Hip Christianity


I might as well be a church connoisseur.   I’ve sampled a large variety of churches, and plan to experience more.  Next on my list are an African American and a Pentacostal service (just for kicks).  Seriously, I’d been hearing a lot about this Rock Harbor congregation in Costa Mesa for a while now.  I decided to check it out.

From Chis R. in Seal Beach

From Chis R. in Seal Beach

From reading the Yelp reviews on Rock Harbor (Yes! There are Yelp reviews! On a church!) it didn’t really sound like my kind of place.  Or maybe it did.  The conservative Baptist Christian in me just has an automatic reflex to disapprove of  anything modernized or contemporary.  The anti-hipster, actually hipster, I’m-above-cultural-trends attitude in me made me wary of the hefty urban college crowd I knew attended.  But the spiritually-starved, curious, hopeful girl in me whispered, “It’s just the right place for you.”

Rock Harbor is located blocks away from hipster Mecca, The Lab A.K.A. The Camp A.K.A. The Anti-Mall, where fashionable thrift stores and organic food restaurants and open-air coffee shops attract beard-bearing, beanie-donning, Doc-Marten-wearing urbanittes galore.



I myself go there for Milk n Honey’s dirty soy lavendar lattes. There I have eavesdr … ahem… overheard Rock Harbor attendees discussing spiritual matters, and have spotted a few plaid-flannelled bible studiers highlighting their tatty leather-bound books as if each word had the divine right to glow with the light of Christ.

Thus, this was my expectation for Rock Harbor:

I walked through Rock Harbor’s doors for a Sunday night service and inevitably spotted a few hipsters, but it was at least nothing like Portland, OR.  Coincidentally, the speaker that night was a Portlander, Pastor John Mark Comer.  Although his V-neck was dangerously low, he had an air of mature, post-hip about him.  Before his message, the folksy worship band led us in a few Christmas carols and contemporary worship songs (that I actually knew!).  I don’t usually sing along in praise and worship, but I thought, “Heck.  There’s no scrutinizing Filipina aunties to watch me here and I have the voice of an angel, so WHY NOT?”

Pastor John Mark Comer

Pastor John Mark Comer

Like the Moombahton bass dropping at an Electric Daisy Carnival show would, the music at Rock Harbor brought me to a spiritual high–sans psychadelic drugs–that I could only compare to the rush I get when I hit a Mariah Carey high note in the shower.  My voice was on point, and so was the lead singer’s (always a plus when it comes to church-tasting), and though I knew the ethereal, lulling, lingering tunes were meant more to calm my heart into receiving God’s word than to exercise my acrobatic vocal chords,  I could not help but enjoy it all.

Pastor John got up to speak and made a few cracks about the weather.  Apparently it rains a lot in Portland and coming from there to Cali is like entering the pearly gates of Heaven.  I do say now that this guy made me laugh harder than my usual bedtime Vine views do.

At one point he told us that the  Bible was not supposed to be a formula to get what you want from God.  Not like the “Four steps to happiness self-help books that are so popular with you OC people.”

At another point, Pastor John started, “Today we struggle so much with being present,” when someone’s phone suddenly rang.   “See?” he said, “the phone goes off and there you go. You’re not present. With social media and iPhones and everything, it’s hard for us to just be.

Keeping up with the festivities, we started off looking at the birth of Jesus in Matthew 1:18-25.

Immanuel.  “God with us.”

That was the theme of the message.  We looked at how the Bible says God has been with us from Genesis to Revelation, that Jesus says, “Surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matt. 28:20).  God’s our homie.  He is a relational being that not only promises to always be there, but invites you to be with Him too.  It’s just a matter of how you relate to Him.  You can live a life under God, as a servant who serves with a sense of entitlement to rewards; a life over God, where God is in your peripheral vision rather than your focus; a consumer’s life from God where you aim to cash in on your own happiness; or a life for God, where you do a lot for Him but it seems like you’re never doing enough.  These four ways of relating to God are the same ways we relate to other people.  All, unfortunately, treat people like a task to finish, not a human to enjoy.

Pastor John, as another pastor later commented, seemed to read our diaries, especially when he said to find out how you relate to God, you analyze your values and fears.  “We all want to live a better story.  We are all scared of living a normal life.”  I looked at the hipster across the isle to the left and thought, “Yeah, that rockabilly haircut and cowl-neck scarf says it all.”  Just kidding.  I looked at myself and was convicted.

In a relationship with God, you value God and fear nothing.  To get there, you have to communicate and commune with God through reading the scripture and praying.


I’ve been doing and reading a lot of research for school lately, (Intro to Research, COM 345 Holla!) so I was pleased to hear Pastor John make references to sociology and psychology studies, as well as a plethora of cultural references.  A well-read and up-to-date speaker is always good when it comes to preaching to a young, cultured, educated college crowd.  Unfortunately, I may have been reading more studies on the political uses of social media and Vice Magazine articles than bible passages, so I’ll have to change it up a bit.

That crowd, certainly filled with the “eye-candy” Chris R. from Seal Beach went ADD over, might as well have not been there, because for me, the culture of Rock Harbor faded to the background while Jesus straight up took the spotlight.  Culture may have been there to enrich the ambiance like a Pixies song playing in Milk n Honey, but it felt like it was just me, myself, and my faith there, with my heavenly Homie, of course.

Back to "An Ephesian Moment"

Back to “An Ephesian Moment”


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