Jeremy McGarity (00:00):
The strip clubs were open in our community and the liquor stores, but they wanted the churches to close. And so for me, it was like, "Come on. We're going to open." And that got the word out for us that "Hey, there's a church that's standing up."
Frank Barry (00:15):
Jeremy McGarity (00:16):
And so we started to see exponential growth and it's been incredible. And so we're trying to keep up and even go forward from there.
Welcome to the Modern Church Leader where you'll here executive pastors share practical tactics and strategies that churches are using right now to thrive in our digital world and advance the kingdom of God. Here's your host Frank Barry.
Frank Barry (00:50):
Hey guys, welcome to another episode of Modern Church Leader. Super excited about our guest today. I am with Dr. Jeremy McGarity from Skyline Church out here in, I guess it's not San Diego. Is it Santee or what? It's San Diego to me.
Jeremy McGarity (01:05):
Rancho San Diego.
Frank Barry (01:06):
Rancho San Diego, okay, okay. Well Jeremy, it's great to have you today.
Jeremy McGarity (01:11):
Thanks, man, good to be here. Yeah. We've got a few campuses. We've got Rancho San Diego, we got Lakeside, and we have a campus in Kansas.
Frank Barry (01:19):
Well, naturally you have one in Kansas. I feel like everybody has to have one somewhere odd.
Jeremy McGarity (01:30):
We got to reach farmers, man. Someone's got to do it.
Frank Barry (01:31):
That's amazing. Okay. We'll get to that because that's an interesting, I'm sure there's an interesting story there. But for the audience, this thing goes out to church leaders all over the world. Tell folks about yourself and how you got into ministry and eventually how you got to be the lead pastor there.
Jeremy McGarity (01:47):
Yeah. My background I didn't grow up in a church family at all, but got drafted to play the St. Louis Cardinals in baseball. And so I went off into playing baseball and it was in my third season in the minor leagues with the Cardinals that there's a guy on my team that was a strong Christian. He invited me to baseball chapel, started to listen and learn. And then I asked him a lot of questions about faith and all that. I just noticed a real good demeanor about him. I always thought Christians were soft or non competitive and I'm a hyper competitive guy and so I always thought, "I don't want to be a Christian because those guys are soft and they're weak."
Frank Barry (02:25):
Yeah. It doesn't fit.
Jeremy McGarity (02:26):
Frank Barry (02:28):
I got to pause you for one sec. There's no Angels' gear behind you nowhere.
Jeremy McGarity (02:34):
Nowhere. All Padres, man. At home, I grew up San Diego so it's all about the Padres.
Frank Barry (02:40):
Okay, all right. Fair.
Jeremy McGarity (02:41):
That's my team even though we did not do well this year. It's my team. So with the baseball chapel, I started asking my teammate a lot of questions and noticing his competitive fire but the fact that he was the same guy whether he had a good game or a bad game. For me, I was a good guy if I had a good game, I was the guy buying everybody the drinks and all that. But if I had a bad game, I went into a really dark place, holed up by myself and just beat myself up basically emotionally internally. And it was a real anger, just terrible place to be. I just noticed if he had a good game, like for a third baseman let's say he went four for four, he had four hits, four at bats, he's the same guy. He wasn't cocky, he was confident but he wasn't cocky. And then if he went zero for four and struck out four times, he's the same guy.
Jeremy McGarity (03:29):
And I was like, "What is the deal with this guy? How can he be that consistent?" So I asked him just like, "Dude, what's up with you?" And he was like, "Jesus." And I was like, "Oh boy, here we go." That's how it started. I was like, "Ah, you're one of these guys." And he just was like, "No, man, I'm telling you He's real and He gives me peace and confidence and I know there's more to life than professional baseball." And to me, there wasn't.
Frank Barry (03:53):
Jeremy McGarity (03:53):
There was like nothing better than professional baseball, you couldn't even get paid to play a game like, "What do you mean there's more to life?" And so I asked him a lot of questions and he invited me to baseball chapel and it's just a 10-minute service. Every major league and minor league team has a chaplain and 10 minutes we're in our uniforms before the game, I just thought it was amazing the guy was coming to us, for one. And the guy on my team, his name's Mark, and Mark helped me to start reading the Bible.
Jeremy McGarity (04:21):
He was like, "Hey man, start reading the Bible." And there's a whole story with that too but I ended up talking to him about the Bible like answer this question, "What about this? What about that?" And he really helped me out a lot that year and I just realized the emptiness of what I was pursuing in terms of the professional baseball lifestyle. Now, I love playing baseball but I had some bonus money that I got for signing with the Cardinals. I lived the lifestyle that I thought was what you're supposed to do as a professional baseball player. There was nothing there. It was so empty at the end of the day. And so he helped me understand what it means to have faith in Jesus Christ.
Jeremy McGarity (05:01):
So I was in the summer Savannah, Georgia, man, 1991 in my apartment there and accepted the Lord and just basically it was real simple like, "Lord, if you're real," and I had read the book of John and understood, at least read, who Jesus was and I was like, "If this is all real, and I believe it is, I need you to show me. And I'm praying that You come into my life." And from that point forward, I sensed a change in my spirit but more than that it was a process. I didn't have an immediate lifestyle change. I started to learn.
