Saturday, November 4, 2006

Calvary Chapel VS. Purpose Driven - Why these Two Seeker Sensitive's Can't Get Along

I thought this would be worth posting for a couple of reasons, I don't believe either of these movements match-up with a God Centered Christ exalting approach to evangelism or worship. Both of these movements are geared to be as seeker sensitive as possible, filling churches with unsaved "Christians" - they believe Calvinism is ruining the church. I believe the seeker sensitive movement is killing the church, by making people believe they are saved when they aren't, for just signing a card and checking a box. And then they tell them to never doubt your decision or let anyone tell you any different. Paul said "we are to examine ourselves to see that we are in the faith". These false "Christians" then join churches and it is like oil and water, they don't desire to grow and they have to be re-evangelized every weekend. It is a recipe for trouble that I have run into more than once. I think it is ironic that the two cannot get along and have divorced themselves from each other. As a point of clarity I do not agree with either of these churches methodologies in just about anything that they do.

Calvary Chapel and Purpose Driven

by Roger Oakland

Since Rick Warren’s best selling Purpose Driven book and other related products were pulled from Calvary Distribution, [1] a number of people have contacted me asking for an explanation. My answer has been quite simple - contact someone at Calvary Distribution and ask them for the answer.

While I do speak at many different Calvary Chapels throughout the USA and around the world, I am not involved in the decisions that the leaders of Calvary Chapel make. Basically, I am a missionary to the world, based in southern California, affiliated with the Calvary Chapel movement. The ministry of Understand The Times is a discernment ministry, and I am dedicated to warning people about current trends within Christianity which lead believers and non believers away from the truth of God’s Word. Other than warning people, there is not much else I can do.

My Background

I consider Pastor Chuck Smith to be my own pastor, and I attend Calvary Costa Mesa when I am in southern California. I have been familiar with the Calvary Chapel movement since June of 1981 when I was first invited as a guest speaker at Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa. Since 1988 the ministry of Understand The Times has been affiliated with Calvary Chapel movement and I have spoken at hundreds of churches and conferences by invitation of Calvary Chapel pastors worldwide

Therefore, my 25 years of experience within the Calvary Chapel movement has provided the opportunity for me to be able to make observations about the Calvary Chapel movement. While this movement is made up of individuals who have various ideas (some are even supportive of Purpose Driven), the leader, Pastor Chuck Smith has made it clear on several occasions that he does not agree with the direction the Purpose Driven movement is headed.

Over the past year or so, it should have been obvious to anyone listening to messages by Pastor Chuck Smith, Sr. that he has expressed serious concerns about the Purpose Driven church growth movement. On numerous occasions he made the point that the Calvary way, was not the Purpose Driven way. He made it clear that healthy church growth should be centered on the teaching of the Word of God and not on methods derived by human effort. From the beginning of the Calvary Chapel movement, Chuck has emphasized being “spirit led” rather than being motivated by a humanistic agenda put in place by church growth experts.

Further, pastors who attended the nation-wide Calvary Chapel Pastor’s Conferences held at Murrieta, California in either 2005 or 2006 would have heard Pastor Chuck explain in detail that Calvary Chapel pastors are not to be “Purpose Driven”. While there were some in attendance who were leaning towards Purpose Driven methods, Pastor Chuck emphasized Calvary Chapel was not going in that direction.

Distribution of “Purpose Driven” at Calvary Distribution

Based on what I have just stated, it was surprising to me that Calvary Distribution ever distributed Rick Warren’s “Purpose Driven” books and associated products in the first place. The fact that a decision was made to remove these materials from Calvary Distribution seemed logical based on my knowledge of what Calvary Chapel stands for and what Rick Warren’s “Purpose Driven” church growth philosophy represents.

As I stated in the introduction of this commentary, although I have no authority to make comments on behalf of Chuck Smith, Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, or Calvary Distribution, I am willing to go on record and make comments regarding my perspective on why I believe Calvary Distribution pulled the Rick Warren materials. Following are four of my reasons:

1. Eschatology

The Calvary Chapel view of the future compared to the “Purpose Driven” view of the future is as different as day and night. One of the distinctives of the Calvary movement is a focus on the imminent return of Jesus Christ. Pastor Chuck has always been known for an emphasis on warning Christians to be alert and ready for the return of Jesus. He teaches that the Kingdom of God will be established only when Jesus Christ returns to this planet. He also emphasizes that the time period before the return of Jesus here on earth will be “as it was in the days of Noah.” [2] From this perspective, the world actually gets worse and worse, not better and better.

