San Diego pastor Miles McPherson discusses Miss California flap

Miles McPherson doesn’t shy away from the spotlight. A former National Football League defensive back for the San Diego Chargers, McPherson played amid the adulation and attention of millions. By 1984 drug addiction had turned his career and his life upside down. He relied on a strengthened commitment to faith to pull him through. Turning his career toward ministry, he reached a point in 2000 where he opened The Rock Church in San Diego. Over the last decade, the church has grown from that initial service at San Diego State University to a permanent building in 2007 and now five services with 12,000 congregants with a sharp focus on community service. The spotlight expanded from Southern California to national attention this spring with controversy over comments made in opposition to gay marriage by Miss California, Carrie Prejean, at the Miss USA pageant. Prejean attends The Rock and McPherson has been a staunch advocate and defender of her through a drawn-out process that ultimately saw her being stripped of her title by pageant boss Donald Trump. To get to the point where he has drawn so much attention for his faith and his views, McPherson first hit a hard bottom personally and spiritually. Professional athletes in any sport are surrounded by temptation and the adoration of others who may not always have their best interests at heart. That was the case in 1984 when McPherson came to Christ with the help of teammate Sherman Smith and the realization his life nearing a dangerous crossroads. “One of those moments came while I was in a crack house bathroom,” McPherson recalled. “I watched this guy make crack who looked like a shriveled up skeleton with skin. As I sat there watching him cook and make the crack, I looked in mirror and thought, ‘What am I doing?’ “I went out in the hallway to watch my buddy smoke crack and I went in the next room and did cocaine, which was no better. I was scared for my friend and scared for myself. That was my turning point. “I had accepted Christ at 19, but never had been discipled. The Lord had tried to whisper in my ear for five years. Obviously at that point it was pretty loud and I knew I had to do something to change. It was shortly afterwards I truly submitted my life to the Lord.” McPherson has worked with Chargers’ players in ministry settings. “I don’t think that I wouldn’t categorize players as selfish so much as that people give them so much attention that they are conditioned to getting what they want,” he said. “When I played, I didn’t get paid that much money compared to today, but I did get conditioned to getting away with what I wanted. In some athletes’ and celebrities’ minds, that creates a perception they are above the above law or they can do whatever they want to do and live that way. Most of the guys I meet by and large are nice regular people who are in these rare circumstances.” The epitome of the committed Christian coach is the recently retired Tony Dungy of the Indianapolis Colts. McPherson had the opportunity to see the respect Dungy commanded with his players before what ended up being his final game, a playoff loss to the Chargers in January. “When I did chapel with him for the Colts right before they lost to the Chargers in the playoffs, I would say 75 percent of the team was in the room,” McPherson said. “I’ve never done a chapel before with 75 percent of the team in the room. There were guys standing against the wall and I don’t know if all his coaching staff was there, but I would say most of them were. Those guys really respect that man. What he stands for is absolutely genuine. The guy’s reputation speaks for itself.” Building a similar commitment within his congregation to serving the community is central to McPherson’s approach. A wide range of ministries exist from sports camps to women going to strip clubs and connecting with prostitutes to try and help them turn their lives around. “There is no question about it,” McPherson said when asked about the community service focus driving up congregation numbers. “I would definitely say volunteering and doing something to help the community is energizing the church. God created us to serve and Jesus gave his life so we might love one another as he loved us. God is blessing opportunities for people and putting us in a position to serve.” McPherson is publishing a book in November entitled “Do Something” to illustrate the power of volunteerism, which will give him an opportunity to present himself separate from the whirlwind surrounding gay marriage and Prejean. He was a supporter of California’s Proposition 8 which defined marriage as between a man and a woman, overturning a State Supreme Court decision legalizing gay marriage. The next big battleground for gay marriage is Maine, where a November referendum looms to legislation passed in April. In appealing to a secular audience for the referendum, McPherson advised keying in on the structure of families as the best argument. “The best way for little kids to develop into healthy, law-abiding citizens is when they have a mom and dad in the house,” he said. “If you take away a mom or a dad, the chances of kids doing drugs and getting involved in crime goes up exponentially. “We don’t want to redefine the structure of a family just to give someone tax breaks.” Gay marriage has remained a pertinent topic after Prejean was asked about her feelings on marriage by judge and gay celebrity blogger Perez Hilton during the Miss America pageant. Her answer in support of traditional marriage ignited an angry response from Hilton on his blog and sparked a national debate about marriage law and the opposition to it by some Christians. “One of the things I learned in this battle is that love and loving people who hate you is a very, very powerful tool,” McPherson said. “What I learned through the process with Carrie Prejean is that when you engaged people on the other side in love using common sense without compromising your beliefs, you saw a very powerful effect on people. “The devil has created a wedge between a lot of people on this issue. You can engage people one-on-one and through interviews and present a compassionate perspective in which people had never thought about.” McPherson contended that the vitriol spouted at Prejean by Hilton and some, but by no means all, gay marriage supporters nullified the argument that Christians are too biased if they oppose gay marriage. “People who claim to be tolerant can be very intolerant unless they know what they’re doing,” he said. “The importance of what you believe became evident. (Prejean) may not have realized that all she did was answer a question and for that she would be attacked. “She was thrown under the bus by very intolerant, wicked, vicious people who attacked her and were exposed themselves by how she reacted.” Controversy ensued when pictures of a scantily-clad Prejean from a teen photo shoot emerged. Trump allowed her to keep her standing as Miss California after the photos surfaced, but she ultimately lost her title when Trump claimed she violated contract terms by missing multiple appearances. “She was told she wasn’t obligating her contract by having a book deal,” McPherson said. “She didn’t have a book deal. That was false. Number two, Donald Trump said he gave her permission to do the appearances she wanted to along with the director (Keith Lewis of K2 Productions) who fired her. That was false. Number three, the appearances she didn’t make such as posing for Playboy or going undercover to gay movie premieres were placed on her calendar, they did not come from Hollywood invitations. All the reasons she didn’t appear and didn’t fulfill her contract are false.” On a personal note away from the Prejean controversy, McPherson has a milestone to look forward to in September with his 25th anniversary with his wife Debbie. Drawing upon his own experiences, McPherson also pointed to Ephesians 5:25-32 as foundational advice to men struggling in a marriage. “It’s very simple,” he said “It all boils down to obeying the Bible for a man to serve his wife. Most people who go to counseling, the guy needs try to serve and love as his wife as Christ loved the church. I tell guys to wash their wife’s feet and ask how they can be blessed. Usually in counseling it’s about a power struggle on the part of the guy. What the Bible teaches is backward of the way the world teaches us it should be.” Links: The Rock Church: http://www.therocksandiego.org/

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