Polished pop filled the vast, low, pale-gray box that housed The Rock Church. On stage behind the band stood mock highway signs, highlighting the book of Numbers as a road trip: a caution triangle warning of snakes, another warning of burning bushes. "Promised Land: Straight Ahead." The lead singer took the congregation from raucous ("We're gonna call the Holy Spirit to come and fill us up tonight!") to sentimental ("There was a sunrise, and all I could do was just cry, because I knew what Jesus meant at that moment...") After the music, the lights went down for Rock TV. A testimonial for the annual men's retreat: "A man invited me who knew that, at that time of my life, it was critical for me to have that kind of encounter with God. It changed me.... Today, he's still my accountability partner." Another testimonial, this one for the church and its small groups: narration over a montage of black and white photos. An early marriage broken, trouble with the law. "I made a deal with God," said the husband. "I told Him I would go get Jenn and bring her home to San Diego if he would just help me out." The marriage restored, the couple believing -- and thriving in small group.
A 12-year-old girl with surprising poise sang over a thumping bass-and-drum recording: "Your girlfriend's hatin' and your crew is frontin' but they smile in your face so just/Sometimes you get weak but you gotta stay strong through it all you just gotta take a...stand." Wild applause followed.
More applause -- winkingly demanded by the video screens -- as Pastor McPherson took the stage for Quiz Time -- The Rock's summary treatment upon finishing a Biblical book. "Now, when you read the book of Numbers," said McPherson, "you will know what you're reading... If you really, really want to grow as a Christian, this is the sort of stuff you're going to have to do.... Your faith grows when you read the Bible, because your faith is in the Bible. It's in Christ, but you can't put your faith in Christ if you don't know what He's about -- that's why He gave us the book. I want you to have faith in facts, and there's facts in the word of God."
The quiz was highly interactive -- McPherson reminded people that "you learn more when you say than when you listen."
"Get into quiz position which is what?"
"Put your booty back in the seat! Okay, Genesis is a book of what?"
"Now, you might be saying, 'Why are we still saying "Genesis?"' Because Genesis is the beginning. Revelation is the end. What man ruined in Genesis, God is going to restore in Revelation...the whole Bible is the journey to get it back to the way it was.... Genesis is the book of what?"
So opened the section on the context for the book of Numbers. Then on to geography, moving fast: Started on Mount? Sinai! Ended at? Moab! Moses hit the rock at? Kadesh Barnea! Some tribes settled in "say it like a scratcher: Gi-Gi-Gi-Gilead!"
Practical lessons followed geography: God killed the ten spies who advised against entering the Promised Land. "You remove the negative people out of your life. Every single one of you, God is calling you to something better." The people didn't want to go into the Promised Land, even though they saw its fruits. "There is proof that God changes lives. My life, the people here whose lives have been changed." But people don't believe.
McPherson ran through a lightning round of numbers in Numbers. How many days did it take them to get to Kadesh Barnea? Eleven! How many spies did they send in? Twelve! How many days did they spy out the land? Forty!
Bam, bam, bam, finishing up with "Jesus in Numbers." Bread from heaven, water from the rock, the serpent raised on the pole for the sake of healing. "Jesus Himself said in John 3: 'As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so I too will be lifted up, that whoever looks on me will have eternal life.'... What was God doing in the Old Testament? He was setting up for the New Testament.... All this is in the Old Testament, but you'll never learn it unless you read it!... So take that thing and start reading and learning!"
What happens when we die? "One day, God is going to hold you accountable for your sin, and the only thing you can give him is your life.... But Jesus Christ paid the price for you, so that you don't have to pay with your life. The Bible says that if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart God raised in from the dead, you will be saved." (Taken from www.milesahead.com website.)
3554 Ruffin Road, San Diego
Founded locally: February 2000
Senior pastor: Miles McPherson
Congregation size: around 7500
Staff size: 112
Sunday school enrollment: 750 through fifth grade; 150 more through twelfth grade
Annual budget: n/a
Weekly giving: n/a
Singles program: yes
Dress: mostly casual, lots of denim, few T-shirts
Ethnic diversity: very diverse
Sunday worship: 8 a.m., 9:45 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 5:15 p.m., 7:15 p.m.; children's church services at 8 a.m., 9:45 a.m., 11:30 a.m., 5:15 p.m.; senior high youth services at 9:45 a.m., 5:15 p.m.; junior high youth services at 11:30 a.m., 5:15 p.m.
Length of reviewed service: 1 hour, 30 minutes