Portrait of a church on the cusp: North Coast Calvary Chapel, founded as a home Bible study in Encinitas, was housed five years in a YMCA, then ten years in the Vulcan Center (now Encinitas City Hall). They had a brief stint in San Dieguito Academy before settling down in the early ’90s at the edge of a shopping center in Carlsbad. But the thing kept growing. Now, a plethora of blue shade tents has transformed the front parking lot into a regular ministry bazaar, and the church is preparing to move into what one pastor termed “a brand-new Tuscany village location right up the road” — one that will provide a more permanent space for all those ministries.
Before the big move, “we’re going to have a kind of ‘sharing our story’ event,” continued the pastor. “Testimonies of, ‘What did God do at North Coast Calvary Chapel while we were here?’ If you have a story that’s been memorable to you, we want you to record that...celebrate your past.”
Inside and at the outset, the church played host to Vicky Beeching, a British import by way of Nashville, dressed in a snug denim bandleader’s jacket. She sang praise songs in her sharp, sometimes breathy voice and said her heart beat “for the revival of God’s people and the salvation of those who don’t know Him yet.” The congregation sang on the choruses, giving the proceedings a concert feel. “Thank you for the cross/ Thank you for the cross/ Thank you for the cross, my friend...”
“There was a time when the church was the pulsating center for the arts,” said pastor Mark Foreman. “But 100 years ago, fundamentalism, as a culture, made the decision to kind of back off from its involvement in the world. I think it was a very bad decision; it came from some bad theology. It created a kind of ‘us against them’ worldview, and the unfortunate thing is that the church stopped producing art. The church stopped being involved. I love the fact that the church here is getting involved in the arts.” Foreman had spent the previous day at the Switchfoot Bro-Am, a charity surf contest and concert festival founded by the band (two of whose members are his children).
There came the invitation to fill out information cards: “We’re just excited to have you here, and it really is our desire to help you grow in your faith in Jesus Christ.... We feel like the best way to do that is through groups.... You can see we have a lot going on. It’s how we can reach out to you...and see how you can participate in this great journey with us.” (Besides ministries for every possible age group, there were ministries for marriage and family, for women, for men, for missions, for military support...)
There came the invitation to consider the youth summer program: “We don’t want to just put kids through a curriculum. We want to walk with them and you as parents with your children...that they might grow into maturity and lean on Jesus Christ and discover Him for themselves.”
The Offering: “We acknowledge that it’s really no longer we who live, but Christ who lives in us.... We ask that you would use these gifts so that we could touch another person’s life.”
Communion: “This is one of my favorite times,” said the speaker. “When we gather around what’s called the Lord’s Table...where God speaks loudly to us: ‘Whoever is thirsty, come; whoever is hungry, come and partake of the bread of life.’ As the Body of Christ gathered here today, we will partake together.... We thank You for the transforming power of your Holy Spirit within us...”
Foreman’s sermon tied all these threads together as it took up the last verses of Paul’s letter to the Galatians. “This is either the first or second epistle that Paul wrote, and we see the very early foundational principles that were germinating around the followers of Jesus: the centrality of the love of God, of the cross, and of faith in what Christ did for us....”
But, it seemed, not only what Christ did for us. Paul wrote, “Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is a new creation.” “Somehow,” said Foreman, “particularly in the last 100 years, we forgot about this world. We became heaven-minded...and it seemed all we wanted to do was to get souls to heaven. But we forgot about the transformation, the rest of the message of Jesus: the reason you are forgiven is so you can be made back into the image of God...and God thinks about other people, not just Himself.... A new creation invades the present; we are part of that, bringing justice, bringing healing, bringing hope, bringing love.”
What happens when we die?
“I think we meet our maker,” said Foreman.
1330 Poinsettia Lane, Carlsbad
Denomination: nondenominational, but affiliated with Calvary Chapel
Founded locally: 1976
Senior pastor: Mark Foreman
Congregation size: 3000–4000
Staff size: about 30, including part-time
Sunday school enrollment: 900–1000
Annual budget: $4–$5 million
Weekly giving: n/a
Singles program: yes
Dress: casual to semiformal
Diversity: mostly Caucasian
Sunday worship: 8 a.m., 9:30 a.m., 11:15 a.m., 6 p.m.
Length of reviewed service: 1 hour, 20 minutes