Denomination: associated with the Baptist General Conference
Address: services held at Kearny High School, 7651 Wellington Way, Kearny Mesa, 858-268-2330
Founded locally: 2005 (as independent entity)
Senior pastor: Matt Hammett
Congregation size: 1600
Staff size: 9 full-time, 1 part-time
Sunday school enrollment: 70
Annual budget: n/a
Weekly giving: n/a
Singles program: no
Dress: casual, lots of jeans
Diversity: mostly Caucasian
Sunday worship: 10 a.m., 5 p.m., 7 p.m., 9 p.m.
Length of reviewed service: 1 hour, 45 minutes
The table out front offered Bibles with unusual covers: a version of the New Testament entitled The End of the World as We Know It: Or, The Creator Invites Us to a Whole New Beginning We Never Would Have Guessed . Also, more traditional fare: N.T. Wright's The Challenge of Jesus: Rediscovering Who Jesus Was and Is . Inside, production guy Tim explained that today's service was part of the "Know (Doubt)" series at Flood, which would include a panel of experts answering questions sent in by congregants via e-mail. The panel: Dr. Glen Scorgie, professor of theology at Bethel Seminary; Sheryl Fleisher, spiritual director and speaker; and Dr. Curt Gruber, associate executive minister and director of missions for the Southwest region of the Baptist General Conference.
Low sidelights gave the auditorium its only light, save for that radiating off the two projection screens bearing the Flood logo. Eventually, the scene shifted to a rising sun, and the piped-in music gave way to sustained synth chords. "Our God reigns," sang the keyboardist in the near dark, her voice breathy and powerful. "Our God reigns. Forever your kingdom reigns." Over and over in a kind of mantra, as the music built below her voice and above the synth: the reverberating bass, the strumming guitar, the gradually more complicated drumbeat, and finally, the riffing lead guitar, earnest and soaring. The band, October Inc., went through a half-hour set, and while the congregation sang along at times, the performance had the feel of an intimate club concert -- the sound sometimes threatening to overwhelm the space. "Grace, I call your name/ Oh, won't your smile fall down on me/ I'm cracked and dry on hands and knees/ Oh, won't your grace rain down on me."
After the collection, the panel took the stage, sitting on high chairs under the spotlights. The moderator read sample questions on a given topic ("What about cavemen?" "What about freshwater species during the flood?") and summarized them into a more general question ("How do the Bible and science really fit together?"). Dr. Scorgie spoke first, stressing that he didn't "speak on behalf of the entire Christian tradition, but only as an individual.... I think the key is to understand that the creation story is inspired and true, but it's not to be taken literally in every detail." We need to "recognize that it is a literary form intended to communicate some really inspired truth." The world "came into being on purpose...through the power of God, and the pinnacle of that creation is you, the image-bearer of God.... Christians should really be free to engage science and regard it as the means by which we flesh out the details of this wondrous story."
Next up, the interpretation of scripture -- "why we follow some parts of the Bible today but not others." For instance: Paul prohibits women from speaking in church. Dr. Gruber mentioned hermeneutics -- "It's really how you understand scripture, both the methodology as well as the personal journey that goes with that.... My personal hermeneutic is one where I want to hear a women gifted in speaking and ministry exercise that gift." Scorgie weighed in: "We don't want to treat the Bible subjectively.... One of the key ways of distinguishing the passing things from the permanent things is to recognize that the Holy Spirit is moving the people of God back toward a full recovery of what we lost in the original Fall. Along the way, things fall away as obsolete, no longer necessary."
The panel agreed that homosexual persons need to be treated "with love and respect, with dialogue and mercy, and with the same graces that we would hope for ourselves," said Gruber. "My prayer for my own life," said Fleisher, "would be, 'May I be known as someone who loves, not as someone who judges.'" Added Scorgie: "A person can be homosexual and still be saved. I think if they're a practicing homosexual, living
below God's liberating ideal...but His grace is much larger than those ideals."
The questions moved to the personal: "How do I tap into God's transformational power?" "The power is love," replied Fleisher. "It's not trying harder. It's receiving God's love in undefended vulnerability.... We're getting honest, getting real...bringing our hearts before God and with a safe community.... People who can handle the real stuff... Then, allowing yourself to be loved by them... Usually, the three great blocks to experiencing God's love are fear, shame, and pride."
"How do we really know who's going to heaven?" "Saving faith is trusting Christ," answered Scorgie. "The Father looks down and values that...and He will not let you slip out of His fingers as you go through the vale of death into the unknown beyond."
Finally, "After you become a Christian, what happens next?" "It's very similar to a relationship in a marriage," answered Fleisher. "It's growing in a love relationship."