Founded by Chuck Smith in 1965 in the midst of the “Jesus Movement” among the hippie culture of Costa Mesa, California. Chuck Smith and a small group of about 25 broke from the International Foursquare Gospel Denomination and began a ministry to hippies, surfers, and drug addicts. This small movement spread like wildfire and now the denomination has grown to over 1000 churches and counting. In government, this group is primarily a pastor-led congregation but often times a Calvary Chapel church will be more of an episcopal or presbyterian elder-led style of government. Whereas Calvary Chapel does not consider themselves to be a “denomination” i.e. they claim to be non-denominational, they accept the idea of other denominations but reject the over emphasis of denominational doctrine and practice.
They are a balanced blend of Calvinism and Arminianism theology (if such a thing could be possible) whereby they believe in a dual role of God’s sovereign choice of an individual for salvation, coupled with that individual’s free will acceptance of God’s offer. They fancy themselves directly in between fundamentalism (Baptists, Methodists, Presbyterians, etc) and pentecostalism (Assembly of God, Church of God, Foursquare etc). They adhere to sola scriptura and the inerrancy of the Bible while adhering to the fundamentals of the Christian faith: Trinity, Deity of Jesus, Salvation by Grace, etc just as fundamental evangelicals do. The difference is that Calvary Chapel believes in the perpetuity of the spiritual gifts (i.e. tongues, prophecy, word of knowledge etc) as a theological position, but they do not believe in practicing the gifts in their church services. It is this position that caused a friendly “split” by John Wimber and others who broke off from Calvary Chapel to form the Vineyard pentecostal denomination (formerly a ‘movement’)
Post-Chuck Smith Split