Church of the Open Door in Glendora, California

John A. Travels to California

Day 16 – September 23, 2007 – Church of the Open Door and Steve Shwetz in Glendora, CA

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All images can be enlarged NOTE:
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Welcome to the Church of the Open Door; This is the new location of the original church that Dr. McGee pastored and where Thru the Bible Radio Network was born
There are two services at COD: one Traditional and one contemporary
This gentleman told me about sitting under Dr. McGee's ministry at COD for many years and how much he loved him.
Erv Jensen is now the chairman of the board at COD and also attended when Dr. McGee was the pastor
The pianist at the traditional service was also the tape ministry person at TTB for many years
Pastor of Church of the Open Door
The Church of the Open Door lived up to its name and made us feel very welcome
The central building of COD was previously the gymn of the private college the the church took over
This gentleman remains active at COD and loved to talk about the heritage that Dr. McGee left them
The contemporary service had about 500 poeple in attendance and felt that God was in their midst
Mrs. Jensen was the original letter answerer at Thru the Bible. When she retired they hired three people to replace her.
The grounds of the church were very large at about 14 acres with multiple buildings built right at the base of the foothills
Steve Shwetz and his wonderful family had us over to their home in Glendora. Steve is the TTB announcer. His wife home schools the children.
Steve with John. Steve was a most gracious host.

We awoke in our comfortable hotel in Glendora, the suburb right next to Pasadena within the larger city of Los Angeles, California.  The church service started at 9:30, so after a continental breakfast, it was a 10-minute drive to the church.

At first, we had a hard time figuring out where to park, as there was no actual church in view.  We noticed signs saying “Traditional Service here,” and “Contemporary Service this way.”  They have divided the congregation into two services. One uses the piano for the worship service, and sings traditional hymns.  The second is the more contemporary chorus-singing service at 11:00, led by a band.  I guess that is one way of keeping the peace.  However, it seems to me that it creates a generational division.  Some churches combine both contemporary and traditional styles of worship.

The traditional service was in what they call the White House, and could hold about 100 people.  The usher at the door was quick to introduce me to all the old timers who had been involved with Dr. McGee.  The first person we met had been under Dr. McGee’s ministry for almost 20 years.  I asked him what Dr. McGee was like as a person.  He replied that he was the most excellent Bible teacher that he had ever met.  However, if you were in the wrong, he would not hesitate to tell you.  Many of the members found it better to go to one of the other pastors within the church for a more sympathetic ear.  Nonetheless, he spoke very highly of Dr. McGee.

The next person I met was Erv Jensen.  He was described as having been at the church forever.  He is currently the chairman of the Elders’ Board.  His wife answered all the correspondence for almost ten years when Thru the Bible operated out of the Church of the Open Door.  When she retired, they had to hire three secretaries to replace her!  Apparently, she often took the correspondence home with her at night, but didn’t want anybody to know that at the time.
The next lady I met was the assistant to the secretary of Dr. McGee.  She has worked for Thru the Bible for about five years, which was one of the shortest terms of any of the workers she knew.  Apparently all the staff love working there, and were typically long-term employees.

Next I met a gentleman who was in charge of reproducing the broadcasts on cassette for shipment to the listeners.  He has done this for about 10 years.  I could see the twinkle in his eyes when he spoke of his work with Thru the Bible.  They all seemed very proud of the heritage of Thru the Bible.  This gentleman turned out to be the pianist for the service that day, and was very good.

The service opened with a few traditional hymns with only the piano as accompaniment.  Ronald was able to sing along, as they were all familiar hymns.  They even sang the complete song, “How Firm A Foundation, “which is the theme song of Thru the Bible. While the hymnals were in the seats, the words were on the overhead as well.  The pastor, Ed Underwood, delivered a wonderful sermon about working together as a team in Christian ministry.  He was very realistic about the politics and conflict that are often involved in any type of Christian ministry.  We’re not immune to getting hurt.  He discussed the relationship of John Mark to Paul, the apostle.  The pastor related how he himself had to make amends with a friend that had become estranged to him.  It was a very personal application, and I could see that it had an impact on the congregation.  He also pointed out that there would usually be a Demas who would betray you, and that we should stay focused on Jesus and carry on.

Immediately after the service, while I knew that the pastor had 15 minutes to make his way to the main auditorium for the contemporary service, I wanted to quickly take a photo of him. I went to the front to speak to him.  After I’d taken his photo, he had Ronald and myself pose for another shot.  Then he told me that when he was first saved, he happened across Dr. McGee’s broadcast.  This was what had really discipled him, as he was not being fed in his own church.  He is the fourth pastor after Dr. McGee, and has been there now for ten years.  He went on and on with stories, and I couldn’t help but marvel that here was a man who had three minutes to be on the platform, and yet he was still excitedly chatting with Ronald and myself.  What a wonderfully personable man!

