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Torrey Pines Christian Church

8320 La Jolla Scenic Drive North, La Jolla

Membership: 600 individuals

Pastor: Michael Spitters

Age: 48

Born: St. Joseph, Michigan

Formation: Hope College, Holland, MI.; Texas Christian University-Brite Divinity School, Fort Worth, TX.; Chicago Theological Seminary, Chicago, IL.; missionary work in Taiwan

Years ordained: 21

San Diego Reader: How long do you spend writing your sermon?

Pastor Spitters: It typically takes a day and a half to put a sermon together. But I should say we begin working on sermons as far as three months out. We have a sermon-planning team that discerns the felt needs of our two different worshipping bodies…. We have the traditional service going at 10:45 a.m. and the sort of emergent Christian experience at 9:30 a.m., and what takes additional time to my research-and-prep on these sermons series is the videos and on-the-street interviews.

SDR: So, it sounds like your “sermons” are not the garden-variety pulpit-pounders but multimedia presentations.

PS: Some days are light on the multimedia and other days are pretty intense. We have a professional videographer… and he does a great job for us too, getting some real quality interviews. Like, for Memorial Day, we interviewed one of our members [who fought] at Iwo Jima. He became a clergy chaplain because he was inspired by that whole experience. We’re also tutoring and mentoring over at a local elementary school in Clairemont that serves an underprivileged demographic…. So, we capture those sorts of stories on video and show them in the service, because it’s all about transformation and making a difference in people’s lives. So, the sermon really isn’t a talking head — it isn’t about me but it’s about what God’s doing in the life of our church.

SDR: What is the most prevalent sin you observe or hear about from your congregants?

PS: The disconnect between what we believe and how we live out our faith, I think, is a struggle — that is, if sin is loosely defined as going against God or falling short of the mark…. We’re all about grace here. Our most prevalent sins are found in the struggle of living out the teachings of Christ.

SDR: Where do you go when you die?

PS: We don’t really talk about death so much or what happens when we die as we do about what we’re called to do when we’re alive and to trust that whatever the life to come is like after this life God is going to be there and so it’s going to be okay. We don’t really talk about a literal hell here. There are people right now who are seriously living lives that are pretty hellacious, whether it be because of greed, drugs, or some other chemical dependency, so I assume that if God allows hell on this earth, then He allows room for people to say I don’t want any part of your love, but also have a great hope that grace wins out in the end and is stronger than the human heart and our stubborn pride…. God’s grace will prevail, so I guess we’re not a traditional church in that sense. I don’t try to scare people into heaven by preaching about hell, and Jesus himself didn’t talk about his main mission being getting people into heaven. “Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven.” He wasn’t trying to get people into heaven so much as he was trying to get heaven into people.

Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs and Conditions of the North American Indians, George Catlin

One of the Mandan doctors told me very gravely a few days since, that the earth was a large tortoise, that it carried the dirt on its back — that a tribe of people, who are now dead, and whose faces were white, used to dig down very deep in this ground to catch badgers; and that one day they stuck a knife through the tortoise-shell, and it sunk down so that the water ran over its back, and drowned all but one man. And on the next day while I was painting his portrait, he told me there were four tortoises — one in the North — one in the East — one in the South — and one in the West; that each of one of these rained ten days, and the water covered over the earth. — “Letter No. 22: Mandan Village, Upper Missouri,” from Letters and Notes on the Manners, Customs and Conditions of the North American Indians.

George Catlin (1796–1872) was an American painter who traveled among the various Native American tribal regions of the American Old West, painting and writing about them. While Catlin was not formally trained in sociological methods, he was the first to write an account of many of the tribes he met. While critics often cast the accuracy of his observations in doubt, his pictures are still considered accurate renditions of Native Americans in the mid 19th ­Century.

The Lord Romano Guardini

But though Christ also lived in a specific historical milieu, and though knowledge of the forces at work in it does further an understanding of Him, a biography of Christ is practicable only within the narrowest confines. Neither His personality nor His works are immediately traceable to the conditions of the times, for He came to us out of the fullness of time contained in the mystery of God, and it was to this mystery that He returned after He had “moved among us” (Acts 1:22). We can point to certain decisive events in His life, can recognize specific directions in it and watch their sense evince and fulfill itself; but we shall never be able to ascertain the genuine evolution of character in the life of Jesus.…We can only reverently pause before this or that word or act, ready to learn, adore, obey. — “Preface,” from The Lord.

Romano Guardini (1885–1968) was a Catholic priest well known for his contributions to Catholic intellectual life in 20th-century Germany. Equally adept at presenting Catholic teaching in light of modern problems and modern-day problems in light of Catholic teaching, Guardini influenced many leading intellectuals — including Josef Ratzinger — Pope Benedict XIV. One of his more accessible works, The Lord enjoyed a successful reception in English ­translation.

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