It’s a fact of the Christian faith that God often uses small things and seemingly obscure saints to accomplish His broader purposes.
If you had been one of the 25 people inside the small building on Church Street in Costa Mesa, Calif., for Calvary Chapel pastor Chuck Smith’s first service back on Sunday, December 5, 1965 – could you have possibly seen what was to come?
When he died in 2013, the Reverend Chuck Smith, affectionately known as “Papa Chuck” to his legions of congregants, was credited with helping launch the modern-day megachurch movement and growing his denomination to encompass over 1800 separate congregations.
Back in the mid 1960s, Chuck Smith was a bi-vocational pastor. Working as produce manager at the Alpha Beta supermarket and preaching at a small church, Smith grew increasingly discouraged. The church was stagnant – and he was discouraged he couldn’t even afford the $50 union fee he owed down at the market. Adding up all his debts, he discovered he owed $416.
“Maybe I should forget the ministry,” he thought. “We’re going deeper into debt, and the church isn’t growing.”
But the very next morning the phone rang out of the blue – and an old family friend told him she was sending him a gift of $425. A few years later he was called to pastor the Calvary church – which had begun with 12 people worshipping in a trailer.
Appealing to hippies, beach bums and younger individuals disaffected by their parents’ traditional worship, Pastor Chuck led tens of thousands of people to the Lord – including Richard Snyder, the son of Harry and Esther Snyder, founders of In-N-Out Burger.
Having assumed the head of the burger chain at the age of 24 following the death of his father, Richard Snyder began attending Calvary Chapel and accepted Christ as his personal Lord and Savior in 1983. The conversion overwhelmed and inspired him to want to share his newly found faith.
With the fervor of an evangelist in 1987, Snyder ordered Bible verse references be placed on In-N-Out Burger’s cups and wrappers. Over the years, the array has included:
“John 3:16” was emblazoned on soda cups. “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.”
“Proverbs 3:5” was inked on milkshake cups. “Trust in the Lord with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding.”
“Revelation 3:20” was printed on burger wrappers. “Behold, I stand at the door, and knock: if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me.”
“Nahum 1:7” even made it onto the wrapper of the Double-Double. “The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and he knows those who take refuge in Him.”
Proverbs 24:16 (“For the righteous falls seven times and rises again, but the wicked stumble in times of calamity.”) and Luke 6:35 (“But love your enemies, and do good, and lend, expecting nothing in return, and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, for he is kind to the ungrateful and the evil.”) have also been featured.
Rich Snyder died tragically in an airplane crash in 1993, but his niece and current CEO, Lynsi Snyder, has maintained the tradition as a way to honor both his legacy and her love of the Lord. Lynsi Snyder was a recent guest on the Focus on the Family radio broadcast.
Life’s unpredictable and unexpected twists and turns not only add interest to our days, but point to the Lord’s sovereign and sacred plan for our lives. Just consider:
A church of twelve people started in a trailer over 60 years ago, and later pastored by a produce manager of a supermarket, would wind up discipling an individual whose evangelistic enthusiasm over 30 years ago would still be witnessing to millions of people in 2022 via a popular fast food burger joint.
It all brings to mind Chuck Smith’s pithy observation, “Where God guides, God provides.”