Saw suffering Christians in Thailand

Won't be surprised by heaven's big circles

Tim Spivey: "We don’t kill our kids or disown them."
  • Tim Spivey: "We don’t kill our kids or disown them."

New Vintage Church

1300 S. Juniper Street, Escondido

Membership: 400

Pastor: Tim Spivey 

Age: 41

Born: Long Beach

Formation: Pepperdine University, Malibu; Abilene Christian University, Abilene, TX

Years in ministry: 20

San Diego Reader: What is your main concern as a member of the clergy?

Pastor Tim Spivey: There is a worldview clash between Christianity and the world that is different from what it’s been. In the past, you might have been able to pick out a handful of social issues and say that, while Christianity might say one thing about it and secular society as a whole might say another thing, they could peacefully coexist. Right now, though, it’s a very anxious, volatile environment in the world. The challenge is in keeping people focused on Christianity and show how Christianity has an impact on their politics, as opposed to getting political and hoping to fit God in somewhere.

SDR: Why did you become a pastor?

PS: My dad was an inner-city elementary-school teacher his whole life. But on the weekends, he preached and did it for free. He never got and never wanted money for it, but did it for the love of the game, so to speak. I watched the impact it had on people and as I got older and paid better attention to preaching from great preachers, I saw the impact it had on me.

SDR: What is the mission of your church?

PS: As our mission statement says, we seek to “grow true followers of Christ in a healthy church environment.” We’re trying to help form people who seek to give their whole lives over to Jesus, and we’re trying to create the kind of environment where that can happen. When a person makes the decision to become a Christian — we see that as the starting point, not the finish line, and we try to help people orient their lives around the mission and purpose of Jesus.

SDR: Where is the strangest place you found God?

PS: My wife and I spent a summer over in Thailand. I spent the entire summer with a group of seven guys who shared a bedroom at a student center across the street from the country’s largest university. They’d all been disowned by their families for becoming Christians. My wife, meanwhile, was sharing a room with three girls who also were disowned by their parents for becoming Christian. Christianity often gets viewed as a narrow religion but we don’t kill our kids or disown them for not being Christian; whereas in Thailand, that happens. So I think I was surprised to find how strong the faith was there. It’s an unbelievably Buddhist country but I was highly impressed by the fact there were Christians there in the first place but also by the caliber of Christians we found there. The extent to which they were willing to suffer for their faith was inspiring to me.

SDR: Where do you go when you die?

PS: As the Bible teaches, those who follow Jesus go to heaven and those who reject him go to hell. Nonetheless, one of my mentors has a great quotation: “God is so gracious that he will let you into heaven if he can find any basis on which to do so.” That doesn’t mean all good people are going to heaven, per se — the Bible teaches something more Christ-focused than that. But it wouldn’t surprise me when I get there that the circles are drawn much bigger than I think they are.

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