We cruised into part 3 of our legendary God at the movies series by taking a look at the film INCEPTION. There are some movies that make me wonder if the writer, director, producer or creator was some kind of theologian in some previous incarnation. This is one of those. I watched all the special features and read up on Christopher Nolan (writer/ director) and couldn’t find much in the way of specific spiritual or “Christian” influence. Which makes the unbelievable parallels with some biblical ideas and the use of New Testament language throughout the story even more fascinating.

The one idea that we need to walk away with is the power of the idea. Changes in people, in groups, in churches, in cultures happen as paradigmatic ideas get embedded. We sometimes act our way into an idea and we sometimes think our way into a course of life, but the idea is critical. The unseen is really the mostly the MOST real thing.

Worship was powerful this week.

FINANCIAL UPDATE – As most of you know, I’m not exactly a big numbers, detail kind of guy (please don’t be shocked). That being said, I was actually kind of stoked to share our financial update.
• We totally killed it on our Church-to-Church Haiti partnership – more than met our $3k monthly commitment AND just for good measure through in over $11,000, which will build a school in Haiti this September.
• Journey Up – We’ve paid a MILLION on our second loan since last year at this time. We only have $209,000 left! Yeah! So we laid out the vision that if every adult at Journey thru in $125 we’d be DONE with this bad boy. You guys responded right off the bat by giving $41,000! Yeah. We still have another week before we refinance what was left of that 2nd Mortgage.
• The practice of financial updates – I think I’m coming to a conclusion that I’ve been resisting: we need regular financial updates. Not every week, but people want to know what’s up.

I’m grateful for my surf pals. We had a stellar session on that perfect Saturday that was last Saturday. Then my good friends Donnie & Barbie Rea from Ventura (via Omaha, Fresno, Costa Rica – it’s a long story). Being very traditional people we hit up a Taco shop for Father’s day lunch.

Check out the size of that burrito (it’s called “the Surf & Turf” – shout out to Don Solin). It’s the size of my head!!! Plus two more great mornings of surfing!

Posted by: Ed | June 15, 2011


Here’s something you have to hear about. Sam Saavedra, one of the college students in New Format (our College Aged community) is guest writing this for me. I love what God is doing!

As the first Sunday in June came to a head, despite our intentionally unorganized plans, the members of New Format scrambled to pray, clean the park, set up the snack bar, prepare the projector, organize parking and greet those who would be arriving. While we had no clue what the turnout would be, or how smoothly the night would go, it was clear that the possibility of God doing something unique filled the very area we stood in. We had no idea that showing up to a park to watch a movie would be an avenue for God to teach us. However, despite our nerves and doubt, He gave us an opportunity to stumble into one of Jesus’ most highlighted commandments: Love Your Neighbor.
Within the past year, it appears as though the desire to live out this commandment has caused a growing mindset to be cultivated amongst the members of Journey Community Church. It is a mindset of faith and risk. It is a mindset that is dissatisfied with simply sitting in our chairs week after week. It is a mindset cognizant of the truth that in order for us to authentically love, we must constantly walk into the areas God calls us to, even if the outcome is unknown. Whether we are joining our lives with churches across the globe, daring to start food banks and thrift stores or hiring executive pastors, we have undoubtedly seen God. He has led us into countless opportunities to exercise love and compassion to those who desperately need it, all the while transforming and unifying our church in the process.
This mindset has in some sense become viral, not just within our main services but amongst a number of ministries on our campus as well, including the various student ministries. Our 3rd-5th graders in G-Force raised over a $1,000 dollars for Haitian sister church. Encounter, Journey’s High School ministry has a full team of students going to Haiti this summer and the Middle School and College-Aged Ministries, Riptide and New Format have adopted Collier Park and regularly hold clean-up days in an attempt to be an active presence within the community of La Mesa.
As a member of New Format, I have seen an upsurge for social justice begin to quite literally rearrange our entire ministry. The desire to be “the hands and feet of God” so to speak has been birthed in a number of our attendants from every walk of life: old and new, believer and nonbeliever. As our core leadership team, alongside our pastor Sarah Merk-Benitez, wrestled with how God would have us move, it became clear that He was going to make some changes. In keeping with our namesake, God was calling us into a new format of ministry.
Having spent the last few years building a strong sense of community in which individuals could meet God and one another, it became clear that we had reached a point where we could no longer extend love simply to ourselves. If we were going to continue to grow as a ministry and more importantly as followers of Christ, then we would have to grow outside of our building and into our community. We would have to learn to allow God to shape us into a ministry that exists not for itself, but for those around it. However, we had no clue what this would look like or how to begin creating it. We simply knew that instead of sitting inside our church inviting people in, we would have to take church outside to those who couldn’t or wouldn’t come. We would have to risk.
While we attempted to wrap our heads around these concepts, God had already begun to work out the details. Upon hearing of New Format’s involvement with Collier Park, the Mayor of La Mesa, Art Madrid asked the college-aged group if we would be willing to hold events at the park in order to decrease its illegitimate use for drugs and alcohol amongst other things. Eager to assist and love our community, we began planning in light of Journey’s series, God At The Movies and soon after New Format’s Movies at the Park had been created. For the entire month of June, every Sunday, New Format would meet at Collier Park, set up a projector and speakers and watch the movies chosen for the series in an attempt to invite people into our community while driving out illegitimate users.

