Chuck Smith at Calvary Chapel East

Last night I went to a concert by the old contemporary Christian band Lovesong, attached to and a very short sermon by the highly influential pastor Chuck Smith, and interspersed with testimonies and quotes, including the old violin poem and Psalm 150 (emphasis on the cymbals), at Tucson’s Calvary Chapel East. My parents were going, and I thought that it would be convenient for me to go, and perhaps interesting as well. I could find out what was so admirable about Pastor Chuck, for instance. I thought perhaps that I could find out… and then… I didn’t know.

What I failed to take into account, because it’s not usually the thing one must take into account when going to hear a Christian band from the 70s and a sermon, was that a) I suffer from noise aversion, and b) I don’t have any 70s memories to be nostalgic about. Thus, a lot of their references were lost on me, or I only understood them as a historical peculiarity. The one that most stood out was *gasp* the Lovesong musicians were long-haired hippies with *gasp* beards who *gasp* had a drummer, and even *long gasp* a drum solo (which was good, but went on rather too long), and wow, they wore plaid shirts and jeans while (oh my!) the pastor was dressed in a Hawaiian shirt, took alter calls, and baptized people in the ocean. The sermon is the same standard Evangelical Free event sermon: if you’re not a Christian, become one now, and don’t be like the monkey with his fist in the coconut; if you’re a lapsed Christian recommit your life; if you’re simply a timid, lazy Christian, give everything to God.

As I was tired, cranky, irritable, and all noised out after teaching and being around teens most of the day, I was inclined toward snark, especially on matters of outdated clothing concerns I had never encountered or even come close to encountering. Afterwards, though, I began to wonder: why is it that with events such as this, with a concert and a sermon, some lights, an alter call, and a church with a coffee shop inside, do I feel like a reporter who ought to try to write a review, and then I’m cranky if I can’t write a successful review? It can’t simply be that I don’t understand all the 70s references, because in Eagle River there were quite a lot of 70s references as well, and I thought it was rather charming. It can’t simply be that it’s louder than I would like, because sometimes I go to parties and whatnot that are rather louder than I would like, and I wander around looking awkward and lost, but I feel no need to write a review of such occasions. It cannot simply be that it is mysterious, because miraculous icons visit and the whole thing is rather perplexing and mysterious, but if I were to write about that it would be altogether different.

The only thing I can think of is that the gathering about the icon is an event I am actually a part of, perplexing and mysterious as it may be to me, in a way I am not and cannot be a part of listening to Chuck Smith ask me to give everything to Christ. That makes me a little sad, and a little more perplexed, and rather confused, because, not being really part of things, what do I do with what he’s telling me? Probably I review it.


2 thoughts on “Chuck Smith at Calvary Chapel East

  1. Perhaps his message is good but his word choice disagreeable? Or more generally, not counting all the things you didn’t like, was there value in what you did like? If you reword Chuck Smith’s phrase, “giving everything to Christ” as a concrete, practical, finite act, is there real value or does it miss the mark?

    1. Pastor Chuck’s example was that when he was young he wanted to be a doctor, but then at a camp he realized he should be a pastor instead, so he canceled a football scholarship that would have gotten him into medical school, and went to Bible college instead. That was good, I think; his ministry was inviting to the hippies and “Jesus freaks” in a way that conventional churches weren’t, so a lot of people became Christians or more serious Christians who might otherwise not have.

      The difficulty is that in a lot of cases, including my own, I’m not sure what that second clause would entail. Pastor Chuck thought that God was saying that it would be alright to be a doctor, and that would be a good, stable, helpful thing to be doing, but it would be a lot better and more important to be a pastor. If I were going to try apply that to my own life, perhaps I would say that it’s a fine, stable, helpful thing to be an art teacher for the foreseeable future, but… and there’s the difficulty. I never know what the other side of the “but” might be for me, and I suspect that there may be a similar lack in others as well. …But really I want to study theology and write and practice Christianity and pray like the nuns. I can’t tell if that’s because I ought and it’s God’s will, though, or just that I want to.

      So I suppose my objection — or perhaps it isn’t an objection, but simply something that is unclear to me — is that it’s all very well to say that I give everything to God. In my case, in my case I don’t have much confidence in being able to come through on that one, so I tend to pray that I give everything to Christ, more as a request than a promise. But that’s just the initial thing, and then I have to listen for what God wants, and, more importantly, God has to communicate something about what He wants. So someone like me might say to God: “I want to give everything to you, but I’m unsure of what you want, and I’m even unsure of what I want, only I want to will the same thing as is in your Will, but I don’t know how well I can, or what it is… so in the meantime, while I’m asking about that, I can’t do nothing, so I guess I’d better… well, here’s a job, and it’s a very decent, responsible one that is kind of good, because it’s good for kids to practice seeing and drawing things with better attention… so I suppose I’ll do that for now.”

      So then there’s value in that message, but I wish preachers would spend some more time on that part of things between saying “yes, I give everything to God… or at least I want and intend to” and then actually putting that into action.

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