Calvary Chapel South Bay Pastor Steve Mays Dies at 64 After Surgery

The Rev. Steve Mays, the longtime pastor of Calvary Chapel South Bay in Torrance, California, and who traveled with founding Pastor Chuck Smith in the early years of the ministry, died due to complications from a back surgery.

A former drug addict and gangster, Pastor Mays died Thursday “due to complications from back surgery,” his wife, Gail, said in a statement.

Mays was 64 years old.

“His sudden passing was unexpected and our hearts are broken at the loss of one so near and dear to us,” a statement on the church’s website states. “Pastor Steve faithfully shepherded the flock that was entrusted to him by the Lord for close to 35 years.”

Mays was doing well after the surgery, sitting up and eating, but then was stricken by an apparent blood clot that had traveled to his lung, the Rev. Rob Stoffel, an assistant pastor, told the congregation at Thursday night service, according to Daily Breeze.

“I keep waiting for the alarm to go off and say, ‘Whoa, what a crazy dream that was,’” Stoffel told the church members.

“Through the years, Pastor Steve endured multiple surgeries and suffered physically, and it was only by God’s grace and mercy that he was able to persevere,” the church added in the statement. “Although his body may have been broken, his spirit continued to be strong. He kept the faith, fought the good fight and finished the race.”

Pastor Stephen Mays was an ordinary kid who grew up in a large city in California, the church says. “He was a fun-loving, all-American boy who earned good grades and had a bright future ahead of him. Yet despite a good upbringing and a wholesome family life, there was a day in Steve’s life that changed everything. A schoolteacher had sexually molested him. Steve’s life became marred. Hatred and bitterness began to grow.”

However, Mays was later introduced to Calvary Chapel founder Chuck Smith, who is seen as one of the people behind the Jesus Movement of the 1970s.

The church at the time also ministered to youth who wouldn’t go to church and featured Christian rock music and casual fellowship.

Pastor Smith first asked Mays to oversee house churches, and then invited him to take over the South Bay congregation, which was earlier located in Carson.

Mays has authored two book, Overwhelmed by God and Overcoming.

Mays was earlier into drugs, had been arrested for petty offenses and was part of a motorcycle gang in Orange County, California

The South Bay church has a 140,000-square-foot complex, and draws an estimated 9,000 attendees to several services throughout the week.

“May the Lord strengthen us as a church family, encourage our hearts, bring us comfort and peace, as we grieve the passing of our beloved pastor and shepherd,” the church said announcing the death of its pastor. “Please continue to keep his wife, Gail; his son, Nathan; his daughter, Heather; his mother, Helen; his grandchildren and the family in prayer during this difficult time.”

Pastor Chuck Smith died last year.

“Physical death ushered him into God’s presence for eternity on October 3, but his earthly ministry will be remembered as impacting generations since the 1960s,” Franklin Graham, president and CEO of the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association and Samaritan’s Purse, shared in a statement at the time.