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Add Michael and Michele Kole to the list of pastors — The Rock’s Miles McPherson, New Venture’s Shawn Mitchell, et al. — to come out of Horizon Christian Fellowship. “Horizon is a great church,” said Michael on Sunday, “but I felt the call.”

Their church, New Life San Diego, isn’t simply Horizon in City Heights. “Horizon’s model is, ‘To win, to disciple, to send,’” said Michael. “Ours is really, ‘To win, to consolidate, to disciple, to send.’ The consolidation really gets people connected. You can go to a lot of churches that have a swinging door — they come and they go. We try to avoid that.” Through consolidation, people gain “an understanding of what they can expect out of God — who they are in God and who God is to them.”

Consolidation happens in life cells. “Teaching and everything is done with the people we meet with at home during the week,” explained Michele. “I could tell stories about each person here — how God has changed their lives. The pastors each have 12 — I’m working to develop 12 women; my husband, 12 men. Those 12 are taught to develop 12; each cell leader is responsible for their cell. Pastors need pastoring as well; one of the pastors in L.A. is our pastor; that’s our covering.”

Cells keep things intimate; intimacy keeps the experience of shared life. “The format is centered on cells instead of programs. In a cellular church, everyone participates in all aspects of ministry. The mother church in Bogotá has over 300,000 members, and there are no programs. It’s all a team.” The life, then, is in the cells. Church on Sunday, she said, “is just a celebration service — ‘Thank You, God, for all You’ve done this week.’”

As such, Sunday worship doesn’t need to be glamorous — the cell, not the service, is what draws people in. Maybe someday there will be a band, but on Sunday, it was enough to have acidy “praise rock” cutting through the steep indoor amphitheater behind the high, empty hulk of Pearson Ford. The old rugged cross was the only decor, except for the nature scenes behind the lyrics on the 8’x10’ screen: “Show me a vision like Ezekiel saw/ An army of light from a valley of bones/ Breathe life into these lungs of mine/ So I can scream and shout of Your love divine.”

The message, preached by Michele, was affirming and direct. “Even though we may seem like we’re nothing, to You, we’re everything, because You created us in Your image for a special plan and purpose.” That plan? To win souls. “The Bible is full of God’s plan to take this earth back for Him, to establish His kingdom here. What’s His plan? To fill the earth with His children. You and I are spiritual moms and dads when we take the time to speak into somebody’s life, to show them what the plan is.... Together, we are the tree of life,” mentioned in Proverbs, “pouring our lives into 12 people, just like Jesus did. And those 12 teach 12; it’s disciples of disciples. God has chosen to work through mankind.... We must hear the word, and know the word, and do it — faith without actions is dead.... And why would we do this? To bring glory to God. It’s all for God’s glory. We bring souls back to Him so that His kingdom is established.”

Of course, she noted, there are difficulties — it’s a fallen world. “The devil is out there, and his plan hasn’t changed either. His plan is to keep as many people as possible from coming to the Lord.” And not only the devil — there’s also the problem of suffering. Michele read from John 9 — Jesus healing the man blind from birth — and concluded, “God doesn’t inflict pain, suffering, blindness, disabilities. What God does is He allows nature to run its course so that the person who is afflicted, ultimately, will bring glory to God when they receive healing.”

At the close of the service, Michele instructed the congregation: “As I pray, close your eyes and ask, ‘God, who do You want me to speak to? How can I be that righteous man or woman You created me to be?’ Lord, give us the eyes to see those around us; help us to meet their needs and see them as You see them — to live our lives as a testimony to who You are and what You’ve done in our lives.”

What happens when we die?

“If you’re a believer,” said Michele, “and you’ve accepted Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, God says you go to heaven. If you don’t believe, you get to spend eternity in the other place. It’s a simple message — we just say what God said.”

New Life San Diego

4001 El Cajon Boulevard, City Heights

Denomination: nondenominational, but affiliated with G12
Founded locally: started as home church in 2005
Senior pastors: Michael and Michele Kole
Congregation size: 20–25
Staff size: 0
Sunday school enrollment: not yet
Annual budget: none
Weekly giving: tithing is encouraged
Singles program: no
Dress: casual to semiformal
Diversity: diverse
Sunday worship: 10 a.m.
Length of reviewed service: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Website: newlifesd.org

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