On the opening night of Movies At The Park, carloads of students showed up at the park and immediately began to make use of its space. The common residents of the park watched with bemusement as numbers of young adults set up chairs and blankets, smiling and laughing. After his arrival, the Mayor immediately began to mingle with college students and park dwellers alike stating, “There’s probably about 120 people here, but with energy of your people, it feels like 300!”
Overall, the first movie night of the month progressed better than we could have expected. Groups of people showed up, watched The Social Network and left entertained. However, what made the night memorable wasn’t the movie, the seamlessness of the event, or even the presence of the Mayor. What made the night memorable was how God wanted to reveal His heart to our ministry. Originally, we intended to host events at the park in order to get rid of the drug users, alcoholics, and possible prostitution. However, as we began to inhabit the park, it became very clear that God didn’t want us to get rid of them. He wanted us to BE with them.
As homeless people and addicts joined in with our group to simply watch a movie, I looked around the park to see members of my community acting as Jesus to people who are taken for granted every day. I saw people skipping prayer meetings in favor of ministering to and welcoming those who would normally be getting high in the bushes. While passing by the snack bar, I heard our café team in deep conversation with a young man who shared, “I came here tonight to get wasted. I’m so glad I didn’t.” During the progression of the movie, I saw a member of New Format spend the entire night comforting an individual who was reduced to tears after sharing about his addictions. After the movie ended, while people were packing up, a guy told our college pastor, “I haven’t been to church in years. I had no idea I needed this so badly.”
After seeing hugs and handshakes being exchanged between the homeless residents, the teens and young adults who visit the park for drug and alcohol use and the members of our church, we were both excited and heartbroken to find ourselves in the midst of God’s plan to offer care and compassion. What began as an attempt to fight the injustice occurring within Collier Park became God’s way of fighting the injustice ensnaring the hearts of individuals broken and defeated from disappointment and hopelessness. Through the simple act of prompting us to step outside our building and into our community, God revealed His desire for us to bring acceptance, validation, redemption, and love to those who feel they will never get it.
Once a week for one month may not be much. We may not have completely rid our community of evil, or solved the problem of the park’s illegitimate use, but after spending one night with these individuals, our community is eager to dive into the risk God is calling us into. We are excited to watch more movies. We are excited to leave our building. We are excited to have no clue as to where we will end up. New Format is excited because God has given us the opportunity to create bonds with people we never could have imagined and in the process find that how we love is infinitely more important than what we simply do. We can no longer love within the confines of our building because we have seen that there are people outside our building who are just as valuable and need it far more immediately than we do. We are excited because we find that as we attempt, fail and risk alongside our community, we learn what it means to truly love our neighbor.

Posted by: Ed | June 15, 2011

EPIC WEEKEND! This was really a crazy great weekend in so many ways for us at Journey and personally I had all kinds of fun.

We had a great run of worship songs in the services that seemed to really connect with people. I know that they did for me.

Some movies have God’s story laying right on the surface and you just grab it up and preach away (e.g. The Kings Speech). Others are a little more like extracting an impacted wisdom tooth – the roots are there but they are wrapped all around other stuff (can you tell I hung out w/ my orthodontist friend this weekend?). I loved this movie and felt it was actually very redemptive, but you had to dig a little deeper and unpack with care.

To me one of the biggest challenges was remembering: o.k. this is not a documentary, this is a story BASED on history that is being made RIGHT NOW! (This morning I heard on the radio that Facebook’s IPO is around the corner and Wall St types are talking about $100 billion!).

When asked how many of you have a FB account / page about 90+ percent of hands went up!
But there is a real point about settling for faux community instead of authentic community, of settling for gaining the world in exchange for our souls.

I have 2 favorite days of the year: our June an September beach baptism days. A great sense of community and closeness, there are stories of life change. There is the beauty of grace everywhere.

I did a great wedding on Saturday afternoon. I’m so privileged to sense God’s presence in these sacramental moments. Congrats and shalom to you Jon and Lauren.

PERFECT SURF MORNING – Some days are better than other. 3-4’ glass at San Elijo with 5 or 6 friends and almost no crowd is one of those BETTER days! Can you say “stress melting into the Pacific!”?

We launched one of our signature series this weekend – GOD AT THE MOVIES (click <a href="We launched one of our signature series this weekend – GOD AT THE MOVIES (click here for the website).

It’s obviously a fun series, but it’s also deep. There are often some pretty profound things we can explore because the film (art has a tendency to do this) has opened up some dormant areas of our hearts by stirring our emotions. WORSHIP – I love how God speaks to ME during our worship times. Just because it happens every week doesn’t mean it’s not amazing (like sunsets). THE KINGS SPEECH This fantastic movie was a gold mine. I’m a little biased toward period pieces. I also think the actors in this film delivered big time. But the story that was laid out was so redemptive. Our response to calling, destiny and duty is so critical to whether our lives are ever all that God knows they can be! One theme that I wish I could have explored was the contrast between David (the brother who renounced the throne) and Bertie (who stepped up despite his impediment) and Lionel Logue. I loved how it put David’s decision in a new light. I think we Americans tend to romanticize this shrinking form the moment of calling. June is going to rock. Baptism Day is next Sunday, OGN is coming later and much mover God at the Movies! ” title=”God at the Movies”>here for the website).

It’s obviously a fun series, but it’s also deep. There are often some pretty profound things we can explore because the film (art has a tendency to do this) has opened up some dormant areas of our hearts by stirring our emotions.

WORSHIP – I love how God speaks to ME during our worship times. Just because it happens every week doesn’t mean it’s not amazing (like sunsets).

This fantastic movie was a gold mine. I’m a little biased toward period pieces. I also think the actors in this film delivered big time. But the story that was laid out was so redemptive. Our response to calling, destiny and duty is so critical to whether our lives are ever all that God knows they can be!

One theme that I wish I could have explored was the contrast between David (the brother who renounced the throne) and Bertie (who stepped up despite his impediment) and Lionel Logue. I loved how it put David’s decision in a new light. I think we Americans tend to romanticize this shrinking form the moment of calling.

June is going to rock. Baptism Day is next Sunday, OGN is coming later and much mover God at the Movies!

Posted by: Ed | June 3, 2011


If you are new to Journey or are just wondering what in the world this series is about then this is the post for you. I’m going to re-post my explanation of the series from last year. Hopefully this will get you all fired up and ready for a great series. It’s also an attempt to answer the most common questions we get about a series like this. Enjoy.

I never thought when we first launched into this series 8 years ago that this would become something of a “signature series” for us at Journey. There are a few churches that I think are interesting whose websites I check from time to time. One of them was a “next gen” kind of church back in DC that worked within a great more established church. Anyway, I noticed a series they were doing called “Summer Blockbusters” or something like that. I have no idea of what that meant for them or how they did it or even what the point of the series was. But it sparked this idea for this series that seems to be something of an unstoppable force at Journey.

