Image Above Provided by Rise City Church.
“San Diego is a place where people go on vacation. It’s not a place people actually move and live.” Pastor Brandon Grant said these words not long before moving to San Diego with his wife, Jamie, to plant a church.
At the time, Brandon was serving in college ministry. His friend Chris Hornbrook was trying to talk him into becoming a fellow church planter through Stadia. So Brandon and Jamie agreed to visit this “vacation destination.”
San Diego was one of the most unchurched U.S. cities per capita.
Over the course of a week, Chris painted a picture of a city desperately in need of more churches. Being from the Midwest, Brandon was used to seeing well-established church facilities scattered throughout cities. But San Diego was one of the most unchurched U.S. cities per capita—only 4% of people go to church. As they drove around downtown, “You could feel and see the lack of churches,” Brandon said.
Working with the church planting organization Stadia, Brandon and Jamie moved to San Diego in 2012. For six months Brandon participated in a residency at Chris’s church, and shortly after Brandon helped launch a new church—Rise City—with 15 other people.
“Our first church purchase was an ice cream truck,” Brandon described. “We went to concerts and other community events or just showed up at parks, and we donated the proceeds to a local food bank. We wanted to create positive first impressions and get the word out about the church.”
Before they officially launched, the fledgling church met at a Chick-fil-A because the business was closed on Sunday afternoons. When they were ready, the congregation started holding services at a local elementary school.
“We want to invest in people more than a place.”—Brandon Grant
Within a couple years, the church swelled to about 400 people, and they were quickly outgrowing the elementary school. But as they considered other places to rent, the prices in Southern California were simply too high.
“We want to invest in people more than a place,” Brandon said.
Thankfully, God had been laying the foundation for this building transition from the moment Brandon and his wife moved to San Diego.
When Brandon and his wife had moved to Southern California, they took advantage of a short sale in Lakeside. It was a community near Santee—the area where they intended to start Rise City. Unbeknownst to them, the communities of Lakeside and Santee don’t get along, and people were confused why they would live in Lakeside yet want to start a church in Santee.
They hoped they would have the chance to move some day, and apparently God did too. A real estate agent knocked on their door one day in Lakeside and said, “Someone wants to buy your house.” It turned out to be a worship pastor from a nearby church, David Dailey. The Grants then moved to a house in Santee, and they kept in touch with David.
While Rise City was figuring out what to do about their growing pains, neighboring Harvest Church was looking for a growing church to merge with. They had fully paid off their massive 30,000-square-foot facility, but they didn’t have the numbers to justify keeping it anymore.
Who was on staff at Harvest? David Dailey. The two leadership teams began discussing the idea, and it became clear that God was directing these two churches to become one.
“We had a service in June 2015 to celebrate the life and legacy of Harvest Church, and then the next week we officially became Rise City Church,” Brandon said. “Harvest Church’s pastor, Mike Crandall, came on our staff, and their congregation joined ours.”
Image provided by Rise City Church
Since the building was fully paid off, Rise City Church decided to take out a loan to do some renovations. Brandon had been a CDF Capital investor himself, so it was only natural that they took out a church loan with CDF.
“We’ve probably renovated 29,800 of the 30,000 square feet,” Brandon said.
Churches Who Plant Churches
But all that work on renovating hasn’t disrupted Rise City’s focus. The church began in 2013, and since then they’ve planted four new churches—two in San Diego and two internationally through a partnership with Compassion.
“Stadia plants churches who plant churches,” Brandon said. “So it was in our DNA.” Brandon and Chris—the friend who first inspired him to plant in San Diego—have set a massive goal.
“We call it our 10/10/10 plan,” Brandon explained. “We want to plant 10 churches in San Diego and 10 churches internationally in a 10-year period.”
In their renovated 30,000-square-foot facility, Rise City has room to grow as they continue to launch teams and plant new churches. Rise City is already having an impact, and with six more years to go in the 10-year plan, who knows how much they will change the spiritual landscape of San Diego?