Today's Christian for Southern California
Son Light Christian Center
Today's Christian: Pastor Joe, I have known about Son Light Christian Center for some time. I became familiar with your ministry through the radio ministry. Could you give us some background? How did it start? How long ago? Was there any unusual circumstances?
Pastor Joe: To begin with, I came to California about nine years ago. Prior to the move I was a pastor in Pennsylvania… for about three years. Before that I pastored a church in Westfield, New York. It was a small town. It had a population of about five thousand people. I was there about three years. I enjoyed the ministry out there. I went through struggles just like any other pastor would. For me, the small town was a struggle. I felt like I was going nowhere. There was no where to go! We had about two traffic lights. That was it! But I did a lot of studying. It gave me an opportunity to really get into quiet time, to really prepare a foundation for my ministry.
Then a friend of mine moved here to the West Coast. He worked with Doug Clark. Doug needed someone to be his associate pastor. He did a lot of traveling. He made trips to the Holy Land, and held a lot of meetings. He needed someone to stay local. He had a large group of people who met in Santa Ana. They needed someone to shepherd the flock, to do counseling, to lead Bible studies.
I came out from the East Coast. I looked around and saw the excitement. There were a lot of people saved. I think the interest was because the emphasis of his ministry was on prophecy, The End Times. I came out with my wife and children. I fell in love with California as soon as I stepped off the plane. There is a revival going on in southern California I don't think a lot of the Southern California people appreciate, at least those who have not traveled back east. You find it everywhere! In the restaurants. People will be witnessing as they eat. They are not ashamed of sharing the gospel out here. Back east, they seem to have an indifference to it. It is sort of a hushed-up subject. There are a lot of exciting things in California. You won't see that many bumper stickers back there. People wear it here.
Today's Christian: There are so many churches here, good Bible teaching, Word teaching churches. I think we tend to take it for granted. We have to decide which church to become a part of and of which great ministry. I know that in my Midwest background I would say, "Isn't there one church that teaches the Word? That really gets into it!"
Pastor Joe: Well, out here there is a smorgasbord! In fact, when I come out to preach on Sunday to the congregation I really feel humbled. I know that probably many of those people passed by fantastic churches on the way to Son Light. They could stop there is they wanted. It puts a pressure, at least as I feel it, on the preacher. It makes me feel that I owe them everything I have when it comes to ministry. I feel responsible to them to meet their needs. I feel humble to think about that. I feel this way every week.
Today's Christian: That is fantastic! How long has this building been here in this location?
Pastor Joe: This building has been here for approximately fifty years. We have been here for about seven or eight years.
Now what happened when I came here was that I worked with Doug Clark for about one year. I really got to know and love the people. He just got up and left. It left the people without a shepherd. They were very disillusioned. It was a very dark moment in my ministry. By the way, Son Light came out of that experience. It was like twelve midnight and my wife Nancy and I were asking the Lord what we should do. There were the people and they wanted us to stay. But we did not know anything about starting a church! Our expertise was to get in and work with a church. One that was already there. I never wanted to start a church. I felt that it was last on the list of priorities if I were to make a list. It was a very scary situation. Again, out of that experience came Son Light Christian Center.
Today's Christian: It is beautiful how God does that. Our company, Morning Joy Agency, comes from the Bible verse, "Weeping may endure for a night, but Joy comes in the morning." That name came out of crises in my life when I asked God where? What is next? How interesting that I should meet you. You have come from a like experience. Both give light and hope out of darkness!
Pastor Joe: Sometimes God uses some dark threads. You would never go for them, but that is just the way it is.
Today's Christian: That is an interesting phrase: "Sometimes God uses dark threads." That's neat!
Pastor Joe: The people were expressing a desire to stay together. So we began to lead them, blindly! But God sent the right people to us. He sent a real estate agent. He sent an attorney. He sent people who had worked in corporations. Those people just suddenly appeared at a time when they were needed. We could no longer stay where we were. The lease was about $4,500.00 a month. We were able to meet at the Jolly Roger Inn for about thirteen or fourteen weeks. During that time we knew we had to find a permanent location. That is when we found this place. We were on a time fuse! When we came in it was dark. The owner didn't even know how to turn the lights on. Here we are Son Light, with no lights! (laughter). But there was something right about the place. In the first place, it was inspirational!
There was one problem. Everything seemed right but the building was already in escrow. It was going to be turned into an X-rated theatre. The city fathers did not appreciate it. The owner kind of had them on a hook. It was in escrow, so how are we going to get it? It fell though! To make a very long story short, we ended up getting the building for ten months without rent! It gave us the time to accumulate the down payment. When we moved in, there was a lot of work that had to be done to prepare it for our needs and make this building into a church.
A detective from the city of Orange came to the building soon after we started. I came outside, and he informed me of the fact that we were under investigation! He said that he wanted to know how a group that was only about eight weeks old could purchase a building that is $250,000. I asked him what does that mean? He responded that "maybe there was money being slipped into this group." He thought maybe there was fraud or deception somewhere.
I told him the name of our treasurer. "You can check with him. Every dime that we have collected is accounted for: you can look at our books… we have nothing to hide!"
Today's Christian: Wait a minute. Let's back up. You said that they could look at the books?
Pastor Joe: That's right!
Today's Christian: But it has become vogue in the past few years to never show your books! Much has been headlined in southern California over church/state relationships.
Pastor Joe: Well, I thought it was kind of humorous! They suspected that we might be doing something like that. They came back in a few days, if I remember correctly, and said that they had checked things out and everything was all right.
It was years later before I learned the background of the investigation. I crossed paths with the detective. He told me that the city fathers were quite upset at the thought of this being turned into an X-rated theater. Then we came into the picture. Doug Clark had gotten into financial problems in the Amazing Prophecy Center. There were investigations. They could not pay the bills. Creditors were angry. When we formed this group of people into Son Light, the creditors felt that maybe we were taking money that actually belonged to them.
When the city fathers learned that we wanted to come here, they much preferred us to an X-rated theatre. This is a very conservative town. I understand that some of them called the police department and told them to keep their hands off. They wanted us to come here!
Today's Christian: It sounds like the book of Acts. Paul was speaking to the Jews. He mentioned the name "Gentile" and they tried to mob him. There was a plot to ambush him, a boy finds out about it, and some four hundred men were dispatched to assure him a safe journey. God uses people, maybe not Born Again, to get the job done. I understand now the background for the way you introduce the radio broadcast. That is a neat story.
Pastor Joe: God knows how to play politics better than we can!
We were given the opportunity to get into the building without the need of going to the bank. I knew nothing about starting a church as I have said. If I knew then what I know now about what was necessary to get started, I probably would not have done it. I would have said to myself, "There is not way we can buy a building!"
No bank is going to lend money to a group only eight weeks old. Especially a church! $250,000.00 to buy a church? They have no security! But you see I didn't know that the owner would take back the paper. He is our bank. Ten months of free rent, to allow us to raise the down payment. All of these thing, we see as miraculous. We were there when it happened. We know that it was God who put it together! When it fell out of escrow, the owner gave the potential buyers two more weeks to come up with the money. I really got discouraged at that! I cannot say that I was a man of faith and power through this situation. I was desperate. I knew that God was going to do something. I did not know how or what. You see, the power of Son Light is that it is here because of the move of God. No great genius for a leader. God overcame some real obstacles that we say are insurmountable. God did the work!