How Ministry Differs on the East and West Coasts

In this video, Jeremy Treat points out that the religious pluralism of the western United States is different from the religious agnosticism and atheism of the eastern United States.


The following is a lightly edited transcript provided by a transcription service. Please check video before quoting.

Well, for me being in Los Angeles, I would say it’s really different. I think about cities like New York, or Boston, or even London and a lot of people think of those cities as being secular or post-Christian. But for me, I think Los Angeles is the opposite in many ways. It’s hyper-spiritual, it’s a melting pot of religions. I mean, just the context that I’m in shows that.

Where my wife and I and our kids live, there are 16 different houses of worship within a mile or two around us, and those are different religions from all over the world, and some that have been combined together. Where our church building is, if you just go a block north, there’s the Church of Self-Realization, if you go east, you have Scientology, and then down the road a little farther, the Temple of Intuition, if you go west, a couple of blocks, you have a Russian Orthodox Church, and to the south, right across the street is a Psychic Shop.

So that’s representative of the kind of culture that we live in in Los Angeles where you have a very pluralistic, very diverse, but very religious and spiritual context. And that shapes the way that we do ministry immensely. When we see people come to know Christ, they’re not becoming spiritual, they’ve been overtly spiritual, and they’re learning how to follow Jesus, they’re learning how to build their lives completely around him.

That means that we’re not just starting with people who have basically had a Christian worldview, and believed in God, and tried to be a good person, and believe the Scriptures, and now they’re willing to say the Sinner’s Prayer. No, we’re seeing people come to know Jesus as Lord and Savior, but where we’ve got to acknowledge that they’re coming out of explicitly cultic backgrounds or demonic backgrounds, that they’re coming out of a whole different worldview, a whole different religious system, and that takes time.

We see the grace of God change people in an instant but there’s a work of formation that we have to acknowledge, the spiritual background, the spiritual milieu that we find ourselves in in a big city like Los Angeles. And honestly, I think in a lot of ways that’s the future. If you look at the trends today, you see that what’s often considered the secular world which is usually the western, more white world that’s decreasing while religion is on the rise, the world is growing more religious, more pluralistic and so we have to learn how to follow Jesus.

And I think one of the ways that we do that is we have to recognize the difference between our cultural assumptions and our biblical convictions. And when we see people trust in Jesus as Lord and Savior, to be able to disciple them and shepherd them in ways where we’re not just teaching them to be Westerners. But we also have to acknowledge the spiritual warfare and the dynamics that are involved in all of that and proclaim Christ as King.

We’re not just introducing people to Jesus, we’re saying he’s better, he’s greater, he’s the King of kings and the Lord of lords. So I think that Los Angeles is very different than a lot of other cities, and particularly cities on the East Coast. And we’re seeing people come to know Christ in a way that engages who they are holistically because their background brings that out and forces us to do that even more.

But it’s a constant work in progress, I’m still learning, we’re still learning, but I’m excited to see how the Lord continues to work in contexts like these.