Resolved Church (Bay Park)
Denomination: Acts 29
Address: 1717 Morena Boulevard, Bay Park, 619-393-1990
Founded locally: 2005
Senior pastor: Duane Smets
Congregation size: 50
>Staff size: 1
Sunday school enrollment: 4
Annual budget: n/a
Weekly giving: about $500/week
Singles program: no
Diversity: mostly Caucasian
Sunday worship: 11 a.m.
Length of reviewed service: 1 hour, 30 minutes
From The Best of Jonathan Edwards , found on the book table at the back of The Resolved Church's shadow-dark worship space: "The extreme dangers of lust: The more irregularly a man walks, the more his mind will probably be blinded because sin prevails so much more. The same lust that leads them into that evil way blinds them to it." Stern stuff; the crowd, however, seemed anything but -- some relaxed to the point of bed-headed scruffiness, others artfully casual. Nobody particularly formal and certainly nobody buttoned-uptight. Kenny, a painter, explained one of the canvases hanging on the side wall, swirls of lime green against a black background: "These images were actually captured from a video that I shot of various chemicals and paints and stuff. It's very close-up -- like, microscopic. I grabbed stills and did photorealistic paintings of them. It looks like a completely abstract image, but it's actually photorealism. So, it's basically about having people change their perspective on things.... If you can see things from a different perspective, there are layers of understanding that can be found."
The poetry of the psalm at the call to worship picked up the artistic vibe: "Day to day pours out speech, and night to night reveals knowledge..." The band -- a guy, a girl, and a guitar -- strummed out a hipster-folk rendition of "Just As I Am without One Plea": "Just as I am without one plea/ But that thy blood was shed for me/ Just as I am and wanting not/ To rid myself of one dark blot... Lamb of God I come, I come to thee."
"We're trying to start a church here," said pastor Duane Smets during his opening remarks. "We need churches in San Diego.... What we've been doing here is laying a foundation by studying the Book of Romans. It's the most precise, most clear, most exhaustive presentation of the Gospel in the entire Bible. Some of my pastor friends think I'm crazy for taking on Romans as a first book for us to study through."
Sunday's sermon was "Adopted Forever," the fourth in the "Jesus Family" series. The first three focused on the battle with sin, but the fourth was more cheerful in tone: an examination of Romans 8:14--15: "Those who are led by the spirit of God are sons of God, for you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, as sons, by whom we cry 'Abba, Father.'"
Smets defended Paul against charges of sexism, noting that all might receive the "full rights and privileges" status of sons in God's family. He attacked the notion that we are all God's children simply by virtue of being created, noting that Jesus named some of his critics as children of the devil. He lauded Paul's rhetorical technique, his invocation of slavery and adoption -- two worldly practices well understood by his Roman audience -- in his description of God's salvific action. He sought to distinguish between being motivated by a fear of punishment and being motivated by "a fearful respect and acknowledgement of God.... Our main relationship with God becomes no longer one of enmity and strife, but one of love, where God is our Father. God is not after external compliance. He's after real, deep, loving adoring from the heart. He could force us to do what is right, but He doesn't; He uses irresistible, compelling grace to draw us in to see His wondrous love. To see that He is Father, and He is worthy of our lives.... Is God your Father? If not, who or what are you living for?"
Toward the end, Smets paused and addressed the congregation with a sweetly earnest plea: "You're fading on me; just stay with me a little bit longer. I've got a lot to say today. We're always waiting to just get out, but you need this. We spend so much time watching TV and going out and having fun, which isn't bad -- I love that stuff -- but let's just listen to the word of God a little bit longer. It's what feeds our souls. I'm just afraid sometimes that we get too fat on unspiritual things, so that we have no room left for divine things.... Either that, or I just really suck at preaching."
"Know that adoption is real," he concluded. "It's what your heart longs for...and it's sure and it's permanent.... You're made for more than just the silly pleasures this world offers."
What happens when we die?
"I believe in a heaven and a hell," said Smets. "I think of heaven as an unending place of God ever showing us new pleasures and glories of Himself. And I think of hell as not just the separation from God, but the continual outpouring of his judgment. The full presence of His justice that Christ appeased on the cross."