Jeremy McGarity (05:39):
A teammate of mine, I was playing on a team called the Duluth Superior Dukes in the independent leagues, northern league, and the guys on our team he was really a strong believer and he started a Bible study on our team. But the very next day after the Bible study, he got traded to the Florida Marlins. And not because of the Bible study but just because-
Frank Barry (06:03):
The coaches are like, "I don't know about this."
Jeremy McGarity (06:07):
So he gets traded and he's leaving the clubhouse and he's like, "You got to do the Bible study." And I'm like, "No, I don't know much about the Bible. I don't know anything." And he's like, "No, you got to do it. God will lead," as he left. So we did it. I was very scared to do it but we just literally took the Bible and we passed it around, there were seven guys, and I would say, "Hey, I'm going to read some. I'll pass to the next guy, you read some. I'll write down any questions you guys have and whatever town we're in I'll call a pastor," literally the Yellow Pages back then-
Frank Barry (06:41):
Jeremy McGarity (06:42):
Yellow Pages, I said, "I'll call a local church and I'll ask the pastor and then I'll come back to our next Bible study and I'll have the answer." And everyone was like, "Yeah, that sounds good." So that's what we did and we had seven guys we started with, we had 21 guys on our team that summer, by the end of the summer we had 18 out of the 21 guys and the coaches coming to the Bible study.
Frank Barry (07:04):
Jeremy McGarity (07:04):
So I was like, "Man, there's something powerful about the word of God. People are drawn to it. It'd be really good if I knew about it, like how to teach it." In the off season, I started going to Bible college at Christian Heritage College, which is now San Diego Christian College.
Frank Barry (07:22):
Jeremy McGarity (07:22):
I started to get my Bible degree and started to play basketball at that college which is how I met Chad who's now my executive pastor. And so that started the journey of learning. I would go play baseball and leave for spring training, and then I would play the season with my homework. They gave me directed study. Before there was online courses, there was, "Here's all your work. Turn it in by the end of the year." And I'd call the professors during the season, so that's how I did it. During the season, I'd come back and play basketball and I did that for three and a half, four years just going back and forth.
Frank Barry (08:00):
Jeremy McGarity (08:01):
But that's where I got my education and learning about the Bible and really learning and understanding how to apply it. I had a exposition, a degree in biblical exposition. I learned under some incredible people including Dr. David Jeremiah. And so people that really understood how to ex posit scripture and apply it to people's lives, help apply it. And so learned there, that was my first.
Jeremy McGarity (08:23):
And then I blew out my shoulder after 10 seasons. I was with Texas Rangers, blew out my shoulder and ended up getting some phone calls from churches if I'd be interested in being a pastor. And I didn't want to be a pastor, just didn't. I thought I would be helping out in sports and Fellowship of Christian Athletes or Athletes in Action or something.
Frank Barry (08:45):
Yeah. Even after you went to school? Even after you went and studied and everything, that wasn't really on your heart yet?
Jeremy McGarity (08:52):
Yeah. It was really the only reason I went and studied the Bible is because I wanted to help those athletes. I wanted to help the guys on my team really get a grasp of the Bible, and I saw the power of the Word. I saw what was happening in guy's lives as they started to really unpack the Word and read it and take some key verses, throughout the game they would have them in their heart and in their mind. I knew at some level I'd be using that degree but I did not want to pastor. I didn't know what it meant to really be a pastor anyway. It just seemed like it was religious. I was like, "I'm not interested in religion."
Jeremy McGarity (09:28):
But I always said the prayer of whatever God, whatever You want me to do. And so that's how He led. He just led me into youth pastoring initially while I continued to get more degrees because I was just interested, I wanted to learn more. And so I got a couple of master's degrees and then I went on to get a doctorate while doing youth ministry, moving on to young adult ministry, and then we planted a church here in San Diego. And then three years ago took over Skyline Church and the church plant we had is now our Lakeside campus. That's the synapsis of it.
Frank Barry (10:04):
That was a fast forward on the last however many years that was, 10 or seven or something like that.
Jeremy McGarity (10:09):
Frank Barry (10:13):
15. From youth pastor, I stopped at youth pastor. I did youth pastor for about five years and then it was time to move on. God pulled me somewhere else. And what was it like jumping into Skyline Church? How did that, from planting a church and leading there, growing that, serving that community into another church which Skyline's been around for a long time?
Jeremy McGarity (10:39):
Yeah. It was something I honestly said no to many times over the years like, "No, I'm not interested in doing that or even pursuing it," or whatever. There was conversations years ago of doing something and it was like, "No, no, no. I'm not going to do that." And then what happened we were going to go into a building program in Lakeside. We had outgrown our facility and we were like, "Okay, let's see what we're going to do." We got drawings together, we got architects, and we talked to the city, the whole thing. We got to do this thing and it looked like it was going to be somewhere around 10 to 15 million dollars and it was going to take a long time. A long time. It looked like we were going to have to go back to the community center where we were originally in Lakeside when we started the church for maybe a year or two before we get this thing completed.
