520 16th Street, Ramona
Pastor: David Keil
Born: Los Angeles
Formation: California Lutheran University, Thousand Oaks; Concordia Seminary, Fort Wayne, Indiana
Years Ordained: 35
San Diego Reader: Can you think of a time when you gave a homily that completely flopped?
Pastor David Keil: Oh, sure. My experience has been humbling as all get-out. I have preached sermons that I thought were poorly done. I hem and haw and wander around and then I get some compliments afterwards or someone says, “You really spoke to me today” or “With what I’m going through in my life, that sermon is very meaningful.” I’ll finish a sermon and say, “I should have stayed home today.” But God is still able to use the efforts I think are not all that great.
SDR: What is your main worry as member of the clergy?
PK: I’m sensing a lower level of commitment on the part of the church members….It’s been a gradual process. Church has become one of several things a person might do on a Sunday. There’s a lot more competition for people’s time these days; 30 years ago, church leaders would have been at church every Sunday, no questions asked. But today, people are telling me, “Well, I’m coaching my son’s or daughter’s sports team and we’ve got practices and games and coach meetings on Sunday morning, so I won’t be in church all that often over the next three months.”
SDR: What does that dwindling participation mean for your church?
PK: Well, this part of God’s kingdom, what’s happening here in terms of ministry, has lessened in importance and has less priority than these other things. That’s not to say family is not important anymore, but the family together in church worshipping God has become less important for a lot of people. That spells difficult times for congregations….There are fewer volunteers and less money available….to the point where some congregations — and not just Lutherans — cannot afford a full-time pastor like they once did. But Lutherans are not all that familiar with bi-vocational or worker-priest approaches.
SDR: Where do you go when you die?
PK: I believe that I’m going to be with the Lord, and that’s finally all I need to know. I’m going to be with Jesus Christ and whether that’s in a new heaven or new Earth, I don’t know and I don’t need to know. The Bible doesn’t tell us specifically what’s going to happen. It doesn’t assign us addresses in heaven. Those who believe in Jesus Christ here on Earth are going to be with Him forever hereafter. The details are not important.
SDR: What happens to someone who purposely rejects Jesus Christ?
PK: The Bible says they go to hell — however you define that. The mildest way to define hell is “not with Jesus.” If you’ve chosen not to follow Jesus here on Earth, you’re not going to be with Him after you die. Is that gnashing of teeth, fire and brimstone, and a lake of fire? Those may be pictures indicating lovelessness and hopelessness. Maybe those pictures are intense ways of being without any hope or love for eternity. That’s as bad as it can get.