In the late 1960s, the first Calvary Chapel was started in Costa Mesa, California, as a small nondenominational church of 25 members, pastored by Chuck Smith. The Lord blessed that small group, and now Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa is home to some 30,000 believers.
From the beginning, Calvary Chapel has been focused on leading people to Christ and discipling them so that they can go out into the world and lead others. The Lord has blessed this commitment, and Calvary Chapel has grown to 1500 fellowships worldwide, including over 850 churches in North America and over 200 churches in South America, Europe, Africa, Asia, and Australia.
Part of Calvary Chapel’s discipling ministry is “The Word for Today,” which publishes Bible study books and tapes all over the world; KWVE, which broadcasts God’s Word to all of Southern California; and Calvary Chapel’s Bible College, which provides Bible education to thousands at its home campus in Twin Peaks, California, and more than 20 extension campuses worldwide.
Because of its size and influence, many Christians have asked exactly what Calvary Chapel believes and what makes us distinct. At Calvary Chapel, we have always been hesitant to answer those questions, not because we are unsure of our beliefs, but because we are cautious to avoid division within the body of Christ. After all, what really matters is what we have in common as Christians, the essential doctrines of: the infallibility of God’s Word; the virgin birth of Christ; Christ’s sinless life, death for our sins, and bodily resurrection; Christ’s ascension to glory; and His personal return to rule over the earth. This is the essence of Christianity and agreed upon by all born-again believers.
When Christians move away from these foundational doctrines to those that are less essential, there is always a risk of setting barriers up in the church, something we at Calvary Chapel have no desire to do. It is not our purpose to cause division or discord in the body of Christ; rather, we long for unity among all of God’s people, and we allow for a great deal of flexibility even within our own church.