The following is a repost of a response to the recent events in Charlottesville by Dan Hamil, Executive Director of our NAB Conference. We stand in affirmation of our conference and the words in this post.
“Dear NAB Family,
“Nearly two years ago, the NAB Strategy Team identified and set in motion eight initiatives pointing to where God was leading us as a conference. Along with church planting, missional training, and spiritual formation, one of those top initiatives was to help our churches pursue racial righteousness, by which we mean a righteous pattern of thought, speech, and action that flows out of our relationship with Christ toward all people, regardless of skin color, social position, or economic status. Regional Ministers, the Strategy Team, and the Executive Team have taken only early steps to discuss our part as a conference of churches in proclaiming the light of Christ as it relates to race and ethnicity. We acknowledge we have much work ahead of us.
“The recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia—and the events, gatherings, attitudes, and actions like them that live in shadows in our neighborhoods and in conversations in our churches—reminded us how much our churches together must stand strongly against any and all forms of racism. This is not simply a racial issue or a social issue; this is a Gospel issue. The message of neo-Nazis, white supremacists, the KKK, and other hate groups is abhorrent to the Gospel and runs counter to what the Bible teaches. There is no place in this world for speech that inherently demeans or belittles the value of those made in the image of God. Jesus commissioned His Church to reach all peoples with the good news of redemption through His atonement, calling them to salvation by grace through faith.
“For you are all children of God through faith in Christ Jesus. And all who have been united with Christ in baptism have put on Christ, like putting on new clothes. There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, male or female. For you are all one in Christ Jesus. And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and God’s promise to Abraham belongs to you.” (Galatians 3:26–29 NLT)
“As a conference of churches, we each live in unique contexts, be it Canadian or American, suburban, urban or rural. Our congregations are both large and small. Despite the differences in nationality, location, and size, each church has a vital voice to proclaim the very love of God in our cities and in our countries.
“The only place we know to start on a road to healing, reconciliation, and righteousness is to gather our churches in confessional prayer. It is easy for us to see these events as something beyond our reach or outside our borders and not part of the world in which we live. But with the mind of Christ, we admit that at times we have been silent when we should have shouted in protest, and times we have been inactive where we should have acted in grace and love. We are complicit in the power structures that make a better world for some families at the cost of our brothers and sisters of color. We, with humility, recognize that our acts of kindness, compassion, and hospitality have not been equally given to people of all ethnicities.
“In the coming months, we will provide additional resources for churches who are seeking to live faithfully in their communities and embrace ways to engage in acts of racial righteousness.
“Until then, may we seek the face of our good and great God, confessing our own sins and praying for His peace in our nations and communities.”
Dan Hamil, Executive Director
By Manuel Luz, Creative Arts Pastor
Throughout the Advent season this year, we have been celebrating the Lord’s Supper each of the four weeks. This is very different than the first-Sunday-of-the-month, which is our customary tradition. More specifically, we have been very purposeful in telling God’s Grand Story by tying the custom of lighting the Advent wreath candle to the celebration of the Lord’s table. Essentially, the Lord’s Supper allows us to bridge the manger to the cross.
The act of celebrating Communion has always been unspeakably, mysteriously meaningful to me, even as a young boy receiving the Eucharist in the Catholic mass. Kneeling on the cold marble floor of the church sanctuary, the taste of the round white wafer melting on my tongue, listening to the monsignor’s words, “the body of Christ.” These were indelible moments for me, simple actions where I came face to face with the mystery of our faith. We enter into a sacramental action that has been repeated millions of times over thousands of years, all the way back to that ancient moment when Jesus sat at the table to share the bread and cup with his closest friends. It was a highly intimate act, an amazing act of self-disclosure, as Jesus reveals his death in light of the most sacred of Jewish celebrations, the Passover meal. As he served the bread, “this is my body,” and the wine, “this is my blood, given up for you,” he revealed that he was the final sacrifice, the Perfect Lamb, whose blood would guard the doorposts of our homes, whose life would carry the sins of all mankind.
