Yours, mine, hours
Calvary Chapel of Reno
Sometimes you’re walking along, just doing life, and suddenly something hits you like a gallon of ice water, and you come to rapt attention. You might even be changed forever.
I don’t want to oversell my visit to Calvary Chapel Sunday morning, but it was kind of like that. I was just doing my job—research a religious event to visit, shower and get dressed, get lost by following Google Maps, find the church, listen closely and take notes, go home and write the review so it doesn’t mess up my Monday and Tuesday deadlines too much.
But Pastor Tom Luitwieler was sure talking the language I speak. Sometimes, I felt he was not just speaking to me, but about me.
(All right, long parenthetical statement because elsewhere I want to focus on Pastor Tom’s sermon: This is a full-service, Bible-based, non-denominational church. The stage, or chancel, is about 3 feet above the sanctuary floor, a screen flanking either side. The sanctuary is a huge room with pastel colors, green on the walls, dusty rose chairs, that would probably hold 700 people. I’d guess I was one of about 250. The music pastor plays guitar, and on stage there are also congas, a drumset, electric bass, electric guitar—very well played—two keyboards and two female lead singers. The music was great, the sound phenomenal, the style adult Christian contemporary. The congregation was family-style, dressed in jeans and church casual. Average age 35. There’s a U.S. and an Israeli flag. There’s a big lectern with a cross and a stylized dove. The dove is repeated in outline above. [Parenthetical within parenthetical: For a while, I saw a dove, then I saw Batman’s silhouetted profile, and I could never get back to the dove.])
Pastor Tom lectured from 2nd Timothy 3:10-17. In the earlier verses, the Apostle Paul lectured Timothy about what happens to those who let go of truth.
“The doctrinal error of falling away from the church always leads to behavioral error,” the pastor said. I could argue the word “always,” but I didn’t as he was saying it. The pastor has a stern way of speaking, and he preaches with authority. Not a lot of anecdotes with this guy, and he’s not into cracking jokes—at least, not when he’s talking about the End Times, which he believes are upon us. During part of his sermon, he described one of the signs of the end: People would go to church, not as believers, but for other reasons. “They will go to church, but they will not believe. They’re false believers. … Their folly will be manifest to all. … They’ll be among us, but they are not really of us.”
He talked about how they’d know the language of church, but really the only way to tell they didn’t belong was from their behavior outside. He even said, “They’ll be like surgeons, filleting your soul.”
Now, as I have occasionally said, I view all religions equally, without judgment or preference. I’m pretty sure that view is repugnant to a fundamentalist Christian like Pastor Tom. And I think his is a totally cool outlook. His uncompromising attitude is not at all politically correct, and I found myself drawn to the idea of it. Even though I was paying close attention, I found myself wondering, “What if he’s right about this being the End Times? And what could that mean if it didn’t just mean the end of the world, but the end of something more important to the inspired writers of the Bible, the end of religion?
I think this church represents what evangelical Christianity is supposed to be about. I was comfortable—except when the pastor was making me uncomfortable with his truth—people were genuinely friendly to me, and the music was inspiring. And unlike what often happens after church, I actually found myself thinking about what was said hours later.