Charlie Campbell is a follower of Jesus, a husband to his wife Anastasia, a father to his five children, the Director of the Always Be Ready Apologetics Ministry, an author, and a popular guest teacher at churches and conferences around North America where he addresses numerous issues related to the defense of the Christian faith. Prior to his current role, he was an instructor at the Calvary Chapel Bible College in Murrieta, California, and the Director of the School of Ministry at Calvary Chapel in the city of Vista where he taught courses on apologetics, world religions and cults, systematic theology, eschatology, church history, hermeneutics, homiletics, and evangelism (1997-2005). His books and DVDs have been endorsed by Norman Geisler, Charles Colson, Ed Hindson, Chuck Smith, Jeremy Camp, Nancy Leigh DeMoss, and others.
I was born and raised in southern California. I grew up in north San Diego county.
When did you start following the Lord?
1990. I was twenty one years old.
Did you have any religious beliefs before that?
I went to church as a child. I drifted away from belief in God though in high school and stopped going to church for seven or eight years. By the time I was in college I considered myself an atheist. I wanted to be an atheist. I didn't want God to exist. I wanted to go to Tijuana and drink and party. I wasn't an intellectual atheist, the kind that debated Christians about God's existence. I was the partying kind of atheist! I was living for myself and pursuing my dream of being a rock star or an actor.
A rock star?
Yes. That was my aspiration in life; be a musician or an actor, tour the world, be on television, have thousands of adoring fans. I thought being rich and famous would finally bring me the fulfillment and joy that I was so lacking. I didn't care at the time to ponder the fact that most of the rich and famous are pretty miserable. It was going to be different for me!
How did the Lord get a hold of your life?
When I was twenty one years old I began to question if God might actually exist. My atheism stopped adding up in my mind. As an atheist I believed nobody x nothing = everything. "Well hold on a second" I began to think, "How could something (the universe) come from nothing and by nothing?" So, I was really pondering this for quite some time but also wondering, "If God exists, how could anyone know if it's the God of Mormonism, Islam, Hinduism, Christianity, the Jehovah's Witnesses?" So there I was; I was working at a surf shop in Carlsbad, California, and all these people around me in the surfing world, including Joey Buran (a local professional surfer), were getting saved and going to this church called "Calvary Chapel" in a neighboring town by the name of Vista. So I thought, "Maybe I'll try going to that church sometime and see what these people are so excited about." I didn't own a suit or a tie, but I thought "If all these surfers are going there, they must allow my type in, you know, with jeans." So I went.
Today you are the Director of the Always Be Ready Apologetics Ministry. You travel quite a bit teaching at different churches. How did the Lord lead you to do itinerant apologetics full time?
While I was doing that, God gave me a desire to teach a class at our church on defending the faith for whoever wanted to come out. So, I asked our pastor what he thought about that. He agreed and we had about 75 people come out every Tuesday night for that. We ran that course over and over again about twice a year for five or six years. Doing that allowed me to continue researching and improving my teachings.
When our senior pastor, Rob Salvato, was on a missions trip or on vacation, he would often allow me to fill in for him on Wednesday nights or Sunday mornings. The feedback he was receiving was good enough that when he had to turn down an invitation to teach at another church he started recommending that they invite me instead. So, about once every three or four months I would speak at another church. I did that for about three or four years (2002-2005). Much to my surprise the invitations were becoming more frequent. In early 2006, the invitations began coming in frequently enough that my wife and I determined that the Lord was opening a door for me to do this full time. So that, in a nutshell, is how the Lord worked it out.
Did you ever forsee that you would be a pastor or itinerant apologist?
Absolutely not! I've always felt under qualified to do anything for the Lord. I was so afraid of speaking in front of people growing up, I refused to ever give an oral report all through junior high and high school. ("Give me a lower grade," I said, "I'm not giving a speech!") And my teachers did give me a lower grade! I was so afraid to stand up and talk in front of people that even in college, I'd sit in the back row by the door on the first day of class so that if the teacher asked the students to stand up and tell the class their name and introduce themselves, I'd get up and walk out!
I think God chose to make me a teacher just to blow away the angels and people who used to know me! (Hmm...let's see, who is the least qualified for this position? I'll pick him, that way I'll get all the glory when anything good comes from his life!).
God is good. When I became a follower of Christ, God miraculously began to change me and actually give me a desire to teach others His Word. He works in us both to will and to do for His good pleasure.
Do you enjoy teaching and traveling to different churches?
Yes, immensely. Visiting different churches every week is a tremendous blessing and seeing the faith of believers strengthened is also an amazing experience. There’s nothing I’d rather be doing this side of Heaven. I feel extremely blessed. I feel like I’m doing what God created me to do.
Do you speak at churches of different denominations?
Yes, quite a few so far. It is a joy to meet God's people in different places.
Have you taught outside of the United States?
Yes. Europe, Canada, South America, Central America. It's a blessing to see how God is working outside of the United States.
Who has had the biggest impact on you spiritually?
First and foremost, the men of God in the Bible. Brian Brodersen, Charles Spurgeon, and Norman Geisler have also had an enormous influence of my life. Brian was the pastor at Calvary Chapel of Vista for the first eight years I went there. I grew up so to speak in my Christian faith under his teaching. I am so grateful for his clear expository, verse-by-verse, teaching through the Bible. He's the one who took over for Chuck Smith (when he went home to be with the Lord) at Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa, in California. Norman Geisler is of course the author of more than eighty books. He's been a huge influence on me as well.