And this is why it struck me so deeply again during this Advent season. I’ve often thought that the act of incarnation—the act of God the Son eternal entering into the limited dimensions of our universe and clothing himself in fragile flesh—had to be more of a shock to Jesus than even dying on the cross. Think about that. He goes from infinite to finite, from Almighty God to helpless swaddling newborn, from timelessness to the ever-fleeting now, from the embrace of the perfect community of the Trinity to the utter aloneness of human being. No creature can fathom what that must have been like.
These were my thoughts as we celebrated the Lord’s Supper, and we repeated Jesus’ declaration, “This is my body,” and “this is my blood.” For the act of incarnation, the act of becoming this baby in a manger, was God’s ultimate act of self-disclosure. For we can truly know the nature and heart of God only through Jesus, who was God in the flesh, Emmanuel, God with us. When Jesus was born, it was as if God were saying, “This is my body, and this is my blood, given up for you.” It is only through the humanity of Jesus that we can fully know the nature of the Divine.
So the table represents a bridge between the birth, God’s revelation through incarnation, and the cross, God’s revelation through resurrection. The bread and the cup point backwards to the promise of Abraham and his descendants who were saved from Pharaoh. And they also point forward to the cross and the empty tomb and ultimately to our life in Christ now and into eternity.
Beautiful, metaphorical, artistic, the Lord’s Supper is an intersection of mysteries—Christmas and Easter, incarnation and resurrection, the Promise and the Fulfillment.
By Megan Harrison, Missional Living Pastor
Let me just say it from the start: I love Community Service Day! This September 17th marks the third annual Community Service Day in Folsom, and it is one of my favorite events of the year. They have projects for everyone, for every age, for every interest. The day unites businesses, families, faith communities, and friends across boundaries and neighborhoods. And it helps continue to make the community we live in a beautiful place to be!
It’s no secret that God calls us to care for our actual neighbors, in addition to our theoretical ones (aka “everybody”). In Jeremiah the Lord tells Israel to “…seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare will you find your welfare” (29:7 ESV). Lance Ford and Brad Brisco talk about this extensively in their book Next Door As It Is In Heaven: Living Out God’s Kingdom In your Neighborhood. (I recommend it you check it out!) One of their main points early on is this: we are called to care for our actual, living and breathing, right-next-door-to-us neighbors.
And that’s what God does and has done for eternity! This is mostly easily seen in Jesus. In his book God Next Door: Spirituality and Mission in the Neighborhood, Simon Carey Holt writes, “The story of the incarnation is the story of God en-fleshed in a particular place at a particular time and within a very specific community. So too for us, the call of God is to be in a particular place and there to embody the presence and grace of God. It’s a call to locality.” The Folsom Community Wide Service Day is exactly that. An opportunity to be present, to incarnate God’s love for this specific, local community, to live out God’s Kingdom in this particular place. And you are invited!
So what does this day actually look like? It starts off with a bang, as Lakeside hosts a breakfast in the morning, with food donated from local businesses, while city officials speak to the huge crowd that has gathered. The room is filled to bursting with people from every background, ready to go out and love on people and places in Folsom.
There are projects that help protect and beautify the parks, schools, and public places. There are projects to encourage those in the military and those recently diagnosed with cancer. There is a CITY WIDE food drive that collects huge pallets stacked with food every year! How amazing is that? A food drive that unites every neighborhood in our entire city!
Have I mentioned that I love this day? What better way to partner with our community and show them the tangible roots of the love of Christ? What better way to build relationships and teams through service? What better way to get further invested in our community?
I highly encourage you to consider joining us this year in serving around Folsom. Find out what projects are still open at www.folsomcommunityservice.org. Hope to see you there!
By Megan Harrison, Missional Living & Early Childhood Pastor
On Sunday, August 21st, we’ll be having an Oak Hills Ministry Partner Fair. Similar to the one we had in February of last year, this will give Oak Hills the chance to learn more about the work our partners are doing around the world! Many of our partners are either Oak Hillians, or are deeply invested in the people of Oak Hills, and we are deeply invested in them. Before the 21st rolls around, I wanted the chance to explore why these relationships matter so much, and why I believe it’s so important for Oak Hills to get to know our partners better.
