Craig Brown: “Heaven and hell are powerful words, but in some ways they’re metaphors for the reality that happens to us spiritually.”
2111 Camino del Rio South, San Diego
Pastor: Craig Brown
Born: Long Beach
Formation: Biola University, La Mirada; Fuller Theological Seminary, Pasadena
Years Ordained: 21
San Diego Reader: What is your favorite subject on which to preach?
Pastor Craig Brown: God has a purpose and design for each one of our lives. I find that a lot of people end up living lives that are conditioned by the circumstances and situations in which they’ve found themselves. So the decisions they’ve made about vocations or about relationships they’re in, sometimes those decisions are made in a spiritual vacuum. I think that God has a call for each and every person; there is a role that each person is uniquely designed by God to fulfill. The only way we discover that is through a process of spiritual discernment.
SDR: What is your main concern as a member of the clergy?
PB: The churches — and not just the Methodist churches, either — are somewhat insular. A tremendous amount of energy and effort goes into investing in the congregation to perpetuate the congregation. So, there’s not as much mission happening locally, regionally, or globally. The church tends to be too concerned with trying to get people to come to it — rather than sending people out from it in missions.
SDR: Why did you become a minister?
PB: My family never went to church and they still don’t, for that matter…. But, I came to faith when I was 13 years old. I had four or five other schoolmates in middle school that led me in prayer to commit my life to Christ. So, I gave my heart to the Lord even before I set foot in a church. I came to church as a response to that. I got a call to be a minster when I was 17 years old. Part of that call was a desire to serve people in the way that I felt I had been served by Jesus. For me, it’s not a matter of paying back, but asking what is the appropriate way to respond to what God gave me.
SDR: What is the mission of your church?
PB: All United Methodists should give the same answer because the denomination established what our mission is: to make disciples of Jesus Christ for the transformation of the world. Then we have our congregational vision. “We are empowered by the Holy Spirit and enriched by our traditions to move boldly into a shared future where all people are invited to connect with Christ, cultivate faith together, and commit to serve as life-long followers of Jesus Christ.”
SDR: Where do you go when you die?
PB: I see it as C.S. Lewis describes it in The Great Divorce. God drives the bus and takes us where we want to go. We’re talking about a spiritual place — which is in a sense an oxymoron. If I dig a hole deep enough, will I find hell? No. If I go high enough in the sky, will I find heaven? No. But there is a spiritual reality that is not seen in this life, and it exists, and it’s in that reality that we either experience companionship and oneness with God — made whole as we were intended to be in creation — or we experience alienation and separation from God. Heaven and hell are powerful words, but in some ways they’re metaphors for the reality that happens to us spiritually.