Providing Some Context

If you are not a Calvary Chapel leader this blog post is not for you. I have written an article specifically for you here.

Ministry can be very lonely. If most pastors were honest with themselves loneliness is one of the reasons why they participate in denominations or networks. Relationships… Camaraderie… Calvary Chapel is no different. We’ve got some pastors leading fellowships far far from home. And they are just as hungry as the next guy for communication from their “team”. When I was starting a Bible College in Hawaii I remember being isolated, far far away from Costa Mesa and the movement. I would scour the internet for any kind of news I could find about Calvary Chapel. And that experience was one of the primary factors that made me passionate for CalvaryChapel.com. 

For way too long Calvary Chapel did very little communicating. There was the annual pastors conference and maybe a local pastors gathering. But there was very little information about the state of the movement, missionary endeavors, church planting and leadership developments. When I was asked to participate in the redesign of CalvaryChapel.com in 2011 and again in 2014 I had this concern at the forefront of my mind. 

And it is in that vein that I’ve begun to share more of the inside details from my ministry experience at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa. When Dave Rolph shared an insiders perspective back in December it was helpful. This article is no different. I am hoping to provide a bit more context and backstory to what has transpired over the past six months. There is a great deal of information that is private and confidential. The only thing I feel comfortable sharing is my first hand account and the conversations I participated in with Calvary Chapel Association. 

Let’s start here...

There has been a lot of public back and forth regarding Calvary Chapel Association and Calvary Global Network since October 31st, 2016. It was on that day that CCA sent out their first letter to Calvary Chapel pastors regarding their national conference and “clarifications” regarding web sites. Since then Brian Brodersen along with six other CCA leaders resigned from the council. (Bob Caldwell also dropped off the list, but that was because of moral failure.) A new network has emerged and most pastors have decided if they want their name removed from the CGN database. This has been a painful season for isolated pastors and missionaries. It has also caused a great deal of confusion for non-leaders… normal people attending a Calvary Chapel.

Up until December, 2016 I was working at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa leading the communications department in conjunction with Kellen Criswell. It was our responsibility to facilitate the communication that took place between 1700+ Calvary Chapels around the world and communication for the local church in Costa Mesa. Our team managed calvarychapel.com  and all of its various embassies on social media, iOS Apps and the email newsletters. The church invested a significant amount of money in staffing our department and making sure we had the resources to cary out the mission. We prayed weekly for Calvary Chapel pastors and their churches. 

One of the more boring administrative responsibilities that we inherited was the management of the Calvary Chapel church database. This was a cloud based system listing the private contact information  for all affiliated Calvary Chapels. That database was rebuilt by our team in 2014 based on an older database that was becoming obsolete. These databases had served as the source for the public info found on the calvarychapel.com church finder. Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa had maintained this list for decades. For a season the database was managed by Calvary Chapel Outreach Fellowship. When CCOF was replaced by Calvary Chapel Association the database in its current form was duplicated and handed over to CCA. Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa had a database and CCA had a database. 

In early 2015 we knew that Calvary Chapel Association was using the old database. We knew that it was outdated and hosted on an illegal server. We were aware of this because programers employed by CCCM had been the ones to build it a decade earlier. We had been using the same technology until we rebuilt ours in 2014. We knew that CCA needed a new solution. Also, we were aware of the fact that the church updates we were making were not necessarily being replicated on the CCA database. It was confusing people that there were two different church databases. 

So in early 2015 my predecessor spearheaded an agreement with Don McClure proposing that CCA use our database for 12 months. We outlined a contract and charged CCA $12,000 for use of our technology. That money covered their requests for customization and ongoing maintenance. From May, 2015 until October, 2016 I was responsible for managing the relationship with Calvary Chapel Association and their use of that database. I was the one that Don McClure called when he was concerned about anything related to that database. In the Spring of 2016 my team reevaluate the arrangement and decided to continue letting CCA use our database without charge. There had been a number of conflicts that Mr. McClure and I had hashed out and for the sake of peace I figured we could continue cooperating without charging CCA more money.  

Then in September, 2016 I received a one sentence email from Don McClure requesting a complete export of the data found in the database. This had been an option included in our original contract. It stated: "In the event that CalvaryChapelAssociation.com no longer wants to use the church management system, a database export of the information will occur and the data given to Calvary Chapel Association.” 