Jeremy McGarity (11:23):
And in my mind, I was like, "That's going to feel like a step back for everybody. I don't know if we can do that." And I was just processing what that meant, next steps. And I got a phone call from a church that was looking for a senior pastor. It wasn't Skyline, it was a big, nationally known church. And I was like, "Oh, that's interesting." And I said, "I'll pray about it," because I say it all the time that I'll pray about whatever. And then another headhunting agency called, another one, another one, there was five nationally known churches all at the same time that called and I was just like, "Man, what are you doing, Lord? What are You doing?" And so I said, "I better pray about this for sure," like really like my wife and I-
Frank Barry (12:01):
I better actually do it, yeah, not just say it.
Jeremy McGarity (12:04):
But we started to really put it to prayer like what are we going to ... So we decided to walk through the process with a couple of them just because we thought, "Hey, this would be really interesting to find out their process at least." I can't imagine I'm going to be the one for these nationally known ministries but it'd be kind of fun to get tested and answer their questions.
Frank Barry (12:24):
That's the competitive side coming out. I think audio clicked off again. Check the button. Okay, you're back.
Jeremy McGarity (12:35):
And just be on the hot seat and like, "Hey, let me see if I think on my feet real fast," all those things. And it was fun. These were no joke and so it was a lot of fun. And I was in the middle of it, I had two of the nationally known churches got me down, one offered and the other one I was down to, the one I was drawn to a little bit I was thinking, "Maybe this is the place." I was down to the final two. And I got a call from Skyline and they were like, "Hey, this is what's going on. Can we just talk to you?" And I was like, "Well, I'm kind of in the final stages of this thing and I don't know." And they said, "Let's just have a conversation. Can we just have a conversation?"
Jeremy McGarity (13:21):
And since I had some ties here and I love the people, I guest spoke here many, many times, I just love the place and I was like, "Okay. I'll have a conversation." And so we met with their board, walked through a vision, and told them what we were-
Frank Barry (13:37):
You're like, "I didn't know a conversation meant a board meeting."
Jeremy McGarity (13:40):
Yeah, exactly. Exactly. Walk in like, "Oh hey everybody."
Frank Barry (13:44):
Jeremy McGarity (13:44):
And so we just shared, they just asked, "Hey, what kind of vision do you have for ministry?" And I'd been through it many times already from all these other ones. I was just ready to go and just laid it all out and how we'd go about it and everything. And they were like, "We want to have another conversation." And so I said, "I don't know, I'm talking to these other churches. I'll let you know, whatever." They were really good at just staying in contact, seeing what was going on. And it was funny because we had gotten down to this one church and I thought I knew that we were going there. We're going to keep what we did in Lakeside as a satellite with this other church. The other church agreed, "Yeah, we can do that," because I didn't want to give up what we had done for, at that time, 13, 12, 13 years in building a strong ministry out there.
Jeremy McGarity (14:38):
So with the satellite technology now, that's not hard. You can do that. It was like, "Okay, we're going to keep that." And this other church had agreed, "Yeah, let's do that. We'll do that." And so they were a multi [inaudible 00:14:50] so it was not going to be a problem. This one night, I told my wife, "I think I know what we're doing and you probably do too." And she's like, "Yeah, I think so." I said, "But let's pray about it one more night. Let's just put it to the Lord, pray and in the morning let's talk and let's just see if He doesn't confirm it." And so we did, man, on her own and on my own. We just went away and prayed.
Jeremy McGarity (15:13):
So in the morning, I get up early, I'm an early bird so I get up and God told me very clearly, not an audible voice, it was just so clear. It was so clear. It was like, "Jeremy, I'm calling you to Skyline Church." And I was kind of like, "Oh." There was a little bit of, "But I like the big one." That way was sexier, the other one was sexier. It was like, "Oh, that looks so good. That would be better on my resume," blah, blah blah. And it was just like, "Listen, I didn't call you for comfort. I called you for a mission. This is the mission I have for you." It was just real clear. And so I said, "Okay. But I'm just asking, Lord, if that is true, and I believe it is, please have Janie," and I'm not this felis kind of guy, I'm not. But I just asked the Lord, "Can You just have my wife Janie just confirm that without me saying anything?" [inaudible 00:16:06].
Jeremy McGarity (16:07):
Dude, it was amazing. She walks around the corner about an hour or so later she walks around from getting up, first thing she says, puts her hand on her hip and she goes, "We're going to Skyline, aren't we?" I was like, "Okay, that's the confirmation."
Frank Barry (16:23):
The only thing better would've been if she walks in with a Skyline T-shirt on or something like that and didn't say anything.
Jeremy McGarity (16:29):
Totally, totally. I knew.
Frank Barry (16:31):
Jeremy McGarity (16:33):
It was like, "Okay, that's what we're doing." And by then, it's been three months. To give you some context, we had been meeting with these churches and Skyline, it had been three months at that point.
Frank Barry (16:45):
A long process.
Jeremy McGarity (16:47):
Long process and they offered, "Hey, we do want you to come," and it was just like, "Okay." Now, I got to decide. So then, I had to call the other church. I never told them, "Yes, I am coming," but there was definitely some kinship there that felt like it was happening. So that was hard too to be like, "I'm not actually coming. I'm going to do this." And they were great, they were a fantastic church and they were like, "We understand." That's how it got started with Skyline.