First of all, you may be wondering: What is a ministry partner? A ministry partner is someone working to build God’s kingdom outside the walls of Oak Hills, who we support either financially or through prayer and other resources. We have partners who lead evangelism mission trips, partners who serve in slums, partners who work with recently released wards from Juvenile Hall, partners who lead churches in other countries, and many more. All of our partners work to make a difference and proclaim the gospel both locally and globally.
So how does someone become a ministry partner? It looks different for most of our partners, but generally the potential partner approaches Oak Hills and asks for support. They are directed to me, and I meet with them and talk with them about their ministry. Two of the primary things we look at are whether their mission aligns with Oak Hills’ values and theology, and whether there are already established relationships between the partner and Oak Hills.
I want to focus in on this last piece—the relationships between a partner and the church—because it highlights just why this Ministry Partner Fair is so important. Our Ministry Partners are just that—partners. We work together, encourage one another, and support each other’s work. Our partners are invested in Oak Hills, just as we are invested in them. And we have found over and over again that just having one or two staff members interested in the partner’s ministry is not enough. We NEED the congregation. Our partners need the support of the WHOLE church. They need all our prayers, our encouragement, our thoughts and our support.
Ministry can be grueling at times, and every one of our partners has faced at least one season of feeling alone in their work. I have found that I cannot support each of our partners as I would like, because we have 20 Ministry Partners, and I am one person! The Ministry Partner Fair is the chance for all of us to come together, learn more about our partners, and encourage them in what they do. My hope is that each and every person who comes on Sunday the 21st, would be drawn to one of the ministries.
We need YOU, and what you have to offer relationally. Perhaps you could consider signing up for an email list, or offering to pray for a need, or just spending time asking one of our partners about their work. Each one of these things is immensely encouraging to our partners! And as the Body of Christ, I believe we are called to encourage one another in the work Christ has set before us. You never know: in your efforts to encourage one of our partners, you may be surprised to find yourself encouraged as well!
Guest post by our ministry partner Twin Lakes Food Bank
Every year Oak Hills, and many other churches and organizations in the area, partners with Twin Lakes Food Bank to bring backpacks to students in need in the community. As you are able, bring a backpack and school supplies to Oak Hills Church between now and July 31st, or deliver it straight to the food bank!
TWIN LAKE FOOD BANK
BACK TO SCHOOL PROGRAM
Our goal is to make going back to school an exciting time for at risk kids within our community. Each student entering kindergarten through high school will receive a new backpack, essential school supplies and a Payless Shoe Source gift card. These cards have a “no cash back” policy, and they enable the student to pick out a new pair of shoes for school. Along with these new shoes, each student will take home new socks and a bag of kid friendly nutritious food. The generosity of local dentists provides each child with a dental kit.
On Monday, August 1, 2016 from 9:00 am until 11:30 am the Twin Lakes Food Bank will be having our annual Back to School event. Last year, 721 children received backpacks and essential supplies.
Would you consider helping a student start the 2016 school year off on a positive note? Twin Lakes Food Bank is in need of donations of all types. Monetary donations allow for the purchase of the shoe cards at a discounted rate. All back to school supplies that a child needs will be lovingly passed on to a thankful student. The Twin Lakes Food Bank serves our local communities of Folsom, Granite Bay, and El Dorado Hills.
A list of needed supplies is available at the Mission Booth in the lobby. Donations can be dropped off there between now and Sunday, July 31st. For more information, contact Pastor Megan Harrison at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The following are excerpts from a statement made by Pastor Kent Carlson on July 10, 2016, regarding the recent events which have polarized and rocked our country. For more of this sermon, we encourage you to Listen On-Line at the Oak Hills Church media page. Look for “The Book of Psalms: Confession” on July 10, 2016.
As we all know, this was a bad week in America with regards to racial relations, particularly as it involves the police. We had two African American men killed by white police officers for no known reason. We don’t know the details yet, or the results of the investigation, but we have this time, and this is becoming increasingly common. We have horrendous and gruesome videos and photos and audio of these men being killed, even though we don’t know the whole story yet.
