Thousands gather to honor life of Pastor Chuck Smith


By Mark Ellis

A capacity crowd at The Pond in Anaheim paid tribute tonight to the life and ministry of one of the 20th Century’s most significant American

Pastor Jon Courson recalls Chuck Smith's fatherly influence
Pastor Jon Courson recalls Chuck Smith’s fatherly influence

pastors and one of God’s great servants – Pastor Chuck Smith. Uncounted multitudes watched and listened around the world via radio and the Internet.

“It is not often that a man comes around who impacts the lives of so many people,” said Pastor Brian Broderson, recently named senior pastor of Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa. Broderson is also Smith’s son-in-law. He recalled some of their ordinary family times together, along with Smith’s surprise as the unassuming pastor found himself at the epicenter of an extraordinary move of God.

Crowd at The Pond
Crowd at The Pond

A succession of prominent pastors spawned or influenced by the Calvary Chapel movement spoke in person or through previously recorded messages. Greg Laurie, Raul Ries, Rick Warren, Alistair Begg, Mike MacIntosh – and many others – spoke of Pastor Chuck’s fatherly guidance and encouragement.

Songs that spanned the history of the Calvary Chapel movement graced the proceedings from beginning to end. The graying roots of the earliest participants in the 70s movement were personified by the band “Love Song,” who played Welcome Back, the song they used to audition for Pastor Chuck only three weeks after band members found Jesus.

Pastor Tom Stipe recalled those early days when “young people just kept coming.” Once Stipe was driving in a car with Pastor Chuck at a

Pastor Tom Stipe
Pastor Tom Stipe

time when the church was considering buying the 10 acres that became the church’s flagship site in Costa Mesa. Suddenly Pastor Chuck grabbed the wheel of the car and swerved sharply into the dirt, stopping abruptly.

With urgency in his voice Pastor Chuck said, “We have to pray.”

“He prayed that if this (purchase) is just the ambition of men, close the doors, don’t allow it to happen.”

Stipe recalled the outpouring of joy during the revival of the 1970s. “It was fun; it was concerts and baptisms and love and witnessing and worship. Nobody came to church late during the Jesus Movement. You got there early.”

Before his exposure to Calvary Chapel, Stipe had only seen church in formal settings. “All I had seen was robes and candles and bad music. Somebody told me about a hippie preacher and a balding senior pastor where people raise their hands all the time. I was there the next night. I asked Chuck how to do church and he said ‘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 and into his car. Chuck really trusted the Holy Spirit to clean us all up. He trusted young people whose only qualification was the calling and anointing of the Holy Spirit.”

Pastor Don McClure remembered Pastor Chuck as a fierce competitor and “a tremendous risk taker for the kingdom.”

Pastor Don McClure
Pastor Don McClure

The Holy Spirit knit the hearts of the believers and future pastors together, McClure observed. “People said it wouldn’t last. But look at the love, the brotherhood — men closer than brothers. The men he brought together have this incredible love. I believe it will last until the Lord Jesus comes for us.”

Pastor Jon Courson fondly noted Pastor Chuck’s influence as “a spiritual father, whose heart was beating in harmony with His heavenly Father. Chuck taught us it is all about Jesus. We were taught to keep the main thing the main thing. It is all about Jesus! It is all about Jesus!” Courson repeated with emphasis.

David Siegel, the Consul General of Israel in Los Angeles, remembered Smith as a special friend of Israel. “His love for Israel was legendary. He visited Israel over 60 times. He was a giant of his time. In the 65 years of Israel’s existence it would be hard to find a greater friend. Pastor Chuck was our Jonathan. He was a true partner and spiritual brother.”

Smith’s youngest daughter, Cheryl Broderson, gave one of the most heartfelt and touching tributes of the evening. She said she “met Pastor Chuck 53 years ago and it was love at first sight for both of us. I want to thank Kay (her mother) for introducing us.”

Cheryl spoke of her father’s enthusiasm for whomever and whatever he encountered. “He never lost the thrill of preaching the Word of God,” she noted. “He never lost the thrill of hearing a new testimony of someone who got saved. He never lost the thrill of meeting somebody new, of baptizing somebody into the Body of Christ.”

Pastor Chuck continued to be amazed and delighted when they drove into the church parking lot on Sunday morning and saw the overflow of cars.

Dennis Agajanian, one of the great acoustic guitar players of his generation, considered Pastor Chuck a close friend, and was emotional when he spoke briefly before a tribute song. “Pastor Chuck introduced me at Harvest Crusade as his best friend. I miss him down here. I miss his calls,” Agajanian said.

Pastor Greg Laurie gave the closing message of the evening, which recounted some of their history together.  They first met when Laurie was only 17, and at19-years-old, Smith supported Laurie’s leadership of his young church exploding in Riverside, California. When Smith first

Pastor Greg Laurie
Pastor Greg Laurie

suggested that Laurie lead an evangelistic crusade at the Pacific Amphitheater, Laurie had his doubts. “That’s a big place,” he told Pastor Chuck.

