Calvary Chapel is a non-denominational, Protestant fellowship of churches which began in 1965 in Southern California. The term “fellowship of churches” is used in contrast to a denomination. Churches who apply and qualify for affiliation are named “Calvary Chapels”. Calvary Chapel has over one thousand such congregations worldwide. The original Calvary Chapel is Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa which was founded by Chuck Smith and is now pastored by Brian Bodersen. Doctrinally, Calvary Chapel is evangelical, pretribulationist, and strongly sola scriptura.
In their form of church government, Calvary Chapel uses a mostly Episcopal structure. Tongues and prophecy are not a normal part of typical Sunday morning church services, but they are held as doctrinally valid and encouraged among the members of the church.
Calvary Chapels faithfully uphold expository teaching, a “verse by verse, chapter by chapter” approach to teaching the Bible. This essentially means that their sermons are directly related to a passage of the Bible, and following sermons will start where the previous sermon left off (often this is done from Genesis to Revelation). They hold the opinion that topical studies fail to present the “whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27) and that ministers who use this approach often choose topics that they have a certain inclination to teach, while leaving out important controversial issues of the Bible.
It is Calvary’s desire to teach, not preach the word, in order to equip and train laymen for everyday ministry; as well as encourage development of a personal relationship with Christ. Calvary Chapel also maintains a number of radio stations around the world, and they also operate a number of Bible colleges. Chuck Smith’s “Calvary Chapel Distinctives” are essential to understanding, holistically, the tenets Calvary Chapel stands for.