Rick Warren’s view of the present and the future is different from Chuck Smith’s. Warren encourages his followers to ignore Bible prophecy and spend their time and energy on the here and now, in order to establish a man made social plan (P.E.A.C.E. Plan) that will make planet earth a better place for everyone. With regards to the importance of Bible prophecy, Rick Warren has stated:

When the disciples wanted to talk about prophecy, Jesus quickly switched the conversation to evangelism. He wanted them to concentrate on their mission to the world. He said in essence, "The details of my return are none of your business. What is your business is the mission I have given you. Focus on that!"

Speculating on the exact timing of Christ's return is futile, because Jesus said, "No one knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father." Since Jesus said he didn't know the day or hour, why should you try to figure it out" What we do know for sure is this: Jesus will not return until everyone God wants to hear the Good News has heard it. Jesus said, "The Good News about God's kingdom will be preached in all the world, to every nation. Then the end will come." If you want Jesus to come back sooner, focus on fulfilling your mission, not figuring out prophecy. [3]

Further, Rick Warren’s Purpose Driven P.E.A.C.E. Plan is part of a plan that is intended to establish the Kingdom of God here on earth before Jesus returns. This Kingdom depends on human effort. He is willing to work with governments (Rwanda [4]), political leaders (King of Jordan [5]), the United Nations (Inter-religious gatherings [6]) and even the Roman Catholic Church [7].

For full article click here.


Church Dog said...

What exactly about the Calvary Chapel approach is not God Centered or Christ exalting? Is it because they happen to believe in a more moderate view of lordship than some lordship/works proponents?

Also, in the past 15 years while living in the heart of "Calvary Country" I have never seen a single seeker sensitive mailer from any Calvary Church. Nor have I seen any of the typical seeker sensitive promotions/events put on by a Calvary Church. When I have visited Calvary Churches I have heard a consistent verse-by-verse presentation of the gospel.

From my experience the most they could be accused of is being seeker friendly. Isn't that what all churches should strive for?

Church Dog said...

And just to clarify, I mean "seeker friendly" in the literal sense; a church that is friendly towards non-believers, people with questions, etc.


Justice said...

Coming from "Calvary Country" myself I am well acquainted with them and their methods. Let's start with the preaching, I have been to numerous Calvary's in the SoCal area and the preaching is always the same - it is about 10,000 feet above the scripture, and there is always a lot of prooftexting. They are fully arminian and Gospel light and have been known to literally force Calvinist's from their midst's (it happened to a friend in Escondido a year or two ago).

As for the verse by verse chuck himself admittedly preaches chapter(s) by chapter(s) - Here is a quote from Chuck himself: "I am only taking a couple of chapters a week, sometimes three chapters, but I've really slowed down my pace going through. ( "

They also do not believe in church membership. They also believe in and participate in the charismatic movement albeit in separate services.

One leader within the Calvary Chapel movement, Larry Taylor, writes in the booklet What Calvary Chapel Teaches:

In our services, we focus on a personal relationship with God through worship, prayer, and the teaching of the Word of God. We teach both expositorily and topically. We do not allow speaking in tongues loudly during services, nor prophecy while a Bible study is in progress because we do not believe that the Holy Spirit would interrupt Himself. We have specific "after-glow services" and believer's meetings when these gifts of the Spirit may be exercised (

I also do not believe in their ecumenical stance:

Chuck Smith, founder of the Calvary Chapels, is very ecumenical. In a 1993 book he says: "We should realize that we're all part of the Body of Christ and that there aren't any real divisions in the Body. We're all one. What a glorious day when we discover that God loves the Baptists! -- And the Presbyterians, and the Methodists, and the Catholics. We're all His and we all belong to Him. We see the whole Body of Christ, and we begin to strive together rather than striving against one another" (Smith, Answers for Today, p. 157).