We don’t know the reasons behind the shootings. Some say it was racism, clear and simple. Others say it was really terrible judgment, or perhaps bad training, or bad learning, on the part of the police officers, or there may be other factors that we don’t know about yet. But there aren’t too many people objectively looking at the situation arguing that the killings were justified. These kinds of violent, fatal, and unjust events simply enflame the feelings and the fear and the anger and the lived experiences of many of our African American brothers and sisters in this country. And if some of us are not aware of these feelings and experiences and fears and anger, or if we minimize them or make them something trivial or without legitimate justification, then I would say that we simply have not had an honest, authentic conversation with an African American brother or sister lately.
And we ought to take a time out, before we say anything else or form any more hardened opinions, and ask god to give us the holy privilege of listening to someone explain these feelings and experiences and fears and anger—and just listen. Just listen, and try as best as we can to understand this world from the perspective of somebody else—without justifying, without explaining, without interrupting, without trying to argue that the other person’s feelings and experiences and fear and anger are an over-reaction or not according to reason or the truth.
But then we had another unthinkable event in Dallas, Texas this past Thursday. A heavily armed African American, ex-army reserve private who had served in Afghanistan, ambushed, killed, murdered, five police officers and wounded seven others, and wounded two by-standers as well, before he was killed by the police. The police were there in larger numbers because they were providing security and protection for people, primarily African Americans, who were marching in a “Black Lives Matter” protest. These officers were killed by a man who apparently said that he wanted to kill white people.
I know a number of police officers—as do many of you—and you know they put their lives on the line every day to serve their communities, to protect us. And they see the raw underbelly of society more clearly than most anyone else, and the vast, vast overwhelming majority of them serve with heroism and distinction every day they are at work. For these five murdered officers, this heroic service cost them their lives, and their families are grieving horribly over this deranged, racist individual who murdered their loved ones.
As is to be expected in our increasingly antagonistic and polarized world, the news feeds and Facebook and Twitter, as well as politicians and pundits and talk show hosts and other people who have a public presence both small or large, as well as just normal folks like you and me, took to the air and the internet to point fingers and to blame and make exaggerated and unfounded claims from dubious sources. And all this has accomplished is to stoke the fires of antagonism and hatred and anger and blame even further. It polarizes people far away from each other on opposite sides of the issues so far away that it is almost impossible to hear each other.
Now, I’m not going to say a lot about all this today. I’m certainly not going to be another voice that polarizes or builds antagonism and hatred and immature judgments. I simply want to remind us all here at Oak Hills, that we are first and foremost followers of Jesus Christ, and at the heart of the message of Christ is the message and the work of reconciliation. Reconciliation is the bringing of alienated people together in the transforming presence of Christ for healing and for peace for the establishment, and building up of shalom in this world. Sometimes in our world, this task of reconciliation seems impossible, because the anger and hatred and inability to hear each other is so overwhelming. But regardless, it is our job it is who we are to be agents of reconciliation. This is the work of the kingdom of god. And as followers of Christ, our voices and our lives should be at the center of bringing people together.
I read yesterday this little Facebook post from a young African American woman named Natasha Howell, from Andover, Massachusetts, and she wrote this:
So this morning I went to a convenience store to get a protein bar, and as I walked through the door, I noticed that there were two white police officers, one about my age and the other several years older, who were talking to the clerk, an older white woman behind the counter, about the shootings that have gone on in the past few days. They all looked at me and fell silent.
I went about my business to get what i was looking for, and as I turned back up the aisle to go pay, the oldest officer was standing at the top of the aisle watching me. As I got closer, he asked me, “How are you doing?”
And I replied, “Okay. And you?”
He looked at me with a strange look and asked me, “How are you really doing?
I looked at him and said, “I’m tired.”
His reply was, “Me too.” Then he said, “I guess it’s not easy being either of us right now, is it?”
I said, “No. It’s not.” Then he hugged me, and I cried.
“I had never seen that man before in my life. I have no idea why he was moved to talk to me. What I do know is that he and I shared a moment this morning that was absolutely beautiful. No judgments. No justifications. Just two people sharing a moment.”
That’s the ministry of reconciliation. This police officer was a minister of reconciliation. He bridged the gap—the chasm—that separates us.
