Coincidence is not a kosher word, or so I’ve been told. This post came together around the time of the 2014 Calvary Chapel Senior Pastors Conference (SPC). It’s the first SPC since Pastor Church Smith moved to his new home. Pioneering, movements, and vision have been on my mind as I’m half way into the seventh year of ministry at Exchange Church. Pastor Chuck didn’t set out to be a pioneer, yet he was, and that’s great. Pastor Chuck didn’t set out to start a movement, yet that happened, and that’s great. Pastor Chuck didn’t set out to have his vision multiplied around the world, yet it was. But is that great?
Two very compelling quotes came my way recently, one through a podcast and the other through a book. I regularly listen to the podcast from The Brooklyn Tabernacle pastored by Jim Cymbala (I highly recommend it). The podcast includes his teaching, the teaching of his associate, as well as guest speakers. On June 14, 2014, the podcast included Francis Chan who was a guest speaker. Early in the podcast, while sharing what amazing things God has done through The Brooklyn Tabernacle, Francis shared part of a conversation he had with a pastor from India who was studying the rise and decline of movements in church history. This got my attention. According to Francis, the pastor said this.
I’ve been studying the movements of God. Do you know how movements start? A movement starts because the founder of the movement truly knows Jesus. Do you know how movements die? It’s when the followers only know the founder. They don’t have a direct relationship with Jesus. They seem to relate to Jesus vicariously through the founder.
Hm. Movements, founders, following, and knowing Jesus. Around the same time I was reading a book called “The Line and The Dot” by Paul Gibbs, which is a book about being a spiritual pioneer and visionary, he writes this.
Pioneers need a bigger vision of God. A bigger vision of God sustains us. A bigger vision of God helps us sustain the vision in others. We do not need a vision of visionâ€¦ You can tell if a youth pastor has a vision of vision. On a Wednesday or a Friday night, they are incredibly passionate about their message. They are creative. They plead with the young people to hear the Word of God. But their next door neighbor does not even know they are a Christian. A vision of vision is a cut and paste vision. A vision of vision gives you compartmentalized vision.1 (Emphasis added)
Hm. A vision, of vision. Taking the vision God gave one person and implementing it on their behalf in another place.
One thing that has been consistently said about Pastor Chuck is that he walked around like he actually knew Jesus as well as, if not better than, any tangible person. That’s attractive. People are drawn to that and the good news is that that is available to anyone. This is, arguably, the most significant aspect of Pastor Chuck’s life that The Lord used to build His church in Costa Mesa and around the world. This is also, arguably, responsible for one of the biggest obstacles our movement faced while Chuck was with us, and could continue to face now that he has moved on. Let me give you an example.
A friend, who did not come from a Calvary Chapel background, accepted the worship pastor position at a larger Calvary Chapel. About six months in to his time there we had the chance to touch base. He asked me a question that I think exemplifies this key obstacle that our movement faces. He asked, “Is it me, or do people in Calvary Chapel have an almost fanatical devotion to Chuck Smith?” Why did people have a fanatical devotion to Chuck? Because Chuck new Jesus and people wanted a piece of that. Movements die when the followers only know the founder.
Pastor, church member, even movement hater, if your relationship with Jesus is such that you identify with a movement first and Jesus second, you’re doing it wrong. That will become a cancer in what The Lord might be trying to do in you, your church, and your movement. Don’t worship Chuck, don’t worship Calvary Chapel, worship Jesus.
Can I be brutally open here? When I attended Calvary Chapel Bible College in the early 1990s, I was essentially taught this; you might as well preach Chuck’s sermons verbatim, you are being equipped to go out and extend Chuck’s vision, not your own. In other words, we are going to give you your vision. You are going to have a vision of (Chuck’s) vision.
That has handicapped me, in one way or another, for most of the past 20 years.
Keep in mind that vision is not the same as mission. We all have the same mission, which is the great commission, “go and make disciples.” Vision, in my opinion, is something that God gives you and I which provides the framework in which we are to carry out our common mission. The vision God gives me won’t work in Kenya. The vision God gives someone in Honduras won’t work in Oregon. The vision God gives someone in Rialto won’t work in Grand Rapids. Crete was different than Philippi which was different than Antioch which was different than Rome, yet Jesus moved through His people in all of those places. Same mission, different vision.
Pastor, church member, are you living off of someone else’s vision, or do you have have your own vision from the Lord? Are you executing someone else’s marching orders, or do you have your own God-given orders? Same mission, different vision. If you have double vision then you can’t see clearly and you won’t make much progress before you fall on your face.
Let’s all seek the Lord for our churches, our families, our workplaces, our ministries, that the Lord would give us a singular vision with which to carry out our mission. Let’s seek the Lord in order to have our own relationship with him, and not a relationship through someone else’s history, nostalgia, or walk. Let’s have our own history, let’s build our own nostalgia, and most importantly, our own walk with the Lord.
I love being a part of Calvary Chapel. If this post sounds at all like I’m slamming on it, I’m not. That’s not my heart. My heart is to encourage myself, to encourage my brothers and sisters in the family, to know Jesus first and Calvary second, to have a vision from Jesus first and Calvary second. If we want to honor Chuck and his legacy, I can’t think of any better way. After all, isn’t that what he did? Jesus first, then came Calvary.
“Go and do likewise.”
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