POINT LOMA When Miles McPherson launched the Rock Church in 2000 he knew the spiritual foundation was rock solid. But, as for the various facilities they called home, it was more like shifting sand.
Beginning Aug. 26, the facilities finally came into line as the congregation held its inaugural services at its permanent home in Liberty Station, the former Naval Training Center.
"I always knew we would be there, but I didn't always believe," McPherson admitted just days before the official opening.
McPherson said he sensed the Lord was directing him to the Rosecrans site in the mid-90s, several years before he even launched his church and well before the federal government's base realignment committee shuttered the longtime base.
"God has been faithful," the pastor said. "He has done what He said He was going to do and I'm looking forward to what He's going to do next."
In the seven years since the church's founding, the congregation has more than doubled in size, a mammoth feat for a church that drew 3,000 to its first service at San Diego State University. Its weekly attendance is now about 7,000.
Last year, the Rock Church was listed 19th in Outreach Magazine's annual listing of the 100 fastest-growing churches in the U.S., adding nearly 1,800 members in 2005. It jumped up from No. 60 the previous year.
In intervening years, the church services and ministries have been held in various locations, including its most recent Serra Mesa location.
"I think people come because the message is relevant to them, it's practical and it helps them on a daily basis," he said.
"It's not just amassing a large audience. The reason we have so many people is because they have a need and we are working to fill that need. It's not just listening (to a sermon), but helping people."
Drawing a significant base of young people among its weekly attendance, the new location will be more centrally located to four universities.
Its ministries are themselves educationally driven, featuring the Rock Academy, a large K-12 private school, and Rock University, a Bible college for lay leaders and pastors. Coupled with Miles Ahead Ministries, the new complex needed plenty of space to accommodate its thriving ministries.
And space they will get.
Significant real estate
At 206,0000 square feet, the three-story Liberty Station building is 180 feet wide and 443 feet long, which church officials say is about the same size as Noah's Ark. To accommodate the multi-level 3,500-seat sanctuary, major renovations were done, eliminating the second floor in portions of the structure.
In all, the entire project, including the second phase that will feature a 35,000-square-foot athletic complex community center at a nearby building, will run about $56 million.
Although the church has expanded, it will still be offering five Sunday services weekly at 8 and 10 a.m., noon and 5 and 7 p.m.
"God has blessed us with a good staff and the staff is very on board with the vision," said McPherson, a former Chargers player who founded the Miles Ahead Crusades in 1992 as an evangelistic outreach to young people. "Our mission is very specific and it's to empower people to do something in the community and not to produce a big event on Sunday."
As with any major building project, there have been hurdles with escalating costs, some community opposition and construction delays.
"When you go on a rollercoaster ride you expect the ups and downs, you expect it to be exciting," he said, admitting to occasional stress. "It's been exciting. We've seen Him work so you come to expect Him to continue doing those things."
Such was the case last spring when the church hosted a community Easter Service at Cox arena, which included an overflow crowd in nearby Peterson Gym. In all, 14,000 attended the service.
"We looked ahead, we planned for it, but it was still incredible," he said.
Pledge to the neighbors
Even as the final cosmetic touches have been finalized, McPherson said the congregation is acutely aware of lingering concerns about traffic, but vows that the church plans to be good neighbors.
"It's not like we are building a meth lab," he said. "It's all about preferences. People who don't like churches, don't like churches whatever they do."
Despite all the growth and changes, McPherson said he has never forgotten the promises made by the Lord to bring them to Point Loma.
"God fulfilled that," he said. "From this point forward it's all unexplored territory," the pastor said.
"I think what is going to blow my mind is what's going to happen over the next 10 years. This is what I saw all along, but I never thought of what might come next."
The church is located at 2277 Rosecrans St., at Womble Road. For more information, call (619) 226-7625 or visit www.therocksandiego.org.