By Mike Lueken, Senior Pastor
In our faith tradition (which some of you may not realize is Baptist!), we observe the sacraments of the Lord’s supper and baptism. A sacrament is just what the word implies—it is a sacred practice where the divine meets the human. Heaven intersects with earth. Sacraments are certainly signs of what God has done for us in His life, death and resurrection. We remember His grace through the sacraments. But sacraments are more than signs. In the mystery of the sacred practice, God shows up.
For example, on the first full weekend of each month, we celebrate the sacrament of communion together. The Table shapes us as a people who have been rescued by God through the life and sacrifice of Jesus. It is a vital aspect of our individual life in Jesus and of our communal life together in Him.
One of the most important gatherings of the entire year is our annual River Baptism and Barbecue, which will be on July 14. A baptism is similar to a graduation or birthday party or anniversary celebration. It is an occasion where the family gathers to remember and celebrate. Our annual baptism is an event where we remember why we exist as a Church. It is a core celebration of what God has done in the lives of those who are being baptized.
At the risk of being too assertive, the baptism service is too important to miss. If Oak Hills is your Church, I strongly urge you to join us at the river on July 14. We will have a barbecue, fellowship, a time of worship and a time of baptism.
I’ve always enjoyed the story of the Ethiopian eunuch in Acts 8. Philip shared the good news with him in a way where baptism made sense as a first step in this new life as a follower of Christ. In fact, the newly converted Ethiopian initiated his baptism by asking Philip, “What can stand in the way of my being baptized?” Somehow this man understood the spiritual significance of baptism and saw its connection with his decision to become a follower of Jesus.
Baptism is a crucially important event in the life of a Christ-follower. It is an expression of faith. It is an act of obedience to God. It is a public demonstration of our willingness to die to self and follow in the Way of Jesus. It is an encounter with the Spirit. It is a burial of the old way, and a resurrection into the new Way. Baptism is a sacred event where heaven touches earth and God makes himself known. In the New Testament, Christians were putting their lives on the line when they came to faith in Jesus. Baptism was how they were initiated into the Way of Christ and the life of the Church. Baptism is a big deal for both the individual and the Church.
If you have never been baptized, let this be the year! It doesn’t matter how much or little you know. It doesn’t matter if you have every detail of your faith and life worked out. None of us has that. You have the opportunity to declare to all who attend that you are a new creation in Jesus Christ. That’s an act of faith and it is a really good thing. You have the chance to show your colors. You have the chance to draw a line in the sand and identify with Jesus and with His Church. That’s a really good thing. A mandatory baptism class will happen on Sunday, June 26, and July 10 during the 11:00. To attend one of these classes sign up online here or stop by the Formation booth in the lobby after a Sunday service.
Our annual River Baptism is on July 14 at Negro Bar State Park in Folsom (Note that there is a $10 parking day use fee). The barbecue begins at 6 PM, along with live music by Waiting For Sunday. Worship and Baptism begin afterward. Please go to the following link to register. The event is free, but you can submit a donation at registration to assist with food costs. You can also stop by the Formation booth in the lobby after a Sunday service for more information. See you there!
[NOTE: If you’re interested in seeing a video of the 2015 River Baptism, please hit the link.]
During my recent missions trip to the Philippines, there was a moment, in the midst of worship with the lovely people of one of the Legazpi churches, that I pictured the congregation of Oak Hills worshiping, half a world away. One of the worship teams will be playing some rock-beat tune, the congregation will be singing and swaying to the music, the lights will be low and the screens will be flashing lyrics. And God will be in the room again. There was a spiritually poignant thought that struck me in that moment, worshiping loudly with this group of Christ followers, who were crammed this morning into a rented auditorium space.
As I remembered that I am a full 15 hours ahead of Pacific Standard Time, I was struck by the fact that the worship I was participating in was nevertheless still connected to the worship that the people of Oak Hills have yet to experience.
Connections. We are all interconnected melodies in the New Song that God composes in the universe. We are connected spiritually through our connection in Christ, and also connected by relationship—me with them, them with me, me with my church. It is these connections, both vertical with God and horizontal with one another, that define us as the family of God, the Bride of Christ, the church. Worship is a beautiful thing.
When we worship together on a Sunday morning, we join with the churches down the street, in the neighborhood, around the Sacramento valley, around the state, around the country.
