After 17 years of pastoral ministry in small congregations throughout California and Arizona, Chuck Smith was invited to pastor a non-denominational church named Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa California. This small church was actually debating at that time whether to continue meeting or to close. At his first Sunday morning service in 1965, Chuck ministered to a total of 25 people. He had become convinced that the typical model of modern church ministry was not consistent with what the Scriptures taught. He began to teach by going methodically through the books of the Bible rather than choosing a topic and trying to find a Scriptural basis from which to preach. His wife Kay was particularly burdened for the hippies that began to appear in southern California in the late sixties and they began to pray for them and even invite them to stay in their home. Many became Christians after a life changing experience with Jesus Christ and Calvary Chapel opened their doors wide to any and all who wanted to follow Jesus. Traditional dress and music gave way to a more casual dress and contemporary worship. The Jesus movement was born and a remarkable harvest of souls began.
The number of people attending the church constantly grew, necessitating several changes in facilities over the next few years. By the time Calvary Chapel moved into their present facility in 1973 with its vast new sanctuary of 2,200 seats, the building was already too small to contain the numbers turning out. They held three Sunday morning services and had more than 4,000 people at each one. Many had to sit on the carpeted floor. A large portion of floor space was left without pews so as to provide that option. During a two year period in the mid-seventies, over 8,000 people were baptized and over 20,000 people were converted through the ministry of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa.
Today, 35,000 people consider Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa their home church. The Word for Today (Pastor Chuck's radio ministry) is heard throughout the United States and publishes study books and tapes, which are distributed throughout the world. Calvary Chapel Bible College provides Biblically-based education to thousands at its home campus in Murietta, California and to over 20 extension campuses worldwide as well as on-line. Numerous other ministries were started through Calvary Chapel and today there are approximately 1,000 affiliated churches in the US and more around the world. Chuck Smith would be the first to say that this is not the result of a special program or especially talented people. It is a sovereign work of God's Holy Spirit in these last days to proclaim God's Word until He comes.
For more information about the beginnings of Calvary Chapel and the Jesus Movement, check out these links: