Four years ago, Canyon Ridge Baptist Church had made its “home” in a 1,200 square-foot patch of rented space in the Kearny Mesa Recreation Center in San Diego, California. Every Sunday morning, the congregation parked a trailer in the back, unloaded, and assembled church in the unkempt, unwaxed floors. The nursery was held in a side room, where small gates were set up away from broken game tables and mats covered the hard tiled floor. Elementary schoolers held class in the kitchen. The church kept a wooden podium in the rented room, which on Tuesdays would be used by the shortwave radio club, or by Muslims for religious services.
It was awful. But we didn’t care: God was building a church. From its inception in 2002 to 2006, Canyon Ridge Baptist Church’s membership had increased steadily. On occasion, there was standing room only in the tiny rented room. We were a loving, enthusiastic congregation, and if it was hard work to keep the church going, we didn’t notice.
But tensions were growing with the City of San Diego, which owned the Recreation Center. From the beginning, the City charged us a substantially higher rate than other community groups to rent the facility, simply because we are a religious organization. Then, in 2005, the City doubled our rent. In a typical month, we had to pay almost $3,000 more in rent than what other community groups would pay for the same access. We were low on alternatives: the real estate market in San Diego is notoriously chaotic, and the three realtors we’d had searching for a different property since 2002 hadn’t been able to find a viable option. The survival of the church was at stake.
Then, Pastor Chris Chadwick consulted with the Alliance Defense Fund. ADF took on our case, and we stood back and watched as the Lord did an amazing work. By God’s grace, we won soundly in court. The City reduced its rental rate for churches to the same as other community groups, and it refunded us everything we had been overcharged plus interest. But most importantly, our case set a legal precedent that will help other young churches in Southern California to thrive and grow.
Since that time, Canyon Ridge Baptist Church has grown, moving from the Recreation Center to a small elementary school, then finally purchasing our own property in January of 2010. What some thought impossible—a self-sustaining Bible-believing church plant in San Diego, California—has become a reality. The Lord clearly used ADF in a dark, troublesome time in our church’s history. He used it to build a strengthened, God-seeking church, and a safer legal foundation for struggling churches all across California. Our 1,200 square-foot rented room has become a 25,000 square-foot property, a home for families in San Diego who need to know Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. Without ADF, we never would have seen these miracles.
Thank you, Alliance Defense Fund, for speaking for churches who don’t have a voice. Thank you for defending our first liberty.
Do you know someone who would want to learn more about his or her constitutionally protected rights as a pastor?