In 2004, Chad moved to Puyallup, Wash., where he counseled teens and young adults at the United Generation ministry. He married the former Julia McGregor, who also grew up in a pastor’s home, in 2008. In 2013, he began working for Judah Smith, who became well known after taking over the leadership of Churchome in 2009, a megachurch started by Mr. Smith’s father, Wendell. Mr. Smith is a spiritual adviser to Mr. Bieber, who credits Christianity with turning around his personal life.
Last summer, Mr. Smith and Mr. Veach joined Mr. Bieber for part of his “Purpose” tour. “I think he wanted, ugh, I hate to use this word, but ‘positive influences,’” said Julia Veach of Mr. Bieber. Mr. Veach was there when Mr. Bieber performed at the Stade De Suisse Wankdorf in Bern, Switzerland. After the show, they drove a couple of hours to Mr. Bieber’s hotel. He posted a video of them singing in his room, while Mr. Smith howled in pain in the background. He was getting a tattoo.
This was not a frivolous gesture. The Veaches have four children, and one of them, Georgia (born in 2012), suffers from lissencephaly, called “smooth brain” disorder because the folds of the brain don’t develop. (It is the subject of Mr. Veach’s 2016 book, “Unreasonable Hope: Finding Faith in the God Who Brings Purpose to Your Pain.”) After Mr. Veach got a “G” tattoo in 2013 to honor his daughter, others got a similar marking, including Mr. Bieber and the model Hailey Baldwin.
In Bern, Mr. Bieber had scribbled “Better at 70” in big letters on a piece a paper, and he, Mr. Veach and Mr. Smith agreed to tattoo the sentiment about age and wisdom on their thighs. “I’m watching this and I go, ‘I don’t want that the rest of my life,’” Mr. Veach recalled.
“I don’t want it that big,” he told Mr. Bieber. “Write it again small for me, I think I am going to put it here.” He pointed to his left arm.
“Oh yeah, for sure.”
Mr. Bieber made the letters small.
“Are you kidding me? I could have gotten it small?” Mr. Smith said, peeved.
In Los Angeles Mr. Veach pointed at his tattoo. “That’s his handwriting,” he said of Mr. Bieber’s scrawl.
Despite such prideful displays, Mr. Veach said he does not abide celebrity culture, even though he is around it a lot.
“He just fits in the glitz and glamour,” said his father. “He was into doing grandiose things and that is what L.A. is.”
The Veaches started their venture by holding informal spiritual gatherings, first at home and, then, at a small church in Santa Monica. (Thirty volunteers from Seattle joined them when they moved, Chad said.) A friend reached out to the owner of 1 Oak, the West Hollywood club where Leonardo DiCaprio was a regular and where the rapper Suge Knight had been shot. Would the owner be interested in renting the club to Mr. Veach for his church?
When Zoe opened on Aug. 23, 2015, “there was a line down Sunset Boulevard, two blocks,” Mr. Veach said. “We had so many people, they couldn’t fit everybody in the club. The next day the owner emails me, ‘You can never have church here again.’ He goes, ‘You’re too big of a liability.’ I go, ‘Liability? My crowd is sober.’”
The next week the Veaches moved to the El Rey.
Eric VanValin, 35, works in television casting at Warner Bros. and attended Zoe’s opening. He and his wife moved from Virginia to Los Angeles in September 2014 and began following Mr. Veach on Instagram after a friend told him about the pastor’s account. Mr. VanValin attended early meetings at the Veach home.
“It gave me and my wife a community,” he said. “We immediately had a support system.” That is especially true in Los Angeles, he said, which isn’t the most welcoming town. “It’s such a hustle,” he said. “A lot of the time you have to sell yourself, your work. It’s a competitive environment.”
But saving souls is a business like any other. Pastors today who want to start a ministry for those 40 and under follow a well-traveled path. First, they lease an old theater or club. Next, they find great singers and backup musicians. A fog machine on stage is nice. A church should also have a catchy logo or catchphrase that can be stamped onto merchandise and branded — socks, knit hats, shoes and sweatshirts. (An online pop-up shop on Memorial Day sold $10,000 in merchandise its first hour, Mr. Veach said.) And lastly, churches need a money app — Zoe uses Pushpay — to make it easy for churchgoers to tithe with a swipe on their smartphones.
Mr. Veach said he modeled his church after Hillsong, with its vibrant youth community, and Church of the Highlands, whose pastor teaches other pastors how to start churches like his. He spent two days learning the basics at Highlands’ headquarters in Birmingham, Ala., before Zoe opened for business.
”There are lot of guys who aren’t good orators that have really good churches because they are good managers,” Mr. Veach said.
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