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A Brief Word from Michelle:
I’m frequently asked by readers what to do if, despite their best efforts, they can’t find a doctrinally sound church within reasonable driving distance from home. One of my suggestions has been to look into church planting. Here is Elliott’s story of planting a doctrinally sound church in an area where none exist. If you live nearby, consider joining him in this work or at least stopping by to encourage Elliott and Naomi.
Planting a Doctrinally Sound Church
in the Midst of NAR Chaos
by Elliott Micha
I walked into a church on a normal, mid-February cloudy Sunday. An elderly woman came up to me and in a rather creepy timbre, leaned over and said, “God always shows up here.” Then the service started, and an old man in rusty Birkenstocks got up and started screaming. From that point forward all chaos broke loose.
The worship team played a well known Pentecostal song about the fire of the Lord falling down, and bodies started to drop like it was a World War II battlefield. A woman convulsed on the ground in front of me making inappropriate sexual-sounding noises. She appeared to have no control of her body and was almost drooling on the floor. Young people all wearing matching checkered flannel shirts ran to the front of the room to get the anointing as random people laid hands on others. It was a violent scene. This was my first experience witnessing Charismatic chaos in person.
Later, I went to visit a buddy, Russ, who was a local young adults pastor at the time. I asked, “Russ does that happen every week at that church?”. He said, “Yes, Elliott, every single week they do the exact same thing.”. From that day forward I was determined to stop the rise of the Charismatic chaos that had started to infiltrate Orange County Christianity.
At this point I was a young adult. Many years later, the chaos, false teaching, and carnage would escalate to a new level. Some of my close friends from my early twenties sadly got sucked into the emotion and started following famous traveling prophets. My wife, Naomi, coined a term for the fringe Charismatic churches: “koo koo land”. Many people I know, including Naomi’s boss and my dentist both were turned off to ever checking out any Christian church due to their bad experiences with Charismatic churches.
Over the years, Naomi and I saw more and more “pastors” who wanted to be viewed as Spirit-filled men of God, but had little care for God’s word. For a little while I became a church planter working alongside a group of churches, but then the faith healers, “prophets”, and skinny jeans started to arrive. I left that group of churches and dusted off my computer which contained the name of the church Naomi and I felt called to originally plant – Outpouring Church.
Naomi and I knew the blueprint the Lord gave us. There was no more biting my tongue and trying to be politically correct about the madness I had witnessed unfold in so many churches. We were called to plant a church that would be fiercely devoted to educating young people, old people, and those caught in deception about the dangers of the modern day prophets and apostles movement. We felt called to not just sit on the sidelines any longer, but to stand up and not be pushed around by the false prophets (who many times tried to intimidate me, calling me, “just some young punk”) in our region.
The city we live in, San Clemente, is a town that 68,000 people call home. For southern Orange County, that is a rather large population. Our area is home to three mega churches that have a weekly attendance between 700 and 2,000 people each. On the surface many people would say San Clemente has 15 churches total, so what’s the need for another church? These churches are all within a 4 mile driving radius of the rich white suburban side of town, and unfortunately, many of them now feature associations with the New Apostolic Reformation, prophets and apostles, worship music with aberrant theology, and loads of seeker friendly, watered down theology that turns church more into a ringside circus then an actual church service.
Naomi and I originally felt called to San Clemente before we got married. We didn’t want to move to San Clemente, actually. We wanted to move to inland Orange County. Inland Orange County is our version of the Midwest – everyone is hardcore Christian, and many of the people actually know the Bible. We knew it would be a life of contentment if we moved there, but we would be running from our calling. Many of the pastors in our town have even said, “I don’t feel called to San Clemente, I moved there because of the sunny weather,” or “I moved there because I love surfing.”. Naomi and I have zero interest in surfing or the ocean. By the time I was 18 (after working in the skimboard industry) I was really sick of going to the beach. We felt called to San Clemente because we met many “Christians” who were confused about what they believed. In that group we saw a massive need for discipleship and really sitting down and teaching people the Bible.
Our good friend, a local San Clemente native and faithful Christian mother who is 55 years old, went to a house one day for a “women’s gathering”. The women in attendance all said they were “Christians”. At this gathering one of the women started saying how it was okay for Christians to use horoscopes. Our friend rebuked the woman and the woman got really angry. This gives you an idea of the type of danger that has seeped into our local Christian scene. Many of these people don’t understand the basics of the faith and some of them have been walking with the Lord for years.