For those of you who are new or who still wonder about this whole thing let me lay out some of the thinking of the series and maybe answer a few common questions.

There are few “it’s not that’s that I probably should mention:
• It’s not a critique of a movie – this is not a “here’s what’s right and here’s what’s wrong with a given movie. There is a place for that. It’s just not what it is.
• It’s not a lightweight series – this is not where we take a break from talking about serious biblical stuff and have a little fun. I’ve noticed over the years that some of these messages have been the MOST theologically laden talks I’ve given. That may say more about me, but that’s for another time.
• It’s not an endorsement of everything in the movie or anything anyone making the movies says or stands for. We look at the movies as a story, as a piece of art.
• At least right now, it’s not an “all time best or most redemptive movie” series. After GATM 1, we decided that we would only do movies that were more or less current, that have come out in the past year. One of the main reasons is availability.


Having said that there are a few lingering questions that have come up along the way.
Q – “How can you use R-rated movies in church?”
A – I get at least one of these every year. I understand the point being made. We have to keep in mind that the choice to use a particular movie is always a judgment call. There is a team of people that work with me in planning out the services. We ask ourselves what the redemptive value of a particular film is. In asking that you also have to think about the negative elements as well. Sometimes a film that has a wonderful redemptive message has enough objectionable elements that cannot use it. Sometimes there are movies that don’t have anything that people would be offended by (rough language, violence, sexual themes and content etc) but really have nothing to say. Then there are the very tough judgment calls. At that point we pray, discuss and debate. So far, I can honestly say there is not one movie that we have chosen to use that I regret.
Q – But why R-Rated!
A – O.k. let me speak more directly to the rating thing. The people that rate movies are not rating them as redemptive pieces of art. When you simply go by ratings you may expose yourself to messages that are horrible on the one hand and on the other hand miss films that are amazing and biblical and beautiful. Since when are a bunch of people that work for the motion picture industry more capable of deciding what you should see than you? One great example of this process was in year one of GMAT. We decided to use “The Shawshank Redemption”. It has some pretty gnarly stuff related to prison life. But is also has a truckload of biblical themes and is one of the most beautiful stories of hope that I’ve seen on screen. The next week I received an anonymous scathing letter about using a movie with that much profanity. Right along side of that I received a card from a woman who had been a Christ-follower three months. Her husband came with her for the first time because that was his favorite movie. He has been coming to Journey ever since.

Q – Are you saying my family and I should watch these movies.
A – NO! We all have different sensibilities. No one is telling you to watch movies that will offend your sensibilities. Here is a website so you can check out the content before watching. (Click here). Also, there are things that kids are not ready to see. I wouldn’t show my preadolescent kids the film “Crash”, but my college age kids and I loved it and cried watching it.

Hopefully this will get you ready for the series.

Oh, one more warning: if you are going to see the movie do it before the service. We reserve the right to ruin the ending!

Pass the popcorn!

I could see this one coming – this was going to be a powerful weekend in our services at Journey!

I knew because of the IMMOVABLE we were addressing and I knew because we had an incredible My Journey. As if that wasn’t enough, we were taking COMMUNION! But that’s not all (I feel like a guy in an infomercial right now): Saturday we had our first distribution day for the Journey Food & Clothing Bank! It was also nice that God held off Judgment Day for a while too.


There are certain markers along the way that cause you to think – wow, God’s really DONE some stuff. When I rolled into the parking lot and saw the line of people going through the FCB. I was blown away. Then when I saw all the fired-UP volunteers I had a hard time not being giddy. It was so cool to see that very real needs were being met, that people were being loved and it was utterly clear that the fuel was LOVE! Jesus said it would be that way:
Matt. 5:16 “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.

