The Apostolic Church is probably the only truly orthodox church. We teach the apostles doctrine from the original 12 apostles. We do not follow post-apostolic teachings," said Bishop Joel David Trout. "For example, we are not a classic Trinitarian church, where there are three separate and co-equal, co-eternal persons. We believe there is only one God. He was manifest in the flesh as Jesus. We reject the idea that God the Father was revealed in Jesus. We reject people inserting language besides how God describes God. People don't understand the trinity. It is extra-biblical." Bishop Trout went on to tell me that "Catholics and Eastern Orthodox are an amalgamation of paganism with Christianity that was not part of the first-century church. If they want to continue the traditions of Peter, then do so. They have extra-biblical teachings." I walked into a large auditorium to attend the Sunday night service. "Blessed be the name of the Lord. Blessed be the name of the Lord. Sweet Jesus, we need to hear from you tonight. We want to see mighty things tonight," a man repeated this chant as he paced in front of the sanctuary prior to service. A woman ran laps around the sanctuary with her arms outstretched. She stopped to jump in place while she chanted in front of the sanctuary. "Hallelujah," shouted another woman as she stood with her arms raised. Around the room, other people stood with their arms outstretched, or they kneeled, prayed, or chanted.
"Can't you sense the Lord's presence," asked Duena Watkins, who served as master of ceremonies for the service. "In this church you have found liberty. You have freedom to do what you want to do. God is here to tell you a special word." The evening's theme was "What Must I Do to Be Saved?" Seven ministers spoke; three of the ministers mixed their sermons with songs.
"I used to think everyone that was not involved in the Apostolic or Pentecostal church was not a Christian. But I no longer hold to this position. If you believe in Jesus, you will believe in the Apostolic doctrine," said Minster Mavin Cross. Cross explained that these Apostolic doctrines demand that believers be baptized in the name of Jesus or they will not be saved. "In the book of Acts, everyone is baptized as believers in Jesus' name."
The three-hour service ended with an altar call and invitation to be baptized. "Maybe you were a saint who forgot how they were baptized. You need to make certain. Someone answer the call tonight," said Bishop Trout. Later, I asked Trout about his church's view of baptism. "If someone doesn't know if they have been baptized in Jesus' name, they should be baptized again," explained Bishop Trout. "Baby baptism doesn't count. Show me one baby in the Bible that was baptized. A baby has no choice. In baptism, you have to confess your faith."
After service I spoke to Zeke Laguna about his experience with speaking in tongues and miracles. "When you speak in tongues, it is the only time you can speak to God without the devil hearing your thoughts. It is a gift all Christians have," said Laguna. "I can't say if someone hasn't spoken in tongues whether they are saved." Laguna has attended the church for five years. In this time, he has seen miracles performed. Laguna claimed one woman in a wheel chair was able to walk after she was prayed for.
"People speak in tongues in our services. When people speak in tongues, we don't allow it to dominate," said Trout. Bishop Trout said they bring in a person to speak in tongues on occasion when there is a message from God. "At these times, the tongues are interpreted for the congregation." Trout told me about one recent translation of a person who spoke in tongues. "God said, 'I am very pleased with your praise. Ask me for whatever you want and I will do it for you'." I asked Pastor Trout if God gave people homes and wealth. "When you are in God's presence, you're not thinking 'Bentley.' Our church is not a name-it-and-claim-it, blab-it-and-grab-it church," Trout replied. Bishop Trout said that these name-it-and-claim it churches are an adulteration of the true faith. "True faith concerns life and death. It is not about material things."
I asked Bishop Trout what will occur in the final days. "There will be a peace pact signed to initiate the end-times. Believers will be taken to heaven in the rapture. Nonbelievers can be saved during this period of tribulation, but they will lose their heads," said Trout. "In the end times, the Jews will acknowledge Jesus is Lord. This will be after all the nations go to war with them. Two-thirds of the Jews will be destroyed, but Jesus will come back to save the rest of them. They will look at the piercing of his hands and realize they got their timing off on the messiah."
I asked Bishop Trout what will happen to a person after they die. Trout said those who believe and are baptized in Jesus' name will be saved.
4079 54th Street, San Diego
Denomination: Impact Apostolic Ministry
Founded locally: June, 1978
Senior pastor: Joel David Trout
Congregation size: 1500
Staff size: 25
Sunday school enrollment: 250
Annual budget: in the millions
Weekly giving: would not say
Singles program: yes
Dress: business casual to dressy
Sunday worship: 7:45 a.m., 11 a.m., and 7 p.m.
Length of reviewed service: 3 hours