San Diego: Churches and Liquor Stores
“We don’t need any more churches or liquor stores in my neighborhood,” Jerry said.
I could have easily dismissed Jerry’s words, but something about his passion for the neighborhood challenged me to go deeper. He grew up in Golden Hill, back when it was a lot rougher, and left to attend college at the “Harvard” of art schools. After getting his degree, Jerry felt compelled to return to the neighborhood to advocate for its revitalization.
Most people of Jerry's education and expertise never return to their ‘hood; they want to get out and live the good life. But Jerry is a rare breed, and his opinion matters. So his comment made me wonder, what makes churches and liquor stores of the same "uselessness" in his mind?
After our conversation my team did some research on churches in the neighborhood and discovered a few interesting things. Out of the 8-10 churches we found, most only had about 6-20 members. Of these, few actually lived in the neighborhood, leading to what we can only imagine is a lack of care and vision for the church’s immediate surroundings. And these (mostly empty) church buildings sat on prime real estate that could be used in a variety of ways to bring life and renewal to local residents.
I deeply love the Church and want to see fresh, authentic expressions of it embedded in neighborhoods across San Diego, but something about Jerry’s comment rang true. His expertise and passion made me wonder what type of church Jerry might consider as an asset to the neighborhood. Would he have put liquor stores and churches in the same category if he saw a church full of local residents who embodied a deep care for their neighbors? What if its building was used not only as a place to gather but as a place to bring blessing to the community? What if its people were making God's Kingdom tangible by changing the very fabric of the neighborhood in which they live?
I think that kind of church might get Jerry excited. I think he would soon start to see churches like that as agents of positive change and renewal. I think that's the kind of church he might want, and even fight for, in this neighborhood.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Matt Chapman and his wife, Amy, lived and served in Golden Hill, San Diego for four years before relocating with their three young boys to start an intentional community in Seattle, Washington.