5651 Water Street, La Mesa
Average Attendance: 120
Pastor: John Hilton
Born: San Luis Obispo
Formation: California Polytechnic State University, San Luis Obispo; San Francisco Baptist Theological Seminary, San Francisco.
Years Ordained: 29.
San Diego Reader: What is your favorite subject on which to preach?
Pastor John Hilton: In the midst of anything going on, God is there and God is gracious. All areas of life, whether hardships, difficulties or something that’s a big blessing or joyful experience, all of it is a matter of God providing the experience for me. I read a story a while ago about a guy from Korea who was saying that life was like a banquet. If you go to a banquet, you see all these different plates of different foods. Some of the foods you like and some isn’t really your favorite. But you eat a little of everything because you know it was all prepared for you. That’s a picture of God’s grace. There are a lot of things that come into our lives we like or don’t like; yet, it’s what God has prepared for us. Understanding and recognizing that fact can change our whole life.
SDR: Why did you become a minister?
PH: I got out of college in Cal Poly and began working in a lab in Palo Alto. I loved studying science and enjoyed undergraduate work in biochemistry, but when I got into that lab, doing a lot of repetitive work — well, I am not really an introvert. I was working in a little lab about the size of a large walk-in closet for eight hours a day, looking at machinery and running tests on a high-pressure chromatographer. At some point I realized this work didn’t really suit me and God was calling me to something more.
SDR: What is the mission of your church?
PH: If I could sum up our mission simply, we teach the Word and help people. If you take the Word in, that puts you into the practice of helping people. Among the things that God is doing right now — we felt compelled to start a high-school ministry because we’re located right across the street from one of the largest high schools in San Diego County. The foul balls from their baseball games land in our yard. So, we felt that reaching the youth was a burden we had, and our high-school ministry has grown to about 35 kids, starting with 8 a year ago.
SDR: Where do you go when you die?
PH: It’s in the presence of God. To be absent from the body is to be present to the Lord. I like Paul’s saying — I don’t know if it’s better to be here and help you or to go with Christ which, is so much better. I believe there is a heaven and there is a hell. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through me.” Peter said, “There is one name given under heaven by which we must be saved.” Paul said, “There is one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.” So, there is one way to heaven: Jesus Christ. The door is open; anyone that wants can accept him today and he’s there waiting for us. If we refuse, then God gives us our own way, which is an eternity apart from God —that is, hell.