And of course as you noted I do not believe in their stance on lordship salvation or Chuck's view on eternal security.

Chuck Smith's answer to the eternal security position demonstrates that he is not in the middle, but firmly in the Arminian camp. In an article, Smith writes:

"I tell people that, of course, I believe in eternal security. As long as I abide in Christ, I’m eternally secure. As long as I abide in Him, He’s going to keep me from falling and present me faultless before His glorious presence. I believe that and I experience God’s security."

That's a classic Arminian response but I'm sure that it impresses people to think that Chuck has solved the problem that theologians have grappled with for a long time.

The eternal security question is whether a person can fall from grace. The advocate of eternal security says that it is impossible to fall from grace. Smith says that it is possible to fall from grace. Therefore Smith does not believe in eternal security. It is double speak for him to say that he does.

I could go on and on. But outside of doing a new post, I think this is pretty clear.

Church Dog said...

Thanks for giving some details concerning your disagreements with Calvary Chapel. I understand your position better now. However, none of the things you mentioned; Arminianism, tongues, preaching multiple chapters at a time, view on eternal security, etc., would place them outside the "pail of orthodoxy". Those are all in-house debates.

To say that they are not "God centered, Christ exalting" in their evangelism and worship is going too far. It is just this kind of approach that prompts them to make statements like this,

"We are a non-denominational Church, but we are not opposed to denominations, only their tendency to over emphasis the doctrinal differences that have led to the division of the body of Christ."

Everything you mentioned is peripheral in nature. Yet from your original statement it seems that you are willing to divide over these issues. None of the things you mentioned would disqualify them from inclusion in the Body of Christ.

Unless our differences concern a central doctrine we should agree to disagree agreeably and go right on loving one another. This kind of divisiveness WITHIN the Body serves no one but Satan.

Pastor Ryan said...

Church Dog,

Thanks for your questions and statements. I think Justice is simply sharing his options about the Calvary Chapel movement not being Christ centered and I would have to agree with him on this.

The Regulative Principle states that everything that is done in the church service is done to the glory of God. That being everything in the church service, including the music and preaching.

We know from the Book of Romans that no one seeks after God. When a church is practicing being seeker sensitive, or seeker sensitive they are violating that rule. God on the other hand seeks them out (John 15:7) and calls or draws the sinner to himself (Jn 6:44).

We need music and preaching today that is Christ exalting not milky. Our churches are starving for biblical truth.

This post could be one about a Baptist church for all that goes. It doesn't matter what the label on the church may be. If a church is forsaking scripture, it is not Christ exalting!

Pastor Ryan said...

I meant to say even seeker friendly in the 3rd paragraph.

Let's remember that the worship service on the Lord's Day is for believers. Now, unbelievers are welcome to attend; but this is a day set aside for the pure worship of God. The bulk of our evangelism needs to be taking place throughout the week.

Church Dog said...


I appreciate both of your concerns regarding the watering down of the Message in churches today. I just think that using the broad brush when describing Calvary Chapel as a "non-God centered" church is unfair and, to a large extent, inaccurate.

Even assuming that the majority of Calvary Church's are arminian, charismatic, etc., how can you say that this disqualifies them from consideration as a God honoring church?

In your opinion is it possible to have a God honoring, Christ centered church that is largely arminian and to some extent charismatic(tongues)? I ask because it seems that more and more I am finding reformed/calvinistic people who are willing, almost eager, to exclude the aforementioned from the Body.

Also, please tell me what a church needs to DO or NOT DO in its service to be considered a seeker sensitive church.


Church Dog said...

One more question; isn't the message the key issue? So long as the message is uncompromised doesn't the package it's delivered in remain irrelevant?

Pastor Ryan said...

Church Dog,

I am not too much on labels like Calvinistic or Arminian. I seek to have a God-centered approach to church as a pastor. One that honors Christ in the music and the preaching.

What I am suggesting is that if one lets Scripture be there guide he/she cannot help but get involved in a Church that is Christ-honoring.

There is no perfect church or denomination. You can be a person that honors Christ by the church that you choose that is Scripture-centered or Christ-exalting in every aspect.