Frank Barry (17:16):
Oh man. Thank you for taking the time to share all that. I think it's cool. It's cool to hear people's stories of how they encountered God and how they got into ministry and loved all the moments in that. But now let's fast forward. We're going to fast forward from there but rewind back 18 months back to March 2020 when the world went crazy, when you and I were having lunch and you were just telling me about how Skyline has really thrived through this crazy time and you've seen God do some amazing things. And that was what sparked, "Hey man, let's do an interview and talk through this." But maybe just jump back to March 2020. How did you guys respond? And just at the beginning, what was it like?
Jeremy McGarity (18:08):
Yeah. That was such an incredible time. We had been experiencing some good growth at that point. And so when that week in the national news was all these places are closing down, they're shutting down, they're shutting down. This is a dangerous, dangerous thing. None of us really know what COVID is other than people are getting sick. And so we're praying about it and we're hearing other big churches that are closing down and we're like, "Okay. We better heed some warning here."
Jeremy McGarity (18:46):
So we got together and prayed about it and we said, "Yeah, probably the wisest thing to do is close down." So then you go into emergency mode of, "Okay. What does this mean?" Thankfully, we had over the last year and a half really taught people to give online and that was a big deal for us, probably 85% to 90% of our people give online so that was important to have that. We were concerned though because we're like, "Are people going to give? Are we going to be able to keep our employees?", all those things you start wondering about. And so we shutdown and it really caused us to figure out ways we're going to connect with our people through this. And so that made our online church experience ramp up. We were already online but it was something that made us focus on online experience and then we started our daily devotional, our video devotional probably the next week and just said, "Hey, how can we really continue to keep them engaged?"
Jeremy McGarity (19:51):
And so out of those problems, it gave us those opportunities. But as time went on, I'm a research kind of guy, I love getting into stats and numbers and it was pretty clear from what I had researched and I put all the data in front of our leadership and our board and our staff and everybody and said, "Let's take a look at this stuff. Let's see what's going on here. Let's make sure we're smart." But it had been three months, it was coming up on three months of being shutdown. It was one of those times where it was just time to open. For us, it was really clear that people needed to worship, people needed to be in the house of the Lord. Yes, online church experience great but for so many people, being at church is really, really important.
Jeremy McGarity (20:39):
We saw that and we saw the mental health issues. We saw the 8,000% increase in suicide hotline calls, we saw the 600% increase in suicide ideation. We personally knew a lot of people who returned to their addictions because of our Celebrate Recovery classes were closed and people rely on those things, keeps them going another day. We saw our community, we were in really good relationship with our sheriff's department which is right next door to us, we actually sold the land so the sheriff's county could build a department right there to them. And so we have a great relationship. We talked to them and they were telling us about the increase rate of domestic violence, sexual abuse, murders, violent acts of crime and they were overwhelmed. And we just started looking at that and going, "What can we do to help as a church? What can we do to help? We can't do everything but we can do something."
Jeremy McGarity (21:41):
And so we thought, "We can open our church and we can get people worshiping," because there's more than just physical health involved here, a virus, there's emotional health, there's spiritual health, there's all these different, your financial health. When your business is closed, you can't work. So we felt like the county and, of course, the nation overall was missing the entire pie of health. And as I mentioned with the stats and everything, we really combed through those and we realized there are treatments, there are things we can do to help people who get COVID. And we saw the very, very small number of people where it becomes fatal. We saw also the lies, we did see how people died in car accidents and they were labeled COVID deaths. So we noticed there was things that were happening that were fear mongering. We didn't de legitimatize the fact that there was a virus that could harm people.
Frank Barry (22:40):
Jeremy McGarity (22:40):
But we also saw that there was something else going on. And so we decided let's open up but let's be safe, and we had all the protocols in place and we had all the options for people. I wanted them to decide. And so it was outdoor, for people that just wanted to be on campus, we had a radio station you can listen to it on the radio in your car, you can be on campus and sit outdoors, you can be in our gym. We limited attendance initially, spaced everybody. That was our ramp up to full opening about another month later.
Jeremy McGarity (23:18):
And so we did all those things, different rooms you could be in including our main auditorium's 2,000 seats and so there's plenty of room if you want to spread out and all that stuff. We did that initially. And from that point, it just started to grow, grow, grow, grow, grow until we just opened everything. We just left it up to the people. We still had the outdoor venue, even to this day. If you want to sit outside, you can sit outside. We have all those options still for people but we said, "The church is essential."
Jeremy McGarity (23:49):
And here's the kicker, I'd gone to Costco, I'd gone to Home Depot, I'd gone to these places where everyone's shoulder to shoulder, 500 plus people, and I'm going, "Wait a minute. Wait a minute. We can't have worship service?" And the big one was the strip clubs were open in our community and the liquor stores but they wanted the churches to close.
Frank Barry (24:13):
Jeremy McGarity (24:14):
And so for me, it was like, "Come on. We're going to open." So we did, we opened and we had a lot of heat from the county but we weren't antagonistic, we had conversations with them. We just stayed in communication. They had my cell number, the county health officials they called, "We heard you're open.' 'Yes, we are.''Okay. Well, you need to be closed.''Well, we're not going to do that.''And okay, well." And I'd tell them what we're doing. And they said, "You know what? That's actually pretty good. We're glad to hear that, but the rule is," I said, "I know the rule," they're all, "Okay. Bye." And that's been how it was. And so we got the warnings.