I was curious to see what the contemporary service was like, so we went over to what was actually a gym.  The entire church property, which is on 40 acres of land, had been a military campus, which was later used as a university.  The church is spread out amongst six or seven different buildings.  They had just broken ground to build a proper church building below the gym area.  There were about five hundred people in the contemporary service, and the church seemed to be thriving.  Some of the people related how there had been two church splits soon after Dr. McGee retired from the ministry, and that it had been a very difficult time.

A gentleman at the resource table handed me a hard-backed 100-page book of the history of the church of the Open Door on Hope Street.  The church had been located in the downtown area for 70 years, but it had become landlocked, with almost the entire congregation having to drive many miles to get to the service.  The next generation was no longer coming, so they voted to move to the suburbs where the people actually live.  The Church of the Open Door is now located in the foothills of Glendora.  Apparently, just after they sold the property, an earthquake occurred, and the building was condemned.  It has now been demolished, and an office tower stands where the church used to be.  Apparently there was a great struggle with the purchaser of the property who defaulted on his payments.

The contemporary service was a typical chorus-singing one, but I did notice that the congregation was a mixture of every age group from the old to the very young, including a lot of different ethnic groups.  It felt like a very healthy and vibrant church.

Immediately after the service, I went to the sound booth to speak to the recording technician.  I actually wanted to meet the webmaster, but he was away that day.  I then spoke to the PowerPoint fellow, who was very friendly, and wanted to give me another history book.  Back at the resource table, I noticed that they had a bunch of CDs available for sale.  I figured they were from last week, but they were actually from the service that had just finished 10 minutes earlier!  They were able to burn a dozen CDs with a professionally printed label and have it available in the foyer 10 minutes after the pastor said Amen!  They gave me a complimentary CD.  (My church now does the same thing.)

We were invited to a newcomer’s luncheon immediately after the service.  They served up Mexican turkey, and it was a very welcoming type of experience.  The youth pastor, who introduced everyone, had a wife who was pregnant with triplets.  Overall, I was very glad to see that they continue to be a lighthouse for the Gospel. If I was living in this area, I would definitely join this church.  They have many good discipleship and small-group programs, and were hosting a family enrichment conference the next weekend.  They say they will also publish the conference in mp3 format on the web site, so I will still be able to attend from afar. Their website is

We went back to the hotel for the afternoon to tidy up a bit and have a short nap.  At 5:30, it was time to meet the announcer from Thru the Bible at Spaghetti Eddies, an Italian restaurant.  His name is Steve Shwetz.  It was a real joy to meet this fine Christian man and to finally be able to put a face to the voice that I hear every week.  He is about my age, and, like myself, is a volunteer.  He owns a residential cleaning business, and was in the midst of moving his office, as he had just purchased another cleaning business.  I was amazed that he took time to meet with me, considering his business obligations.

His wife was a very gracious woman, who home-schooled their three children.  The oldest son was entering his first year of public school this year.  I spoke to him about my dream of cataloguing the question-and-answer ministry by subject matter.  Amazingly, he had been thinking along the exact same lines for some time.  At this point, we are unsure how to divide the question-and-answer ministry up and make it available online, but it seems we agree in principle.  I hope to speak to the president on Tuesday about this matter.

Steve also said that he felt the same about the registration requirement to download the five-year series.  Apparently, last month he prevailed on the board to have this registration requirement removed.  Another example of like minds.  I’d written to Bob Kern, the Vice-President, over a year ago about the same subject, but had not been able to convince him at that time.  It is wonderful to meet  with like-minded Christians!

At about 7:00 pm, he had us follow them to their home in a gated community in the next town  up in the foothills some 15 minutes away.  They have a beautiful home, but what impressed me most was their three boys.  They all came down and sat with us during the entire 1½ hour visit, and were actively involved in the conversation.  I’m used to children going their own way after a cursory greeting.  They served apple pie and ice cream, and it was a most enjoyable experience.

Around 8:30, I said we should probably get going.  Steve replied, “Would you like to see the studio where I record the announcements?”  He led us upstairs into his bedroom, through the bathroom, and opened the door into a very large clothes closet!  There were clothes racks on each side, with shoes hanging on the door.  With a bit of a flourish, Steve folded down an expensive microphone from between the shirts, and said “This is where all happens!”  He barely had room to turn around in this little closet!  I kidded them that he was a closet Christian.  He had a little music stand which held his script.  There was a recorder, and a couple of speakers.  Apparently, another gentleman from Thru the Bible writes the scripts, and Steve reads them in.  He then mails a CD back to the office, where they are incorporated into the broadcast.  Right now, he is working three months ahead, doing the December Sunday Sermon intros.  His wife said sternly, “Don’t you dare put that photo on the Internet.”  So I can’t show you this most amusing picture.

Back in the car, we fired up the GPS and headed straight home.

What an amazing day!  I really felt that this time in Pasadena was in the Lord’s will . . . and that is a wonderful feeling!  We only traveled 42 km that day, but felt very refreshed afterwards.  Tomorrow it’s time to explore L.A.

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