ANAHEIM, Calif.—Chris Lohman says they’re something in the water at Huntington Beach that makes it a hard place to do evangelism.
“It’s a city of coolness,” he said. “There’s surfing here, and within a couple of hours there’s snowboarding and snow skiing. All your needs are fulfilled.”
But at the same time, it’s a city stuck in generational curses, Lohman said. Just 35 miles from downtown Los Angeles, it has “always been a rough city” with lower-income living and everything that comes with that, like high divorce rates and broken families, he said.
Lohman grew up here. He’s surfed since the ’70s. And in March 2020, he planted The Garage Church to try to reach the city he loves.
“We want to build relationships with our local community,” he said. “We are very relaxed. No one’s judging — everyone in our church has already screwed up. We just want to love on people. Our job is to make it realistic for them to come to a place where they can feel loved and learn about God.”
That’s why Lohman was out on the beach June 11 with four surfboards and a team of volunteers who had come to join him for Crossover, a series of evangelistic events held all over the area in the days leading up to the Southern Baptist Convention Annual Meeting. Lohman wanted to teach people how to surf and maybe get them to a place where they might want to learn about God too.
That’s how his own faith journey started — he got to a place where he was interested in learning about God.
“I’d been struggling with life and trying to figure out what was wrong,” he said. “I decided I was agnostic — I believed there was a god, but I didn’t know which one would be the best.”
As Lohman began to learn about different religions, “none gave me the feeling that Christ did.”
He surrendered his life to Christ one day on the ab machine at the gym, and about 15 years later he planted The Garage. These days, he spends his life trying to help other people find the narrow path he did.
“That’s why we do everything we do,” Lohman said.
John Norfleet, a Crossover volunteer from First Baptist Church Winnsboro, Texas, said he had joined The Garage’s event that morning “to see if someone would want to experience the joy we have in Jesus.”
“We have prayed for God to open the door,” he said.
His pastor, David Rose, said he was first exposed to Crossover 25 years ago as a youth minister and appreciated the way the Southern Baptist Convention was intentional about holding evangelistic events in the city where it met each year.
He’s been coming when he could ever since. This year, his church sent 10 people.
“Any time we can be involved in sharing with others, it’s a good thing,” Rose said.
The article originally appeared in The Baptist Paper.