Like most people, Skyline Wesleyan Church has a first name, a middle name and a last name. An analysis of those three names tells you our story.
CHURCH…Our Last Name
Jesus speaks of the “church” one time only, in the book of Matthew. We’re told that the gates of hell will not prevail against it. The church is formally “born” in Acts 2 as a result of an explosion of the Spirit on a celebrated holy holiday called Pentecost. Although the great day of festivities had been celebrated for almost 1500 years, it was this special year in approximately 30 A.D. that the church came into existence.
…upon this rock I will build my church; and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.
The word “church” means “called out ones,” and refers to the fact that those who follow Christ are “called out” from the rest of the world (not to live separate from them, but to respond/behave different from others).
Well that explains our last name. You’ll notice that we have the same last name as those who go to a Baptist Church, a Methodist Church, a Presbyterian Church, a Catholic Church…and anyone who truly believes in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.
WESLEYAN…Our Middle Name
In the 1700’s, Christianity experienced a vital and dynamic movement that swept across England. This awakening was largely the result of the labors of a few men, especially John Wesley, Charles Wesley, and George Whitefield. It was this eighteenth century English revival under the work of John Wesley that would eventually give birth to the Wesleyan movement.
John Wesley, born in 1703 in Epworth, England was not always a man who enjoyed a personal, saving knowledge of Jesus Christ. In spite of the fact that he was already an ordained minister and had also served as a missionary to America, it was not until May of 1738 while attending a small Bible study on a street called Aldersgate in London, England that he “felt his heart strangely warmed” by the assurance of personal salvation while someone was reading from the Preface of Martin Luther’s Commentary on the book of Romans. He then discovered that sanctification (growth that comes after one’s conversion) and a life of holiness was also received by faith. Rejecting the Calvinism (the teachings of a man named John Calvin who had lived and pastored in Geneva, Switzerland in the 1500’s) of his day, he emphasized four great biblical truths:
1. Salvation was provided for all men. (Calvin said is was only for a few)
2. Salvation was provided for all sin.
3. Salvation was certified by the personal witness of the Holy Spirit.
4. Salvation was received by faith.
With his brother, Charles, John Wesley reached out to the unchurched through preaching outdoors (beginning in 1739) to crowds on their way to and from work. A surge of spiritual renewal followed, beginning first in Bristol, England, which lasted over the next 50 years, bringing a moral transformation to England.
The movement, known as Methodism, spread across the British Isles, and Wesley traveled thousands of miles a year to keep in touch with the congregation. His concern for the common people led him to help the needy, provide medical aid, establish a lending fund, start schools and encourage Methodists to vote. His influence helped regulate child labor and end slavery. In the 1760’s, Methodism was carried to the American colonies and less than one hundred years later the Wesleyan Methodist movement began.
The early American Methodists (as Wesley’s followers were to be called) were largely faithful to Wesley’s emphasis on doctrine and Christian conduct. It was not long until many within the church began to feel that the social issue of slavery could not be condoned in the light of the teachings of Jesus Christ. As this opposition to slavery became more pronounced in the North, reform movements began. It was in the midst of the agitation for the abolition of human slavery that the Wesleyan Methodist Church of America was born in Utica, New York in 1843. It was a reform movement led by courageous men, chief of whom was Orange Scott (1800-47), who would not be intimidated into silence on a moral issue. The new organization was called “The Wesleyan Methodist Connection of America.”
On June 26, 1968 the Wesleyan Methodist Church of America and the Pilgrim Holiness Church were united to form the Wesleyan Church. Our denomination has over 3,000 churches in nearly every state of the union and divided into 39 districts. Our commitment is to Jesus Christ and the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19,20).
So now you know our middle name “Wesleyan” and how we got it. Now lets look at our fist name, “Skyline.”
SKYLINE…Our First Name
The opening services of Skyline Wesleyan Church were held in July of 1954 in a small 350 seat auditorium which is located on the corner of Skyline Drive and Jamacha (1345 Skyline Drive) in Lemon Grove, California (next to the 1,000 seat auditorium that was built in 1974). Dr. Orval Butcher was the founding pastor of the church and remained as pastor for 27 years.
FIRST PASTOR (1954-1981)
Pastor Butcher had originally come to this area because a local pastor had directed his attention to the new communities being built in the Lemon Grove-Spring Valley area. These communities needed a pastor. Orval Butcher’s heart became so burdened for this area that he was unable to sleep at night.
Orval Butcher’s heart became so burdened for this area that he was unable to sleep at night.
The church building was started and Orval Butcher, with his wife and three children, moved into the area to become better acquainted with the neighborhood. On the first Sunday, July 9, 1954, 175 people attended both Sunday School and morning worship. Over the years, many hundreds of people came to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ.
One of Pastor Butcher’s great strengths was to gather highly energetic, unusually creative staff around him such as Derric Johnson (youth, collegians and music – who later joined DisneyWorld in Orlando), Jimmy Johnson (youth – a hilariously funny speaker), Otis Skillings (music – one of America’s best known arrangers), and Ira Shanafelt (evangelism – a most unique Greek professor-evangelist combinition). These, are other highly creative pastors shaped Skyline’s early years. But the most formative feature was Pastor Butcher’s
infectious joy. He is known globally for his spectacular high tenor voice while he would accompany himself on the piano. Although frequently asked to sing “How Great Thou Art,” he was always asked to sing the hilarious chorus, “It’s Bubbling.” (NOTE: As of mid 2000, Pastor Butcher was still singing “It’s Bubbling” at age 83!) Pastor Butcher’s warmth and caring grew the church from zero to an average attendance of 1,100.