Naomi and I also felt called to San Clemente because no one wanted to go near the area we felt called to plant a church in. We felt called to Southern San Clemente and specifically an area called Surfer’s Row. Everyone plants churches in Talega (inland San Clemente) which Naomi and I joke is like Utah (it has a massive Mormon population) and is home to many wealthy Caucasian families. We live in a neighborhood in the middle of town that is largely Mormon and has lots of older Roman Catholics. In our actual tract of homes there are only a few Christians.
Naomi and I know another group of people right now that are leaving our area to plant a Bible-based church up in Idaho. We have watched as many people plant great churches in our town and then after a few years leave San Clemente due to the spiritual warfare and backlash. We were attracted to planting in Surfer’s Row because it is still unchurched. Surfer’s Row is home to drug addicts, local professional surfers, various ethnic people groups, a low income school, and dive bars that look like they belong in a Harley Davidson ad.
One of the huge battles we face in San Clemente is that many professing Christians idolize the sport of surfing. There have been Christian parents in our area who have gotten divorced because of their obsession with surfing. Some of the local pastors base their life and schedule around surf contests and conditions. We even have one pastor in the area who will skip being in the pulpit if there is a good swell coming in to surf. When I went to share the story of our church plant with another well known retired surfing pastor, he said to me, “Do you surf?”, as though surfing was a requirement for planting a church in our town. It was a very weird experience. (For the record I don’t surf. I grew up skim boarding.)
Instead, my father-in-law, Pastor Bob, has had a big influence on me. He is a retired pastor, Vietnam vet, and seminary grad who served for 50 years. But in his words, “You never retire from ministry.”. He’s my mentor when it comes to day to day church planting. In our first church planting experience, Naomi and I were struggling to find someone to really disciple us. At a certain point (when one of the pastors started teaching that Christians can be demon possessed and that Christians can walk on water just like Jesus did) we left that group of churches and realized that her folks had seen it all in a long career of ministry and would be great mentors on this crazy journey of planting a church.
We also have a few buddies that pastor churches in inland Orange County who are all great allies. These men have shown us how this whole process of church planting works and what it looks like to be faithful to the flock that God has given them. (The funny thing is we aren’t Calvinist, but we have a large following of Calvinists now because we are one of the only vocally anti-charismatic chaos churches in our area.)
So the next logical question is: how do you evangelize the people who call Surfer’s Row home? Naomi and I get up every Sunday and prayer walk the Surfer’s Row area. The main way we invite people into the story of Outpouring Church is door to door knocking. One day my friend Billy said to me, “You door knock to tell people about your church plant? That’s hardcore Elliott.”. It may be a rare thing nowadays, but so far it has worked to help start getting the word out. I door knock a few times a week, give out free Bibles at the local surf spot, give out free surf supplies to the surfers (if their boards need repair), deliver Bibles to the homes of people who need them, utilize social media (Twitter, Instagram, churchfinder.com, Yelp), hand out contact cards with our info on it, and distribute free surf wax with our church logo on it. So far, these simple forms of outreach have started to build a small following of people in our area. Currently, we have four people on our church interest list. Once we get enough people, we will start our once a week “house church” style Bible study.
It might shock you, but many of the people in Surfer’s Row have never seen a Bible or heard about Jesus. The Bahai faith, Mormonism, fringe Charismatic Christianity, and the New Age are all large religions in that specific area. Some people within Surfer’s Row have large tiki statues of various Hawaiian gods they worship displayed in their front yards. Many of the pro surfers run nonprofits that push mindfulness, yoga, and New Age belief, and have no frame of reference for Christianity. I have had many good discussions with young (18-19 years old) surfer kids and they are blown away that Christians would actually care for them and want to talk to them. I always try to share the gospel with them. Slowly but surely we are starting to build a following.
That is just a little of our story. It has been a crazy ride so far. Through it all we have learned to always come back to Hebrews 13:8 which says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Naomi and I have learned the true meaning of the narrow road. We have seen what happens when you call out false teachers and stand for truth. I have learned what it feels like when you get home from plowing the fields for the sake of the Gospel and just want to sit in your chair. We are a tiny church with just a handful of people, but we are ready to make a big dent in San Clemente for the kingdom of God.
We are Outpouring Church and as always, “Our mission is His mission.”
Elliott Micha is the Founder and Senior Pastor of Outpouring Church at Surfer’s Row located in southern San Clemente, California. Elliott and his wife Naomi have two English bulldogs and are looking forward to one day starting their own family. Naomi loves equipping young women with biblical knowledge. Elliott, Naomi, and their ragtag group of friends are excited to see people who are far from Jesus come to know Jesus. Follow Outpouring Church on Twitter or Instagram.