Pastor's Blog

Scott and Rhonda Archer being prayed over during installation service

At the end of 2012 and into the beginning of 2013, after ten years of fruitful ministry, growing fellowship and meaningful outreach, our time at our previous church was coming to a rather unexpected end. I was the worship leader and the Associate Pastor for a small but growing congregation near what was then Qualcomm Stadium, and when it became clear that a change was coming, Rhonda and I found ourselves in a rather anxious state of Limbo. We knew it was time to move on, but we had no clear sense of where God was moving us to.

As we began to pray and explore options, the opportunity to interview for the pastorate at a church north of LA, in Agoura Hills, presented itself. At first, this seemed like an ideal possibility, as Agoura Hills is just twenty minutes south of Ventura, where Rhonda and I grew up, and where much of our family still lives. However, after dinner and a question-and-answer time with the church's leadership and their spouses, it became clear to them – and later to us – that after twenty years in the area, we were not ready to sever our San Diego roots.

During this time of searching and uncertainty, I was driving with my good friend, Don Brennan, through La Mesa and we happened to pass by Central Congregational Church. Though I had certainly driven by the church multiple times, I had never noticed it. Don had recently installed a new sound system for CCC, and knowing both the church’s situation and ours, casually mentioned, You should be the pastor of that church.

Man chest on ground with hand doing chest compressions

Revive v.: to return to life: become active or flourishing again.

On February 8th at Asbury University, a Christian school in Wilmore, Kentucky, a revival-like phenomenon broke out. At the end of a typical chapel service that some students attend mainly to fulfill their required chapel quota for the semester, many students felt prompted to return for an extended time of worship and prayer. This unplanned and mostly unguided spiritual gathering has lasted more than 400 hours, attracted tens of thousands of visitors, and become the topic of national and global attention and debate. I use the term, revival-like, in an attempt to tread carefully among the opinions of both the critics and the champions of whatever it is that is happening at Asbury. Whatever is happening at Asbury, I’m confident from the reports I’ve read and second-hand accounts that have been passed on to me that the ongoing gathering is genuinely spontaneous and seems free of manipulation and exploitation.

While much of the nation's attention has been focused on the happenings at Asbury, The Jesus Revolution has hit theaters throughout the country. The movie recounts the well-documented revival among young people that began in Southern California in the late ’60s and early ’70s and spread throughout North America and much of the Western world. Similar to Asbury, The Jesus Revolution has sparked passionate discussion and debate and has its detractors and defenders.

Smiling woman with arms raised standing outside in the snow

As we head into the holidays and the days grow short and the weather cools, those of you older than fifty may find yourself humming the tune made famous by Andy Williams lo those many years ago, It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year. Whether or not you agree with the song, most people look forward to the “trinity” of Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s Day with at least a warm feeling as they anticipate a day or two off, the music, the pageantry, the lights, the food, the gift giving and receiving — the joy and laughter of gathering with family and friends.

Alternately, some view the holiday season as The Most Stressful Time of the Year or The Most Melancholy Time of the Year as they worry about preparations to be made, money to be spent, family to be accommodated and griefs revisited. The truth is that for most of us, this time of year confronts us with a broad range of opportunities and emotions.  We manage as best we can, and try to hang on to and foster a sense of peace and goodwill in the context of the reality of our daily lives. The reality is that some years are easier to manage than others. With the economy on the skids, a looming contentious election cycle, the continuation of war, rumors of wars, and the threat of a winter COVID surge, this might be one of those years when the demons of anxiety, depression and despair seek to overthrow the angels of peace, joy and hope.

Images of runners leg, open bible,praying hands, group of people worshipping and children doing a craft around a table

Welcome to 2023! Have you made any resolutions? Have you broken any yet?

While New Year’s resolutions may not be your thing, most of us seem to head into the new year with some intention to do and/or be better. This year I’m going to eat less and walk more; watch less TV and read more; spend less and save more. And from this list and the many more good intentions we could add, getting into shape seems regularly to come out on top.

Like many of you, taking better care of my physical body is an ongoing goal and a continuing struggle. And while I want to be a good steward of the body God has blessed me with, I am both comforted and challenged by Paul’s words to his young protégé, Timothy:

…train yourself to be godly. For physical training is of some value, but godliness has value for all things, holding promise for both the present life and the life to come, 1 Timothy 4:7–8 (NIV).

First, Paul affirms the value of caring for our bodies. I think we could extrapolate that Paul would affirm the value of many of our new year’s goals and much that is touted in today’s self-care movement. Jesus himself when questioned regarding the greatest commandment, asserted that to love God with all your heart, soul and mind is the first and greatest commandment. It is not doing a disservice to this commandment to argue that loving God with everything we have and are involves taking care of our bodies and managing our time and finances well, among other disciplines.

Red tennis shoes surrounded by school supplies

Today is the first of September, and while most school districts begin classes sometime in August these days, Labor Day weekend still has that sense of marking the end of summer and the beginning of the school year.

Reflecting on my childhood and adolescence, I recall I was never a great student. If you look up average in the dictionary, you might have a picture of me. However, each September as the start of school approached, I was filled with anticipation, and a resolve to do better. I loved the new folders and notebooks, and assured myself this was the year I would be more organized and stay on top of my homework. But alas, within a week or two, I was overwhelmed, underprepared, and most likely behind on an assignment or two—and lacking motivation.

Eventually, I figured out how to be a better student, and did quite well in university and graduate school. But reminiscing on my fitful educational efforts as a child and young person, got me thinking about my successes and failures in seeking to follow the way of Jesus. And actually, what started this whole stream of thought was a brief remark from a  parishioner who stopped by to drop something off.

Lamenting some relational frustrations with people in our lives, I casually threw out the phrase regarding the situation I was addressing, Well, I think they are just trying to follow Jesus, to which my conversation partner immediately replied, Well, aren’t we all? While I was being rather flippant in trying to assign a positive motive to someone’s irritating behavior—and not so subtly casting myself in a more noble light—my friend's response grabbed my attention and brought me up short.