Icon Church

Say Lula Salon occupies the ground floor of a resuscitated Art Deco box in the East Village; on Sunday mornings, Icon Church occupies Say Lula. It’s a neat fit.

The space was crammed with eclectic art — it took a moment to realize that the three burgundy thrones on the turf-covered stage were actually hair-washing stations draped in fabric. Nobody sat in those chairs on Sunday; the musicians and speakers never even ascended the stage, choosing instead to stay nearly within arm’s reach of the congregation. But the symbolism still held, as congregant Dave explained: “There are three pastors here, and they’re all equal” — taking turns with the preaching, praying, and ministerial work. “If there’s just one, that guy ends up in isolation. A church can live or die based on that one person. Here, it’s all level ground.”

Dave wasn’t, however, implying a wholesale retreat from traditional religious models. “They’re trying to separate things that really are from God from the things that aren’t. Communion, for example, is not a tradition that some church made up — that came from Jesus.” Pastor Kevin Koberg’s sermon praised the discipline of fasting. Pastor Will Carreras announced, “If you have not, as an adult, been baptized and said, ‘Yes, I am becoming a disciple,’ we want you to consider that.”

Travel has given Dave some experience with the differences among churches, and he had this to offer about Icon: “Not everybody wants this. It’s not like you come in, put on a smile, enjoy the show, and then leave. It emphasizes that if you want growth on your personal walk, it’s all about being part of a family. We want everyone to be here by personal invitation, to have that connection.”

“It’s not church like a business,” added singer Scott Kemper. “It’s more building disciples.”

The pastors, all formerly associated with The Rock Church, had opted to go small-scale. (Sunday’s service was missing 10 to 15 regulars, many of whom had opted for a group trip to Joshua Tree.) “We are part of a society that’s based on a different story” from secular America, explained Koberg, “and that gives us different habits, which then form our character and allow us to see the world differently.” (And again, that society was decidedly communal — Koberg noted the group pronouns in the Lord’s Prayer: “Our Father...”) “We’re here to draw people into that society by showing them the benefits of it, the blessing of it, and the help of it.”

That society had the power to create a “system of abundance” that would help believers flourish like the Biblical lilies of the field. Congregant Emily attested, “When I started going here, I thought, Wow, these are people I would actually want to hang out with and foster a community. They really build the church around community, discipleship, and peacemaking.”

“We don’t have a position on Christians being in the military,” offered Koberg during the sermon. “But we have to bring our whole life into the character of Jesus. We are told to love our enemies. Chris [a member of the church currently deployed with the Marines] told the military, ‘I’ll fly search-and-rescue helicopters. As a Christian, I’m good with that because I’m helping people. However, the minute you weaponize my helicopter, I’m out.’ If Christians in the military said, ‘With Jesus as my Lord, I’m commanded to love my enemy, and that means I can’t kill him,’ how much does that begin to change the structures of the world — at least from a witness standpoint?”

“‘Getting back to the red letters’ is how they describe it,” explained congregant Alicia, referring to Jesus’ highlighted words in Scripture. “Really understanding Jesus’ character and how to implement it.”

“We lay our lives down before You this morning,” prayed Kemper in the midst of an emo-tinged praise set. “We just want to be more like You, God.”

“In John, God always pictures us as light,” said pastor Kyle Osland during the benediction. “I’ve been thinking, How am I light? We’re light when we love our enemies, when we help our neighbors.”

What happens when we die?

“We ask, what would happen if you lived forever?” said Carreras. “What kind of life would you want? What kind of person would you want to be? We believe that there is an eternity, and we feel that we’ve already stepped into it — as Christians, we will live forever. That’s the gift that God has for us.”

Denomination: nondenominational, exploring affiliation
Founded locally: fall 2008
Senior pastors: Will Carreras, Kevin Koberg, Kyle Osland
Congregation size: 50
Staff size: 3
Sunday school enrollment: 5
Annual budget: still being determined
Weekly giving: n/a
Singles program: no
Dress: mostly casual, some semiformal
Diversity: diverse
Sunday worship: 10 a.m.
Length of reviewed service: 1 hour, 30 minutes
Website: iconchurchsd.com

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