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Calvary Chapel founder Chuck Smith goes home

Becky Yeh - California correspondent   (OneNewsNow.com) Thursday, October 03, 2013

One of the nation's best-known evangelical leaders has passed away. Chuck Smith, pastor and founder of the Calvary Chapel movement, died early this morning.

COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) - The Rev. Chuck Smith, an evangelical leader who embraced and fostered the 1970s Jesus movement, has died at the age of 86 after a 21-month battle with cancer.

Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, Calif., announced the death of its pastor on its web site. The church says Smith "passed into eternity peacefully in his sleep" before dawn Thursday.

Chuck Smith founded Calvary Chapel in 1965. His church's openness to hippies and spiritual seekers helped it grow exponentially and become an incubator for contemporary Christian music. 

Under Smith's leadership, Calvary Chapel went on to launch hundreds of churches nationwide.

This past Sunday, seated and with difficulty breathing, Smith preached his final sermon, titled "Be Strong in the Faith." In his closing prayer, Smith said, "It doesn't matter what the prognosis is. We know, Lord, that you are able. And we're trusting, Lord, in you."

Smith, 86, passed away Thursday after a battle with lung cancer. Pastor Alan Esses shares with OneNewsNow his favorite memory of the beloved pastor.

"I remember one time, recently, where he would stand at the door. People would come out of the church. He had just finished teaching or someone else had just finished teaching and he would stand at the door, holding onto the door, or someone would give him a chair, but he would still meet the people, hug the people, love God's people, which shows the love of Jesus Christ."

Smith was diagnosed with cancer in 2011. Known for his expository teaching through the Bible, Smith began his ministry reaching out to hippies in the 1960s. Over the years, Smith saw the birth of Calvary Chapel during the Jesus Movement in the 1960's and early 1970's. The Calvary Chapel movement includes roughly 1,600 churches in the United States and overseas.

"Just how gracious and kind he was – always – to me and my family and to countless others."

Smith, who also founded Maranatha! Music, was born in 1927 to a Bible-believing mother and a father who was a salesman. He grew up in Southern California and went to Bible college and started working as a traveling evangelist before pastoring several churches.

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