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The road to Capernaum

Jesus defines greatness for us and how it is found in humility.

Nolan Lee
Nolan Lee

Grace Church of San Diego

  • Contact: 2716 Madison Ave, San Diego 619-280-1495 www.gracesd.com
  • Attendance: 1,200
  • Interim Lead Pastor: Nolan Lee
  • Age: 35
  • Born: Niwot, CO
  • Formation: University of Colorado, Boulder, CO

San Diego Reader: How long do you spend preparing your sermons?

Pastor Nolan Lee: Our sermons are always focused on the exegetical first, but we teach in a topical manner. We have four preaching pastors who rotate. I lead the preaching and I encourage the pastors to preach to their strengths and passions. Usually, each pastor will preach once a month. It usually takes me about 20 hours a week to put a sermon together.

SDR: What’s your favorite subject on which to preach?

PL: One of my favorite moments with Jesus is when he meets the disciples after they’ve been traveling on the road to Capernaum (Mark 9:33-37), arguing about greatness. Jesus reprimands them lovingly, saying that if you want to be the greatest of all you must be the servant of all. “He who is the greatest among you will be your servant,” he says in Mark 10:43. So I could preach on that passage every week. We have completely lost sight of what true humility is. Jesus defines greatness for us and how it is found in humility. We as humans tend to try to separate those two ideas out, but that view of greatness and humility reshapes anything and everything within us. It frames how we’re meant to view the world.

SDR: Why did you become a minister?

PL: A lot of people have a strong call to ministry. My call was more a matter of submission. I wanted to do football or something other than ministry. But God knows what’s best for me. Football ended poorly for me because of my ego. When I went away to college, I went off the deep end and partied. To be honest, it was through the partying that I wound up losing my spot on the team because of some dumb mistakes. So that’s how my football career ended. Humility, though, has taught me so much. God has placed me in this role and I take comfort in listening to how, in the Bible, God equips and calls on those who will do his work. Most of the time, these figures in the Bible don’t have everything figured out – but God calls those who are faithful. That’s what brought me in: I followed after God, asking, “What do you have for me next?” and taking the next step.

SDR: What is the mission of your church?

PL: Our mission is simple. It is the great commission (Matthew 28:16-20). We help people find Christ and help them become his mature followers. The vision of our church is to be the safest community in which people can grow in their faith. When people hear that word “safe,” though, they misinterpret it. They think of safety as the world frames that word – but we’re basing our understanding on the fact that Jesus is the definition of true safety. The woman at the well (John 4) is such a good example. He loves this woman but he also calls her to the truth.

SDR: Where do you go when you die?

PL: I don’t view heaven as the pearly gates or anything like that, but as being united with God and being in the full presence of God. Likewise, hell is the complete absence of God. It’s a traditional view of heaven and hell, but it’s not the secular stereotypes of what heaven and hell are.

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Nolan Lee
Nolan Lee

Grace Church of San Diego

  • Contact: 2716 Madison Ave, San Diego 619-280-1495 www.gracesd.com
  • Attendance: 1,200
  • Interim Lead Pastor: Nolan Lee
  • Age: 35
  • Born: Niwot, CO
  • Formation: University of Colorado, Boulder, CO

San Diego Reader: How long do you spend preparing your sermons?

Pastor Nolan Lee: Our sermons are always focused on the exegetical first, but we teach in a topical manner. We have four preaching pastors who rotate. I lead the preaching and I encourage the pastors to preach to their strengths and passions. Usually, each pastor will preach once a month. It usually takes me about 20 hours a week to put a sermon together.

SDR: What’s your favorite subject on which to preach?

PL: One of my favorite moments with Jesus is when he meets the disciples after they’ve been traveling on the road to Capernaum (Mark 9:33-37), arguing about greatness. Jesus reprimands them lovingly, saying that if you want to be the greatest of all you must be the servant of all. “He who is the greatest among you will be your servant,” he says in Mark 10:43. So I could preach on that passage every week. We have completely lost sight of what true humility is. Jesus defines greatness for us and how it is found in humility. We as humans tend to try to separate those two ideas out, but that view of greatness and humility reshapes anything and everything within us. It frames how we’re meant to view the world.

SDR: Why did you become a minister?

PL: A lot of people have a strong call to ministry. My call was more a matter of submission. I wanted to do football or something other than ministry. But God knows what’s best for me. Football ended poorly for me because of my ego. When I went away to college, I went off the deep end and partied. To be honest, it was through the partying that I wound up losing my spot on the team because of some dumb mistakes. So that’s how my football career ended. Humility, though, has taught me so much. God has placed me in this role and I take comfort in listening to how, in the Bible, God equips and calls on those who will do his work. Most of the time, these figures in the Bible don’t have everything figured out – but God calls those who are faithful. That’s what brought me in: I followed after God, asking, “What do you have for me next?” and taking the next step.

SDR: What is the mission of your church?

PL: Our mission is simple. It is the great commission (Matthew 28:16-20). We help people find Christ and help them become his mature followers. The vision of our church is to be the safest community in which people can grow in their faith. When people hear that word “safe,” though, they misinterpret it. They think of safety as the world frames that word – but we’re basing our understanding on the fact that Jesus is the definition of true safety. The woman at the well (John 4) is such a good example. He loves this woman but he also calls her to the truth.

SDR: Where do you go when you die?

PL: I don’t view heaven as the pearly gates or anything like that, but as being united with God and being in the full presence of God. Likewise, hell is the complete absence of God. It’s a traditional view of heaven and hell, but it’s not the secular stereotypes of what heaven and hell are.

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4S Ranch Allied Gardens Alpine Baja Balboa Park Bankers Hill Barrio Logan Bay Ho Bay Park Black Mountain Ranch Blossom Valley Bonita Bonsall Borrego Springs Boulevard Campo Cardiff-by-the-Sea Carlsbad Carmel Mountain Carmel Valley Chollas View Chula Vista City College City Heights Clairemont College Area Coronado CSU San Marcos Cuyamaca College Del Cerro Del Mar Descanso Downtown San Diego Eastlake East Village El Cajon Emerald Hills Encanto Encinitas Escondido Fallbrook Fletcher Hills Golden Hill Grant Hill Grantville Grossmont College Guatay Harbor Island Hillcrest Imperial Beach Imperial Valley Jacumba Jamacha-Lomita Jamul Julian Kearny Mesa Kensington La Jolla Lakeside La Mesa Lemon Grove Leucadia Liberty Station Lincoln Acres Lincoln Park Linda Vista Little Italy Logan Heights Mesa College Midway District MiraCosta College Miramar Miramar College Mira Mesa Mission Beach Mission Hills Mission Valley Mountain View Mount Hope Mount Laguna National City Nestor Normal Heights North Park Oak Park Ocean Beach Oceanside Old Town Otay Mesa Pacific Beach Pala Palomar College Palomar Mountain Paradise Hills Pauma Valley Pine Valley Point Loma Point Loma Nazarene Potrero Poway Rainbow Ramona Rancho Bernardo Rancho Penasquitos Rancho San Diego Rancho Santa Fe Rolando San Carlos San Marcos San Onofre Santa Ysabel Santee San Ysidro Scripps Ranch SDSU Serra Mesa Shelltown Shelter Island Sherman Heights Skyline Solana Beach Sorrento Valley Southcrest South Park Southwestern College Spring Valley Stockton Talmadge Temecula Tierrasanta Tijuana UCSD University City University Heights USD Valencia Park Valley Center Vista Warner Springs
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