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Chuck Smith, Pastor and Visionary, Dies at 86

John UpChurch | Updated: Oct 04, 2013

Chuck Smith, Pastor and Visionary, Dies at 86

Even to the end, Chuck Smith never stopped working. Lung cancer couldn’t keep him from preaching God’s Word, and age didn’t stop him from sharing the gospel.

It’s no exaggeration to say that this opinionated pastor changed the way Evangelicals think about worship. At Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, starting in the 1960s, he pointed his congregation to the lost right outside the church. While we may take that stance for granted in 2013, his love for evangelism ruffled not a few feathers at the time. In fact, his passion jump-started church planting in North America in a way that hadn’t been attempted in decades.

Ed Stetzer, president of Lifeway Research, recently shared just how big Smith’s impact had been:

Chuck and Calvary Chapel have played an important role in the evangelical movement in the past century. Simply put, it is hard to overstate the significance of Calvary Chapel in remapping Protestantism, particularly evangelicalism. And Chuck Smith was one of the main reasons for that impact.

When I first became a seminary professor back in 1998, I made a trek to Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa and attended with my family, interviewed the staff, and learned from [them] how God was using the church and the movement. Over the years, I've been an observer of the movement to the point where I've actually had students write papers on Calvary Chapel and discussed the movement in my book, Viral Churches.

Smith never shied away from controversy. His non-Calvinist and young-earth creationist views sometimes led to disagreements with other pastors and leaders. But few would deny how much his passion for the gospel challenged a whole generation.

Pastor Greg Laurie: Rarely does a man come along that impacts a generation, but Chuck Smith was that man. He certainly impacted my life.

Franklin Graham: Physical death ushered him into God's presence for eternity on October 3, but his earthly ministry will be remembered as impacting generations since the 1960s.

Lee Strobel: Chuck Smith lit Gospel fires all over the world. Countless people were inspired into action by his passion for evangelism.

Pastor Chuck leaves a legacy of what God can do with a willing servant. The 1,600 Calvary congregations attest to his willingness and desire to track down the lost sheep beyond the church building. But he also wanted to make sure those who came to Christ knew God’s Word, a passion he showed when expanding his outreach to India in 2008:

“We realized that one of the greatest crises we have when revival breaks out and millions of people turn to Christ and then, when there’s not enough teaching of God’s Word, usually they end up in all kind of extreme cults which happen in many nations,” said K.P. Yohannan. “So we felt compelled to give to pastors something they can actually listen to and then be able to teach their congregations.

“I have to say that God’s very special hand has been upon Pastor Chuck Smith because of His walk with the Lord and knowledge of the Lord. What he teaches is not just words, it is life, and it is very powerful.”

Has Pastor Chuck Smith had an impact on you? Please share in the comments.

John UpChurch is the senior editor of BibleStudyTools.com and Jesus.org. You’ll usually find him downing coffee at his standing desk (like a boss).

Chuck Smith, Pastor and Visionary, Dies at 86