Maranatha Chapel is a big church. The kind with a proper campus. The kind with a lot going on outside the Sunday service, including weekday small-group discussion of the previous Sunday’s sermon. (Sunday’s sermon notes offered questions for discussion: “Why must we cooperate with God for our spiritual growth?”) Outreaches, small groups, retreats, missions, schools, all artfully presented in the expansive foyer — which was nothing compared to the main fellowship hall.
The band was heavy on rhythm — rumbling piano, thumping bass, crashing drums. Even the acoustic guitars served to drive the songs along, though now and then they let the cello/violin combo shine out. “These are the days of great trials/ Of famine and darkness and sword/ Still we are the voice in the desert crying/ Prepare ye the way of the Lord!”
To that end, Pastor Bentley put forward Maranatha Chapel as a site for the great revival prophesized during the Asuza Street Revival in 1910. “March 21 through 24, we’re going to have a time of prayer and fasting. I would like us to pray that Maranatha Chapel would be one of the places that God would send the Last Days’ outpouring of His Holy Spirit. Amen?”
“Amen!” shouted the people.
Before the sermon, Bentley offered a prayer addressing the untimely deaths of Poway’s Chelsea King and Escondido’s Amber Dubois. “Heavenly Father, we come before You, and first of all, we thank You for hearing our prayers — for exposing darkness.” (Here, Bentley referred to an arrest in the King case.) “For the tragic loss of both these girls — for their parents and families — there are no words. Our feelings run the gamut from sympathy and compassion to anger and rage. But, Father, we just pray for comfort.... It’s kind of like an emotional earthquake, and it has made us feel very raw and vulnerable, and so we need You.... We pray for Your angels to watch over us, and that we would take care of one another. Father, I just pray that the reality of sin, the poison of it, would be exposed in a way that would cause people to cry out for mercy, and for help, and for love, and for Your presence and justice.”
Wickedness and anger came up again during the sermon, which considered 2 Peter 5–7: “Make every effort to add to your faith goodness...knowledge...self-control...perseverance... godliness...brotherly kindness...and love.”
“Being born again is not really the end,” Bentley explained, “it’s the beginning. Where there is life, there must be growth, and spiritual growth doesn’t happen automatically. We cooperate with the Holy Spirit...to become like Jesus.” He cited Philippians 2:15: “Work out your salvation in fear and trembling.” “Once you’re saved, you work out your salvation. God has His part, and we have our part — to add these things.”
Bentley confessed to struggling to compress and control his own feelings of anger, only to be called out by God. “The Lord said, ‘Did I make you in My own image and after My own likeness? Have you ever noticed in the Bible that I get angry?... Where your anger leaves off, Mine is only beginning.... I don’t want to change the fact that you have feelings; I want to direct those feelings in My way and with My Spirit, for My will and My glory.’” Bentley addressed the people. “How many of you agree that there are things going on in the world to be absolutely furious about, things that need to be cleansed, that need justice?” Then he noted that Christ’s second coming will bring judgment and even divine wrath.
And yet: we are supposed to add self-control to faith. Bentley asked the people to read aloud from Proverbs: “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city.” And more than self-control: love, the kind of love called agape in the Bible. “Agape love means loving in spite of the differences we have.... It means, in fact, loving and being willing to lay down your life for your enemies. A tall order. Only God can do this, but these are the things that Peter is exhorting us to add to our faith.”
At communion, he asked non-Christians to “let the tray pass. It’s wise to count the cost of being a disciple. What is the cost? You give up control of everything in your life. You are no longer the center of your world.”
What happens when we die?
Bentley cited John’s Gospel: “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that through Him, the world might be saved.” He also said that, “We go before the Lord, and we believe that Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life — the unique way to an eternal relationship with Him.”
10752 Coastwood Road, San Diego
Denomination: affiliated with Calvary Chapel
Founded locally: 1984
Senior pastor: Ray Bentley
Congregation size: 6000
Staff size: about 60
Sunday school enrollment: about 1000
Annual budget: n/a
Weekly giving: n/a
Singles program: yes
Dress: casual to semiformal
Sunday worship: 8:30 a.m., 10:30 a.m., 6 p.m. (note: Sunday morning’s services will not observe Daylight Savings Time shift)
Length of reviewed service: 1 hour, 45 minutes