The first Calvary Chapel was started in the late 1960’s in Costa Mesa, California, as a small nondenominational church of 25 members, pastored by Chuck Smith. This was during a time when most traditional churches were turning away the next generation because of the length of their hair and the counter-culture lifestyle they practiced. Driven by a burden for that generation, Pastor Chuck reached out to them with love and without compromise of Christian principles. A result of this outreach was the birth of the “Jesus Movement.”
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. We truly take to heart our Lord's command in Matthew 28:19-20, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo. I am with you always, even to the end of the age."
Calvary Chapels are best known for their strong emphasis on the teaching of God’s Word and the application of His Word to everyday life, along with the importance of worship through contemporary music, designed to draw believers to a place of intimate communion with God and to ready their hearts for His Word.
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.