The high inverted V made by the slanting walls made it clear that this was a church, but the overall effect was unobtrusive: abstracted stained glass on the high front wall shedding light onto a stage laden with sound equipment and a pulpit. (The altar had been moved to one side.) All but one of the seven men on stage (two pastors, five with the band) wore a short-sleeve button-down shirt; all but one looked to be under 40 years old. The singing followed the tone set by the guitar: mellow, lending an easy, beachy vibe not only to a contemporary tune ("We are hungry, we are hungry, we are hungry for more of you") but also to old standbys ("My hope is built on nothing less/ Than Jesus' blood and
righteousness"). "Oh, God, how we hunger for you," proclaimed an opening prayer. "Lord...as we open up your word...we pray that you would just feed our hungry souls, Lord, with the bread of life." We read together a verse from Matthew: "But seek first the kingdom of God...and all these things shall be added unto you..."
Pastor Heitman highlighted an upcoming Muslim evangelism workshop, headed by Samy Tanagho, author of Glad News! God Loves You, My Muslim Friend : "an exciting outreach to Muslims in Orange County.... We need to know what the Muslim believes, because there are more and more and more of them in California. We talk about missions, going to the outer reach. Those following Islam are probably some of the most outer-reach people, and yet some of the most hungry, and some of the most ready for hearing the Gospel....Tanagho shares that nowhere in the Koran...is God mentioned as wanting a relationship and being loving.... So this is an exciting opportunity to go and spread the good news of God's love.... God loves the Muslims just as much as He loves the Christians; He desires that all should come to repentance in Jesus."
Heitman's sermon focused on John's account of Jesus feeding the five thousand -- the multiplied loaves and fishes. He said that the "real story" was "God being faithful to us -- 2 Timothy 2:13 says, 'Even if we are faithless, he remains faithful, for he cannot deny himself.' The Lord said, 'I am their God and they are my kids.'"
The sermon meandered along its path. Eventually turning to the text, Heitman noted that "despite all the busyness, Jesus invites the boys to come away with him.... He's inviting them to rest, and we all need to rest with Jesus, especially when things are busy." A comment on miracles followed: "You can't go to Jesus and expect to manipulate this man for your personal gain.... You can only come to Jesus...on His terms: 'I want to know you...and I cannot leave you unchanged...' The true reason we come to Jesus is, we want to be with Him."
He broke down Jesus' actions prior to the miracle: "He takes his disciples...and puts them in the middle of the lesson: what's the problem, what are you going to do about it, and what do you want me to do about it? He's being really practical: he was very here and now. Blood, sweat, leprosy, pus, food, drink; you name it, Jesus got dirty in it." Finally, "when He's teaching, it's always about more than just tangibles.... 'It's about concern for a bunch of hungry people.... I want you to get involved in their life. I want you to love them...' God can use the smallest thing" -- say, five loaves and two fish -- "but He can't use nothing.... Give your life, and see if the Lord doesn't exponentially increase."
Still, "the next day, the people got hungry again.... God is not here to fix your problems." Rather, God "is about eternal things: 'Yes, you will die; yes, you will suffer; but I've come to redeem you.... I am the bread...' God, it's your faithfulness that brings us to You through this act of communion." More songs, and then together the congregation broke the bread and drank the cup.
What happens when we die?
"The Bible says that Jesus is the Way, the Truth, and the Life," said Heitman, "and without Him, we don't have access to the Father. So, for those who have accepted Jesus -- this side of dying -- and acknowledged the Gospel, which is the good news that there is hope -- there is life, this side of heaven and also eternally, promised to us. But just as much as heaven is real, hell is also real. Hell was not created for man; it was created for Satan and the demons. But when man fell... We serve a just and holy God; He can't be in the presence of sin. We do believe strongly in taking people to Scripture, to Romans, and talking about the need for repentance. It is by faith that we are saved."
Denomination: nondenominational, affiliated with Calvary Chapel
Address: 4425 Valeta Street (in the Point Loma Seventh-Day Adventist Church), Point Loma, 619-226-1740
Founded locally: 1992
Senior pastor: Dave Heitman
Congregation size: about 135
Staff size: 5
Sunday school enrollment: growing rapidly
Annual budget: n/a
Weekly giving: n/a
Singles program: no
Diversity: majority Caucasian
Sunday worship: 9:30 a.m., 6 p.m.
Length of reviewed service: 1 hour 20 minutes