Although he is the son of a preacher, the closest he had come to spreading the Word was accompanying his father to Bible studies, still high on meth from the night before. Chaddick played in several punk bands—including Tsunami Bomb, which later went on to perform in the Warped Tour—and experimented with lots of drugs, including pot and acid, before getting hooked on meth. After an addict friend killed himself, Chaddick decided to take up a random girl on her invitation to check out "the cheesiest Christian event I've ever seen." As he heard the preacher speak, "I just started bawling," he says. "I realized that I had been a jerk and had been trying to be my own savior. It rocked me." He cried for the next eight hours, spent the night in the gym of the church, and called his friends the next morning to inform them that he'd met Jesus.
Chaddick is hardly the first preacher to speak about being a sinner before his spiritual awakening, but his present-day life—which is punctuated by occasional visits to the tattoo parlor and a few beers from time to time—makes some of his peers in the conservative born-again community uncomfortable. "You're not going to go to hell for having a tattoo, but the Bible is very clear about the fact that it's a pagan practice," says Xavier Ries, the pastor at Calvary Chapel Church in Pasadena. "And nowhere in the Bible are you told that you cannot drink, but the principle of sin and alcohol is throughout." Chaddick, who stayed dry for nearly seven years after quitting drugs, shrugs off such criticisms. As he points out, Jesus drank wine and the Bible says that drunkenness—not drinking—is a sin.
"People ask why we target young people, but we don't," Chaddick says. "Especially not when I give hour long sermons."
Chaddick's lack of defensiveness could be due to the fact that what he's doing is clearly working. In the early days of Reality's Los Angeles chapter, prayer services were held in various congregation members' living rooms and attracted only 20 or 30 people, all friends of friends. "The first year sucked," Chaddick says. But as Reality LA's ranks swelled, the church outgrew one facility after another. These days each of Reality's two Sunday services attracts not only crowds (up to 1,800 strong) of people who look like Hollywood's next big things but also a smattering of current big things—über-celebrities like Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus, and Joe Jonas (who brought then girlfriend Demi Lovato to hear Chaddick's Sunday-morning sermon on an early date). There is undoubtedly some of the typical Hollywood-magnet mentality at work. As one regular attendee muses, "If you hear that X celebrity is in such-and-such a location doing Kabbalah, you're going to do Kabbalah there. Still, you probably wouldn't stay unless you believed in it."
This star power makes it all the more striking that Reality's best recruiting tools are the church's rank-and-file believers who hang out at places like Silver Lake's Intelligentsia Coffeebar, a popular café with industrial decor and baristas who experiment with intricate leaf designs in latte foam. "Literally every time we're here someone overhears us talking about church or sees us praying and asks us what we're doing," says 22-year-old Jonathan Fitzgerald, his left hand resting on his Bible. "Not all of them come to the church right away, but it plants the seed."
That's how Becket Cook was introduced to Reality. Like many of the church's flock, he was raised an observant Christian, in his case Catholic, but had lapsed. "For the past few years I'd been struggling with finding meaning in my life and feeling like nothing was fulfilling," says Cook, a chiseled set designer. "And one day my friend and I were at Intelligentsia when we noticed this group of people surrounded by Bibles and religious books who all had their heads bowed." He introduced himself and ended up sitting down; the following Sunday he went to Reality, where he was saved. Congregants swear these coffee-house conversions aren't part of some organized plan designed to indoctrinate L.A.'s hipster community—they simply hang out where they like ("in" places), with the people they like (attractive fellow congregants), and let natural social dynamics (the gravitational pull of the young and hot) take their course. "People ask us why we target younger people, but we don't," Chaddick says. "Especially not when I give hour-long sermons." He laughs, then pauses. "Our target group is simply human beings."