Speaking of books, who are some of your favorite Christian authors?
I've really been enjoying the church fathers and books on church history as of late. But I am typically reading, not so much for pleasure but for research, so I have stacks of books on my desk on different topics that I'm constantly hunting around in. But some of my favorite authors are Norman Geisler (who I just mentioned), John Lennox, Rodney Stark, John Walvoord, Timothy Keller, Charles Colson, Ron Rhodes, William Lane Craig, and many others. I love to read. Devotionally though no one speaks to me quite like Charles Spurgeon. I like to read his old books and sermons for my own edification.
If you could recommend just one or two resources for someone who wants to learn how to better defend their faith, what would you recommend?
I'd recommend my Contending for the Faith USB Flash Drive. It has 32 hours of teaching on a wide variety of topics related to the defense of the faith on one tiny drive that a person can put on their phone, tablet, iPOD. That's more than an entire semester of apologetics classes right on a tiny flash drive. As for books, I'd start with the book One Minute Answers to Skeptics’ Top Forty Questions. Another book I love to recommend is I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be an Atheist by Dr. Norman Geisler. It is one of the best in print. After that, there are Lee Strobel's books, The Case for Christ, The Case for Faith, The Case for a Creator, The Case for the Real Jesus. They are all phenomenal.
What advice would you give to someone who wants to become more involved in defending the faith, or even be an apologist themselves?
Well, were all called to be apologists to some degree. Jude 3 and 1 Peter 3:15 talk about this. I’d encourage every believer to continue studying the Bible first and foremost. Most of the false teachings being taught by the cults can be countered simply by having a better grasp on the Scriptures. I'd also encourage people to pick up and read as many good books on apologetics as they can.
If a person believes the Lord is leading them to actually teach others to defend the faith, then I would work on preparing a message, let’s say on the trustworthiness of the Bible, or evidence for the existence of God. Write out your notes, refine them, rework them. Perhaps build a PowerPoint presentation and then let your jr. high, high school or college pastor take a look at it. Then, mention to them that if they are ever open to the idea of them sharing something with the group along those lines, that they would love the opportunity. I'd encourage them to be faithful with any opportunity that God gives them to teach others and see what He might do. Jesus said, “He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much” (Luke 16:10).
Your Bible studies are very visual. You use a lot of slides to communicate your points. It's a unique teaching style. Is there a reason you teach that way?
I realized years ago when I was teaching apologetics classes that if I could show people a photograph of an archaeological discovery or the interior of a cell, rather than just talk about it, it would make a much longer impression on them. Research in communication says that when people leave a conversation, they immediately forget half of what was said. And worse than that, eight hours later they will remember only about 20 percent of what was discussed. So I like to do anything I can do visually to help people remember what I'm teaching. Research shows that you learn more from your sense of sight than from all the other four senses combined. It has been estimated that more than 80 percent of all information comes to you through sight. Having said that, I don't encourage pastors who are teaching a different study every few days to try and use PowerPoint, unless they are just using it in a very limited way. Building a PowerPoint presentation takes a long time, time that would be better spent studying, preparing and praying. (Source for communication statistics: The God Conversation: Using Stories and Illustrations to Explain Your Faith, p. 9).
How long does it take to put together a typical presentation?
For the kind of presentation I do (with 100+ slides) about 100 hours (not counting the time to research the topic and write out what I want to say). The big time consumer when building a presentation is finding the right images. But it is a joy to work on them.
Lots of things. Take my kids to the beach. Go out to dinner with my wife. Read. Surf. Snowboard. Hike. Travel. Watch the San Diego Chargers and Padres.
Sure. At the top of my list of concerns is the fact that a ton of Christian high school students are walking away from the Lord by the end of their fourth year in college. Parents and the church in general are not doing enough to prepare them for the intellectual challenges they are facing in the universities. They are being eaten alive by their atheistic, liberal professors. We must do a better job explaining to them why we believe what we believe. Many parents and youth pastors are not taking the time to equip their kids or youth group with answers regarding evolution, the problem of evil, the existence of God, the trustworthiness of the Bible, etc.
Another concern is that many churches have abandoned verse-by-verse expository preaching for 25-30 minute topical sermons. As a result, more and more Christians are growing spiritually malnourished. I pray that more pastors would see the value of giving their congregations meaty sermons and declaring to them the whole counsel of the Word of God.
If you could do one thing over in life what would it be?
I would have surrendered my life to the Lord much sooner. That is my main regret, the years I wasted living in the world. But God has been good to restore the years that the locusts have eaten and work that time together for good in my life. I'm forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead (Philippians 3:13).
What advice would you give to new believers?
I encourage new and old believers to read their Bibles every day, even if it's just for a few minutes. What has been really helpful for me is to read the Bible with pen in hand and an open journal where I write down the verses that touch my heart followed by my prayers to the Lord. Right up there with reading the Bible every day, I like to also encourage new believers to find a church where they can fellowship with like-minded believers, worship, serve, and receive good expository teaching.
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