4474 El Cajon Boulevard, City Heights
Pastor: Stephen Phelan
Born: Montgomery, AL
Formation: University of Virginia & University of Virginia Law School, Charlottesville, VA; Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando, FL.
Years Ordained: 10
SDR: Why did you become a minister?
PP: I was en route to law school and Jesus revealed to me how I’m wired and put together. It was more as a pastor who is planting churches that are deeply concerned with the work of justice in the world than as a lawyer on a church-planting team. So, we went to seminary and started planting churches….
SDR: Do you see parallels between the legal profession and the sacred work you’re doing now?
PP: In law you have an authoritative text in the U.S. Constitution that you are applying to various factual situations in life. In theology, you just switch the text. The authoritative text of the Bible is likewise applied to situations in life.
SDR: What is the mission of your church?
PP: Our mission is to renew the binational city of San Diego–Tijuana spiritually, socially, and culturally through Jesus Christ. Our mission isn’t just about one great church but about a great city in and through Jesus Christ, and if we shoot for that, we believe many great churches will follow.
SDR: Where is the strangest place you found God?
PP: At a gas station in City Heights across from Hoover High School. A prostitute, not knowing who I was, said, “Hi, I’m a prostitute. Are you interested?” I responded, “Hi, I’m a pastor.” She looked down immediately in shame and when she did, I said, “Yes, I am actually interested in you knowing one thing — that Jesus Christ loves you.” When I said that, she began weeping uncontrollably and said, “I used to know that when I was a little girl. But men have been so mean to me ever since that I forgot that.” She then said, “Today is my 35th birthday and you are the first man who has ever been kind to me.” As she left, I knew Mother Teresa was right when she said, “In the poor, we encounter Jesus in his most distressing disguise.” I bumped into her a couple more times and so did some other people in our church. We continue to share the same message with her, and up until this point, she is continuing to say that she wants to come to Jesus but she also said she’s scared about what her pimp will do to her if she leaves him. So, we’re just going to continue to pray for her. We are actively seeking to give her ways out through a ministry we’re connected with called Generate Hope who are ministers to women in these situations.
SDR: Where do you go when you die?
PP: Heaven or hell. I think Luke 16 is pretty clear on this and I believe C.S. Lewis gets it right in summarizing the Bible on this topic when he says there are only two kinds of people in the end — those who say to God , “Thy will be done,” and those who say in the end, “My will be done.” C.S. Lewis winds up saying that all who are in hell choose it and then he says that without that self-choice, there really could be no hell. He ends up quoting Jesus where he says, “Those who seek, find; and those who knock, the door is opened.”