1500 East Lexington Avenue, El Cajon
Membership: 300 (and 130 Chaldean)
Pastor: Steve Forsythe
Born: Cape May, NJ
Formation: New Brunswick Theological Seminary, New Brunswick, NJ; Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena
Years Ordained: 26
San Diego Reader: How long do you spend writing your sermon?
Pastor Steve Forsythe: About 10 to 20 hours. Way before the sermons are written, I make sure to take time to pray and focus on some of the needs within the church, the things people are struggling with and dealing with. The second thing I do is a study of a book of the Bible. Right now, for instance, I am studying the seven churches in Revelations 2-3. The idea behind it is that Jesus gives a review of those seven churches, which represent churches collectively and also individual Christians. So, as Christians are sitting in the pew, they’re asking two basic questions — which of the seven churches best reflects what we are as a church? Secondly, which church would we say best reflects ourselves? Then, we determine how to respond to Jesus.
SDR: What is your main concern as a member of the clergy?
PS: I would say the bigger picture right now is that we are trying to find a way to connect with a culture right now that is turned off by institutional church. They love Jesus, but they don’t really get a warm fuzzy feeling about the church. We have a cultural mindset which shies away from institutional church. So that means people don’t mind helping others, following Christ, but they don’t want to get involved with the institution.
SDR: Which of the Ten Commandments does your congregation have the hardest time keeping?
PS: Collectively and generally speaking, a constant struggle for all of us is having no other gods, because it’s a contest between prioritizing the things of God and the other things in our lives. Oftentimes, the other things win.
SDR: What is the mission of your church?
PS: Get God. Share life. Give back. We want to make sure that you find a way to get God, and you do that through faith in Christ; we know that you can’t walk the journey alone, so you’re going to have to share it with others; and we know we have to bring Christ into the community and the world.
SDR: Where do you go when you die?
PS: I believe I go to heaven. Now, whether there’s a way to get to heaven if you’re not Christian, there’s a couple of things to say. It should be a black and white thing, that Christ is the only way…. But some scholar will ask about that guy living out there on an island who never heard of Christ — does God send him to hell just because he never heard? What I do believe is that for those who have heard Christ and rejected him, they will not go to heaven. For those who have not heard of Christ and have not had an opportunity to receive him, I believe God will judge the contents of their hearts, and that’s not my call. I do very much believe in a heaven and a hell. But hell, which we usually define by fire and brimstone, is in its simplest form a place where the loving presence of God is absent.