Mike Macon is our representative from Calvary Chapel and someone I’m honored to call my friend.
He’s also one of the smartest, most well read people I know in any tradition, but most importantly he’s always there when you need him.
He has been just that many times for me.
He’s a pastor in the best sense of the word…and this is his article.
The quickest, most succinct way to answer the question, “why are you a part of the Calvary Chapel movement?” is: This is my family.
The slightly less quick and distinctly less succinct way to answer the question is as follows.
Without going into stupefying detail, I was raised as an Episcopalian with very strong New Age leanings, but had departed from any sort of theistic belief by my teens. During a deployment in the United States Navy, three of my shipmates graciously and patiently interacted with me, putting up with my extreme antagonism against their Christianity – I’d been there, done that, no more for me thanks I’m full. Through just listening to my rants and calmly, lovingly answering them with stunningly simple logic, I eventually surrendered my life to Jesus and haven’t looked back since.
My first taste of Biblical Christianity was onboard ship. Since we were steaming at the time, it would be months before we’d be in port long enough for me to attend church. Instead, those same three guys more or less tag-teamed a Bible study in the ship’s library every evening after dinner, going verse-by-verse through Romans. I’d never experienced anything like it, and I was hooked – immediately, and irrevocably. Mark (one of the guys) led simple worship with his guitar. Usually either Mark or Tom (one of the other guys) then led the study.
Simply teaching the Bible simply – and especially doing so through one of the most important Books of the Bible for Christians – had a profound and lasting effect on me.
Six months later, two of the three guys had been reassigned to other assignments – one to another ship, another to a shore billet. The ship’s chaplain at the time was very favorable toward the Bible study, and wanted to see it continue – but the third of the three original guys didn’t want to take the reins. I was asked to lead it, and to become the Protestant Lay Leader for the command.
I was only six months old in the Lord – and I was terrified.
But those six months were foundational in my spiritual life. I look back on them now and recognize them as my spiritual “boot camp” – in every positive way.
The guys who’d led me to the Lord instilled in me a deep and abiding love for the Word. They continually encouraged everybody to get into the Word, and get the Word into them – a lesson I took to heart. In those six months, I voraciously read everything I could get my hands on – through the Bible a few times (once in the first Bible I bought right after becoming a Christian – a New Oxford Study Bible), through every commentary I could find (Matt Henry, Jamieson Fausset & Brown, Clarke, Calvin), through a few Spurgeon devotionals, and everything else I could. I had my stateside friends tape KWAVE shows, Sproul, MacArthur, and others, and ship them to me. I had a ravening hunger to read, to listen, to learn, largely because what I had grown up with had left me spiritually starving, but mostly because that’s the example which had been set for me by those three guys, and I wanted what they had – a calm, mature, open-hearted, sharp-minded faith, an abiding relationship with a real Person Whom they walked with and talked with as if He was really there – because He was.
By the time the other brothers left, I had already started leading some of the Bible studies myself – under their wing, but even so.
After a whole lot of soul-searching and prayer, I timidly took up the challenge to become the Protestant Lay Leader.
That is a story in and of itself. My first ever leadership experience, in the very variegated and volatile environment of a military command, with men from every corner of the nation and from every background. Very early on, my leadership was challenged by men much older in the Lord than I was who had come onboard ship since then and who wanted me to stop being so friendly with those evil papists and Pentecostals and to only teach out of the Authorized Version, etc., etc., etc…it was a baptism by fire, and from the perspective of years I can look back and see the Lord’s hand in it all, doing His preparatory work in my life.
But as I’d said – that’s a story in and of itself, and quite tangential to the current one.
Just as soon as my ship was in port longer than a few days – more importantly, over a weekend – I found out where those three brothers who’d led me to the Lord went to church. Turns out, they all three went to Horizon Christian Fellowship in San Diego – a Calvary Chapel pastored by Mike MacIntosh and (at the time) Leo Giovinetti. I’d waited until the ship was in port over a weekend because I didn’t know that you could go to church on days other than Sunday. Imagine my deep surprise (and delight) to discover that not only did HCF meet on Sundays, but Saturdays as well – and even Wednesdays.
In fact, there was something going on every single day of the week.
I started attending HCF every time we were in port – Leo was going through Acts at the time, and Mike was going through Revelation.
I was blown away.
HCF also (again, to my exuberant delight) maintained an extensive study library, with books from all over the theological spectrum – not just Christian. It was there that I learned about the Watchtower and the LDS, mainly by reading their literature and doing my own comparison with what I already knew the Bible said (though obviously Dr. Walter Martin’s materials were vitally important resources in this and other studies) – which became very vital information as other guys came onboard ship from both of those backgrounds, enabling me to intelligently interact with them.
As my ship prepared for a six-month deployment to the Persian Gulf (ultimately becoming involved in Operation Restore Hope – the operation which ended right before the Battle of Mogadishu – you remember, Blackhawk Down…), I had more time to be involved in the ministry at Horizon, becoming a part of the Children’s Ministry and becoming an assistant Home Fellowship Leader in El Cajon.
All good things come to an end, and for America – er, I mean, myself – that day came when Bill Clinton became the first 100% civilian president of the United States of America – and therefore the first president with a Pollyanna complex.
I was standing pier watch the night of the election. I can’t describe the stunned, shocked, incredulous expressions on almost everyone’s face as they crossed onto the pier to go to their moored ships.
Anyway…two years later, Clinton decided that the world was now a safe place full of happy shiny people, and began dismantling the military with a vengeance. As a consequence, it was determined that anyone on a decommissioning vessel, no matter how time they had in – or had leftin – their enlistments could put in for an early discharge.
At the end of 1993, beginning of 1994, my ship began the process of decommissioning – and so did I.
Through a strange series of events, the Lord led me to Michigan, where at the time there were no Calvary Chapels – so I got hooked into the Kalamazoo Vineyard (right at the beginning of the whole Toronto Blessing thing), and very briefly a Christian Reformed congregation And an EV-Free. After a move to Grand Rapids, another Vineyard, and an independent Pentecostal congregation which was heavily involved in the Renewal Movement, Calvary Chapel East Grand Rapids began in the living room of pastor Ed Yearack with six of us, studying through Hebrews.
After a few years adrift, I was home.
I am Calvary Chapel because this is my family.
Also, because as I read the Bible, I see what I see in broad terms in Calvary Chapel, and as I at first attended, then was involved in, then pastoring in Calvary Chapel, I saw what I’d read in the Bible.
The simple polity…the centrality of Jesus…the simple, systematic, expositional teaching of the Bible…the present reality of and dependence upon the Holy Spirit…the easygoing relationship with the rest of the Body of Christ (yes, I know many people believe this doesn’t exist in CC, but that has emphatically not been my experience, in aggregate)…I am Calvary Chapel because this is my family and it and its Distinctives are in my blood.
I am Calvary Chapel because this is where the Lord has me.
I know that my experience is not universal, but it is what it is – and I was asked why I am Calvary Chapel, not why others are not. Your mileage may vary.