"The seven deadliest words in churches are, 'It's the way we've always done it'," Pastor Ken Hensley remarked. Hensley recently returned to San Diego where he once served five years as pastor of Allied Gardens Church of Christ. Allied Gardens has since merged, becoming Zion View Church. Last year, the church decided to sell the building and fund two separate churches. Hensley returned to start one of these new churches.
Saturday, Hensley laid out a vision of this new church, LifePoint Christian Community. Fifteen people gathered in his home. Many in the room responded to online ads that targeted artists and musicians.
"We are attracting a number of people who are disconnected believers or have had bad experiences with typical churches," said Hensley.
Pastor Hensley plans significant changes in his own Church of Christ roots. He has decided not to affiliate with the Church of Christ.
The Church of Christ teaches that musical instruments are not permissible in church services. Services at the Church of Christ are done a cappella. "The New Testament is silent when speaking about instruments used during service," said Hensley. "The Church of Christ's thinking was, there is no reference to music, therefore you should not do it. I've seen the power of music versus not having music. My desire is to be effective in reaching as many people as I can. I particularly have a heart for my generation -- gen-x or postmoderns. I want to do everything possible to reach as many people as possible," Hensley stated.
"[LifePoint] will be doing cutting-edge stuff. Most churches don't know what to do with art. The nature of art is provocative; it raises questions," said Pastor Hensley. Hensley said art has an earthy, sensual aspect that most churches do not know how to handle. "I think churches want to control, and they can't control how art affects people."
Pastor Hensley plans on using live artists during the service. These artists will paint, draw, and sculpt. "I'd also like to use dance where it is appropriate. A liturgical dance that interprets the message in dance form," Hensley said. I asked Hensley about the moral lines he draws using art and artists. "Dancing can be immoral in certain cases and at certain times. The issue isn't movement; lust is the issue. Even with art [the church] has to be careful. You don't want to dumb down the art but you shouldn't seek to be sensational either.
"This is where our culture is. Interactivity, music, and visuals are pervasive. Our culture is very artistic, and there was a time where the church was the leading edge of art."
Jonathan Meador led worship at Allied Gardens Church of Christ while Hensley was pastor. A dozen Church of Christ followers decided to join Hensley's new church. "A lot of people [from Church of Christ] wouldn't agree with what we are doing," said Meador. Meador said a gradual awakening led him to realize musical instruments do not contradict biblical teaching.
Dee Murphy responded to an ad Hensley posted on craigslist.org. "I'm an artist. I want to be able to use my art to glorify God. Art has given me an outlet to worship God in a way that is visible to others," said Murphy. This year Murphy created a devotional calendar filled with her own drawings. She said she likes the idea of an increased level of involvement at a church. "I've attended the Rock church for one-and-a-half years. I've enjoyed it a lot but I've been searching for a new church," said Murphy. "I wanted to get involved at the Rock, but when I asked someone about getting my art in at the bookstore, they weren't very receptive." Murphy said part of her decision to move was the preaching at the Rock. "The Rock is kind of a beginner's church; it's very applicable to youth. But the sermons are not very meaty. Now I'm looking for substance."
Murphy likes Hensley's ideas of using the creative arts in service. She commented on a recent experience watching an interpretive dance at a local church. "I have never seen anyone express themselves like this," said Murphy. "This was the closest I've ever been to crying at church."
Vanja James is a local bartender and singer. She attended a church service at the invitation of a friend. "I never felt like I needed these things. I always believed, but I hadn't surrendered myself," said James. "I grew up in a pseudo-Christian family. I guess you could call us Christians; we celebrated all the holidays."
James said she looks forward to a church that integrates music and the arts. James sees this church as a place for "people who want to cut back on the nightlife and are looking for something fun to go to. Artistic people need an environment where they can participate," said James. "A place where we can have art shows, classes, and community. I believe spirituality inspires a lot of art. I believe art and music can make people better." James continues to work on her musical career with her first performance at the Zombie Lounge on Easter. "I have one Jesus song. It's very chipper. The rest of my music is vague. I like to keep people's minds open when they listen. My songs aren't worship tunes," James remarked.
Pastor Hensley said that LifePoint will be rooted in the Bible. "We believe the Bible is the inspired word of God. I believe in absolute truth and the standards of right and wrong," said Hensley.
I asked Hensley the question I ask each week -- what happens after a person dies? "After death, a person who has a relationship with Jesus goes to heaven," responded Hensley. Hensley believes only people who have acknowledged they are sinners, confess their sin, and commit their life to Jesus will be saved. "People who do not know Jesus face a Christ-less eternity and are lost. They go to h-e-double toothpick and are separated from God. This adds to the urgency of what I do."
4698 Alvarado Canyon, Mission Valley
Address: 6244 Lake Lomond Drive, Lake Murray
Year founded locally: 2005
Senior pastor: Ken Hensley
Congregation size: n/a