SECOND PASTOR (1981-1995)
Dr. John Maxwell became Skyline’s second pastor in 1981 as Dr. Orval Butcher resigned to become involved in a traveling ministry of evangelism and missions. Pastor Maxwell brought his distinctive style of ministry to Skyline. His messages were biblical, yet relevant, filled with humor and practical application. He immediately began challenging the church body in the areas of leadership and laity involvement. Evangelism, discipleship, and equipping believers became the foundation of Skyline’s growth for the next fourteen years.
Whereas Orval Butcher was always called “Pastor Butcher,” John Maxwell was always referred to simply as “John” (at his request), yet both were terms of endearment for the congregation. Like his predecessor, John was very successful at attracting top flight associate pastors such as Dan Reiland (executive pastor – who went on to become a much sought after consultant and author), Sheryl Fleischer (discipleship – who is currently on staff at Willow Creek Church, America’s largest congregation), Kurt Johnson (middle school age youth – who is now on staff at Saddleback Church, America’s second largest church), Tim Elmore (young adults and singles – who works nationally with EQUIP, and is an author) and Dwayne Pottenger (young marrieds – who ministers nationally with Kingdom Building Ministries). Under John’s leadership, Skyline grew from an average of 1,100 to 3,000.
In 1995, Dr. Maxwell felt led by God to step down as pastor to pursue his worldwide ministry, INJOY, which provides leadership tools and materials to pastors and lay leaders. Started in the early 1990,s, INJOY grew exponentially. In 1997, John and eighty Skyliners who were employees of INJOY moved their headquarters to Atlanta, where INJOY continues to flourish as America’s premiere provider of church leadership materials. At this same time, God was already preparing the heart of Dr. Jim Garlow from Metroplex Chapel in the heart of Dallas/Ft. Worth, Texas to become the next pastor of Skyline Wesleyan Church.
THIRD PASTOR (1995-present)
Dr. Jim Garlow, his wife Carol and four children (Janie, Joshua, Jacob and Josie) arrived in San Diego in November of 1995 with a passion for teaching the Bible. Jim refers to himself as a Bible “thinker/applier,” rather than a Bible teacher. By that he means that he likes to help people think through what Bible texts mean, then how to apply them to contemporary life.
One of Pastor Garlow’s primary passions is youth and children’s ministries. Consequently during his first few years as pastor, Skyline built HubbleTown (a Disney-like center on the old Lemon Grove campus), saw children’s attendance climb from the low 500’s to nearly nearly 900, built Son City and SonShine Farms(new campus), along with a state-of-the-art children’s building (the 4 story Family Center), the founding of Ground Zero, an off site youth ministry center, complete with skate park, and launched a GenX service called “ONE.” All of these reveal his deep passion for children, youth, as well as young adults.
Another indicator of Dr. Garlow’s passions is demonstrated in the launching of “TEAM Sklyine” in February 1997, which was overhauled and re-named “Next Level Living” in June 2000. Next Level Living is a church wide, personal spiritual growth strategy for individuals consisting of 25 “growth experiences” or classes designed to help persons: EXPERIENCE HIS LOVE, KNOW HIS WAYS, BE HIS PERSON and DO HIS WORK.
When Pastor Garlow arrived in late 1995, the relocation difficulties has brought building plans to a halt. Seven million had been spent, no approval had been given, no viable architectural drawing yet existed and not a shovel full of dirt had been turned. Many wondered openly if Skyline would ever build on the mountain. Pastor Garlow, along with a committed Relocation Team, continued to aggressively recast the vision for the church relocation to Rancho San Diego.
Finally on Palm Sunday, 2000, Skyline realized a 19 year dream of relocating to the mountain. Not only was this a lengthy endeavor, it was also a costly one. Nearly $27 million was spent constructing a $6 million building, due to environmental, topographical and bureaucratic challenges. Skyline’s relocation received the dubious title of “America’s Most Difficult Church Relocation.” Yet the amazing people of Skyline did not waver from their commitment to reach the eastern portion of San Diego County in a community known as Rancho San Diego. The resiliency of Skyliners was amazing through 19 years, even though so much of it was filled with disappointments. And during this time, Skyline never lost its focus. In fact Skyline continued to grow under challenging circumstances. For four years Skyline worshipped at Hillsdale Middle School while its was selling it old Lemon Grove campus to Lighthouse Baptist Church. Skyline has grown the last five years from 3,000 to 3,500 in average attendance. In addition to the Family Center that was built in 2000, Skyline is planning on beginning construction on a gymnasium/auditorium in 2003. Approximately two years after that, Skyline will begin construction on a major sanctuary.
PEOPLE, NOT BUILDINGS
Skyliners know that they were not placed here to build buildings. We love people. We love Jesus. And we love putting people and Jesus together. Skyline has a burning desire as a church to reach the city of San Diego with the knowledge of Jesus Christ and to turn all people into passionate followers of Him.
So what is Skyline Church like? It is fun. At times, even hilarious. If you come to Skyline, you have to love to laugh. We don’t take ourselves too seriously. We take our mission seriously, but not ourselves. Skyline is entrepreneurial. We love to experiment. We are willing to take risks. Skyline is a happy place. In fact, its a joyous place. We put a premium on relationships, bonding and connecting. We’re a gregarious, outgoing church. If you come visit, expect to get hugged, because that’s who we are!