As some of you may remember, there’s been one record I haven’t been able to break yet.
It’s my four-minute mile.
It’s the five-service weekend.
Several different weekends during this trip, I’ve experienced 5 different church services in a weekend. The seasoned road trippers reading this blog know that the 5-church weekend is tough, but not impossible. You know that lots of churches have nighttime services, either Saturday or Sunday (and occasionally both). So, if you time it right, you can occasionally get to enough night services, along with the standard Sunday morning services, to accomplish The Five. It only happens if the service schedules and church locations work out exactly right. But sometimes they do.
(You can see a concrete example of a five-church weekend from the first weekend of the trip. It’s kind of a long post, but you can skim it pretty easy.)
After accomplishing The Five several times, I began wondering if I might ever break this 5-service barrier. Would I? Could I? Could anyone? The world held its breath.
But I’m humbled and honored to report that as a result of strict training, strenuous analyzation, and lots of gasoline, I have broken the 5-service weekend barrier. That’s right. I achieved The Six. What’s more, the 5-service barrier was broken in grand fashion, with a group of the most interesting, historic, and influential churches I’ve ever encountered. Really, each is famous to different groups of Christians.
The list is below, with quick notes for some context. But in case you’re a church-nerd like me, I’ve got links to the info that helped me get to know these churches a lot better.
But FIRST, if you haven’t read my disclaimer in a while, please check it out here. Basically, it notes that attending a ministry doesn’t mean I’m “one of them,” whoever “them” happens to be. The joys of this trip include learning from and learning about the wide spectrum of Christendom!
The Church on the Way (a.k.a. First Foursquare Church of Van Nuys)
Van Nuys, California
This is one of the flagships of the Foursquare denomination, a charismatic branch started by Aimee Semple McPherson right here in Los Angeles in the 1920s. The founding pastor of TCOTW is the well-known Jack Hayford. I also think it’s cool that they have a “slogan name” that has superseded their real name. (What would your church’s “slogan name” be?)
Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa
Santa Ana, California
This is the founding church of the Calvary Chapel fellowship of churches and was founded in the 1960s by present pastor Chuck Smith, Sr. (who I got to hear preach). Calvary Chapels started out of the phenomenal era called the Jesus Movement, complete with all kinds of awesome Jesus Freak hippies. A major focus for this denomination is expository Bible teaching.
Garden Grove, California
This internationally-known church has been made ultra-famous by its “Hour of Power” television program. Known for focusing on “Possibility Thinking,” the church is now pastored by the founding pastor’s son, Robert A. Schuller. But Robert H. is definitely still present – and is probably a bigger celebrity internationally than plenty of the celebs who reside out here. Crystal Cathedral is also the most unique, extravagant, beautiful church campus you’ll ever see.
Harvest Christian Fellowship
Harvest is another flagship of the Calvary Chapel churches, known in large part because of its Senior Pastor Greg Laurie. Yes, he started it as a 19-year-old hippie (remember what I said about that amazing Jesus Movement period?). The church and Laurie run Harvest Crusades, compared at times to Billy Graham’s evangelistic crusades.
Lake Forest, California
Oh, Saddleback. You are so well-known. Where do I begin? It’s the church that taught lots of churches to be Purpose-Driven. Then it taught even more people to be Purpose-Driven. Now, Founding Pastor Rick Warren’s P.E.A.C.E. Plan could impact everybody again. I attended this service at their Terrace Cafe venue, but that’s only one of 10 Venues offered each weekend. Yes, this is a mega-mega-mega-church. But it all started with a guy who just wanted to be a missionary…
Evangelical Free Church of Fullerton
Finally, EV Free Fullerton is a flagship for its denomination, the Evangelical Free Church of America. Many first heard of this church, I imagine, while Chuck Swindoll was its pastor for 23 years (1971-94). Nowadays, it’s still truckin’ – plus I got to stay after their Sunday night service for a great College Ministry service, too.
That’s it, and I need to get to sleep. Tonight, I’ll be dreaming of a seven-church weekend…
(And yes, all this is updated on the Itinerary – with more opportunities I’ve had over the last few days!)
written from “home,” Pacific Palisades, California