Jeremy McGarity (24:47):
But from that point, I think for a lot of people, they appreciated our stance, they appreciated in the middle of that KUSI decided to have me on pretty regularly and so I was on the local news pretty regularly and then in the paper and all these things and these articles because of our stance. And that got the word out for us that, "Hey, there's a church that's standing up."
Frank Barry (25:12):
Jeremy McGarity (25:13):
And so we started to see exponential growth, and it's been incredible and so we're trying to keep up and even go forward from there to say the least.
Frank Barry (25:26):
Yeah. So you opened back up, give or take three months in, you're doing all the things. When did you start to realize, because I guess take a step back for context. A lot of churches I talk to they're like, "Yeah, we're open like now," and it's 40%, maybe 50% are back in the building. So most churches are maybe half, maybe the ones doing well are 60% back in the building in terms of what's they used to be pre COVID. I've not heard anybody really say, "Yeah, we have as many people in the building or on the campus somehow in some way in some variety of settings that we were pre COVID." So when did you notice we're open and people need this and they're showing us by walking in?
Jeremy McGarity (26:26):
Yeah. I think it was, initially the first month, we noticed more and more people coming each week. And then we did a outdoor Sunday evening thing that we called Summer Nights and we pitched it as just a community gathering deal. At that point, I think they had lifted some restrictions. They're like, "Yeah, you can do outdoor whatever," and for a lot of people that was all they needed. They started showing up to this outdoor thing we did in droves and we got pictures and film of it. It was just blowing our minds. On a Sunday night, we'd do worship, I'd do a quick little devotional, we did baptisms, a bunch of stuff for the kids because the kids' playgrounds were closed. We have a humongous playground and very intentionally when I first got here, we built a huge playground for the kids. You win the kids, you win the community.
Frank Barry (27:22):
Jeremy McGarity (27:22):
We built this huge playground. And so ours was opened, we had opened it, and it was like, "Come on. Bring your kids," and then we had all these jumpies and-
Frank Barry (27:30):
Yeah. I get it. I got three boys. Anything for the kids, man, make it awesome. Give me something to take them to.
Jeremy McGarity (27:37):
Exactly. And that's what we did that first summer with COVID. It was like, "Hey, let's just," everyone's stuck at home and people want to get out but there's nowhere to go. You can't do anything. The parks are closed. Let's do it. We did it and it was phenomenal. So that right there then poured into our Sunday mornings.
Frank Barry (27:56):
Jeremy McGarity (27:56):
So then people got word, "Hey, Skyline's open," and we had lifted the restrictions at that point. We left it up to everybody. If you want to wear a mask, wear a mask. If you want to social distance, social distance. Otherwise, we're open and we're going to do things normal. You're going to have an hour a Sunday of normalcy and that was our big pitch and so that's what happened. And people started inviting friends. And of course, we did get some transfer growth. That's never our target. We say it all the time. But the fact that their churches were closed, the people were coming to us saying, "Our church is closed and we're just here until they open." And we're like, "Yeah, we'll shepherd you until you open." That was part of it so we did get some people from other churches.
Jeremy McGarity (28:40):
But our focus has always been people that don't have a church home, people that are far from God. And people just kept inviting people, and even a lot of non believers. That's why our decisions have gone through the roof and we've got 1,049 documented decisions this year for Jesus Christ and someone has to write it down on a card or digitally from our online church and we followup with them. It's not just I think there's 500 hands in here.
Frank Barry (29:06):
Right, right, yeah. Like looking through the light.
Jeremy McGarity (29:10):
I see that hand, I see that hand. We're very evangelastic, we just stretch out those numbers. But no, we were like, "You've got to write it down." So we've seen a lot of decisions for Christ, we've seen a lot of that growth based off of a lot of our stance of saying, "We're going to be open, we're going to serve our community. We want to make sure we minister to our community."
Jeremy McGarity (29:32):
And from that point, we haven't stopped. We just kept growing and growing and growing and that's why we're doing a campaign now to really capitalize on that and see if we can't get more churches and more people saved.
Frank Barry (29:42):
Yeah. How did the church, I want to talk about that so let's make sure we come back to what you guys are doing now, but over that time how did you like you made a decision you opened and you did your thing. So in one sense, you've given me the answer but I just want to unpack a little bit more. There's all this crazy stuff going on and COVID and politics and all, just everything's happening in this last 18, 24 months. As the leader of that church, I'm sure you've got a great team around you and board and everything, but how did you guys lead through that, make that decision, lead through that and really care for everybody that had all the feelings and all the opinions about all the stuff going on?
Jeremy McGarity (30:28):
Yeah. I really felt strongly about America. We're still the United States of America. And I can see our politics shifting in such a way that to me it's very clear it's moving towards socialism. And I thought, "Well, this is probably part of that agenda at some level but let me make sure. I don't want to just be a dictator." And so I put it before key leaders, key volunteers, our staff, and our board. I said, "Here's the data," and I said, "punch a hole in it. Argue with me, let's talk about this." And other than a couple of questions, a few questions, everybody's on the same page like, "No, we need to open. We believe this, we should be open. This is killing people, this is actually the mental health issues are worse than any of this. And so let's open." And it was just a one voice that said let's open.
