The archetypical model of a church doesn’t consist of a night club, Thanksgiving and dodge ball (or the closed Z Gallerie Building). But differences are what make this church extraordinary. The Garden officially began in 2009 and has since grown into a beautiful Christian establishment in the heart of the Long Beach community. And it is the community itself which The Garden hopes to change. Darren Rouanzoin, the Head Pastor, spoke to the Long Beach Post about faith, The Garden’s journey and future endeavors.

What is the mission of the Garden?

The main thing we are all about is Jesus and what his message is. Our primary role is inviting people to make disciples and create the right relationship with Jesus. By doing this we are transforming the city, and that paradox, I think, is countercultural to church—even though that’s what churches where commissioned to do in the first place. We’re not only focused on a Sunday worship gathering—that’s Important, but not the primary place of our energy. We equip people to serve and bless their neighbors, their neighborhood, and their city as a whole.

The Garden started as a project that in 2008. How did you get involved?

It started as just an idea in a church in Costa Mesa in 2008. My wife and I felt called to be here, and we explored the idea by getting people together to serve the city. Then, in October 2009 we launched officially as a church and that’s when we had to become an organization and learn how to become self-sustaining. Statistically, 85 percent of all church plans fail, and there are 4,000 every year. We are very fortunate and blessed. We’ve been meeting in a nightclub cigar lounge, and even turned the bar into a nursery and children’s area. It’s amazing to see what’s happened.

Where does the name “Garden” originate from?

So the “Garden” comes from Isaiah, 58:11. We weren’t trying to take the city for Jesus; instead we wanted to grow something naturally and organically with who was already here. And that’s how the Garden became our church. We believe God called us. The church is not just the institutionalized, on-Sundays box church. It’s not primarily a building, it’s the people of God. I’m 28. I’m pretty young, so to see the growth—in church standards—we’re kind of an anomaly for the inner city. We follow the grace of God, and we just have a lot of young people and a lot of families involved with us. We have about 300 people altogether in the church, and about 275 will show up on a Sunday.

Are there any upcoming events?

On November 29th at 7PM we are having a preview night at the Z Gallerie. Before the Garden, there haven’t been a lot of church events Downtown in decades. This historical building has been closed down; we’re opening not just a church but a community center and venue space that will be used for artists, musicians, or weddings. We want to bless city with that space. So this will be a fusion of fundraising and prayer open to the public. We also do a Thanksgiving potluck and dodge ball tournament; pretty funny and random.

The Garden’s website calls the Garden a “church of communities.” Can you expand on that?

Our primary function is to make disciples and transform the city. We have a community garden where we partner with Precious Lamb, the rescue mission, we have a group that provides free laundry once a month; We give ten percent of our general income away so, for instance, we can move people into apartments that can’t afford it. We really try to bless the neighborhood by doing all of these things. We help people to equip leaders for life, to see people thrive and be hardworking humans. I think that’s what Jesus came to do.

Gatherings occur on Sundays 9AM to 11AM at the Corhiba Nightclub on 110 East Broadway. The Garden’s preview night at the Z Gallerie Building will be held November 29th at 7PM at 230 Pine Ave.

{FG_GEOMAP [33.7691038,-118.1920136] FG_GEOMAP}