s perspective. I hope and pray that we, as Calvary Chapel pastors, will hold fast to God’s Word, and may our tenacity be evident in our approach to gender roles in the home and in the church.

Core Values: God’s Word

by cca

      One of Calvary Chapel’s core values is our approach to teaching God’s Word. But my concern may not be what you think. Whether or not a pastor tackles his teaching verse by verse, chapter after chapter, book upon book is up to him. There are Calvary Chapel pastors who do it different ways at different times. Some pastors take big portions of Scripture, while others tackle smaller slices. Some read a text and organize their thoughts, while others apply their thoughts as they read the verses. Over the years I’ve done it differently myself.

      I believe when it comes to Spirit-filled and Spirit-anointed Bible teaching, the last thing we want to do is to force a pastor into a man-made straight-jacket. Spirit-led and straight-jacket would seem to be at odds. Here’s what I think is the crucial issue: In the pastor’s heart, does he respect the Bible for what it truly is, and what it is able to do? If a pastor holds a high view of Scripture, he will handle the Bible properly.

      All pastors of all churches should believe that the Bible is inspired, inerrant, and infallible in the original writings. I agree with the Jewish rabbis who expressed their lofty confidence in Scripture. “When Messiah comes, He will not only interpret the passages for us, He’ll interpret the very words. He’ll even interpret the letters. In fact, He will even interpret the spaces between the letters!” These rabbis believed that the Bible was God-breathed down to the very spaces between the letters. Like Jesus, they trusted every jot and every tittle.

      And if you believe this about your Bible, you will realize that ALL the Bible – the whole enchilada – is important. Leviticus is as inspired as Luke, Ruth as God-given as Romans. Some folks have a “dalmatian” approach to Scripture. They pay attention to a spot here, and a spot there, and become the arbiter of what is important. I’ve heard some short-sighted pastors say that all Scripture is equally inspired, but not equally instructive… Says who? Paul tells Timothy in 2 Timothy 3:16, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” Notice, all Scripture is inspired and profitable. Calvary Chapel pastors believe that God’s people need the whole of God’s Word, not just part and parcel. And this has profound implications on a pastor and his teaching. This is why a pastor spends eight weeks in Leviticus, talking about menstrual bleeding, and what happens if a fungus gets into the walls of a house. Trust me, he would like to stay in the Gospel of John, or in Philippians (the joy-filled letter). That would be much easier! But if he believes “all Scripture” is both inspired and instructive, he will find a way to tackle it all. God speaks lessons to us that we need to know, not only in the breath-taking narratives of Mark, but also in the gnarly judgments of Isaiah and Ezekiel.

      Yes, Old Testament Israel was an ancient, agrarian, eastern culture. We live in a modern, urban, western culture. It certainly takes a little effort to see how laws that related to a neighbor’s donkey impact us today. But it’s doable! In fact, as Paul says to Timothy, it’s “profitable!” In Acts 20, on the beach at Miletus, Paul breathed a sigh of relief when he said to the elders of Ephesus, “I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God.” Paul believed it was his job to preach it all!

      And if we truly believe all Scripture to be inspired and profitable, we will let the Bible speak for itself, and trust it to set the agenda in our churches. Who is the pastor to pick and choose what his people need to hear? That’s God’s job. When does the patient prescribe his own medicine? We should teach the Bible in a consistent, systematic fashion that honors the text itself, and its divinely inspired structure; then trust God’s Spirit to apply God’s Word in miraculous and surprising ways. Doesn’t it make more sense to move through the Word of God as it was written, rather than just skipping a rock across its pages, and diving in where it drops? That’s too random. A divine Book deserves a more refined approach – one that honors the actual text.

