Calvary Chapel founder dies at 86

COSTA MESA, Calif. (AP) — The Rev. Chuck Smith, an evangelical leader who embraced and fostered the 1970s Jesus movement, has died at the age of 86 after a 21-month battle with cancer.

Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, Calif., announced the death of its pastor on its web site. The church says Smith "passed into eternity peacefully in his sleep" before dawn Thursday.

Chuck Smith founded Calvary Chapel in 1965. His church's openness to hippies and spiritual seekers helped it grow exponentially and become an incubator for contemporary Christian music.

Under Smith's leadership, Calvary Chapel went on to launch hundreds of churches nationwide.

This past Sunday, seated and with difficulty breathing, Smith preached his final sermon, titled "Be Strong in the Faith." In his closing prayer, Smith said, "It doesn't matter what the prognosis is. We know, Lord, that you are able. And we're trusting, Lord, in you."

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