Mary Adamski

View from the Pew
A look inside Hawaii's houses of worship

By Mary Adamski

Saturday, August 4, 2001

‘New’ Christians enjoy a
day of sermons, music

IT'S not a surprise to see thousands of people turn their backs on a sunny weekend day to sit in a cool, dim room and listen to a sermon.

But this wasn't a Sunday service. It was Saturday, and it was one "sermon" after another, six speakers in all, at the recent "How to Walk 2001" Christian Growth Conference.

What drew some of the crowd to the all-day event, sponsored by KLHT radio station, were "stars" well known to folks who tune in to radio evangelists and read from the Christian bestseller list:

>> Chuck Smith was in at the beginning of the "new" nondenominational Christianity that evolved from the 1960s counterculture movement. He's now pastor of Calvary Chapel, Costa Mesa, Calif.

>> Greg Laurie has brought his Harvest Crusade to Hawaii, has a nationally syndicated radio show, "A New Beginning," and is the author of several books.

>> Raul Ries shared excerpts from "Fury to Freedom," his book and a movie about his conversion after a violent youth, a license to kill as a soldier in Vietnam, and years as a wife abuser.

Many of the audience of more than 1,000 people were dressed for church -- high heels and nice dresses, shirts and ties. But many took their cue from Laurie, who appeared in walking shorts and a knit shirt. The old ban against eating and drinking in church didn't apply, with bottled water the refreshment of choice.

"We like to go to church and hang out with Christians and listen to Christian radio," Laurie told the morning session.

And indeed a lot of hanging out was going on outside the meeting room; the vast open space of the Hawai'i Convention Center acted as a plaza where parents strolled with restless young children, clusters of teenagers circled each other, and browsers took a breather at tables of merchandise and a coffee and lunch concession.

Laurie's punch line was to urge his audience to go out and bring back friends and family who haven't been saved yet.

"One of the best ways to evangelize is to listen," he said.

A mainland Christian recording group, 2 or More, played as the conference-revival continued into the evening, but the accent was not on entertainment.

From the moment Pastor Bill Stonebraker of Calvary Chapel Honolulu said, "Bring out your Bibles," it was all serious business.

"I'm here to get refreshed, to make myself accountable," said Noa Laporga, 18, a Hope Chapel Mililani member.

Deanne and Stanley Tangonan brought their children -- Adrienne, 8, and Isaac, 6 -- for a while before heading to a children's birthday party.

"We came to get encouraged," she said.

"To see where the Lord is leading us," he said.

"Born X 2" read the license plate of a van parked in the jammed lot. It aroused a feeling of admiration in a religion page writer, who also felt just a bit guilty for leaving early to head for the beach.


Mary Adamski covers religion for the Star-Bulletin.
Email her at

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