      Pastors, even Calvary Chapel pastors, can develop a Pandora-like approach to Scripture. Have you ever listened to music on Pandora? Type in an artist or song you like, and an algorithm creates a playlist of similar sounding music. As each song plays, Pandora allows you to “thumbs up” or “thumbs down” the song. This helps the algorithm further tailor your music to your “likes” and “dislikes.” And this is how some pastors treat the Bible. They read of God’s love, and click “like.” But the Bible’s stance on sexuality… oops, that’s a “thumbs down.” The parable of the prodigal son, a “like.” The slaughter of the Canaanites… oooh, a “thumbs down.” Hope for the hurting, a “like.” Sobriety and holiness, that’s another “thumbs down.” And as with a Pandora playlist, this shapes the pastor’s teaching. Rather than deal with “the whole counsel of God” he gravitates toward his own personal tastes. And the result is a church that’s a mile wide, and an inch deep, or a church that reflects the same carnalities as its pastor. No wonder Christians today are so anemic.

      It may contradict the latest church growth strategy, and it may not accommodate modern man’s puny attention span, but I don’t think you will hear the Master say, “Well done, good and faithful servant,” if you don’t turn off Pandora, and let the Bible speak for itself. Rather than use the Bible to foster my agenda – or as a launching pad for some feel-good thoughts – I want to teach the Bible, as is! I believe its truths are both timeless and timely. Pastors today often use the Bible to address what they think are people’s felt-needs, but that’s short-sighted. I believe we need the Bible to tell us what it is we really need in the first place. The Bible should set the agenda, and define the issues that matter to us.

      Each week when I teach the Bible I let a lion out of its cage. And the Bible has proven its power over and over and over again. I have gotten into a text, at the time wondering how this is relevant to anyone, only to have a person explain to me afterwards the wonderful way God spoke to them. The Bible is a mighty sword in the hand of God! Pastor, trust it’s edge! It can renew a mind, transform a character, create a new outlook, break old habits, produce sensitivities, spawn self-discipline, and grow faith!

      Psalm 119:9 asks the question, “How can a young man cleanse his way?” In other words, what can tame a young man’s lusts and corral his selfish passions? There are a thousand shortcuts… pray for him, cast out the demon, slay him in the Spirit, get him into an accountability group, hype him up with Christian music… But the Psalmist answers his own query, “How can a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed to the Word of God.” The Bible is our only real help and hope.

      There is a reason dumbing down his approach to the Bible might become a temptation to a Calvary Chapel pastor – over time he can lose confidence. His church hasn’t grown at the rate he thought it would, so he trades Scripture for “cute and clever.” Pastors start doing feel-good, self-massaging sermons that seem less offensive – more palatable to modern tastes. To me, there is no more pathetic picture than a pastor who has lost trust in the Bible’s sufficiency. He is like a cop with no badge, or a sniper with no ammo. The pastor who no longer trusts in the potency of Scripture is like a sheared Samson wrapped in Philistine twine, unable to shake loose. The secret of his strength now eludes him. He has become prey to the enemy. Pastors, we believe in the Bible’s authority, now let’s also trust in its power. Keep teaching it with all your heart. Be a man who is mighty in the Scriptures!

Core Values: Dependence on the Holy Spirit

by cca

      A core value of Calvary Chapel pastors is our dependence on the power of the Holy Spirit. We can teach the Bible verse by verse, be accurate in our doctrine, snuff out heresies, cultivate a missions ministry, create a slick presentation on Sundays, have a children’s ministry that rivals Disneyland, hire U2 as our worship team, and even get Bill Gates to tithe! We can follow a manual, work a plan, and build a precision machine, and in the end it will all prove to be “wood, hay, and stubble” – chaff, not spiritual fruit! The Christian Church was never meant to be a highly-efficient organization, but a living, breathing organism. We are lungs for the breath of Jesus. We are hands for the heart of Jesus. We are a body for the mind of Jesus. The Lord is active today, through His Church, but His presence and power are conveyed by His Holy Spirit.

      Never forget, Christianity is experiential. To know God and His fullness is the Christian’s birthright. This is the privilege of God’s grace! It is the joy of our soul. Psalm 34:8 baits us, even dares us, “O taste and see that the Lord is good.” We can savor the Savior!

      Christianity is rational, but it is also relational.

      It is Scriptural, but it is also spiritual.

      It is historical, but it is also mystical.

