An Encouragement from Pastor Sandy to our Calvary Chapel Family

by cca

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!

Pastor Sandy Adams

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.