In general, worship at Evangelical Free Churches is rather sedate. Amidst the congregation at the 10:00 am worship service at the Free Church in Oakhurst there were some who worshiped with hands raised, including the senior pastor who raised a single hand. But in the back of the sanctuary, one man danced with abandon. And when each song ended he clapped loudly when others seemed to feel worshipful quiet was the appropriate response.
We came to visit this particular church because it's the current church home of Kevin Lockwood, a former youth group student (his wife, Sarah, had graduated from high school before we met her). After the service I asked Kevin about the man in the back of the sanctuary. Apparently, three years ago he was a recipient of the church's outreach to the homeless. At that time he was without work as well. Now not only is the man working but he's buying a home and has regained part time custody of his son. Speaks well of the church's ministry of outreach.
I recognized the pastor during worship because he had introduced himself beforehand. I guess he was curious about strangers taking pictures of the outside and inside of his church. Pastor Bob has been at the church 23 years. When he came to the church, he was a truck driver. He'd pastored before, but it had been a bad experience and he had left ministry for a time. He came to worship at Oakhurst and was eventually asked to serve as senior pastor.
The worship service opened with the hymn, "Christ the Lord is Risen Today," a reminder that Easter was just a couple of weeks away. The youth pastor led the worship in a mixture of traditional hymns and contemporary choruses (what's called "blended" in the ecclesiological literature). Along with the two guitars and piano to accompany the singing there was a beat box and a hand drum (bigger than a bongo). I enjoyed the worship and was especially happy with the concluding chorus of "Shout to the Lord", a song that often leads me to sing louder than I probably should.
During the greeting time, we met the couple sitting in front of us, who had led the youth ministry of the church a couple of decades ago -- before the church hired their first full time youth minister (there have been three or four since then). Sometimes on these onetime church visits, I meet people I'd like to get to know, but I know I won't. Guess that's one of the many things heaven is for.
Kevin and Sarah's kids joined a good group of children who sang along and motioned to musical accompaniment. The great thing about children's performances in church is no one is worried about getting it just right. In fact, the things that go a little wrong just make it better. After they sang, the kids left for their worship time.
A little later, the overhead had a message to dismiss the kids to children's church. (The overhead also let us know when it was time to be seated after the greeting time. We didn't get a picture of the slide with helpful arrows pointing down in case we weren't sure where our chairs were.)
The sermon was Part 8 in a series, "God's Design for Relationships," and the scripture used was Ephesians 5: 23 - 33. The topic was marriage. Over the last couple of decades, when the sermon topic is marriage, I've come to expect a disclaimer addressed to single people in the congregation, assuring them that since marriage was an image of Christ and His church, they would benefit from the sermon as well. But there was no such disclaimer. Later in the sermon there was an address to singles, advising them what to look for in a spouse. But the call for some to singlehood that Jesus taught in Matthew 19 and Paul in I Corinthians 7 wasn't mentioned. Perhaps it was in other weeks of the series.
Pastor Bob encouraged the encouraged the congregation to catch up on the rest of the series from CDs that were available or from streaming on the church website. He said this showed the internet was good for something. Good to know.
The theme of the sermon was how the husband was to serve his wife and by providing her he would find satisfaction in life. (He referred both to the saying, "Happy wife, happy life" and "If momma ain't happy, nobody's happy".) He said the "buck stops" at the husband who is the coach, the CEO of the family.
From the sermon notes: "The man who's willing to trust Christ to create that kind of atmosphere and that kind of love in his home will be the satisfying lover of his wife and children." But the pastor pointed out said that marriage and the family were currently under attack from the world ("every day a liberal judge issues a ruling against marriage"). Again from the notes: "Matthew 16:18, 'the gates of hell will not overpower' that home" and "God's promise still remains for the wife who's willing to be subject to her own husband, and for the husband who loves his wife as Christ loves the church!"
He said that, sadly, many marriages that don't follow these teachings "start as ideal, become an ordeal and then people look for a new deal." He said instead we should "Do it once, and do it right!" I wondered how those words would sound to the widowed or especially to those who were divorced.
At the conclusion of the service we heard the happy voices of older children outside the sanctuary door. We went downstairs to the nursery and children's department to pick up Kevin and Sarah's younger kids. They DID NOT want to leave, which as it should be for kids in church.
Service Length: 1 hour 32 minutes
Sermon Length: 46 minutes
Visitor Treatment: We were recognized as visitors in the lobby; there was a greeting time during worship, and visitors were encouraged to get a welcome folder from ushers. The packets contained a tract, information about the church, a pen and a visitor card to fill out and drop in the offering later in the service
Our Rough Count: 165
Probable Ushers' Count: 190
Snacks: Coffee and tea right inside the front door of the building
Songs: Christ the Lord is Risen Today,
Lead me to the Cross
There is a Fountain
You are my King
Shout to the Lord
Miles to place: 259 miles
Total California Miles: 6,060 miles