Sunday, May 18, 2008

LIFE IN CALIFORNIA // Cornerstone Simi Valley

Take a break from seminary and look at life in California - starting with some reflections on my church.....

I love my church. The irony (?) is that I wouldn’t have known about Cornerstone if I hadn’t heard my pastor Francis Chan at Passion 07 in Atlanta which is where I also felt the Spirit begin moving me toward change – change that would become career change, school change, location change – and I would end up leaving Nashville (from Atlanta) one year later to the very day that I heard Francis speak. My life changed in one year, literally.

It was a no-brainer decision for me to go to Cornerstone when I moved out here. Francis has become one of my heroes and when I realized that Simi Valley was only 40 minutes away, I knew that was where I needed to spend my time in church while in California. Cornerstone’s vision for how church should be done as well as its commitment to give 50% of its entire income away to missions...what a place to learn. I have learned as much from Cornerstone as I have from Fuller. And it only takes two gallons of gas to get there.

Cornerstone has four services every Sunday and there are approx. 4,000 members currently. The church meets in a really nondescript building that is directly in the middle of a Simi Valley neighborhood. Many of its rooms are in buildings around it that are converted storefronts. For the most part if you drive around the block, you wouldn’t even know there was a church there. The people, the church itself, are just a bunch of normal people. There is nothing flashy about this place. It has the modern technology but it’s just simply not that flashy. I love this place. I feel so at home.

They just paid off the debt on the building (that story is probably on a podcast) and have property in Simi Valley that they are working on building an outdoor amphitheater as the new church building. They were going to build a larger sanctuary but felt convicted about spending all those dollars when people around the world were in need. So, they are building an amphitheater so the church can meet together at one time, with less debt and more money to give away. (How rad is that idea?) To be cold on a Sunday morning is a small price to pay for those suffering in other places, including in Los Angeles.

Most recently, they announced that the focus of Cornerstone was going back to that of the early church, where we needed to be involved directly and deeply in each other’s lives, no matter who, no matter where, no matter what. They divided the church up into a series of community groups based on where people live. For those of us who live outside Simi Valley, they also formed groups to represent the about 50 cities outside Simi. I joined the Burbank community group – the closest one to Pasadena. I've been to a couple Wednesday night "meetings," helped some folks move a couple Saturdays ago and have had dinner with a couple from the group.

Apparently there are about 30-40 people that drive to Simi from Burbank alone – and we all thought that we were the only ones. The people in this group are late 20s and 30s, single, newlyweds, soon-to-be new parents – and I’m friends with them already. I’m really looking forward to having them close by and off campus.

I'm also in the process of meeting about four other folks from Fuller who also drive to Cornerstone. Our first "Cornerstone Connection" group is tonight after C-stone's 7 p.m. service.

Not to be forgotten are the folks I’ve met in Collide, the young adults group at Cornerstone. We meet every other Friday night. This is the group I went backpacking with in the Grand Canyon – and will be backpacking with in Yosemite in August. I’ve gotten to know quite a few people here but mostly only see them at Collide or on Sundays. My friend Lena and I have started meeting for dinner on Tuesday nights. We meet in a central location as I drive home from Malibu and she drives home from N. Hollywood to Simi. It’s been really great having some sort of social life during the week. I think my other real good “friend find” in Collide is Crystal; she also lives outside Simi but in Santa Clarita which is still 40 minutes from me.

What I’m learning at Cornerstone: I’m getting a chance to apply what it means to serve my brothers and sisters, and together we’re now looking for ways to serve the community. I’m learning what church should look like and what the church should act like. What does it mean to come to church? Why are we there and who are we there for? It’s not about the individual. It should never be about what you get out of church. Have you heard it before? The church doesn’t exist within walls. The church moves outside the walls. We are the church. God is love – we have God in us – we should be reflecting that love, shouldn’t we? What’s our attitude in church? Why are we going?

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