Gateway Community Church

Craig Harrison: “I was working at the time at a food store and had a powerful sense that God wanted me to go into ministry.”
  • Craig Harrison: “I was working at the time at a food store and had a powerful sense that God wanted me to go into ministry.”

Gateway Community Church

1451 Montiel Road #120, Escondido

Membership: 400

Pastor: Craig Harrison

Age: 61

Born: Beloit, Wis.

Formation: Northern Illinois University, DeKalb, Ill., Bethel Seminary, St. Paul, Minn.

Ordained: 31 years

San Diego Reader: How long do you spend writing your sermon?

Pastor Craig Harrison: A Sunday message is 20 to 25 hours of preparation. First I pick a topic and look for something that’s practical to our people and fits with where they’re at.

SDR: Would you describe your sermon style as topical or expository?

PC: A little of both, really.

SDR: What is your favorite thing to preach on?

PC: Grace has really changed my life. I grew up in a Christian church and with the faith, but I had a fair amount of legalism in my spiritual diet. I thought, growing up, that God only loved me if I toed the line. Then about 20 years ago I got in touch with grace. I realized I don’t have to earn God’s love. It’s free and undeserved. I try to live for Him, but God loves me as a parent loves a child, ultimately regardless of what I do.

SDR: What is the mission of your church?

PC: Our one-sentence mission statement is “Building difference-makers to influence the world toward Christ.” It’s reaching out to people far from God, and once they make a decision for Christ, they’ll grow and discover and experience more of God, and in turn they’ll want to serve other people. We do this on all sorts of levels, such as soup kitchens. About five years ago we really got in touch with that, and it’s really changed our church in many ways to get outside our walls and serve many different people who are in need, without strings attached.

SDR: What is it that concerns you as a member of the clergy?

PC: I’m concerned about the general ambivalence toward God and toward spiritual matters in the country. There’s a decline in the importance of the church and a lack of respect for the Bible.

SDR: Why did you become a minister?

PC: I did not hear any voices, but I had a strong sense within me that God was calling me to ministry. I never thought about it up to that time, as I was going in a very different direction at that point. I was going into business management at Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo. I was in a program going into food management to work at food stores. I was working at the time at a food store, filling a dairy cooler, and had a powerful sense that God wanted me to go into ministry. So I changed schools and changed majors.

SDR: Where do you go when you die?

PC: I would say that if you have a relationship with Jesus Christ you can be sure you’re going to Heaven when you die. If you do not, then God will make those decisions, not I; but with faith you can be assured you’re going to Heaven.

SDR: Is there a possibility for Hell?

PC: I believe there is. Hell is definitely a possible destination. We don’t talk a lot about it; we believe it, but we don’t scare people with Hell or bang them over the head with it. We’d rather focus on Heaven, Christ, faith and grace.

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