Instead of preshow trivia, the onscreen slideshow at the movie theater showed Kaleo Church's announcements. (Like the preshow trivia, they proved difficult to ignore.) "We partner with Abandoned But Precious ministries, which serves orphans in India." "Apologetics meeting, El Torito in Mission Valley." But mostly, ads for in-home study groups: La Mesa, Tierrasanta, Santee, College Area. "Join us for a time of fellowship and discussion about this week's sermon. Bring your questions and comments." A woman reminded the congregation about an ice-cream fundraiser at Cold Stone Creamery, with 20 percent of the proceeds going to build churches in Mexico. "I think it's really great -- eat your ice cream, build a church." The band featured piano, tambourine, and electric violin playing behind frequently shambling melodies, resulting in a modern, alt-country sound. That, contrasted with the archaic syntax of the song lyrics -- themselves appearing over an artful, weathered-wood background -- produced a downright funksome effect: new-school aesthetics, old-school religiosity. "O to grace how great a debtor/ Daily I'm constrained to be/ Let that grace now like a fetter/ Bind my wandering heart to thee."
Grace was one theme of the service; the Holy Spirit was another, and it showed up in the sung psalm: "Take not thy Holy Spirit from me; restore unto me the joy of thy salvation." The songleader then led the congregation in confession: "Merciful God, our sins are too heavy to carry, too real to hide, and far too deep to undo. Forgive what our lips are afraid to name and our hearts can no longer bear.... Set us free from a past we can't change, and grant us grace to grow more and more in your likeness and image."
Preaching Elder David Fairchild offered a prayer thanking God for His grace and asking for the Spirit, "that there would be two conversions -- not only of those who do not know Christ, but also of those who follow Christ. That there would be a movement in this church..."
He took as his text Acts chapter two: Peter's response to the wondering crowd -- some "amazed," some "perplexed," some "mocking" -- after Pentecost. Fairchild called Peter's words "the first sermon...preached to a waiting world," that gave "the essential core message of Christianity.... Jesus Christ lived, He died, He rose from the dead, He's exalted at the right hand of God, and anyone that turns from sin and trusts in Him is given salvation -- forgiveness of sins and the gift of the Holy Spirit.... The cry of every Christian through history has been to consistently and continually be replenished and renewed and refreshed by the Gospel of God's grace."
Today, said Fairchild, we live in a "post-Christian...Christ-haunted culture that is no longer perplexed." How to preach to such a culture? "In our culture, we do not have a very high view of preaching.... It's very hard for you to pay attention. I think it's ADD; it's certainly not me." (That got a big laugh.)
But preaching the Gospel, he said, was essential and more important than telling stories and teasing out meanings and lessons. "The Gospel is news about what Jesus has done; it is not advice about how to live. Why? Because we are saved by grace. News is about something that is done; teaching is about something you do. If my role is to teach you about what to do, then what I'm saying is that you can be saved by following my teaching." Christianity, argued Fairchild, is unique among world religions in that it is not about following a teaching, but about believing in particular historical events concerning Jesus. "We're saved by grace, by something that's been done for you." If not, "that puts you on the hook: earn your own salvation. If Jesus Christ did not live, then we are in grave, grave trouble."
Once the Spirit is received, "what happens? People begin to speak. What does it mean to be Spirit-filled people? It means to bring the Gospel to the world.... You were saved by grace. That means anybody can be saved.... We will no longer sit back and allow the city to rot and die when we have the words of life, have been fed by the bread of life, have been wished with the living water, filled with the Spirit of God to be citizens of the kingdom...showing off the splendor of God. Do you see? That's a little different message from, 'Come to Jesus and He'll fix your problems.'"
What happens when we die?
Fairchild referred back to his sermon, saying, "If a man dies, and he has not trusted in Christ's righteousness -- has not placed his faith in Christ -- then he is separated from God for eternity. And it's not only 'not in the presence of God,' but also consciously, eternally suffering torment away from God."
Address: services held at Mark Twain High School (6402 Linda Vista Rd., San Diego, 92111). 619-741-8153
- Founded locally: 2003
- Senior pastor: a plurality of elders
- Congregation size: about 320
- Staff size: 4
- Sunday school enrollment: about 25
- Annual budget: about $340,000
- Weekly giving: about $6500
- Singles program: no
- Dress: casual
- Diversity: majority Caucasian, some Asian-American, some Hispanic
- Sunday worship: 10:30 a.m. at Linda Vista location; 7 p.m. at Faith Presbyterian Church, 5075 Campanile Drive, College Area
- Length of reviewed service: 1 hour, 50 minutes
- Website: http://www.kaleochurch.com