Pastor Ryan said...

Let me clarify to what I mean about not being much on labels. I think often times labels can be confusing to people. People don't understand what it means to be an Arminian or Calvinist. We need strong Men/Women of God on Scripture in our churches; whether that means an Arminian or Calvinist a person needs to judge. We need to stay with the Bible in our churches and not fall into the traditions of men. I for one am tired of hearing a person respond "Oh we have always done it that way in the church service" when God's Word does not suggest to doing it that way at all. I encourage you to look at the aspects of the service of the church that you choose; may or may not be a Calvary Chapel.

Pastor Ryan said...

Church Dog,

Can you explain this further?

You wrote, "One more question; isn't the message the key issue? So long as the message is uncompromised doesn't the package it's delivered in remain irrelevant?"

Church Dog said...


Thanks for the conversation and the thoughtfullness you seem to take in composing your replies.

I am in full agreement with your statement that, "...if one lets Scripture be there guide he/she cannot help but get involved in a Church that is Christ-honoring".

I think that a Calvary church that:
- preach's sermons that are sometimes topical or at least not exceptionally "heady"
- acknowledges the "gift" of tongues
- are arminian in their theology
AND proudly proclaims Christ and Him crucified is a church that is Christ honoring.

You asked about my statement regarding the "key issue". If a church espouses and affirms all the central Christian doctrines then it doesn't matter what the package looks like (if they baptise in a jacuzzi or not, use direct mail to attract new attendees, have "afterglow" services or whatever) they shouldn't be considered unbiblical. Why? Because those issues are secondary the the core doctrines that truly matter.

Chris Hinton said...

Church Dog,

There are many things that Calvary Churches do that you can question and you are right that they are “in house debates”.

The real question is are they closer or further from the truth?

First you said

To say that they are not "God centered, Christ exalting" in their evangelism and worship is going too far. It is just this kind of approach that prompts them to make statements like this,

"We are a non-denominational Church, but we are not opposed to denominations, only their tendency to over emphasis the doctrinal differences that have led to the division of the body of Christ."

I too have grown up in Calvary country and for them to speak out against denominations in this regard is not honest. Their whole church philosophy is the same and in most cases worse then denominational Churches. They have recently come out and said that if the 40 days programs are used in any of their churches that church cannot have the Calvary name on it. They have also kicked out all of the emergent stuff to. So tell me why is that OK for Calvary and not OK for others?

Any Calvary Church that I know would be able to come into the Southern Baptist Convention whenever they wanted with out changing a thing. We cannot say the same thing about a Southern Baptist Church. They would not be let into the Calvary system.

I guess they are not denominational they hyper-denominational.

You said,

it seems that more and more I am finding reformed/calvinistic people who are willing, almost eager, to exclude the aforementioned from the Body.

I find this almost never true. Most Calvinists were Arminian at one time and understand that view. The Arminians are the ones that will leave churches and it was Calvary Chapel that fired one of their missionaries for being Calvinistic.

You said,

You asked about my statement regarding the "key issue". If a church espouses and affirms all the central Christian doctrines then it doesn't matter what the package looks like (if they baptise in a jacuzzi or not, use direct mail to attract new attendees, have "afterglow" services or whatever) they shouldn't be considered unbiblical. Why? Because those issues are secondary the the core doctrines that truly matter.

The truth of scripture does matter and the most concerning thing to me about Calvary Chapel is not what they do say all the time it’s what they don’t say. They ignore church membership and that leads them to ignoring church disciple. When people are not held accountable as Christians then the church will fail to properly minister to congregation.

I had a recent Church member come forward with a counseling issue. Without giving details her husband was confronted with sin issues and would not repent. As a church we were able to come around her and give her the support that she needed. She came from a Calvary Church and their help was limited to three appointments and then they told her that she need “professional help”.

To send a church member back into the world for “professional help” is NOT God centered.

That young women came back to me and thanked me because she had a friend at the same church that was seeking counsel and after her three appointments were up they said they couldn’t help anymore and that she would just have to stick it out. She lost her house because of her husband and CPS came and took the children. We need to have the whole councel of God and not just part of it.

