Oct 3rd, 2013

Pastor Chuck Smith: A life well-lived


Early this morning I received a text that made me pause and breathe deeply. It said, “Pastor Chuck just passed into glory a little while ago.”

Instantly I felt my heart simultaneously sink and then soar. I thought of the sadness of his wife, his family and Christians around the globe who will miss him; and yet I also knew the great cry of his heart had been answered — he was present with the Lord. Pastor Chuck Smith, who pastored Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, California, that lead to an entire tribe of Calvary Chapel churches that would spring up the world over, was intrinsically connected to the storied “Jesus-movement” of the 70’s. He who faithfully and relentlessly exposited scriptures, pointed people to grace and trusted in the Holy Spirit has left the tent and gone Home.

I thought of how he was no longer in the tent of his body, a tent that had been afflicted by a stroke and then through a prolonged fight with cancer, and how he would never struggle or feel pain again. Like my daughter Lenya, he was in the Paradise of God, in Heaven. The house has got what the tent does not. He had run his race, fought the good fight, and there was laid up for him a crown of righteousness that waits for all who love His appearing.

Pastor Chuck is a hero of mine. There is no doubt that there would be no Fresh Life Church if it weren’t for him. He directly impacted those who impacted me, and through attending the Bible College he started I learned so much. As part of our curriculum we listened to hundreds and hundreds of his messages through the Bible. I thoroughly enjoyed it. His distinct, rich, warm voice and loving tone as he methodically worked his way from Genesis to Revelation, chapter-by-chapter, verse-by-verse is permanently engrained in my heart. I still regularly listen to him teach, both on Fresh Life Radio and as I teach through books of the Bible myself. Just a couple months ago I spent several hours listening to him teach the entire book of Philippians in two monster-sermons in prep for the Rampart Series. Speaking of Fresh Life Radio, it was Pastor Chuck who gave us the radio station we operate in Billings, Montana. Which is a perfect snapshot of his generous heart.

I had the chance to say hello to him just a few months ago when I saw him in passing at a conference. It was brief but in his eyes I could see he was as strong as ever inwardly, but you could tell he was in pain and a shell of himself outwardly. Last summer, however, we were both backstage at a Harvest Crusade and I had the opportunity to sit down with him and tell him how thankful I am for him. I told him that what God is doing through Fresh Life is all fruit to his account — the thousands of decisions for Christ and all God has done. I will never forget when I was trying to decide whether I should stay in California or move to Montana and I went to see him in his office. As I communicated the options, I waited for him as the General to tell me where I should deploy to. He wouldn’t. Instead, he told me, “Both options are good Levi. People need Jesus everywhere.” I see his wisdom now. He refused to be Yoda. He knew I would put stock in his opinion and wanted me to discern the will of God myself.

I celebrate the tremendous life he lived and marvel at the impact one man committed to Jesus can make. Millions and millions of people experienced God’s love because of him. Much like the late Steve Jobs, who innovated in not just one but in multiple areas, God used Pastor Chuck to change the game on many different levels. He altered the landscape when it comes to Christian music by embracing modern worship and giving birth to Maranatha music, pioneered in church-planting, and disrupted ministry in general through his evangelistic approach that reached out to a counterculture while maintaining both doctrinal orthodoxy and an openness to the Holy Spirit (Ed Stetzer made the case on his blog that he altered the face of Protestant Christianity in America). I grieve that we will see his face no more on the earth but rejoice over what he is now experiencing and the way his life will continue to make waves and ripples for many, many, many years to come and on into eternity.


Posted in leadership, ministry, raw thoughts


  1. Jeff Green Says:

    Wow, I just learned a lot about Pastor Chuck Smith, thanks. I also realized when you are talking about a tent, it’s not like we’re camping, it’s more like we are pioneers traveling to our new home. We use the tent on the way there, then cast it away to settle in the new, permanent home.

