A memorial service celebrating the life of one of the most influential pastors in much of evangelical Christianity was held Sunday night in Honda Center Arena in Southern California, where about 13,000 people crowded the event and more tuned in through live broadcasting online and radio to pay tribute to the father of the "Jesus movement" in the 1970s.
Pastor Charles Ward Smith, more affectionately known as Chuck Smith, died at age 86 after a long battle with lung cancer on October 3, 2013. A host of today's mega-church pastors had found Christ in the big circus tent erected on Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa's property in the 1970s. They include Greg Laurie, Jeff Johnson, Mike MacIntosh and Skip Heitzig. Some of them paid their tribute, sharing their memories with Smith and highlighted his attributes of faith and character.
Brian Broderson, Smith's son-in-law, who has been chosen by the Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa church board to be the new senior pastor of the large Southern California church, said that Smith would be remembered as a "servant of the Lord Jesus Christ." He would be included today and in other generations among the Christians who have had impacted their generation and next, such as Billy Graham, John R. Stott, DL Moody, John Wesley, John Calvin, Martin Luther, said Broderson.
The memorial service began with performances by one of the first Christian rock band Love Song, who also came to Christ during the 1970s. A video showed the band's first performance at Calvary Chapel when they had only accepted Jesus as their savior for about three weeks.
Denver Crossroads Church pastor Tom Stipe, who had been a member of Calvary Chapel before the revival broke out, testified that Smith left a deep impression in him before Calvary Chapel experienced the revival that led to the "Jesus movement." It was during the time that the church had the opportunity to purchase a 10 acre land for the accommodation of a large influx of believers. He recalled driving with Smith to pick up a car from repair when Smith suddenly pulled over to the side of the road and prayed, "Lord, if it is just the ambition of men, close the doors."
But obviously, God didn't close the doors.
"He dedicated the Jesus Movement to God," said Stipe. "It wasn't his idea. It was God's idea, and he was just cooperating with it."
Although Smith was a straight orthodox conservative, he was known for reaching out to 'hippies' and other young people others wouldn't reach, the most well-known was Lonnie Fresbee, the hippie preacher. Calvary Chapel grew from less than a thousand to tens of thousands in a matter of months.
"How do you do church?" Stipe recalled asking Smith, who replied to teach the Bible and do it simply. "Chuck will be remembered as a great man of faith, who let sinners and rejects into his house, into his car, into the house of God. And here we are.
"Chuck really trusted the Holy Spirit to clean us up. There are many stories of the crazies he shared ministry with, the chances that he took, the selfless investment into young people, whose only qualifications were that they were called and anointed by the Holy Spirit."
Among those Smith invested include the 19-year-old then Greg Laurie, who came to the Lord during the "Jesus movement" generation. Stipe recalled helping Smith install a toilet in the bathroom and an accountant walked in with a check of $100,000-$150,000 for a down payment for a church that would later become Harvest Baptist Church or today's Harvest Crusade Christian Church. "Smith recognized the men and women of God and he acted upon it," he said.
Smith served as senior pastor at Calvary Chapel for more than 40 years. Since 1965, the movement that began with Smith's 25 person congregation planted over 1,600 churches worldwide as part of Calvary Chapel fellowship.
The entire video of the service can be watched at http://watch.pastorchucksmith.com