When we worship, we join in worship worldwide. Every Sunday, we join in worship with Christians dancing in Uganda, with Christians hiding in house churches in China, with Christians in the Ukraine, with Christians rocking out in Australia, with persecuted Christians in India and in the Middle East, and with our friends in Sao Paulo, Brazil.
When we worship, we join our words with those speaking Tagalog and German, in Mandarin and Russian, in Telegu and Hindi, in Spanish and Arabic and Somali. We worship in a thousand languages every Sunday.
Here’s what I’m getting at. We as American Christians are quite sophisticated at seeing the world through a particular prism, through a particular worldview. Just check out any Facebook wall, and you’ll see people drawing lines, picking sides, creating factions. But this worldview isolates us from the greater reality of what God is doing in the world, and how God is moving in and loving the Church. Spiritually speaking, we as Christ followers actually have more in common with people in the house churches in Beijing than with your neighbor across the street.
As I sang and worshipped with our brothers and sisters in Legazpi, I was reminded again of how big a God we have. The God who made the heavens and the earth, the God who loved us enough to put on flesh, the God who calls us to be the Church to one another and to the world. And I was reminded that those connections define us in ways large and small.
By Lorraine Rothenburg, Community Care & Assimilation Pastor
It was November of 2013. That’s when we first started talking with our church family about a new giving campaign to address some practical and ministry needs and goals. We started with interviews with some church individuals and families, and then a church survey followed by a Congregational Meeting and Vision Night on November 21 of that year. Our campaign team met with a consultant to map out plans for the two-year campaign, and after that we met weekly for many months. It was a fun and exciting time of preparing!
We officially launched “to the modular & beyond!” in February of 2014, which ran for 7 weeks and culminated in a big All-Church Banquet on March 29th and Celebration Sunday on April 6th. Those weeks were a whirlwind of meetings, a leadership dessert, informational gatherings with our pastors, introduction to our beloved mascot Lars, and more (including prayer!). Our print materials mapped out our campaign vision and goals, which included renovation of most of our modular buildings, moneys to go toward paying down one of our mortgages and moneys toward needs of one of our ministry partners – Restoration Ministries in Brazil.
And now, more than two years later, here we are. At the end of May, we are wrapping up our campaign. How did we do? Good question! As of today, we:
- Have received $911,000 of the pledged $1,000,000. That’s amazing! That leaves only $89,000 to yet receive (and more), which we hope to receive by the end of this month from pledged gifts as well as new gifts.
- Have renovated modular buildings C & D (classroom spaces). These rooms house a bunch of our outside recovery groups (such as AA and Al Anon), as well as other groups. We have also renovated buildings F & G, our staff/pastoral offices. We are so very grateful to be working and serving our church folks and community in new offices that look (and smell) amazing and are so much more hospitable and safe. Building A, our Youth Auditorium, is almost fully renovated. This multi-purpose building will also be available for weddings, funerals, other church activities and outside rentals. Our church lobby also got a face-lift and update with new paint, artwork, signage and upgraded booths. The landscaping around our office buildings was redone and now our main office has a clearly marked, friendly entrance.
- Have sent money to Restoration Ministries for the purchase of a much-needed bus and build-out of their dormitories. Their leaders visited us and shared in our services several times.
- Have made multiple reductions to our mortgage payments: a total of $402,000, which means a reduction of our monthly payments by $2,700.
- Have, as part of our desire to reach out more to Folsom families, hosted a variety of outside groups of various sizes, including housing 60 students overnight for 6 weeks for a wrestling camp!
Yes, we truly have much to celebrate. God has been so good to us. Our church family has sacrificed so much, both financially and in other ways, to help us accomplish our campaign goals. It has been fun to do this together. And now, as we are nearing the end of the campaign, it’s time to celebrate!
Join us on May 29th at 10am for our one-service Sunday as we celebrate together. We’ll follow our service with a great lunch and, of course, CAKE!! We hope you’ll make plans to join us.
And, if you didn’t get to participate in giving to the campaign and would like to, or want more information, stop by the Community booth in our lobby any time in May for materials. And your Lars mug!
Well done, Oak Hills Church! Well done. Let’s finish strong with our remaining gifts and celebrate God’s enduring faithfulness to us.