2010-08-27 / Faith

Pastor travels uncommon road to Camarillo church

Church recently opened after-school teen center
By Daniel Wolowicz

Bruce Zachary IRIS SMOOT/Acorn Newspapers Bruce Zachary IRIS SMOOT/Acorn Newspapers Bruce Zachary is the first to admit that his spiritual journey to become lead pastor at Calvary Nexus in Camarillo took some unexpected turns.

Born and raised in an Orthodox Jewish family, the Los Angeles native was working as an attorney when he agreed to attend a Christian church with his real estate agent. It was a visit that would have such an impact on him that it ultimately changed his religious beliefs.

“One of the clearest differences was to see people actively worshipping God,” Zachary said of his first impression of the church. “They were looking for a reverent relationship with God as opposed to a religion.”

The then 31-year-old attorney was living in Orange County when he told his parents of his decision to change his religion.

“They were grieved,” said Zachary, 51. “They tore their garments. Every picture of me in their home, they turned upside down.”

Pained by his parents’ reaction but undaunted, it wasn’t long before Zachary was leading an in-home Bible study group that soon grew from four people to 50.

“As I prayed, I felt a sense that I was supposed to teach,” he said. “As I started teaching, people started coming.”

To better understand the Bible, Zachary attended Calvary Chapel School of Ministry in Orange County, and he would eventually teach classes at Calvary Chapel Bible College.

“I had a voracious appetite for the word of God,” he said.

In 1996, Zachary—at that time still practicing as an attorney and teaching at the Bible college—was approached to open a Calvary Chapel Church in Camarillo.

By then he had married his wife of 19 years, Karen, and the couple had two young boys, Joshua and Jonathan.

Zachary knew that, in order to support his family and be able to serve without receiving a salary, he had to continue working as an attorney while he established the new church in Camarillo.

“We prayed, and we felt God leading,” he said. “We trusted that he would take care of us.”

Zachary moved his family to Camarillo and later retired from his law practice to devote himself full time to leading the church, which had grown to include more than 1,000 parishioners and could now give Zachary a salary.

“People are free to come and free to go,” he said. “They don’t belong to me. I would never think of it as ‘my’ church. It is the Lord’s church. People belong to him and not to me.”

Founded in the early 1960s in Orange County, Calvary Chapel includes 1,500 churches throughout the United States.

Calvary Chapel is a nondenominational church known for using contemporary music in its services and ministries. Its fundamental doctrine centers on teaching the Bible, Zachary said.

“We start on chapter one, and we’ll teach verse by verse, paragraph by paragraph, chapter by chapter through the Bible so people discover the word of God in context.”

The lead pastor said the church also focuses on understanding the role of the Holy Spirit in the church.

“We try to emphasize a balanced approach to the Holy Spirit,” he said. “It’s combining spirit and truth, an emphasis on the word of God and the spirit of God.”

The church changed its name from Calvary Chapel of Camarillo to Calvary Nexus after it opened a second campus at the former Imation plant on Lewis Road earlier this year.

In addition to hosting two Sunday services, the 25,000- square-foot building is used as a free youth center for middle and high school students Monday through Friday between 2 to 6 p.m.

The center includes an area for sports, a computer lab, a tutor center, a game room and music and art rooms.

“I think the programs through the Boys & Girls Club and the YMCA are great programs, but they’re not focused, per se, on helping kids come into a relationship with Christ,” said Zachary, whose two sons are 13 and 16.

Zachary, who has reconciled with his mother—she, too, converted to Christianity—said despite the uncommon and difficult path he took to become a pastor, the job has been more than worth it.

“I feel that I’m absolutely in the center of God’s will. I thank God for the opportunity to do what I do. I love what I do.”

Calvary Nexus holds four Sunday services, two at each of its locations: 380 Mobil Ave. (8:45 and 10:15 a.m.) and 300 S. Lewis Road (9:15 and 11:15 a.m.). The church hosts an evening Bible study at its Mobil Avenue location on Wednesdays at 7 p.m. For more information, call (805) 384-1182 or visit www.calvarynexus.org.

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