Pushed out to the margins

The church was at one time the center of family life and the community

Mike Wallman and wife Joni
  • Mike Wallman and wife Joni

Mike Wallman and wife Joni

Mike Wallman and wife Joni

Grace Presbyterian Church

Contact: 1450 E. Vista Way, Vista 760-724-0077 www.gpcvista.org

Membership: 200

Pastor: Mike Wallman

Age: 66

Born: Burbank

Formation: Santa Monica College; California State University-Northridge; Fuller Seminary, Pasadena; Dubuque Theological Seminary, Dubuque, IA

Years Ordained: 39

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

Pastor Mike Wallman: Being a pastor for almost 40 years, I’ve seen life change for the church in the U.S. and particularly in Southern California. The church was at one time the center of family life and the community, but has since been pushed out to the margins. The tasks of trying to find relevancy for the people who are churchgoers and sparking an interest in Christ and a relationship with him have become challenging.

SDR: What is the mission of your church?

PW: To be a winsome witness to the gospel of Jesus Christ for the community of Vista.

SDR: Excepting the Bible, what book are you reading these days?

PW: In Canoeing the Mountains: Christian Leadership in Unchartered Territory, Tod Bolsinger explains the situation of church leadership today by using the metaphor of Lewis and Clark’s expedition, canoeing up the Missouri River to the headwaters, which is where the Colorado Rockies are. They were looking for the Northwest Passage. Tod’s book tries to teach us that the church today is facing the Rocky Mountains. None of us have been here before, in terms of how to lead the church in its mission, sharing the gospel with people in our world. Lewis & Clark figured out a way to get over the mountains because they found a pregnant Indian woman — Sacagawea — who happened to speak the language of the peoples along the way to help Lewis and Clark in trading and food and so forth to survive and make the journey. They accomplished their mission, but they had to adapt to a new environment. Similarly, Tod is helping Christians — and pastors especially — to figure out how we need to change our thinking to be adaptive to the environment we find ourselves in.

SDR: Where’s the strangest place you found God?

PW: I was on a mission trip to China, way up in the northeastern corner of China, right on the border with North Korea. We were invited there to do a mission, helping orphans. While we were there, we would have encounters with secret Christians because they were in a communist country where it was dangerous to be a Christian. It was unbelievable—we met these people and their eyes lit up when we spoke about the gospel, what God was doing, and the miracles taking place. Then they made a request: “Don’t forget about us—pray for us.” It was so hard for them. All I wanted them to do is pray for us. Their faith was so strong in the midst of incredible challenges. I was blown away by God’s activity in the midst of what I thought would be a dark world.

SDR: Where do you go when you die?

PW: I absolutely believe that to be in Christ is to be with everything that God is – love, joy, and belonging, and to be free of sin and death. To not choose God and not be with him is the common definition of hell – separation from God, which means separation from love, joy, and belonging to God—all these things we long for. I can’t imagine life like that for eternity. So I choose heaven. That’s why I’m in ministry – to proclaim the good news that life doesn’t end and we can live eternally with God.

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