Tuesday, January 13, 2015

The Rock Church, San Ysidro campus

When we arrived at quarter to for the 8:00 am service at The Rock Church's SanYsidro location, there were many more volunteers and staff in view than attendeees. San Ysidro High School (where the newest congregation of The Rock meets), hosts the southernmost congregation in California, at least from what we could figure with internet research. There was good signage when we got off the freeway, directing us to the church, and large signs and banners at the high school. A friendly volunteer in an Oakland Raiders sweatshirt under his safety vest directed us to a parking spot.

Entering the school theater that acts as the sanctuary, we were greeted by folks in black t-shirts reading, "Hello." A woman at the door handed me a bulletin and asked me if I needed a pen. "I know he's going to have you take notes," she said.  

It's a nice theater, capable of seating about 400 people. I assume the 10:00 am and noon services at the same location are better attended, but for the 8:00 am worship, the room was only about a quarter filled. Announcements flashed on the screen and a chiefly youngish crowd of mixed ethnicities leisurely filed in. 
We noticed the clock on a screen on the back wall, counting down the minutes and seconds until the service began. This is something we've seen in a lot of churches. Unique (in our experience, anyway) was the countdown that continued during the service for music sets, announcements, and even the sermon. There was a good reason for this.

The Rock is one church meeting at four locations (plus "micro-sites," which we forgot to ask about) throughout San Diego County. Combining the campuses, Rock Church is one of the largest churches in the country, with a weekly attendance of over 15,000 people in 18 weekly services. The church began in the year 2000, meeting on the campus of San Diego State University (my alma mater). The San Ysidro campus is the newest, begun in September of last year, and the church plans to begin services at yet another site in a few months.

Right at 8:00 am, we were welcomed (on the screen) by a youth pastor from another of the campuses. A little later, the "Campus Pastor" gave some announcements, live. He encouraged people to join small groups called "Life Groups," which meet in various homes throughout the week.  He said "It's important to connect, so you'll be connected and stay connected." So, I've got to agree, thumbs up to connection.

A live worship band of three singers and four musicians didn't always follow their assigned time on the back screen, occasionally going a minute or two over. We found it interesting that there were no women in the band, and no women on stage or screen all morning (though women made up a fair percentage of the ushers and counseling team).

The congregation joined in enthusiastically with the worship, and  it certainly wasn't a morning where the singing and performance of the worship band was the focus. We sang one verse of "Amazing Grace" in Spanish as part of the "Amazing Grace/My Chains are Gone" medley. (During the second two services of the morning, Spanish translation was available, but not for our 8:00 am service. During the sermon, the pastor mentioned he was working to learn Spanish.

Miles McPherson, former football player with the San Diego Chargers and MDiv grad from Azusa Pacific University, appeared on the screen (as I assume he appeared in two other campuses, but one live). He preached from Esther on the need to seize the Kairos Moments God gives us (a topic of a series we heard at another multicampus church, Santa Rosa Methodist, last year). McPherson is a quite appealing personality (though I thought of  my youngest daughter's feminist sensibilities when he illustrated the story of Esther's beauty regimen with remarks about his wife's moisturizing).

There was an altar call at the end of the sermon for a commitment to Christ or a recommitment, and seven people came forward. This was introduced by McPherson on the screen, but the campus pastor prayed and instructed those who came forward, shaking their hands and facilitating their meeting with members of a team wearing "Altar Call" t-shirts.

After a closing song, there was an announcement about giving. Plates weren't passed, but we were encouraged to give in one of three ways: drop off money in a box in the lobby, give online or give via text message.

A missionary friend of mine once said, "If you can't plant a church in Southern California, you can't plant a church anywhere." Whether this statement is fair or not, it looks like this four month old plant is off to a good start.

Service Length:                       1 hour 17 minutes
Sermon Length:                      36 minutes (counting introductory prayer)
Visitor Treatment:                   We were greeted warmly by a number of volunteers, but no special attention to visitors. There was a form in the bulletin for updating information, but no mention of what to do with it.
Our Rough Count:                  106
Actual! Ushers' Count:           112 (we overheard one usher telling another)
Snacks:                                    We saw a room with coffee and (we think) snacks, but it seemed to be for the volunteers. With the rainy weather, a variety of things like the bookstore had been moved inside, so possibly coffee was normally available outside.
Songs:                                      "Our Father"
                                                "You are Faithful"
                                                "Amazing Grace/My Chains are Gone"
                                                "We Glorify Your Name"
Miles to place:                         566
Total California Miles in 2015: 1,756   

-- Dean