This past week I was able to interview my religious specialist. Although both of our schedules weren’t compatible with each other, we were still able to make it work via email. I interviewed Pastor Rich Cox from the Christian Door Fellowship. He was such a nice, genuine person who has an amazing story of how he was reborn again.
Pastor Rich Cox is currently the senior pastor at his church. He is a very hard working man as he works 7 days a week with 12-14 hours per day. If you didn’t know, the average person works 5 days a week with 8.8 hours per day! I was quite shocked when he told me this. I can’t image how he manages his life outside of his work!
Before he became a pastor, Pastor Rich was a full time police officer for 10 years. He believed that there was too much violence and cruelty that he witnessed everyday, so he decided to withdraw himself from all of it. Although it took him awhile, he surrendered his life to Christ in 1984 and believed that he was called to become a pastor. From then on, it made him love and enjoy what he does for people everyday.
There are a lot of people like Pastor Rich who have surrendered their life to Christ. My pastor at my own church has a similar background story just like Pastor Rich. They both never grew up wanting to be involved in full time ministry. It was both during a certain moment in their life where they believed there is something out there for them that is better. Something that was missing in their life. It’s amazing to hear about all these different stories and to see how each person has grown just by accepting Christ in their life.
This past week I went to visit my assigned congregation. My partner, Lucy, and I went on a visit to the Door Christian Fellowship. We went to the 11am worship service and had a wonderful time observing the traditions that this church does. We are excited to share what our experience was like during class this next upcoming week.
As we walked in the building, there were a couple of people that were having conversations with each other. However, I noticed that there was no one there to greet us or hand us out information cards/pamphlets. So we followed the crowd and joined everyone into the chapel. As soon as we found a seat, the worship service immediately started. They sang a total of four songs. The first two songs were really short and fast. They lasted about 1-2 min with rapid clapping for rhythm. The last two songs I was in fact familiar with and was able to sing along. The worship leader that started singing was a very young man in his mid 20’s. After two more songs, the two pastors of the church each took over and sang the rest of the songs. I found this to be very interesting being compared to my church’s worship routine. At my church, we would have a worship leader sing every song and the pastor would come to the stage after to speak his sermon. At the Door Christian Fellowship, they had a total of 3 people sing.
The pastor of the church, Rich Cox, was speaking his sermon that day. His message was mainly about joy and how that with God in your life, He will bring you joy. It was a very touching message as he made some comical jokes here and there.
The service then ended within an hour, with a quick song and a prayer. Lucy and I were then able to chat with other people and got some good information about the church. My partner and I can’t wait to share our experience at the Door Christian Fellowship in more depth and to answer any questions that our fellow classmates have for us.
This morning I went to my usual Sunday service at my local church back at my hometown. The senior pastor Dave Fukuyama spoke and gave yet another powerful message. He emphasized his sermon on what the word “peacemaker” means and how those who do consider themselves Christian should be one. He explained how a peacemaker is one who doesn’t start fights, doesn’t gossip, doesn’t start rumors, etc. In order to be a peacemaker, one shows faithfulness to God no matter what the circumstances are. Pastor Dave gave us an example of how him and his friend got into a huge fight. The argument kept going on for days which then turned into weeks and he just got tired of the constant fighting. He then decided to become, in this situation, the peacemaker and took one step to reconcile himself with the friend. The friend and pastor Dave finally made their amends and are friends till this day. He believes that being a peacemaker allowed him to save a very important friendship of his. Pastor Dave also touched on the subject that being a peacemaker indicates that you are a child of God. A quote was given on the screen and it explained how if one finds joy in scandals, if one is unwilling to make peace, if one is mean, etc. then you are not a true Christian. He explained more on this quote how being involved with the church doesn’t mean you are a true Christian. What it means to be a true Christian is that you are obedient to God and live in the life of Jesus Christ.
I don’t have a great relationship with a person in my life and we have been fighting lately. Today’s message made me realize that I need to be the peacemaker and ultimately make amends with them. I really enjoyed this sermon. It really made me look at my own actions in my life from a different point of view and reminded me what it means to be a true Christian.
This past week we did an activity where we split into different groups, depending on which article was assigned. I was assigned to read “Religious America, Secular Europe?” by Berger. It was an interesting article as it mainly explained the similarities and differences of what religion is like between America and Europe.