Jeremy McGarity (31:21):
And I think the good thing with it was the fact that people had options. If you were scared or concerned, you could stay home and watch us online. You can still be part of the church but we left it in their hands. If you want to come on campus and worship, we got all these options for you. And so as one voice as a leadership, that really helped to strengthen me personally being out front and talking to media and everything else, I felt very confident like, "Hey, this is what we're doing and we're all together on this. We're not divided." And that was very powerful, very powerful for our team.
Frank Barry (31:59):
Yeah, yeah. It sounds like being able to say, "We're opening and we think it's just what God's calling us to and it's a need to the community," all the mental health stuff but we're also giving people all the options we possibly can and wanting to be safe and be a good partner in the community and everything. It just kind of worked.
Jeremy McGarity (32:23):
Yeah. I would be here during the week when we were closed and people are driving up onto the campus bawling, just wanting to be worshiping in the church. It was hard. It was hard to see their faces and them crying and you're hugging people because COVID whatever, they need a hug. You're hugging people and they're just broken because they want to worship, they want to be in the house of God. And I say that a lot. For some people, that is tangible. To them, closeness means I'm in the church and I feel God's presence and we had eliminated that from people's lives all over the nation. And a lot of stuff ran because of it.
Frank Barry (33:05):
Yeah, yeah. Pretty amazing story. So you've grown. I guess just numbers-wise, are you guys bursting at the seams bigger than you were pre COVID now?
Jeremy McGarity (33:22):
Yeah. I'll give you a little idea. I'll give you from the beginning. October 2018 we were a church of 1700 people, we are now over 5,200 people.
Frank Barry (33:38):
Jeremy McGarity (33:39):
That gives you an idea-
Frank Barry (33:40):
Jeremy McGarity (33:42):
... the kind of growth. Yeah. And then we have 8,000 something people at Easter that it just blew our minds. We didn't have room for everybody. And so it's an exciting thing.
Frank Barry (33:54):
Oh my gosh, because you were mentioning when we had lunch that, something stuck out, you were talking about hiring and staff and everything and you're like, "We can't keep up right now. We can't hire enough people to keep up with the growth that we're experiencing."
Jeremy McGarity (34:07):
Yeah. That's been a thing for sure. We have companies that help us but we're intentionally slow because we have a culture that we're trying to protect and we make sure we do take them through quite a process. It is a process. It could take six months to hire someone. Our family life pastor we just hired a couple weeks ago, it took six months but that's because we have groups of people that we have them meet with and we vet them and test them. It doesn't have to take six months, part of that was he was in Utah, but it'll probably take a while to hire someone.
Frank Barry (34:46):
And the point not being that you guys are trying to be slow or fast, just even if you were trying to do it like you would've pre COVID, you're doing the same thing, you just have to keep up with this growth so you got to do a lot of it. It's just crazy and pretty cool to see.
Jeremy McGarity (35:05):
We've got a great group of people.
Frank Barry (35:07):
Are you blown away? Do you just sit back and go like, you just said 1700, now you're 5,000 plus, 8,000 at Easter. Do you just sit there and go like, "Wow,"? It's crazy.
Jeremy McGarity (35:20):
In the midst of all this, it's blown all of our minds. It's amazing. And honestly, we have a wonderful team. We have such a good group of people, a lot of people are doing two and three jobs, and they're doing it. There's not a complaint about it but we're keeping them updated, "Hey, we're trying to get your help. We are hiring people, we're in the middle of this process with this person." And a lot of them are in on those interviews. They're interviewing the people because they're in their area. So they know we're doing it so there's a little bit of excitement for it because there's adrenaline. There's a lot of adrenaline when you're constantly doing stuff, ministering to people, reaching people and so that's exciting but we're behind on staff for sure.
Frank Barry (36:07):
Yeah. More, I just think it's cool to see the growth. That point was not about being behind, it was more about wow, pretty cool that this is all going on. Okay. You mentioned now man the future and you're growing like crazy and you want to keep this momentum going. Tell us what the future holds and where you guys are headed.
Jeremy McGarity (36:29):
Yeah. We just started this campaign 101010, we're calling it and we want to see 10 churches reaching 10,000 people within 10 years. And it's really based on Matthew 9:37, 38, "The harvest is great, the workers are few. Pray to the Lord of the harvest to send more workers into his harvest field." And that's what we want. We're just asking the Lord we know we didn't do anything special for this, this is all Him. He's brought it, He's the one and we're like, "We just need more workers so come alongside of us and pray with us," but also, in order to fund these campuses that we want or church plants, we're open to any.
Jeremy McGarity (37:12):
It's like, "Hey, if the Lord raises up church planters," which is another story by the way. We planted three churches in three years. One in the middle of COVID, another one right before COVID.
Frank Barry (37:25):
That one was tough, I'm sure. Right before and you plant with like, "All right, ready to go," and then bam.
Jeremy McGarity (37:32):
Yep. They were four months in and then COVID bam. And they're doing good. They're over 200 people and-
Frank Barry (37:40):
Jeremy McGarity (37:40):
It's really good. And the other one, like I said, in the middle of COVID, literally. We launched it in February of this year.
Frank Barry (37:48):
Yeah. At least that one got to go in knowing what they're getting in to.
