Los Angeles City College and their Life Club, Part 1
L.A.C.C’s LIFE Club is bible study group sponsored by the City of Angels International Christian Church. I met Nina –one of the church’s “planters” from Hawai’i –in one of the campus restrooms. She asked me if she had ever seen me at the bible studies, but I had never been, neither had I heard of any campus bible study at L.A.C.C. Nina told me the meetings were held in the campus’ Chemistry building every Tuesday at 1 p.m., she also offered me her number in case I had any questions before going. I was reluctant, but because she approached with such kindness and transparency, I agreed to go and at 1pm, I showed up to Chem. 106.
In my first meeting, the “Pastor” asked everyone to answer the question, “How do you feel loved?” Everyone gave his or her various answer; “God answering my prayers”, “God loving me for who I am”, or “Knowing God loves me because of what is in His Word”, etc. I answered, “Being accepted for who I am”. I noticed that the “Pastor” gave me an extended glance, which I am sure he did with everyone else who answered because he wanted to ponder the answer. After all the answers were given, the “Pastor” went on to elaborate on love and how we are supposed to love God as he commands us to, through scriptures:
John 14:15 “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” John 15:10 “If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.”-Jesus, the Christ
He went on to explain the components of keeping the commandments of God and abiding in God’s love as doing what Jesus said according to scripture. I liked the study. I did not get anything mind blowing from what the “Pastor” said, but it was cool.
I did not return to the bible study for a couple weeks because I was on time constraints with class, study, and other obligations. Two weeks afterward, I was inviting to a bible study held away from campus at a house in Pasadena, CA, near the Huntington Library. I was a bit reluctant then too because I really did not know the person inviting me, but I was sure I would recognize her once I saw her. I never saw the girl that invited me to the on-campus bible study again.
On Friday night, December 2nd, I took the bus over to Pasadena and was picked up at a Starbucks near the house where the Bible study was being held. I was anxious since, again I did not know anybody. The girl who picked me up was unrecognizable to me at first, but then I remembered she was in the first bible study I went to on campus. I had no clue whom she was, but she told me that she and her friend, Nina (the girl who invited me to the bible study then disappeared) , had known each other for a very long time, and the girl (M.I.A) was part of a ministry group based in Hawai’i. I absolutely thought she was a student; in fact, that was the impression she made when we spoke. We arrived at the house. We walked in and right away, I was introduced to many people, and to be honest, none of them was particularly cordial, except about two people (it was a bible study of about twenty-five people). They started off the study with some Christian Hymns, Hymns I had never heard before, so I clapped or snapped my fingers like they did, but barely sang unless I caught on to the repetitiveness, which there was a lot of. There were about 5 songs sang then we all sat down and a “Pastor” or “Assistant Pastor” got up to minister. He began to talk about knowing God, and recognizing our sins, and he quoted some verses since he was in the flow of things. Then he said, “If you’re quiet or shy and awkward, you have secret sins.” I am almost certain he meant me and another new person who was sitting about ten-feet away from me, who was also a new comer. When he made that statement the girl who drove me to the house who also sat next to me, looked directly at me. I felt an immediate sense of guilt for not going up to everyone and telling them my life story and acting as if I have known them all for five years. Luckily, I know myself pretty well, so I did my best to disregard their physical and verbal judgments. After a couple more of the Assistant Pastors bold statements that I cannot remember, the Assistant Pastor sat down, and the Pastor got up to teach and preach (the same guy from the on-campus study). He talked on the subject of what a true Christian was and what his or her actions entailed. He also made a mention that anyone not singing the songs had secret sins, which was another judgment statement I brushed away. I did not know the songs. He went on to teach and preach about what it meant to be a “true” Christian. Basically, he said to be saved you have to be baptized [water] and you must make disciple of men [go up to people and tell them about Jesus], and if you do those things you are a Christian. He even said that after he was baptized he got whatever he wanted from God, “Let me tell you, after you get baptized, you get whatever you want from God. I am proof.” I had never heard those two requirements being the condition for salvation. After the deliverance of that sermon, people were given time to speak about what they got out of the sermon. I noticed that no one asked questions. Those that spoke, spoke about how convicted they felt at their laziness and how their discipleship numbers were low, and that they wanted to please God. A few minutes of speaking, and there was time of fellowship before moving into the family room for a movie.
A couple of the girls that were attendees of the bible study introduced themselves; Charlene, and Rachel, both of them cool and we talked a while about reading God’s word and just making an effort to do His will. By that time, people began to leave or move into the family room to watch the movie. Charlene and I spoke for a while about different things like school and different versions of the bible and the movie we were watching (Jet Li’s Fearless), then Charlene had to leave along with her party because they caught the bus from South Los Angeles. I said my goodbye’s to her and her friend Sharnay who gave me a card to buy some organic coffee from a company she was working with. While they were on their way out, their friend, Mary, approached me and asked, “So, are you going to join our bible study?” I replied, “I don’t know, I am thinking about it.” “Everyone seems pretty chill here.” She then asked, “So, are you going to join our church to become a true Christian?” I just looked at her I really did not know what she meant by that. I have been quite confident in what I believed, and for some time. I opened my mouth to ask exactly what she meant, but she interjected and said, “Jesus wants us to obey his commandments.” Then she opened her bible and showed me a verse that she’d already underlined part of, “…Keep His commandments.” She then went on to say that, their church is not like other churches and they preach to obedience of God’s commandments ( It’s not like I have not heard that before). She then told me to think about it, and then she tilted her head to the right and said “Okay?” I was not offended, yet. I was offended later after giving the situation thought because she sat across the room from me on two different occasions for a total of 3 hours, and hardly asked me my name before she practically told me I was not real about God according to her standards. She anticipated her judgment of me thinking that she was doing the will of the God. People, and their crazy miss-the-mark judgments. I went home that night, and had such a hard time falling asleep. All I could think of was the “reality” of my utter impiety since I was not following the commands of this new church I sought fellowship alongside. Do these people ever stop to think to themselves that some people are generally uncomfortable with the church –but believe God— so they don’t attend; moreover, placing judgments on someone who is new does not progress the guest [me] into joining the club. My ideas of church have always been that of a place of refuge. Bible studies, in particular, have been an open invite to discussions regarding scripture, and life, not a place to express your shame and guilt regarding hard work, or lack thereof. It is quite probable that my expressed frustrations with my experience is formulated through my biased, narrow view of “church” and bible studies, but allow me to challenge the reader by asking the following questions: 1. Aren’t we able to question for ourselves regarding scripture [God provides wisdom]? 2. Does not God provide for us a Comforter that is responsible for convicting us? 3. Is it necessary for the unity of the Saints to follow each other’s convictions in correlation with our own, even if those convictions seem legalistic or illegally condemning?
The Christian is called to live by faith in God, not our feelings;however, there was something about this “church” I was feeling especially apprehensive about and I wanted to discover why.