At the time it was difficult to discern if Mr. McClure was exercising that option or if they just wanted to have a backup copy of the data in case of an issue. We responded immediately and inquired about the status of our cooperation.  I believe we sent multiple emails over a month and a half checking on the CCA team to see if they were still using the database. 

Then on October 31st CCA sent out an email stating "We also need to clear up any confusion regarding calvarychapelassociation.com and calvarychapel.com. These are completely different websites and are on different servers. Any matters that relate to Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa should be referred to calvarychapel.com.  Any matters having to do with the movement as a whole, or church information changes and affiliation matters need to contact The Calvary Chapel Association…”

Our team was wounded by this communication and we were concerned about the inevitable confusion that it would cause. This letter insinuated that CalvaryChapel.com is a puppet site for Brian Brodersen and Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, but Calvary Chapel Association’s web site is an unbiased representation of the movement. I had been privy to private communication from CCA communicating this fact more explicitly. I was disappointed that this would be suggested publicly. 

The fact that Calvary Chapel Philadelphia was partially underwriting the operations of CCA was incidentally left out. To give the impression that CCA is functioning autonomously without the help of a single church is a misrepresentation of the facts.  

I found it absurd to read a sentence suggesting CalvaryChapel.com only reflects Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa’s values or agenda. It would be more accurate to accuse CalvaryChapel.com of accommodating — across political lines — views that some CCA council members feel uncomfortable with. Maybe we have given voice to Calvary Chapel guys that are not appreciated by particular CCA council members. But the fact that those guys are affiliated (and sometimes on the council) is not our fault. The Calvary Chapel movement is a big tent that some wish were smaller.

It has been our objective to create a web site that serves the Calvary Chapel movement globally. As a part of our role we have bent over backwards to make the site reflect the movement and not just a single church (Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa).

We invited every CCA council member to write and contribute content. We have sent out over a dozen emails inviting council members to contribute. We have also spoken over the phone or face to face with every CCA council member about contributing content. We have even invited a handful of churches to take the site over for a week including Calvary Boise, Calvary Fellowship, Calvary Chapel Ensenada, and Calvary Chapel Philadelphia.

We have promoted conferences, relief efforts and missions trips from across the movement. We have published articles from a variety of views; even allowing opposing views.

Under our leadership CalvaryChapel.com has expanded beyond the web site. We are now live-streaming 5 major ministry conferences on an annual basis. We have launched four new podcasts with more in the works. In late 2015 we launched a Spanish version of the site. We have created a version 1.0 of an Apple TV app and recently released the 2.0 version. We have received almost 900 church plant requests through the site. The online newsletter list has exploded with daily subscribers. As the reach of CalvaryChapel.com expands it gives our writers and speakers a broader audience to communicate vision, values, opportunities and exhortations.

So needless to say, we did not appreciate what Calvary Chapel Association communicated at the end of October. 

My next move was to work with the team on writing a basic letter explaining to Calvary Chapel pastors how they could update their info in our database moving forward. As we thought through this letter and it’s ramifications we realized that we would probably become the recipients of new church affiliation info… making us a quasi Calvary Chapel affiliating entity. That was supposed to be CCA’s role. But when they split the database effort and stopped communicating with our team we were put in that difficult position. 

So before I sent out the letter I called Don McClure and tried to explain these different elements. I told him I wanted to touch base with him before we send out the letter. His words to me were “I don’t care what you send out. You send out your letter and then I’ll just send out a letter.” I circled back around and explained to him that we were trying to avoid being the affiliation office for Calvary Chapel, but without more clarification we would become just that. At that point he said he couldn’t trust me and that I was threatening him. I again tried reasoning with him but he told me he didn’t take threats well and hug up on me. I’m still not sure where the threat was in the conversation or why he didn’t want to problem solve the issue but once he hung up I felt like I had at least made an attempt to reason with him. 

Our email went out that day. 

On the next day I started getting text messages from Calvary Chapel guys in Florida where Don McClure was speaking. Evidently Mr. McClure had complained about Brian Brodersen and my team’s work with the database. These reports continued to come in over the next couple of months as Mr. McClure traveled around the US speaking at Calvary Chapel gatherings. 

