Mark McElwee: “I would always have people, even in the third grade, asking me advice and counsel.”
16935 W. Bernardo Dr., Ste 180, San Diego
Pastor: Mark McElwee
Born: Groton, Conn.
Formation: Southwest Bible College, Gainesville, Ga.; Logos International Bible College, England; Vision International Education Network, Ramona.
Years Ordained: 12 years
San Diego Reader: How long do you spend writing your sermon?
Pastor Mark McElwee: It varies. Sometimes I teach topically, so if I feel I’m going in a particular direction, then I’ll take time out for study, about four or five hours, and then a day to think about things…. The sermon becomes a development out of my devotional reading or a particular focus in terms of a topic.
SDR: What is your favorite topic to preach about?
PM: The goodness of God — I was raised in a church environment. I had a picture of God being an angry judge, and it’s interesting how many times when things happen people are quick to say that God is judging. So I like to discover how God is a God of love and that God has good things for His people and good things to say. It’s quite a mindset change for me.
SDR: Can you think of a time when you gave a sermon that flopped?
PM: When I have bombed, it was because I went too deep; I became too philosophical and it wasn’t practical enough.
SDR: Which of the Ten Commandments does your congregation find the most challenging?
PM: I would say probably the Second Commandment. “You will have no other image.” A lot of us no doubt think we don’t make anything in God’s image, and some even think that idea is rather archaic. But as I see it…instead of having a relationship with God, we take principles and precepts of God and create formulas. Instead of loving God, we work for God; instead of taking time to know Him, we read through a devotional. So the Second Commandment is the most difficult for all of us, because we’d rather live by form and function than relationally.
SDR: Why did you become a minister?
PM: I can remember as a kid, going through school, I would always have people, even in the third grade, asking me advice and counsel. I would think, Why in the world are they coming to me? So through the years I had a heart for people and for the Lord I served.
SDR: What is the mission of your church?
PM: It gets back to the goodness of God. “We’re touching God, changing lives,” we say. We try to help people understand that God wants to be touched and experienced, and He wants people to know His love.
SDR: Where do you go when you die?
PM: I try to focus people toward God. If you look at the Garden of Eden, He never planned death. We try to focus them on God being a God of life. He created everything good and it was unfortunately man’s choice to choose death. When we die we’re either going to be with Him or separated from Him. I don’t often use the “hell” word, but it is truly separation from God. He loves us enough to let us make our own choices and if we don’t want to be with Him, He’s not going to force us.