Jeremy McGarity (37:54):
Totally. And that one's over 150 people doing really great. So we want to keep that momentum going and we really want to reach more people. It may be church plants if the Lord raises up church planters, it may be satellite campuses like we're doing in Lakeside and Kansas as well. It just depends. And we also know, unfortunately with COVID, a lot of churches are closing and we're going to see more and more of that. You mentioned the return rate, we're seeing people we've talked to, that's a good return rate 40 to 50, most are at around 30 and it's 30%. You can't sustain a church.
Frank Barry (38:32):
No way. If you're a normal size church of 150 people and only 30% are back, that's tough.
Jeremy McGarity (38:40):
You still have the bills of 150 people, but you ain't got the payment, you don't have the money anymore, people aren't giving. And so that's something where we recognize that and what our hearts, we want to purchase those churches and be ready to either revitalize that church, Lord willing, if the people that are there would allow us to come in and revitalize, help them with whatever. If not, then we'll hold onto that church, it might be a future campus of ours or another church that comes in.
Frank Barry (39:07):
Jeremy McGarity (39:08):
My passion is the kingdom. I don't want to lose that kingdom footprint because when a church dies, often, they sell it to a developer. That's typically what happens. And what happens we lose the kingdom footprint. We don't get that church footprint and San Diego County's not building churches left and right. And matter of fact, very hard now especially with the current makeup of our county board of supervisors, really hard to buy property and get permits to build a church.
Frank Barry (39:40):
Jeremy McGarity (39:40):
Their attitude has been there's plenty of churches, we don't need anymore churches. And we need housing, and it's true as far as housing, and so they don't want churches.
Frank Barry (39:51):
We need both.
Jeremy McGarity (39:52):
Both, we need both. And so they don't want it so it's really hard. I know once you lose that church to a developer, you lost it.
Frank Barry (39:58):
Jeremy McGarity (39:59):
We've lost that kingdom footprint in San Diego. And so we want to be in a position, part of 101010 is be in a position to purchase those properties and that's what we're trying to build up towards. So we put goals on it, but we've said it from the beginning, "It's up to the Lord. It's His harvest." We just want to be people that have the framework built that we're ready to receive that harvest if He so continues to bless, if He decides to do that. We want to be ready for it because we need more volunteers, we need more staff, and we need more money.
Jeremy McGarity (40:29):
And so that's where we're pushing to say, "Hey, we want to continue to see people coming to Christ like we're seeing right now at this location."
Frank Barry (40:37):
Yeah. How do you, I guess just thinking maybe related to the 101010 campaign, how is church different now? And how do you keep pressing forward? It's all up to God, we know that. You're just going to do the work you think is right through all of this with your team. How does church look different? How do you do church now in this kind of environment that we're in and keep that growth up?
Jeremy McGarity (41:07):
I think for us, part of what happened was our, we have a unique stance. That was something our people were like, "Hey, that's where I want to go." So the only-
Frank Barry (41:20):
Jeremy McGarity (41:21):
Yeah. The difference for me personally as a lead pastor is I was never a political guy, I'd stay far away from politics. It's such a divisive topic. I am out. No, thank you. I just want to preach the word, get people saved. And it was when this COVID thing started happening and people were suffering, I saw how politics can make people suffer.
Frank Barry (41:45):
Jeremy McGarity (41:46):
I was like, "I got to get in. I have to speak to this." So for me, it's changed, in our church, it has changed because I speak on those topics now. I will help inform our people, I want them to understand what candidates, what their positions are because when they get in power that's going to affect our church. And so I speak to those things now. Church is different because we have things like vaccine mandates. How do you help your people when their job is saying you better get a vaccine or you're fired?
Jeremy McGarity (42:25):
Well, first and foremost, that should be someone's choice whether they get a vaccine or not. That's my opinion and that we're still in America and it goes back to my socialism argument. It's like we're leaning more and more towards socialism, I got to watch out here. And so how do we help them? Well, we can help them with religious exemptions. And so as a church, we decided anyone that wants a religious exemption, let's talk about it, let's make sure you're a person of faith, and then we're going to help you with that. That would've been something we're not getting involved in that, we don't need to do that but with the way people are suffering, because part of our mandate as pastors in churches is to help alleviate the suffering in the world. And that's one way we can do that.
Jeremy McGarity (43:07):
People have been extremely appreciative. And honestly, I've been really shocked at how many churches would not do that for their people. And I just thought to myself, "Where else should they go? Where are they going to get the help they need?" And I think that's how church is changing for the good is more and more churches are going to go, "How do I practically help my people?" This cannot be theory anymore. It has to be what's going on in the world? How does the Bible speak to it? How do I help this person today?
Frank Barry (43:36):
Jeremy McGarity (43:37):
Frank Barry (43:38):
Yeah, yeah, yeah. I love that. It's like things are always changing. I live today, I have to be a Christian in today's world and in my job and people I interact with and with everything that's going on and I think that's what people need is how do you live as a Christian and be like Jesus, be an example to those around you? And the church is a spot where you come and you get together and you get energized by everybody else that's doing and you help each other and everything. You got to be able to help people with what's going on now and not steer clear of it. But it's hard. I don't say that lightly. I think pastors are one of those jobs that just like nurses and first responders and all that, it's one of the hardest jobs on the planet right now because of having to pastor people of all different outlooks.
Jeremy McGarity (44:37):
Frank Barry (44:38):
But people are looking for that. How do I stay Christian through all this?