      It is meaningful, but it is also miraculous.

      For twenty years the great British preacher, Martin Lloyd-Jones, excelled at expositional Bible teaching. Many of us still read and enjoy his commentaries. Lloyd-Jones labored to instill right doctrine in the church, but toward the end of his ministry he realized that his teaching had only produced a dead orthodoxy. The preacher began to emphasize experiential faith. He talked about revival and the baptism of the Spirit. Like Martin Lloyd-Jones, Calvary Chapel pastors usually excel at Bible teaching, but we need to be reminded that the Trinity is not God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Bible. We need God’s Holy Spirit to empower us in all we do.

      Don’t ignore a fundamental fact about the Calvary Chapel Movement: Calvary is a mountain, the mountain on which Jesus died. A chapel is a little church. And what happened on that mountain moved in our little church in powerful ways, but it was God’s Spirit that did the moving! And it’s the Holy Spirit that we need today! Whether our movement settles and fossilizes, or whether it keeps moving forward, hinges on our reliance on God’s Holy Spirit. If we get too sophisticated to risk a little weirdness happening in our midst, or too comfortable to disturb our religious routine, or too proud to relinquish some control over the church that is supposed to be God’s in the first place, then we will quench the moving of the Holy Spirit.

      I am sure you have heard the familiar refrain, “A church that has the Word without the Spirit will dry up. A church that has the Spirit without the Word will blow up. But a church that has the Spirit working through the Word will grow up.” Let me add one more line, “And the church that is proud it has the Word, and pretends to have the Spirit, causes God to throw up.” The Lord promises to spew the lukewarm Christian (and Church) out of His mouth!

      As Calvary Chapels, we certainly need to be Bible-driven, but a group that prides itself on its faithfulness to Scripture has to be careful our Bible Studies don’t crowd out the movement of the Holy Spirit. If we really want God’s Spirit to work among us we need to give Him time and room. God’s Word is like a fireplace. It is the frame and grate that keeps the fire from burning down the house. But a fireplace by itself is cold, hard, and worthless without a fire. All Calvary Chapels should pray for the fresh fire of the Holy Spirit!

      2 Samuel 5 provides us a wonderful analogy: when the Philistine army heard David had replaced Saul as king of Israel, they tried to take advantage of the transition. Perhaps they could catch Israel with their guard down, and utilize the element of surprise. They deployed their troops to the Valley of Rephaim. When David heard about this, he prayed and inquired of the Lord, “Shall I go up against the Philistines? Will You deliver them into my hand?” God said, “Go up, for I will doubtless deliver the Philistines into Your hand.” And true to God’s word, David routed the Philistines.

      But the Philistines were slow learners. Again, they deployed their troops in the Valley of Rephaim. Their motto was, “If at first you don’t succeed try, try again.” This was the same enemy, same theater of conflict, same strategy, same circumstances, same time frame. You would think King David’s strategy would be the same as before. But again he inquired of the Lord, and God answered him in verse 23, “You shall not go up; circle around behind them, and come upon them in front of the mulberry trees. And it shall be, when you hear the sound of marching in the tops of the mulberry trees (or the wind shaking the treetops), then you shall advance quickly. For then the LORD will go out before you to strike the camp of the Philistines.” Again, King David obeyed, but this time he followed a set of different orders. He circled behind the enemy and waited for the wind to rustle the trees, and again the Lord gave him victory. Throughout the Bible the wind is an idiom of the Holy Spirit. Like the wind, the Spirit moves as He pleases. Thus, the moral of this story is clear. If you want to win spiritual victories, build a strong church, and see God glorified, you’ll wait for the wind of the Holy Spirit.

      We, as pastors, tend to look for a template to model, or a manual to follow. We even travel to conferences to discover the “secret formula.” There is only one problem: there is no secret formula! God refuses to be reduced to a formula, and He certainly doesn’t fit into a box! If you’re looking for a template or formula, instead of leaning on the Holy Spirit you’re trusting in man-made solutions. Remember the story of David, “the answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind!” We should be depending on the voice and power of the Holy Spirit.

