Chuck Smith's Memorial 'Paddle Out,' John MacArthur's Strange Fire Conf: Weekend of Deep Spiritual Contrasts

Light and Darkness in California

Editor's Note: Beginning last Wednesday during the Strange Fire Conference at his church in Sun Valley, Pastor John MacArthur continued his case against the Charismatic movement. A backlash of criticism from many in the Christian community resulted in the conference name and subject matter trending online over the last several days.

On Saturday morning, the surfing community tradition of a paddle out as a way of paying tribute to someone who has died was done in memorial for Chuck Smith in the waters north of the Huntington Beach Pier. David Housholder was touched by both events in different ways and posted this piece (below) on Saturday.

"I hang out with Pentecostals; they are my tribe. Yes, we speak in tongues and believe in healing. Most colorful people on earth. I wrote a book on Pentecostalism (Zero to One Billion adherents 1906 to present) for you cautious types," Housholder writes in his bio on his website.

This weekend was a weekend of deep spiritual contrasts in Southern California.

Two hours ago, I was out at the end of the Huntington Beach Pier on my surfboard. We were participating in a "paddle out" in memory of Chuck Smith, one of the main leaders of the Jesus movement.

Just take some time and let the slideshow [in orginal post] run…. It will give you the vibe of the event.

Credit :

It is traditional to do paddle outs in memory of surfers who have died, this may have been one of the biggest paddle outs….ever.

Credit : (Image: Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa)
(Image: Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa)

Have a look at the video put together by Calvary Chapel North Long Beach (see top of the page).

This is the size (sample pic below) more typical of the handful of memorial paddle-outs I've attended. Compare to the pictures above!

Credit : (Photo: Life and Liberty/David Housholder website)
(Photo: Life and Liberty/David Housholder website)

The mood was euphoric. Grateful. Warm. Inclusive. You didn't have to be a Christian to take part fully today. People in the massive circle of surfers spontaneously shouted out encouraging Bible passages, phrase by phrase, with the hundreds of voices responding in unison….

I can do.


All things.


Through Christ


Who strengthens me.


AMEN! (Followed by massive splashing of each other in a collective fountain of water)

This went on for quite some time, pretty much until we ran out of memorized Bible verses; punctuated by spontaneous group singing of the tunes of the movement:

Contrast this with what was going on up on the other side of Los Angeles, at Grace Community in the San Fernando Valley.

A big crowd of serious theologians, overwhelmingly men, met at John MacArthur's church for the "Strange Fire" Conference.

Credit : (Image: Life and Liberty/David Housholder website)
(Image: Life and Liberty/David Housholder website)

Whereas the Jesus movement looked for ways to include people whom the church was not including (hippies, '68 flower child counter-culture, etc), MacArthur's movement seems bent on figuring out how to exclude a large majority of us Christians from the movement we are already in.

MacArthur is using this gathering to promote his book which more or less condemns all of Pentecostal and Charismatic Christianity (about a billion people) to the realm of false teaching. He calls us misguided at best and perhaps even likely in league with evil forces.

The contrast could not have been greater. One city. One weekend. Two polar opposites. Light and darkness. Inclusion and exclusion. Euphoria and Judgementalism. Scruffy "Jesus freak" enthusiasts. Groomed theologians.

I'll leave you with a song from the Jesus movement. Look at the pics from the early 70′s. A movement that shaped and re-mapped Christianity in North America:

Listen for Papa Chuck's unique voice in the middle of the song….

A generation after the Jesus Movement, the light is still shining brightly. Free food on the beach afterwards. "Love ya, Brother" from strangers as the most common greeting. Grateful people waiting in line to sign his massive "thank you Chuck" card.

The light shines in the darkness and the darkness has not overcome it…

-The Gospel of John

And rainbows appeared between the pier and the congregation in the water…

Credit : (Photo:Life and Liberty/David Housholder website)
(Photo:Life and Liberty/David Housholder website)
Credit : (Photo: Life and Liberty/David Housholder website)
(Photo: Life and Liberty/David Housholder website)

Was this article helpful?

Help keep The Christian Post free for everyone.

By making a recurring donation or a one-time donation of any amount, you're helping to keep CP's articles free and accessible for everyone.

We’re sorry to hear that.

Hope you’ll give us another try and check out some other articles. Return to homepage.

Free Religious Freedom Updates

Join thousands of others to get the FREEDOM POST newsletter for free, sent twice a week from The Christian Post.

Most Popular

Free Religious Freedom Updates

A religious liberty newsletter that is a must-read for people of faith.

More Articles