Driving away deeply moved I was praying and thanking God and then I said something to myself that gave me a few goose-bumps – a “volunteer revolution is underway at Journey!” This whole huge initiative is lead, staffed, strategized and organized by some strong volunteers. We have some highly gifted, kick-butt leaders and lots of selfless, self-giving people who just want to make a difference.


God was so present in our time of worship & taking of the bread and the cup! We purposefully told people to feel free to talk and connect as they crowded around the Table. We CELEBRATE the Lord’s supper. It’s not a funeral!

I loved working through parts of Romans 6 and 7. It’s passages like this , real and honest and raw, that remind me of why I love the Bible. But the highlight of the morning was DeLynn Mandgie’s My Journey.

Jesus found her and she heard his voice living in a drainage tunnel addicted to Crystal Meth. Yeah Grace! Yeah God!

Posted by: Ed | May 20, 2011


I had to put up a quick post. As everyone in San Diego knows, tomorrow is Judgment Day!
Well at least according to some billboards around town.

Aside from the obvious problems with predicting that the world as we know it is ending this weekend (Jesus saying NO one knows the day or the hours, all those green bananas I bought etc) there is another question I would like to pose.


I’m thinking that tomorrow is probably not Judgment day. I don’t think the Bible properly understood lends itself to laying out a schematic of future event. Yes, I am including those dispensational charts I was taught with lines, arrows of who’s going where when and arguments about when exactly we get to escape all the apocalyptic gnarlienss that God is going to unleash.
But there is going to be judgment. That’s for sure! One of MANY verses in the Bible about this:

2Cor. 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

So what if it’s NOT tomorrow. If you and I do tomorrow and it ends up not being Judgment day we should say the following:
• God has been merciful – every day God delays judgment it is because he is demonstrating wonderful merciful patience toward us.

2Pet. 3:9 The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.

• WE ARE A DAY CLOSER – the entire scripture is clear that things won’t always go on this way. The wrong thing to say tomorrow if we end up doing another Saturday is, “this is never going to end, thinking about an end is silly, as it has been it will ever be.” WRONG. There will be an end.
• CONTRADICTING JESUS IS A BAD IDEA – this is especially true of those who claim to follow Jesus and speak for him. Jesus said “no one knows the day or the hour” (Matthew 24:36). But how many areas of my life are in contradiction to Jesus? Is it any better of an idea to ignore Him when it comes to caring for the poor, judging people, doing spiritual practices to be seen by people, giving myself a pass on my contempt and anger?

So I expect to see you on Sunday! But then again…

I get to hear a lot of cool stuff about what God is doing in our midst. One area in which the Holy Spirit is clearly stirring is in COMMUNITY IMPACT. There is s serving revolution going on (serv-o-lution?)
Here’s an email from one of off the chart leaders – Jennevieve!

Hello FCB Team!

We are so thankful to everyone on the team who has brought food and volunteered! The Food Bank is well stocked and organized and ready for our first distribution. Following is an update on the exciting things happening with the Food and Clothing Bank:

Food and Clothing Drive Summaries
• We received 2100 food items and over 85 large bags of clothes from the first drive in April – thank you Journey!
• We received 600 food items and 25 bags of clothes at our second drive in May.
• We will be having regular food and clothing drives the 2nd weekend of every month to keep the FCB stocked and running.
• We will be starting food drives at places of business as well as neighborhood food drives in the future to supplement what we receive from Journey donations.

Other Updates and Interesting Statistics
• We estimate a total of 300 volunteer man-hours and 200 loads of laundry went into the FCB in March and April. Thank you team!!!
• We are going to open our doors for the first distribution on Saturday May 21st at 8:30 AM. We are gathering the teams and making the necessary plans to make sure our guests experience the love of Jesus and the love of Journey while they are at the FCB.
• We have been accepted as a partner with Feeding America – a major local food bank. This gives us access to more food at very low costs, as well as some free fresh foods items.
• We will be having an open house soon – so all of Journey can come and see the Food and Clothing Bank space and learn more about what we are doing.