      When Zerubbabel went to build the Temple in Jerusalem he was a lot like most Calvary Chapel pastors. He had little experience. He had a skeleton crew. He was starting with rubble. Yet God told him how he would get the job done, “not by might nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the LORD.” A beautiful Temple was not the result of human muscle, or man’s genius. It wasn’t a matter of Zerubbabel working harder, or smarter. The key to his Temple building was the supernatural power of the Holy Spirit, and the same is true of all God-glorifying church leadership.

      I hope none of us are fooled. It is possible to be a Calvary Chapel pastor, and not be filled with the Holy Spirit. Perhaps the baptism of the Spirit is a truth to which you’ve only paid lip service. Maybe your experience with the Holy Spirit has lapsed. We all need to make room and take time for the Holy Spirit to work in us and among us. Even if you have been filled with the Holy Spirit in the past, why not seek Him for a fresh filling today? In Luke 11:13 our Lord invited us, “If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask Him!” The good news is, receiving is as simple as asking.

Core Values: Pre-Tribulation Rapture

by cca

      One of Calvary Chapel’s core values is an eager anticipation of Jesus’ soon return for His Church. We look for the rapture! The “Pre-trib rapture” of the Church has been a lynchpin in Calvary Chapel’s history, and it will also be a key to our destiny.

      For the first Calvary Chapel folks, many of whom were disillusioned young people, the pre-tribulation rapture was not just an eschatological theory. As it is referenced in the Scripture, it was our “blessed hope.” Pastor Chuck ministered to young people immersed in worldliness – in drugs, sex, and rock-and-roll. His belief that Jesus would snatch away His Church made us upwardly focused. His teaching on the rapture caused us to ready ourselves to meet Jesus! One of the passages that stirred us was 1 John 3:2, “Now we are children of God; and it has not yet been revealed what we shall be, but we know that when He is revealed, we shall be like Him.”

      It was our pastor’s heart to wean us from the entrapments of this world, and point us to the next. Did he go overboard at times? Did he go too far plotting prophetic events on a futuristic timeline? Probably so. I remember in the early 1980s, Chuck suggested Israel was the fig tree of Matthew 24. It budded into a nation in 1948. A generation is forty years, and that generation will not pass away until the Lord returns. Forty years from 1948 was 1988, subtract seven years for the Great Tribulation, which meant the rapture would occur in 1981! Chuck seemed convinced. At the time, I realized he was making some assumptions – about the budding fig tree, and about a biblical generation – but I appreciated his zeal and enthusiasm in regards to seeing Jesus! No one can deny, that Pastor Chuck lived life on the edge of his seat. He modeled the expectancy the Bible teaches we all should have. Fault him for being overzealous if you like, but Chuck Smith longed for heaven. He “loved the Lord’s appearing…” and based on Paul’s promise to Timothy, for that he has received a “crown of righteousness.”

      Yet I see pastors today, sitting back smugly, taking a noncommittal approach. “Well, the Bible isn’t really clear. How can we be certain? I’ll just teach the different theories and let our folks decide for themselves.” I once taught on the Pre-Trib rapture, and afterwards a man asked me when was I going to present the opposing point-of-view? I told him in love, “when hell freezes over.” It is every pastor’s job to preach what he believes to be God’s truth.

      I had another friend who was fond of saying he was “Pan-trib.” Rather than Pre-trib or Post-trib, he was Pan-trib, or “however it pans out.” He thought he was being cute. I thought he was copping out! Please tell me, how is it more spiritual to hedge your bets, than it is to trumpet the truth that the risen Christ is coming in time and space to deliver the Church He loves from God’s wrath? What most inspires the faith of your people – a pastor who is unsure, or one who is looking for Jesus?

      Sure, there is a lot we do not know about Jesus’ coming, but there are some things we do know:

  • We know He is coming! He will snatch away His church!
  • His return is eminent – that is, it can happen at any moment.
  • Nothing else needs to occur prophetically before we see Jesus.
  • His coming will take place when people least expect it; when life on earth is business as usual.
  • We know it is God’s heart to deliver His people from His wrath.

