I respected Chuck Smith for multiple reasons. Here is the main one.
He was pastoring a little church in Costa Mesa, California, in the late 1960′s, not far from the beach. God began to pour out his Spirit. Teenage kids started getting saved and coming to Smith’s church. But there was a problem. The oil deposits off the coast of California bubble up little globs of oil that land on the beach. If you step on one, it sticks to the bottom of your foot and you mess up the carpet when you get home. So these young people began coming into church right off the beach. They didn’t know they were supposed to wear shoes. They didn’t know church culture. All they knew was Jesus. But the new carpets and pews at Smith’s church were getting stained. One Sunday morning Chuck arrived at church to find a sign posted outside: “Shirts and shoes please.” He took it down. After the service he met with the church officers. They talked it through. They agreed that they would remove the new carpet and pews before they would hinder one kid from coming to Christ. And that wise decision cleared the way for God to visit Calvary Chapel with wonderful revival (Isaiah 57:14-15). I was there when they were holding services five nights a week, standing room only. The breakthrough came when they humbled themselves and chose to care about what God cares about, and nothing else.
Whenever the power of the gospel starts claiming a church at a deeper level, there inevitably comes a power encounter. I don’t mean anything of a demonic nature, though I suppose that could be involved. But I mean a crisis decision. Will this church yield to the Lord in total surrender, or will this church say No to the Lord for the sake of its own ideals and patterns and comforts and preferences and unconfessed sins? If a church hands itself over to the Lord, whatever the cost, his blessing will break out with power. But if a church chooses anything less than the glory of Christ alone, it relegates itself to spiritual mediocrity and tragic inconsequentiality.
Chuck Smith led Calvary Chapel to choose well. The Lord smiled on them. And a whole generation shared in the divine blessing.