It’s easy to feel discouraged by the bad news about churches. Even the best of them face conflict about vision and philosophy, battles over worship style, or worse — angry splits. Amid this turmoil, it seems impossible that two vastly different churches would come together to form a multigenerational, multiethnic community with a vision for Gospel transformation. But God makes all things possible.
On Sept. 29, 2013, Redeemer Presbyterian Church of San Diego was launched. It was a vivid display of God’s plan for His church, and the culmination of a circuitous journey for North Coast Presbyterian Church and Harbor North County in Encinitas, Calif.
In 2001, Paul Kim moved to San Diego to join the Harbor Church movement, which had started a few years earlier with Dick Kauffman’s vision of planting Gospel-centered churches throughout San Diego. During the next few years, Kim planted two churches that eventually merged into Harbor North County. The young, ethnically diverse church thrived despite its nomadic existence.
Meanwhile, North Coast Presbyterian Church (NCPC) was situated in the city of Encinitas, not far from where Harbor North County was meeting. Founded in 1985, this church, primarily white, was reinventing itself. In 2008, Doug Swagerty, then serving as the original Harbor Church’s executive pastor, became pastor of North Coast Presbyterian. In fall 2011, Kim and Swagerty sensed that two PCA churches with similar visions in close proximity were primed for joining forces. But was it possible? Was it feasible? Was it desirable?
To explore the possibility, Harbor moved into the NCPC facility in 2012, hoping for relational connections. The two continued to function as distinct churches with different service times. Then, in early 2013, Swagerty accepted a call from a church in New Mexico. Suddenly, a sense of urgency surrounded the decision. Kim remembers: “At that point, I felt … a merger was feasible. But we needed to explore how two different churches could come together. I recall emphasizing two non-negotiables: an outward facing vision and healthy leadership.”
A unanimous good-faith vote by both congregations propelled the process forward. Planning the details was thorny, such as agreeing on a church name, but on Aug. 11, all members of both churches voted to merge into Redeemer Presbyterian Church of San Diego. “We are excited about what God is doing,” says Kim. “We want to use this as an opportunity to talk to more people about the Gospel and invite people into what God is doing in our midst.”
As Redeemer launches as a multigenerational, multiethnic community, it hopes to honor its legacy and become better together. And it plans to communicate the message that the Gospel renews everything, even churches.