As we discussed in lecture, we defined secularization as the idea that religion is disappearing from the modern world. Berger claims that Europe is a more secular society while America is a more religious one. In our class activity, my group and I used a venn diagram as an outline and drew creative characters and symbols that represented each similarity and difference. For example, one similarity between the two was that both catholic and protestant churches must operate as voluntary associations. So we decided to draw a church with open doors. The whole idea of thinking of different ways we could represent each fact was very challenging, yet helpful at the same time.
The “Gendering Secularization Theory” group’s presentation of their poster really caught my attention. Their article’s main focus was about how gender plays a significant role in the secularization theory, more importantly women. On the poster, they drew a “working” women which represented someone who is not as religious. On the opposite side of the paper, there was a “stay at home” women which represented someone who is more religious. However, in the middle they drew a hybrid of the two different women and explained how it represented women today who are both but still consider themselves as religious. These women were considered “jugglers” as they juggled both their job and home life. I found this article very interesting because it shows how secularization has and still do affect women till this day.
As it shows, this week’s emphasis was really about secularization and how it plays a big role in religion. I believe that this activity allowed me to see the different ways in which the different authors see how secularization has been affected in society
This past week we took our midterm. The midterm consisted of 3 questions and I was very intrigued by the questions that were asked. The one question that stood out to me was about my first congregation visit, New Life Redlands Church, and it asked questions from that McGuire’s or Chave’s book can answer. For example, one of the questions was “Which of the contemporary trends by Chaves can you see operating in this congregation’s religious life?” In my essay, I explained mainly two trends of Chaves that I’ve noticed that I can see operating in this congregation’s life. The first trend that I saw during my visit was the increase in technology. As I explained in my first congregation visit essay, the church Facetime called another church from a different location. I’m almost certain that churches back in the days were unable to do that because their technology was not as advanced as today’s society. I also noticed that many people were on their phones. I couldn’t tell if they were using their phones as a distraction or they were on some sort of bible app. However, they were still using technology and people back in the day were not even able to use a bible app. The second trend that I noticed was the increase of attendance of more older people. There were only about 3 youth age members, 8-10 high school through college age members, and the rest of the members were around 40+ years old. I’m still not sure if it’s because majority of the people have been going to that church ever since they were little kids or not. Though I did have a conversation with a two people and the women did say that she has been going to the church ever since she was a little girl. She even pointed out her mother to me. Nevertheless, these were the two major trends of Chaves that I was able to see that was occurring at New Life of Redlands Church. I’m eager to see what other trends I can identify during my second congregation and compare and contrast the two.
This past week was spring break so I was able to relax and enjoy my time at home. Just yesterday I went to my local church back at home and the sermon really touched me. I go to Mission Valley Free Methodist of San Gabriel, CA. I live about 10 min away from there so it’s not too far. The reason why I started going there was because of the senior pastor, Dave Fukuyama. He is our old family friend. My family and I actually attended a previous church before where pastor Dave spoke at. However, when we heard the news that he was leaving to attend Mission Valley Free Methodist, we followed him. Pastor Dave is one of my favorite pastors that I have ever listened to. All of his sermons are really meaningful and he tries to connect them to ways in which everyone can relate to.
Yesterday his sermon talked about how there are people who lose the hunger and thirst for God. He explains it how other things may come in to distract you from your relationship with God that can get in the way. For example, if you have a stressful job, you would focus more on your job than your relationship with God.
This sermon really touched me because I have been getting distracted lately. With classes, homework, exams, midterms, basketball practice and games, my relationships with my friends and family, it’s hard to keep up. There are times where I would go months without talking to God because I’ve been so busy and stressed. However, instead of distancing myself from God, I need to build my relationship even more. With God’s love in my life, I can do great things. I am so eager to get back to my normal routine this week. However, I will need to learn to focus more on my relationship with God as well.
This past week majority of the groups were able to present their experience of their congregation visit. During these presentations, I’ve noticed some similarities and differences between the different groups. Some groups were fascinated with the visit and loved every single part about it. Others didn’t know what to expect and thought of it as a “cultural shock”. It was interesting to see how others thought about their experience and to see what they learned from it.
My partner, Rosemary, and I were able to present our experience at our congregation visit this week. We went to New Life Redlands Church and we were able to both go on the same day. My experience compared to Rosemary’s was quite different. Because it was a Christian church, I knew what was going on and how people would be/act like. However, Rosemary normally goes to a Catholic church, so her experience was, as she described it to me, a “cultural shock”. For example, one thing that she noticed was that there were no stained glass on the walls. At her Catholic church, they have stained glass all over the walls. At New Life Redlands Church there weren’t any stained glass. The walls were made out of wood and brick. Another difference between our experiences was that I was familiar with the worship songs. I knew all of the songs that the worship team sang, so it was easy for me to sing along. On the other hand, Rosemary was not familiar with any of the songs. So while the church was worshiping, she felt uncomfortable and out of place.
