Home Voices Church Journeys: Calvary Church Santa Ana: A Missions-Focused Church

Church Journeys: Calvary Church Santa Ana: A Missions-Focused Church

Calvary Church Santa Ana

As I visit and speak at churches, I will often write up a bit of info about the church, providing some insight that might be helpful for other pastors and church leaders. I call this Church Journeys and I hope you find it helpful.

Just after moving to California, I had the privilege of speaking at Calvary Church of Santa Ana, California. Calvary, planted in 1931, is an influential, historic church in Southern California. Less that 20 miles from Talbot and Biola University, the church and the school have long-term ties. Several of the church’s pastors have graduated from Biola or Talbot or have key connections there. Such connections include long-time previous pastor David Mitchell, who currently serves on Biola’s Board of Trustees. Another prominent previous pastor was well-known teacher, David Hocking, who led the effort the build the church’s current main auditorium in 1991. 

Anticipating the growth of Orange County, Calvary moved in 1957 to the outskirts of the population. At the time, the location was agricultural, with many orange trees but very few people living there. This has proven to be a strategic move. Nearly 70 years later, this property now just off I-5 is still the church’s current location, and the surrounding community has filled with people. 

An Historic Church With Ongoing Ministries  

Visiting Calvary, I sensed the same historic roots as I did at Moody Church in Chicago, where I served as Interim Pastor for several years. This makes sense, because Calvary, like Moody, has stood as a church determined to hold to the full authority of the Bible. Such commitment to biblical authority motivated the founding of the church when many were departing from it. Nearly a century later, as many still depart, Calvary has kept this original conviction and commitment. 

Throughout my visit, helpful signage directed me and others to the locations for the morning’s gatherings. Seemingly small, practical things like signage can make a big impact on a church’s ministry and growth. (I loved gathering backstage in the choir room to talk about service before it started, a common practice in many mid- to large-sized churches.)

I was thankful to see a thriving deaf ministry, which reminded me of the church that I myself planted among the deaf many years ago. This deaf ministry pairs with ministries in Spanish and Mandarin, along with evangelism and counseling ministries. Churches must reach all different aspects of their community, and Calvary seems to be doing that well. 

During the service, the church celebrated parent-child dedications. I especially appreciated the call for staff to gather around the families, talk about their relationships, and show clear support for them. One of the children being dedicated was the grandchild of apologist and author Josh McDowell. I enjoyed getting to see and talk with him while I was at Calvary, along with serving with his son, Sean, at Talbot.

The Church Today

Calvary’s current pastor, Eric Wakeling, also graduated from Talbot. Pastor Eric led the service and gave me a gracious introduction. (He was the first pastor I met when I moved to town.) 

People stayed around after the service to talk and spend time together. This stood out to me, as people clearly wanted to lean into community. Such an atmosphere of community and ongoing conversation is an important sign of a healthy church.  

A Missions Focused History—and Ongoing Practice

I especially loved Calvary’s clear focus on the church’s mission. The church emphasizes global mission emphatically, while not neglecting the importance of local mission. Calvary has a long, fruitful history of mission, and it communicates this history well. The church sent its first missionaries to Venezuela in 1932. Likewise, the church has developed local church partnerships, planting other local churches in Southern California, and even developing a relationship with a “sister church” in Albania. Calvary puts its resources into mission with a rare and outsized commitment, allocating over $1,000,000 of its annual budget to missions. Mobilizing such resources allows the church to support almost 100 missionaries and initiatives. 

No one visiting Calvary could miss this mission emphasis, and I was no exception. The church emphasizes both global and local mission throughout its facility. The church has visible displays called “Reach Global” and “Reach Local.” These displays communicate the importance of mission, the biblical basis for mission, and how the church is involved with mission. Importantly, these displays provide numerous and practical ways for people to get involved with the mission. Beyond that, in a prominent place in the building, the church displays pictures of their supported missionaries. Next to this wall of pictures, information about many of these families and their ministries rotates on screens. Likewise, again, this section provides information for people to connect and engage in mission themselves.

It’s been said that when leaders are sick of talking about something, their staff has barely heard it. And when the staff is sick of talking about it, the church at large has barely heard it. In other words, anything of importance must be communicated consistently, over and over. Calvary has communicated their commitment to mission consistently. I know I got the point, and clearly many in the church have gotten it, too.