What we need from you
• Remember the food drive the 2nd weekend of every month – bring in your food donations, and tell your friends!
• ‘Like’ us on Facebook.
• Volunteers to assist at the open house or make cookies and treats to serve. Please contact me if interested.
• Consider hosting a food drive at your work or neighborhood. More info will be sent later as we develop a plan for these.

Any questions, let us know!
Tom, Jennevieve, Deborah

This was a wild weekend for me – packed and challenging.


We had our friend Trevor Davis doing worship and performing some original songs. Besides being incredibly talented Trevor has a great heart. His songs are poetic and profound. I love the “Bold as a Lion” song about the baptism of Jesus. I think in our flavor of Christianity we often take the mystery out of things like communion and baptism. I love the poetry and mystery conveyed by Trevor’s song.


This weekend we “launched” Journey Serves – here, there, everywhere. I put quote marks around “launched” because we are already off and running. We also announced formally that Dave Merk is joining our pastoral team to head this up! Who could say no to a calling like this – full time work and no pay! God is clearly at work.

We rolled around in Psalm 130 this weekend. Since Good Friday some of our team have been talking about occasionally doing the messages sans outline. About Thursday afternoon I felt like this message would work better without an outline. So we decided to do give it a shot. Two hours my laptop motherboard went out. That’s the night I put that I put the outline together. Doesn’t that put the ink in coinkidink! I felt like God really had a word this weekend for lots of us. Psalm 130 is a RICH passage.

After the Friday night service I ran over to “One Flesh” our married couples ministry and did a Q & A on sex in marriage. Fortunately for everyone we also had a marriage and family therapist up there as well. It was definitely a “Journey” kind of group so the questions were not typical church type questions. It was fun and I really hope that people felt helped because I was WAY out of my comfort zone.

Saturday night my oldest daughter Charissa had a surprise B-day party! It was fun! I’m so thankful for her. Her husband Andrew put on a great party!

The conditions weren’t great, but we had one of those surf sessions Saturday morning that makes you feel like your soul has been restored. We had the break to ourselves! Very fun!

The weekends at Journey lately feel like one of those clown cars at a circus – you know a tiny little car in which full grown clowns keep getting out. There seems to be a never endi

This definitely was one of those super packed weekends. I should say ANOTHER one of those super packed weekends because lately it feels like one of those circus clown cars (you know where this tiny little cars pulls up & a ridiculous number of clowns keep coming out of that thing).


O.k. I’ll just admit it, it feels like I say the same thing every week, but the Worship was powerful this week. Lately “In Christ Alone” is rocking my world, especially since we are in a series that is kind of Easter & Beyond”. It seemed like every song was custom designed to nourish MY soul.

I had a humorous back and forth with a FB friend who is a single guy on the whole baby dedication thing. I don’t think most guys are as bad as I was as a single guy. But man a switch went off somewhere in me sometime after my kids were born and when we’re up there it feels like a really significant moment for these families. I happened to know a lot of the stories of the couples and their babies this time around. There were miracles on that stage!

We had a special tribute to mother’s planned. One of the mothers on our programming team had the idea of doing the Beatles, “She Loves You” with the pics of the moms and their kids that our ace photographer Dan Matticks (thanks again my friend for all your service!) had put together.

Friday and 9:00 went flawlessly but we had a perfect storm of technical difficulties at 11:00. I think our people recovered nicely. I’m going to look in to getting it on line for a couple of days (copyright issues with the song keep it from being up any longer – so no promises) for all you who missed it.


One of my favorite passages to speak on is 2 Corinthians 5. It’s such a “Change is Possible” passage. I think believing, really having faith that people can change, heck that I can change, is one of the biggest issues we face in our lives following Jesus. This is why those “Burned (relational) Bridges” seem so immovable. I love how Paul explains how Jesus blow this idea up!

My wife’s big mother’s day desire was to just have everyone around in the afternoon, not have to cook and not have to clean up after someone else cooked. Pizza it is! It was really fun. But there was a moment that it became obvious I could get a few minutes of Laker watching in. Wow, BIG mistake! I tried to put on a happy face after that, but… Seriously – the lesson is simple: don’t watch sports on Mother’s day! Got it!

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