All in all, these are just a few examples of what we both shared with the class about our experience. Everyone’s presentations was so fascinating to hear what these other churches are like. I had no idea that there were churches that do what they do today. I can’t wait to go to the next congregation visit and see another different side to religion that I have not seen and experienced before.
This past week four more groups were able to give their presentations about their case study. After listening to what each group had to say about the book, one group really stood out to me. It was the “Sacred Stories, Spiritual Tribes” presentation. In this case study, two main topics were brought up: theistic and extra theistic. The group defined theistic as someone who has a one on one relationship with God, whereas extra theistic is someone who believes in more spirituality things than religion. The group discussed the similarities and differences between the two and how it played a major key in the author’s book. They also included a short video of two people, a women who is theistic and a male is extra theistic, and showed how they live their everyday lives.
This video was very interesting because it would show the male and female doing the exact same things throughout their day. They would both wake up, brush their teeth, eat breakfast, etc. The women had a child that was about 2-3 years old. She was a stay at home mom and went to her church very often. She believed that without religion, without believing in God, we humans wouldn’t be living our life to the fullest. The video then showed the male’s perspective. He was a single, mid-30’s man, who works at home on his computer. He lived with 5 other roommates because he said he was a millennial. He said that he was an atheist and did not believe in religion.
It was interesting to see how similar, yet different these two theistic and extra theistic people’s lives were. It showed that they both do the same things as any other human would do. The difference between the two is their outlook on life and how they think they are living their life to the fullest. This is why the topic religion is a major controversy. Some people are just like the women who believe that life would not be the same if it weren’t for God. However, there are others like the male who don’t believe in any religion, yet they are still living their life to the fullest.
This past week my group and I were the first group to present our case study on Miller’s book “Reinventing American Protestantism”. Throughout this book the author touches on three paradigm churches: Calvary Chapel, Vineyard Christian Fellowship, and Hope Chapel. After our presentation of the book, a few of our fellow classmates asked us some interesting questions that we were unable to answer due to the year that the book was published. So I did some extra research after class and was able to find the answers.
A question that came up was if there are other Calvary Chapel’s worldwide or are they only in the United States. It turns out that there are tons of Calvary Chapel’s in each continent. In the book, Miller only talked about the ones in the United States (Downey, Riverside, New York, etc.). I am not sure if Miller already knew that there were other Calvary Chapel’s worldwide or if he simply just didn’t state it in his book. Nevertheless, it was crazy to me to see how many different Calvary Chapel’s there are worldwide.
Another question that came up was about how different the churches are from the book compared to today. I also did some research on this and found the names of the current staff members who are at that church. For the Calvary Chapel in Costa Mesa, Brian Brodersen is the senior pastor. Unfortunately, Chuck Smith died on October 3, 2013. For the Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Anaheim, it seems that they have different people speaking every week. I also found that John Wimbers died on November 17, 1997. Last but not least for the Hope Chapel in Hermosa Beach, Zac Nazarian is still the current pastor.
These are just a few questions that I was able to finally find the answers to. Miller’s book was very interesting to read and it was fascinating to see how these churches are currently doing today.
This past week we looked at the different trends of data on the different religions around the world. The one topic that stood out to me was the website www.pewforum.org/religious-landscape-study/ that we overlooked and analyzed the data. I found this website to be very resourceful because not only does it have data on what the majority of the population believe in for each individual state, but it also gives the data on different interesting topics as well.
For example, I found the topic “Education” to be very interesting because it shows the different religions and the percent of people who have completed a degree in high school or less, attended college but didn’t finish, completed a college degree, and completed a postgraduate degree. It was very fascinating to see that majority of the people earned a degree in high school or less. The data between the people who attended college but didn’t finish and those who completed a degree were pretty similar. Also there were not many people who completed a postgraduate degree. The one religion that I found surprising was Hindu. Although there was only a sample size of 197, 48% had earned a postgraduate degree. There were other religions that surprised me as well.
The “Education” topic was just one of the many that caught my attention. There were others that were very fascinating to read about and see what the majority of the population is like. This next week we are going to be hearing presentations about the different case studies that we all worked on and I am eager to hear what we all have to share.