      We actually know quite a bit, and when I put those certainties together, I can confidently conclude that the Bible teaches a Pre-tribulation rapture of the Church!

      Yes, there’s a verse, a single verse, 2 Thessalonians 2:3, “for that Day will not come unless the falling away comes first, and the man of sin is revealed, the son of perdition…” People read this verse and assume the rapture cannot come until the apostasy and Antichrist appear, which puts the Church in the midst of the Great Tribulation. Yet be careful about making assumptions. People have taken “that Day” (“the day of Christ” in verse 2) to mean the rapture. But it could be a synonym for “the day of the Lord” (that’s how it is translated in the New American Standard Version). “The day of the Lord” is the period of time when God judges this evil world. In that case, the verse teaches that God’s fierce judgments will not begin until the apostasy and Antichrist appear. The implication is that since the Thessalonians had seen neither, they knew the rapture had not occurred, since it comes first! In addition, the phrase “falling away” also has multiple definitions. It literally means “a departure.” Some people assume that it refers to “a departure from the faith,” but Greek scholar Kenneth Wuest suggests that it could mean, “the departure of the church, the rapture.” If that is so, God’s judgments will not come down until the Church goes up!

      My purpose here is not to parse 2 Thessalonians 2:3. It is an admittedly difficult passage that can be interpreted in various ways. But 2 Thessalonians 2:3 is just one verse in a New Testament that teaches from start to finish that the return of Christ and the rapture of His Church will be a surprise! And it cannot possibly be a surprise if the Antichrist appears first. We are called to look for Jesus Christ, not the Antichrist! As to 2 Thessalonians 2:3, when a verse is difficult, we should read it through the lens of the rest of the New Testament, not read the rest of the New Testament through the lens of a difficult verse.

      Realize, the Bible speaks of two types of tribulation. Jesus said, “In this world you will have tribulation…” Our world was hostile to Christ, and if you follow Him you should expect it to be hostile to you. The world inflicts tribulation on the Church. But there is also a “Great Tribulation” that God will bring on this evil world. And throughout the New Testament, God makes promises that He will spare the Church this judgment. 1 Thessalonians 1:10 is such a verse. Paul tells us, “to wait for (God’s) Son from heaven, whom He raised from the dead, even Jesus who delivers us from the wrath to come.” Christians are subject to this world’s tribulation, but spared God’s tribulation on the world.

      Have you read Revelation 6-19 and the cataclysmic judgments that will rock this planet? Entire populations will starve and die. Demons will be unleashed to torment mankind. Jesus will pelt the Earth with huge hailstones. According to God’s Law, the penalty for blasphemy is death by stoning. That is the judgment Jesus exacts on the whole Earth. Do you really believe He will subject His faithful Bride to what He reserves for blasphemers? Years ago, actress Farrah Fawcett starred in a movie about a battered wife. There were scenes that showed her beaten black and blue. You looked at her and wondered what animal would do this to his bride? But realize, if believers survive the Great Tribulation, they are bound to be battered. And you have to ask, “do you really think this is how the Lord is going to treat His Bride?” Of course not! Jesus died to save and sanctify His Bride, not to inflict upon her a beating. In fact, He took THE beating so we could be healed! The world might rough us up, but such harsh treatment doesn’t come from the hands of Jesus! That is not the Lord we serve.

      This is why I believe the Pre-tribulation rapture is non-negotiable for Calvary Chapel pastors. If you have not thought deeply about this, you might categorize the rapture as an elective doctrine, while issues like the deity of Christ, justification by faith, and the inspiration of the Bible are the core curriculum. However, I suggest that elective status does not do the rapture justice. The Pre-Tribulational rapture is vital because of what it infers about the Savior’s heart for His Church. If, for some reason, you are a pastor who struggles with the timing of the rapture, we can still be friends. We are certainly brothers, and can enjoy each other’s fellowship. But if you pastor a Calvary Chapel, you will deny that church an important part of their identity and emphasis.