  2. Christine Says:

    Thank you for sharing Levi…Chuck was and still is a Spiritual Father for so many of us…I truly will miss his chuckle ! And when he would start the answer to questions with that laugh then say ” well you know “. I can hear him still. Being sad then being able to rejoice knowing our Dear Pastor Chuck is now with Christopher, Little Lenya, and my grand babies, our brothers and sisters and many more of our loved ones, sure makes me happy…What a view that must be up above and makes me even more eager, looking forward to our Heavenly home…our Redeemer lives…our sadness to gladness because of HIM…Love to you and your family from Riverside CA…Agape

  3. Brigetta Schwaiger Says:

    My husband and I attended Greg Laurie’s Harvest Crusade at Anaheim Stadium the year we got engaged. We were baptized together as a married couple by Gary Ruff, a Calvary Chapel pastor in La Canada, CA. (Pastor Gary’s brother in law is Raul Ries, another Calvary Chapel Pastor). As So Cal folks, we were hoping for a Calvary in Montana. We found Fresh Life and knowing that you were mentored by Chuck Smith and Greg Laurie was huge to us. Our family, our sons… are fruit to his account. Loved his voice.

  4. Flavio Ortega Says:

    Thanks for sharing. Pastor Chuck will be missed greatly but he left his legacy on you guys, our pastors and counselors. Let’s follow his example and make the Word of God reach all corners of the world.

  5. I am touched by the amazing heart of men like Pastor Chuck Smith, as well as the men of God I look up to such as Pastor Greg and Pastor Levi. You are each an inspiration in that through it all, you persist in doing what God has called you to. It warms my heart to think of the joy Heaven holds for each of us as we press into God’s Word and continue to be not only hearers, but doers. Thank you all for being faithful, consistent examples of what it means to truly be a man of God. God bless!

  6. Pastor Levi,
    Loved your interview with Pastor Chuck Smith.
    Have followed your continuing pastoral growth from afar at Harvest Riverside & Harvest Orange County where we are members.
    Pastor Chuck is and was an influence on our Christian Life. But your messages are too an inspiration to feed our Christian life. Please stay the course.

    Michael & Nicole Long

  7. Renee Says:

    Thank you for sharing so eloquently. I can’t quit listening to his KWVE radio and reading all the posts concerning Pastor Chuck. My church is Calvary Chapel Chattanooga, but I feel like I know Pastor Chuck and you from listening on my phone apps and watching HisChannel. What a huge impact his far reaching ministry has had and will continue to have as many continue to listen to his many recorded teachings.He was an incredible blessing to me and the product of his obedience will continue to bless as I listen to you and so many other Calvary pastors online.

  8. Joe Pruett Says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this Levi!! Beautifully put!!

  9. JoAnn Mesquit Says:

    Brilliant, well said about this beloved husband, father, grandfather, mentor, teacher, pastor and friend!! He WILL be missed here but from listening to you and Jennie and being in Gods word, I can believe he is rejoicing right now!!! Praying for everyone associated to this wonderful spirit!!

  10. Brenda hamby-johnson Says:

    Thank you Levi and I praise God for all his saints who have meant so much to us!! Pastor Chuck is one of them… as are many of his “students”… May the love of our Lord Jesus dwell in your heart always!

  11. Cathy Stone Says:

    He will be deeply missed. He influenced not only my life but the life of my family. How wonderful that he is now on the holy presence of our Lord.

  12. John Claybaugh Says:

    Well said, Levi. Chuck was an amazing man of God who had a profound effect on my life thru the years. I love when I get in my car and turn the radio on and the first voice I hear is Chuck. Somehow, whenever I do that, the peace of the Holy Spirit descends on my heart regardless of what I may be going through. D.L. Moody used to say, “The world has yet to see what God can do through one man whose heart is wholly and completely committed to Him.” Well, I think it’s safe to say that now the world has seen what God can do through one man whose heart was wholly and completely committed to God. Yesterday Chuck got to hear those amazing words, “Well done, my good and faithful servant. Enter now into the joy of your Lord.” What a glorious day!

  13. Amber Carlson Says:

    I used to go to my car at lunch time to listen to Pasor Chuck on the radio, while I was working as a RN. I learned so much from him , but now he is in the arms of our Savior !

  14. Thanks Pastor Levi for honoring this dear man of God! His life example and ROCK solid preaching from the WORD of have impacted me more than any other one person on this planet. I so look forward to spending eternity with this man. His sensitive spirit and the Holy Spirit working in him enabled us to also be recipients of his generosity at a significant time in our family’s history. “The LORD BLESS thee and KEEP thee, the LORD make His face to shine upon me!” I can clearly hear him lead us in singing those words at the close of worship experiences. MARANATHA!

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