In December I got another report from a pastor who attended a gathering where Don McClure brought my name up and suggested that we had done something wrong with the web site or database. And again my phone was flooded with text messages. 

It was at this point that I decided to send an email to the CCA council asking for their intervention. My email was addressed to: Don McClure, Joe Focht, Sandy Adams, Mike McIntosh, Lloyd Pulley, David Guzik, Wayne Taylor, Malcom Wild, Bill Stonebraker, Skip Heitzig, Ricky Ryan, David Rosales, Raul Reis, and Jack Hibbs. 

My email outlind much of the history listed above. I expressed my concerns with how Mr. McClure was publically representing our past dealings, and I request that the CCA hold Mr. McClure accountable for his misrepresentation of the facts.

In response to this email I received a phone call from a CCA council member and an email reply from Don McClure. In summary, Mr. McClure's email started with a denial that he had ever used my name in a public setting, but he went on to apologize if he had. The remainder of the email was a mix between explaining why he believed the database belonged to CCA and past issues he had with Brian Brodersen. He strongly believed that CalvaryChapel.com was using a church database that exclusively belonged to CCA. 

No other CCA board member responded and from what I’ve been told it was not discussed during the CCA meeting this past January. 

I sent a reply email a week later. The redacted version of my email can be found here. 

My hope was that this issue would be dealt with privately. After waiting four months with little course correction from CCA I decided the broader Calvary Chapel family deserved to have more context. Even if you have pulled your name off of the CGN list and are happily in fellowship with CCA you should have expectations that your leadership is leading well and accurately communicating how we got where we are at. I believe I was given a role and a view into some significant events. Calvary Chapel pastors deserve to know more of the machinations that took place behind the scenes. 

There are a lot of people who have taken shots at Brian Brodersen since he resigned from CCA. But with everything I described above he had very little involvement. He didn't know I was planning on sending either email to CCA. He was loosely aware of the fact that we shared the database with CCA. He was not privy to all my conversations with Don McClure. To frame the last six months of Calvary Chapel’s history as a Brian Brodersen vs. CCA is faulty. If CCA was unified in their opposition to Brian's positions, six council members would not have resigned in four months. Whether CCA addresses it publicly or not, it isn't a good sign when a large chunk or your members resign. 

Personally, I wish every CCA council member had the missionary zeal that Brian has. I wish all of the past and present CCA council members had the boldness to start their own network and make an aggressive push into missions and church planting. If you are a real leader, you lead. You don't just put your name on a web site and abrogate your leadership to a single individual. Besids Brian we have seen this bold leadership exemplified through Greg Laurie and to a lesser degree Wayne Taylor. Sandy Adams deserves credit for writing on CalvaryChapel.com and putting his thoughts out in public. David Guzik is like a machine traveling the globe encouraging missionaries and faithfully preaching the Word in Santa Barbara. 

Needless to say I'm not impressed by a council that is silent throughout most of the year and has allowed Mr. McClure to spearhead an agenda that seeds division across the globe. Our missionaries deserve better leadership. Our Bible College students deserve better leadership. Our church planters deserve better leadership.

As I mentioned above, 900 people around the world have requested Calvary Chapel church plants in their home towns. When I look at that number and then hear that Mr. McClure is traveling around the US meeting with pastors to sway their opinion against Brian Brodersen... how petty and shameful. 

There are great guys on the CCA council. I want them to succeed in ministry and leadership. I think I can empathize with their desire for brand purity... Or an emphasis on stay-the-course... In  my opinion stay-the-course is a failing effort because the course is somewhat difficult to peg down as I've written about here. But the attempt is a valid gathering point for those who share that passion. 

And when it comes to Mr. McClure I wish him nothing but the best. I find it ironic that his past work with starting the Bible Colleg in Twin Peaks and later pioneering internships at his church are two of my passions. I have told him on multiple occasions that he has my respect for these two efforts. From what I have witnessed he has not served the CCA council well. His leadership gifts would be better utilized elsewhere. But that is a desicion CCA will have to wrestle with. 

I've written enough in this article. I hope that my first-hand account is helpful. And I pray that 2017 is an incredibly fruitful year in your ministry.