Question: What are the main differences between the views of Calvary Chapel and of the Baptist denomination? I have researched and found little to none.
Answer: First of all, there are several Baptist denominations, which makes it difficult to generalize, but there are differences, both doctrinal and philosophical.
Doctrinal differences: Probably the most pronounced doctrinal difference between Calvary Chapel and a typical Baptist church is our position concerning spiritual gifts. Most Baptist churches are cessationist meaning they believe that miraculous spiritual gifts, such as physical healing, speaking in tongues, and prophecy ceased to function when the apostolic era came to an end.
Calvary Chapel does not hold to this belief, and finds no compelling biblical evidence to conclude otherwise. On the Calvary Chapel website (calvarychapel.com) you will find the following statement concerning spiritual gifts:
We believe in the present ministry of the Holy Spirit and in the exercise of all Biblical gifts of the Spirit according to the instructions given to us in 1 Corinthians 12-14.
This doesn’t mean we take a classic Pentecostal position on spiritual gifts. Far from it. Whereas a typical Pentecostal or Charismatic service usually focuses on spiritual gifts and supernatural experiences, Calvary Chapel places its focus squarely on the systematic teaching of God’s Word. We take very seriously the biblical admonition that all things in our services must be done in a fitting and orderly way. (1 Cor. 14:40)
Philosophical differences: There are also differences in church leadership structure. Most Baptist fellowships are governed by boards and committees, and in many cases the pastor is hired by the church. (I know there are some exceptions to this since not all Baptist churches are exactly the same.)
Calvary Chapel has a basic form of leadership modeled after the theocracy of Israel under Moses, as well as the insights of leadership from the New Testament. This results in our belief that the Pastor is to lead the church as he feels directed by the Holy Spirit, with Elders providing accountability and assistance in directing the affairs of the fellowship. (1 Timothy 5:17).
A practical example of how these differences might play out could be seen in the case of a Senior Pastor stepping down. Whereas a Baptist church would call in their search committee to interview and evaluate possible pastoral candidates, in a Calvary Chapel the replacement would most typically be the choice of the outgoing Pastor. In a case where he was either unavailable or disqualified from making this decision, the Elders would handle it.