The resource table by the entrance to the gymnasium that hosted Christian City Church San Diego offered several titles from CCC founder Phil Pringle: You The Leader, Leadership Excellence, Keys to Financial Excellence . The young women staffing the table wore dresses. The young woman who helped front the band, however, wore jeans, and her hipster shag haircut was matched only by that of her co-leader, who sported spiky, artful bedhead. They played two of the band's four guitars, and were backed by drums, synth, two accompanying singers, and a small choir that did no small amount of jumping in place during the up-tempo, soaring power-pop of the opening songs. "Day after day/ I know You're talking to me/ Your word speaks louder than this world... Come on, church, clap your hands!"
The music subsided, and only the synth kept playing as Pastor Jurgen Matthesius read an account of Last Supper before Communion. Matthesius stressed that Communion established the New Covenant: "You have in your hands a receipt, an emblem of the fact that the old has passed by; in Christ, you are a new creature. All things have become new. Just like the priests would take the blood and sprinkle it on the mercy seat... Your blood was shed on the cross, so that the Lord...could willingly accept us into His kingdom.... I come against any spirits of addiction and bondage; I break your power by the blood of Jesus Christ and His powerful name.... I command all sickness, all disease, all infirmity: get out of people's bodies right now!"
He offered another meditation on Scripture before the collection: "Proverb 3:9 says, 'Honor the Lord with your possessions and with all the first fruits of your increase, so your barns will be filled and your vats will overflow with new wine.' This God is a God of abundance.... God said to Abraham in Genesis 12: I'm going to bless you so that you might be a blessing. God wants you to be blessed so you can be a blessing. If you're impoverished...you need help from everybody.... For too long the church has lived with this lie from the devil -- that somehow, poverty pleases God.... What pleases God is a heart devoted to Him.... God's raising up a brand new generation that can handle huge sums of money.... They have money; money doesn't have them. They have a heart after God, and they give to every good work, and they're a blessing.... You are blessed to be a blessing, and the way to unlock that...is to begin to honor the Lord, and as you honor the Lord with your tithes...you will find that heaven will begin to open up your life, and you'll begin to walk in blessing and favor."
The sermon was inspired by a dream. "I wanted to say 'vision,' but the Bible says that young men have visions and old men dream dreams, and seeing that I'm 40 next week..." In the dream, Matthesius saw a valley and heard the Lord say, "I'm not just the God of the hills, but the God of the valleys."
That reminded Matthesius of 1 Kings 20, in which Israel defeats Syria in the hills. Syria's counselors suppose that it's because Israel's gods are gods of the high places, and that if they fight in the low places, they will then defeat Israel. But the Lord says to Israel, "Because the Syrians have said that the Lord is the god of the hills, but He is not the god of the valleys, therefore, I will deliver all this great multitude into your hands, and you shall know that I am the Lord."
The message of the sermon was that, even though CCC is seen as a positive sort of church where "the music is always up and the message is always uplifting," their God is not just a God of the mountaintop but also of the valleys. "He is the God of the broken...of the downtrodden... He is the God who will bring you victory in the valleys." Matthesius cited Psalm 23: "'Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death...You are with me.' God will allow you to go through valleys, because in valleys, you see Him!"
"That's right!" cried someone in the congregation. "Come on!" cried another, urging Matthesius on.
"Character is forged on the anvil of walking through valleys.... God is concerned with working out your character.... To get through the gates, you're to put on thanksgiving.... The greatest thanksgiving I've ever developed in my life has been through the times of difficulty, where I've cried out to God...and He deposits something in your spirit, and all of a sudden, you have thankfulness."
What happens when we die?
"Well," said Matthesius, "if we're in Christ, we get to enter heaven. If we're outside of Christ, we're in a lot of hot water."
3800 Mykonos Lane, Carmel Valley
Denomination: nondenominational, but one of 230 Christian City Churches worldwide
Address: services held at Carmel Valley Middle School, 3800 Mykonos Lane, Carmel Valley, 760-804-8524
Founded locally: 2005
Senior pastor: Jurgen Matthesius
Congregation size: about 600
Staff size: 9
Sunday school enrollment: about 75
Annual budget: around $1 million
Weekly giving: n/a
Singles program: connect groups
Dress: semiformal, plenty of jeans and untucked button-downs, plenty of dresses
Diversity: majority Caucasian
Sunday worship: 9 a.m., 6 p.m.
Length of reviewed service: 1 hour, 40 minutes