So to answer the first question I think that Calvery is further from the truth.

Church Dog said...

Is Calvary, as you say, further from the truth? Maybe. But my initial point was related to the statement that they were not a God centered church. Nothing you have said proves that they are not.

I don't think you believe that Calvary is not a God centered church. While you may have more concerns about Calvery than I, I think we are largely on the same page when it comes to them being true members of the body.

Your point regarding their denominational status is a very good one. I hadn't considered that.

I do think people are too eager to throw the Calvary Chapel's, non'denominational's, NAE Evangelical's, etc., under the bus. It seems to me that the reformed community is a healthy portion of this crowd. Maybe it's just the blogosphere or something but this attitude seems pervasive in the reformed/calvinist environments.

Chris Hinton said...

Church Dog,

When evaluating a church we need to look at the truth of scripture and see where that church stands. I would have to say that Calvary is an orthodox Christian church. The question really becomes where the best place for me to attend? Calvary appeals more to unsaved people and that is because it caters to the lost in its church services. This is done because they think that they need to help God save people. This is the problem that the reformed community has with it. As Ryan said no one seeks after God. If that is true then you should be seeker sensitive understanding that the people who seek are the ones that God draws. Then the service becomes one strictly about worshiping God and letting Him do His work. You don’t need to have a rock concert you need good worship to God. You don’t need a light sermon you need a convicting one with as much truth as possible. Not to get people saved but to get the saved to worship God. God calls us to glorify Him we don’t have the ability to save that is up to God. God does not play games. Everything He does has purpose and that is why we believe in a Lordship salvation. It is seeing God work through the people He saves. It is the true evidence that God is working through someone.

With that said that is what is meant by having a God centered service as opposed to a man centered service. It’s not that they think only about man it’s that they think that somehow they will do something that will lead more people to Christ. This is putting you in place of God. If we truly had the ability to talk people into the Kingdom then we are responsible for everyone that we come in contact with. God would have to hold us responsible for the people that we let slip by without leading them to the Lord.

If we do believe it is a work of God now our only responsibility is to glorify God and we do that by obedience. We evangelize and leave that rest up to God glorifying Him and giving Him the credit. Now it is truly a work of God and He uses us to lead people to Him. Now when you say Lordship/works salvation you can see that the works are all Gods sometimes through us and sometimes directly on the people He saves. From our perspective it is only us surrendering to the fact that Christ is our Lord and that our works are Him working through us. It then becomes simply Lordship salvation. God does not save people so that they can just continue living the evil life that they have. God saves us and starts to grow us and spiritually mature us and use us for His purpose. If it doesn’t glorify God it is not of God.

Pastor Ryan said...


I would think that anyone could see the grace and love in your answers. I appreciate the genuine concern and love you have for Scriptural Truths as a pastor.

It is really comes down to the fact in just how biblical is a church in its approaches to "doing church?" Very, very important to please God in them and not man! That is why all aspects of our church services are to be Christ-Centered and not man-centered, from the music to the preaching.

I have also been doing some thinking along the lines of when Pastor Justice said that the Calvary Chapel and all forms of the seeker sensitive movement are ungodly and unscriptural, he is not saying that they are unchristian. There is just a better way to do church. It is like only getting milk at dinner time and not the hot, juicy, tender steak for the main course.

So, Church Dog you are correct when you say that Calvary Chapel is within the pail of orthodoxoy. They are not a cult or anything like that, denying the Trinity. But there is a better or more Scriptural way to do church than the Calvary Chapel movement and many other church out there today. I hope this helps and makes sense.

Chris Hinton said...

Church Dog,

Just to make sure that we are on the same page, when we say not God centered we are not saying that they are not part of the body what we are saying is that their services are geared toward men not God even though their purpose is to present the gospel. What we are saying is that we should not design our services to what man thinks is right but only what is God centered. You might be right that reformed thinkers are passionate about their theology. When I think of these two views I remember when I was not reformed in my thinking. It was a hard road for me and I do not know anyone who made it there easily. We are not saying that these churches not Christian we are saying that there is a better or more biblical way of doing it that’s it.