Jeremy McGarity (44:47):
That's the hardest part about it. And what we told our people is you may not agree with with what I say from the pulpit, I promise you this, I'm going to give you the truth. I'm going to tell you the truth, I have no propaganda. I'm only going to give you the truth and then you got to decide what you want to do with it.
Frank Barry (45:03):
Jeremy McGarity (45:03):
I don't expect to please everybody, Jesus couldn't please everybody. And so I know that there's going to be dissenters, there's going to be confrontations but my mandate is to give them the truth and help them, just help them. So now we're seeing this massive flood of people that are exiting public schools because of the vax mandate. They're coming to us. What do I do? What do we do? And so now we're talking about starting a school. We're looking at what do we do? How do we meet a need? If you're a church, the one thing we have to do is meet needs and we got to meet needs in our community or we're irrelevant. And so we're looking at this now, "Okay, this is a need," just like COVID and just like we helped people by meeting the need by allowing them to worship in the house of the Lord. How do we do that now with the school stuff?
Jeremy McGarity (45:52):
We're literally talking about that. We've had meetings all week. How do we do this? How do we help them? Who do we partner with or do we start a school ourself? But we have to help people because right now parents are like, "There ain't no way I'm sending him to public school after all this." And we're like, "Okay. What do we do?" So we're in the middle of that.
Frank Barry (46:11):
Oh man, that's a whole nother episode starting a school in the midst of a pandemic. We've been on almost an hour so I appreciate this a ton. This conversation's awesome. I could keep going on but I want to be respectful of your time. Appreciate you taking a little time for us today.
Jeremy McGarity (46:31):
Hey, my pleasure and hopefully it helps someone out there.
Frank Barry (46:33):
Yeah. Let me ask you two questions to close, easy ones. Give me a book that you just super impacted by, other than the Bible, that you'd recommend to other church leaders.
Jeremy McGarity (46:48):
I love reading. Saying that, I could choose, that I could choose one is pretty hard. I'll tell you, right now, what's one that would stand out that, I'll tell you what an awesome book right now. I'm going old-school-
Frank Barry (47:17):
Yeah, bring it.
Jeremy McGarity (47:18):
And reading about one of the greatest preachers of all time and his name is Phillips Brooks.
Frank Barry (47:26):
Jeremy McGarity (47:27):
And I had never heard of him before, but I was reading something else and it's one of those things where you're reading and you're like "Phillips Brooks," I had never heard of the guy and every single thing about him is unbelievable. This guy was the preacher of the 18th century or 19th century. He was unbelievable, blah, blah, blah, and then I read another book Phillips Brooks, blah, blah, blah. You know how you read something multiple times and it's this guy's name so I got to read about this guy.
Jeremy McGarity (47:51):
Well sure enough, he was unbelievable. And he was, back when Harvard was a divinity school, when it was actual Christian school, he did the lectures there. There's this book on the lectures he did there. I started reading a couple of his sermons. You could verbatim do those sermons today and it's applicable.
Frank Barry (48:11):
And it would work.
Jeremy McGarity (48:12):
That's how incredible he was. It's a book called The Joy of Preaching by Phillips Brooks.
Frank Barry (48:17):
Love it, love it. Okay. Second question. Give me a podcast that you're listening to that others might want to check out.
Jeremy McGarity (48:26):
Frank Barry (48:29):
Anything. Any kind of podcast that you're into that you're into it.
Jeremy McGarity (48:34):
Okay. So I started listening to Joe Rogan.
Frank Barry (48:37):
Jeremy McGarity (48:38):
Okay, because I heard he's the number one podcast in the world. And then I heard his story of moving from L.A. to Texas because of the California nonsense and then I heard the deal that he made with Spotify.
Frank Barry (48:50):
Jeremy McGarity (48:50):
And I'm like, "Wait a minute," 130 something million dollars for a podcaster. I got to listen to this guy.
Frank Barry (48:57):
Jeremy McGarity (48:57):
What is he doing? What is he talking about? And sure enough, man, there's a lot to learn about conversation, there's a lot to learn about his speaking style, how he engages guests. Now the language, of course, is-
Frank Barry (49:12):
A little rough.
Jeremy McGarity (49:13):
To say the least.
Frank Barry (49:15):
But being good at interviewing people is really hard. I'm just winging it but that guy's a genius.
Jeremy McGarity (49:22):
It is incredible. And that's what I'm learning is listening to the way he talks to people and the questions he asks, that's why his podcasts are three or four hours long. They cut him up, put him on YouTube and that's where I'll read him when I'm exercising. I'll get the 15 or 20 minute version sometimes. I'm that.
Jeremy McGarity (49:43):
And right now, I'm into a lot of Navy Seal stuff so I'm listening to David Goggins, which every other word is a colorful word, and Jocko Willink.
Frank Barry (49:54):
Jeremy McGarity (49:55):
Yeah. Those podcasts are, if you're needing a little inspiration for your own life in general, just non spiritual, they don't talk much. Jocko does a little bit. It's more of just the grind, getting up, getting after it. I'm enjoying that a lot.
Frank Barry (50:13):
Love it, love it. Love those recommendations. Well Jeremy, good stuff. Guys, thanks for watching. We appreciate you and we'll catch you next week on another episode. See you.
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