A few months back, I read with great interest the Okie Gardener's post and subsequent discussion concerning the "growth" of Calvinism and the future of American Protestantism.

The conversation made me wax nostalgic about my dear old church in Southern California and my all-time favorite pastor: John Calvin Powell.

John Powell has pastored Calvary Church in West Hills, California, for two decades. He earned his Masters in Divinity at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary in Mill Valley. A native of Whitney, Texas, John Powell attended Howard Payne University in Brownwood, Texas, and earned his Bachelor's degree from the University of Houston at Clear Lake before the call to ministry led him to the Golden State.

An aside: I am a native Texan, but I grew up in Southern California. Following my high school graduation, I returned to my Texas roots for a stint at Baylor University in Waco, after which I returned to the San Fernando Valley. After living and working in Southern California for a decade, I returned to Baylor to continue my education.

Texans are funny people. I heard Shelby Foote once say that he "found Texans much more likeable in Texas than out of it. When they are away from home, they brag about Texas. When you come visit them in Texas, they assume you can see for yourself." There is a Texas nationalism and pride unlike any other state in the Union. A Texan out of Texas truly is a Texas expatriate.

If you are in California, a good place to meet Texans (or Okies or Arkansans et al) is in a Southern Baptist Church, which are much more abundant than you might think. The great "Okie" migration of the middle twentieth century transported all kinds of cultural institutions westward; they were blown out there with the wind.

My friend John Powell is an evangelical, which means he believes in the centrality of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, the importance of living out your faith, a high regard for the Bible as the inspired word of God and the necessity of conversion.

The historical John Calvin, however, exerts much more influence over Southern Baptists than they generally care to admit. Pastor John often discussed theology with another bright Texan on his staff (who considered himself a Calvinist); they would bat back and forth the ideas of unconditional election, limited atonement and irresistible grace.

Powell often ended the argument with this jewel: I will continue to preach the Gospel to as many people as I can, and I will trust that God will forgive me for saving the souls that I was not supposed to.

It is a good line and a good philosophy, which transcends theology.

You can find information on Calvary here, but don't look for any information on the site about John Powell; it just isn't there. Pastor John never went Hollywood.