For those who like to plant seeds and watch life grow, Calvary Chapel
of Costa Mesa might metaphorically qualify as one of the largest plants
What began as a little church with 25 members on Church Street in
Costa Mesa is now a 30,000 member congregation with a chapel on the
border of Costa Mesa and Santa Ana and thousands of branch churches in
almost every state in the nation and overseas.
Calvary Chapel of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is one of the fastest-growing
churches in the country and Calvary Chapel of Albuquerque, is the largest
in that city.
And it all started here, said Dave Rolph, assistant pastor of Calvary
Chapel of Costa Mesa.
Hippies had something to do with it, he said.
In the late 1960s and early ‘70s, many of them became Christians,
bringing in a more contemporary-sounding Christian music style. Rock
bands became Christian, Christian rock music emerged and people flocked
to that rare place that welcomed such a reverent yet trendy form of
“There were very few churches where counter-culture people would feel
welcome, so Calvary Chapel just grew incredibly,” Rolph said. “Then,
after a few years, there became a demand in some other areas for churches
and the Calvary Chapel-style ministry.”
So the little church on Church Street, which began in the 1960s, moved
for a short time to the Lutheran Church in Newport Beach.
In 1971, the congregation moved into its present facility, part of
which is in Costa Mesa and part in Santa Ana, Rolph said. While the
building was being built on what was vacant property, congregants
gathered in a tent for about two years.
Today, there are Calvary Chapels run by the methodology of teaching
through the Bible and a contemporary style of worship in countries such
as Brazil, China, England, France, Germany, Mexico and Russia.
The music is still hip. Some of it is by Love Song, a Christian band
credited as the first Christian band.
Several worship leaders at the church started Marinatha Music, one of
the biggest Christian music labels in the business.
Chuck Smith, pastor of Calvary Chapel of Costa Mesa, led the growth.
“Most of the songs we sing were written by different Calvary Chapel
worship leaders,” Rolph said. “We have our own praise bands [and] we have
a whole distribution company, so we sell music and books to bookstores.”
The chapel even has a network of more than 325 radio stations around
the country. Begun with Smith’s goal to meet the needs of people who
couldn’t make it to church in the 1970s, local radio appearances evolved
into the purchase of KWVE-FM (107.9) in the 1980s, said Brian Broderson,
The church eventually built its own station, called Calvary Satellite
“That’s all in an effort to get the Bible teachings out to people all
over the country,” Broderson said.
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