City Guide: Orange County

Matthew ThompsonBy Matthew ThompsonJuly 18, 201917 Minutes

Orange County is often known for it’s image-driven culture and abundance of wealth, but those things don’t tell the full story. On a deeper level, you’ll find that many people are searching for something more. There’s a growing hunger for something that will satisfy the deepest parts of the soul. Despite this, people haven’t looked to the church as the answer. With so many churches in the area, you’ll find that most people have had some type of experience and as a result, they’ve defined what Christianity means to them. They’ve tasted church and they’ve found it to be bitter. But in our travels, we discovered there’s been a dramatic shift in recent years. All across the country, 20 and 30 somethings are flocking to passionate, Spirit-filled churches that are helping them encounter God in a way they’ve never experienced before.

A new Jesus movement across OC

ROCKHARBOR Church was started by a group of five guys known as the "knuckleheads", who wanted to create an environment for people who would never consider going to church. Over the years, their church has continually evolved as they’ve put a real focus on being a risk-taking community that always responds to where the Holy Spirit is moving. On Sundays, you’ll experience how intentional they are about creating a space for you to soak in the presence of God both before the teaching and afterwards, especially during extended response at the 7pm service.

Based in Costa Mesa, ROCKHARBOR is also defined by authentic community. They put a high value on encouraging vulnerability, which enables people to share who they really are and what they’re really feeling. One member put it this way, “We share stories. We share meals. We share our heartaches and we share our joys.” They also put a strong emphasis on helping the community locally in Orange County, as well as globally in Mexico and Uganda. They’re passionate about getting to the heart of Jesus and caring for the underprivileged, with a special focus on foster care and adoption.

In Long Beach, Garden Church has developed one of the most special communities in all of Southern California. Led by Pastor Darren Rouanzoin, you’ll find that Garden will be one of the most hospitable places you’ve ever been to. They go to great lengths to make everyone feel welcomed and loved, just like Jesus. One member said that they have “not felt the LOVE of Jesus in any other church as much as we have in this place,” while another said “I have never felt so welcomed and right at home.” With such a loving and welcoming culture, the community has become extremely tight knit and meet regularly throughout the week in House Churches.

We’ve had the privilege of getting to know Pastor Darren over the last few months and the person you see on Sundays is the same behind the scenes. He is an incredible teacher that leads by example. He’s authentic, humble, and relates to you on a practical level with his own struggles. Garden also has a strong worship culture and embraces foundational spiritual practices, such as silence & solitude, prophesying and intercessory prayer that will help you become as spiritually whole as possible.

With a rich history, Vineyard Church in Anaheim was part of a major movement in Southern California for previous generations. After a period of transition, Vineyard has experienced an explosive revival in the past year. Pastor Alan Scott came over from Europe to take over as lead pastor, while Jeremy Riddle came down from Bethel Church to become their worship leader. While we were in Orange County, we had the opportunity to attend multiple services and the worship culture that’s being created at the church is incredible. The tangible presence of God in the room is indescribable. Being able to experience that is a pure gift and it’s something you have to see for yourself.

Jeremy Riddle

An uprising of new churches

Not expecting to plant a church, Pastors Matt and Bianca Olthoff started holding dinner parties at their house in 2016. Over time, conversations started happening and they eventually decided to start the Father’s House OC in Anaheim in September of 2018.

If you’re new to church, you’ll find The Father’s House to be an incredibly warm atmosphere to walk into. One of their core values is that you belong before you believe what we believe or behave how we behave. No matter where you’re at in your spiritual journey, this is a safe space to walk into. Before launching the Father’s House, Pastor Bianca gained a reputation around the country for her dynamic preaching style. You’ll find her messages to both be funny and witty, with a strong gift for helping you understand the message of Jesus within our cultural context.

With an already strong presence in their Los Angeles campus, Mosaic OC also launched in Irvine in 2018. We had the chance to spend time with the Mosaic team and they’re a group of hungry and dedicated people that are helping communicate the message of Jesus in a way that is really resonating with this generation. Within just a year, their blossoming community has outgrown their original space and is now meeting at University High School in Irvine. One of the biggest treats you’ll get from attending Mosaic is hearing from Pastor Erwin McManus One member said that he was, “the greatest communicator I have ever had the privilege of hearing” while another said, “He always has a relevant message; something for seekers, doubters, wounded, marginalized, under challenged, or growing in faith.”

In just a year, their blossoming community has outgrown their original space and is now meeting at University High School in Irvine.

Finding your church home

Whether you’ve been hurt by the church in the past or you’re eagerly trying to find the next place to call home, all of these churches in Orange County will provide you with safe, vibrant and authentic environments that will empower you to explore your faith and grow in your spiritual journey. But don't just take our word for it, we invite you to check them out for yourself.

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