“We serve a big God,” Pastor Chuck replied.

Smith and Laurie shared many memorable moments together. “To travel with Chuck has been amazing because of the way God used him,” he recalled.  “Chuck said when you get to heaven you may not recognize me because I will be the guy with the big Afro.”

At the end of September Pastor Chuck delivered his last message about the life of Abraham. “He preached his last sermon four days before he went to heaven,” Laurie noted.

At the end of his message, Laurie gave an opportunity for people in the audience around the world to receive Christ, and for “prodigals” to return to the Lord.

Contemporary singer-songwriter Phil Wickham sang two songs at the end of the four-hour service, including an emotionally charged and ultimately triumphant version of Amazing Grace.

Phil Wickham
Phil Wickham



  1. I was so moved by Pastor Chuck’s memorial service last night as I watched at the Packinghouse Church. The history with him that each speaker talked about was amazing, and their love for him, and Jesus, was evident.

    Pastor Laurie’s invitation at the end of his talk was so appropriate. We truly do serve a big God, and I could feel God’s presence all throughout the service. Pastor Laurie’s prayer to bring people back into the fold or who had lost their fire was so special and touching. I was on fire for a few hours after the service ended, and still am! 🙂 Thank you Pastor Laurie, you are an amazing speaker!

    I was pleased to have heard Pastor Chuck speak at Packinghouse Redlands a year or so ago as he was kicking off a tour for Love Song. His enthusiasm and simplistic was of speaking was incredible, and if he was speaking directly to me.

    It was also great to see and hear my former pastor last night, Jon Courson. It really is all about Jesus, Jesus, Jesus! It was Pastor Jon’s son, Ben, who baptized me on 12/09/06, when I rededicated my life to Christ. Like his father and brother, Peter John, Ben is also an amazing pastor.

    Many thanks to you all who participated and enlightened us to many things about Pastor Chuck that were private and special to each of you. It will remain forever in my heart.

  2. Oops, I forgot to mention, the music was incredible as well. We wouldn’t expect anything less from Calvary Chapel, would we? 😉

  3. Thank you for the face of Jesus you showed and the kindness of Him you sowed into the world. We will ever reap the harvest and continue to plant seeds into the ground you helped Holy Spirit prepare. Thank you so very much.

  4. When I became a christian in 1980, Pastor Chuck fed me through his radio broadcast. I am so thankful I got to eat from that table in my early walk. It has given me such a love for my walk and my relationship with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ! Thank you Pastor Chuck! I will get to tell you FTF!

    • I was a part of the 70’s explosion at Calvary. I was a regular attendee, was baptized at the beach and was married in his church. I have such fond memories. Chuck did so much to shape my life in a positive way. He was loved by so many. I will greatly miss him.

  5. Was there no mention of Lonnie Frisbee, the hippie appointed by God to spark the Jesus People movement? What a shame!

    • Tom Stipe made a passing reference to a hippie preacher, but he did not mention him by name. I believe someone else, however, mentioned Lonnie by name in their remarks.

  6. This was such a moving and beautiful tribute. As a fairly new believer waffling in and out of churches and still not quite grasping . I landed in aCalvary Chapel in Prescott Arizona with Pastor Al.
    My life and understanding opened completely. Changed my life and relationship with the Lord forever. Pastor Chuck made a huge impact on our Pastor as well in his early days and he became a believer under Pastor Chuck in California.
    Many of us have and have had the blessing of listening to Pastor Chuck teach and speak via audio and internet .

    Thank you Pastor Chuck for teaching line by line. Simply and purely. Many lives have been changed by this man and the Holy Spirit teaching through him.
    Can’t wait to meet him in Heaven.
    God Bless

  7. My wife and I met Pastor Chuck in 1984 at the Billy Graham meetings in Denver. It was a great experience listening to him share of his ministry. We were truly blessed by his ministry.
    May The Lord continue to use Calvary chapel to reach out to the world. We are sad to hear of his earthly loss but it was time for him to ‘journey on’ is what we feel. We wish we were at his funeral.
    God bless Calvary chapel.
    Pastor and Mrs. Isaiah

    • Thank god for the wonderful teachings and radio programs that pastor chuck has given us. one of our many heros gone home.

      we are forever greatful to God for the years he enriched our lives through pastor Chuck.

  8. I came to Christ at the height of the Jesus movement in 1972 and I was nurtured in a very healthy way by Maranatha Music artists as many other people were. Pastor Chuck was a shepherd who brought healing to many spiritually sick and confused people as few men have in this generation. Calvary chapel was like a hospital for the spiritually sick and wounded. Pastor chuck also finished his course with an unblemished record of public ministry. His personal integrity was never questioned. We’ll all miss him, and we’ll see Him again. Tyrone Flanagan

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