Church Blog

Do that for 100 Years

“Discipleship and discipling imply the process of becoming like Jesus Christ. To be a disciple of Jesus Christ means living a fully human life in this world and union with Jesus Christ and growing in conformity to his image.”

Michael Wilkins, Following the Master, p.342

The basic idea of Christian discipleship is that we are followers of Jesus who make other followers of Jesus. But what does that actually mean? What does it actually look like? What is distinctive about the way that we make disciples at Santa Margarita Community Church?

Well, there is nothing that is unique to us, but there are aspects of discipleship that distinguishes. That is, we do it this way and not that way. Also, nothing is unique to us, but much of what we do is unique to now.

We say that our mission is to raise up generations of Christians. We are seeking to produce in ourselves and others a growing body of adult Christians generation after generation. An adult disciple is someone who lives Christianly in all things. An adult disciple takes dominion or responsibility for all of their areas given by God. An adult disciple has a lively, whole life fellowship with Jesus that you would notice if it was missing. An adult disciple is a substantial person who knows their doctrine, is more like Jesus than they were last year and exercise is there a dominion in all the areas of responsibility.

Remember, our forms form us. What we do shapes who we become. It does that because all actions have a theology behind them and we eventually come to look like that God. We said in Worship: when the church gathers on the Lord’s Day:

We need to know that every church has forms and those practices form us into a certain kind of people. The kind of people we are in Santa Margarita – joyful, fruitful and gracious – is because we have been shaped by the way that we worship. Think about it this way, all forms bear fruit, just like all seeds grow into plants after their kinds. In other words, everything that we do has a theology behind it and shapes us into a certain kind of people.

If we borrow modern, Godless education techniques then we will become modern… And godless. Our forms come from biblical teaching and historical wisdom. Again, from Worship:

Christian worship comes either from commanded biblical practices or historic wisdom. Historic wisdom is how the church before us applied biblical prescription and example. So, we worship according to biblical prescription and example or according to what historical wisdom determined will form us into Christian people who live Christian lives.

The forms of Christian discipleship also come from those same two sources.

So, the first thing that is distinctive about our discipleship mission at SMCC is the clear goal of an adult faith. We will seek to create a clear mental vision of that goal. The second thing that is unique is our timeframe, we are on a 100-year project, knowing that our intentional discipleship efforts today will raise of generations of Christians that we will only meet in the resurrection. Our sermon on June 6 will detail this 100-year vision for Christian adulthood and its fruit.

Adult disciples know something because God has spoken in the world and in the Word and He has given teachers to the church. Our sermon on June 13 will call on our pastors to teach us the Bible, according to the command of God, and on the congregation to do what it takes to learn. The pastor is the primary teacher in the congregation. He is not the only teacher, but it is his primary responsibility.

Adult disciples possess a Christ-like character. At least, more so this year than they did last year. The Spirit of God uses the Word of God in the mouths of the people of God to change our hearts, to actually change who we are. God gives this command to first to parents to train their children to have Christ-like character. Our sermon on June 20 will put the full burden of that responsibility on Fathers, primarily. It will give details of how we can do that and how the greater body of the church joins in the partnership.

Adult disciples live like Christians and lead like Christians wherever God has placed them. They take full covenantal responsibility to be the one that obeys God in their place for the good of their people. Our sermon on June 27 will clarify this responsibility in various spheres of life and it will charge the mature believers in the congregation to take responsibility to instruct those who also live and work in their spheres. This responsibility is given to the older saints to instruct the younger saints on how to actually get things done.

The goal is to raise adults who love Jesus, love the standard of Jesus and live it out joyfully. That starts with you loving the Jesus, loving the standard and living it out joyfully. Let’s be done with this idea that doing nothing achieves the same goals as doing something. We have had enough of the idea that you can do whatever and have it achieve the same goals as doing what Scripture and Christian wisdom dictate.

This is who we are, this is where we are going, this is how long it will take. And, you will want to know, that we mean it. We expect it of each other and we will deliberately pursue seeing it become a reality in you, in our church, our families and in our parish. Learn more of what God has said, be changed by it and take on the full adult responsibility to work hard and get things done. Be the kind of adult Christians who can carry a load. Do that again tomorrow and do that for 100 years.

Listen to the sermon series.

God’s Good Creation Camp

We are hosting God’s Good Creation Camp in person this summer!  Last summer campers learned that God created everything.  They explored our county discovering what God created and put here with us at this time.  They learned to name our local watershed and some of our local trees, insects and animals. This summer they will learn that God appointed people stewards over his creation on earth. To be good stewards, they must understand how the things God created work.  They will learn about water filtration, soil, photosynthesis, the anatomy of plants, insects, birds and ruminants and more through activities, games, crafts and even snacks.  This year’s camp is August 2-6th from 9:00 – 12:30. 

Click here to register:

Click here to pay:

Meet Bernie Smith

I was born and raised in Santa Margarita. I was the third of four children and went to SM Elementary School through 8th grade.

I was raised Catholic and married in the Catholic Church.

Where our oldest son Aaron was two years old, the Sunday School teacher of preschool students, Ethel Larsen, visited and asked if she could pick up Aaron each Sunday and take him to Sunday School. Life was different during the 1970’s. She had a two-door sedan and picked up from 8 to 12 preschool kids each week, stuffing them into her car. No seat belts, much less car seats which had not yet been invented. Ethel was dedicated to children and was never able to have her own. God used her passion to bring many families to church through their children.

A few years later, Gil Doebler SMCC 3rd pastor, made a huge impact on our family. My father had cancer for the second time, and we would leave our front room curtains open on the days he felt well enough for visitors. Gil would visit each day dad was up to a visit. Many talks would happen during those visits. Gil walked around Margarita much the same way Robert does, trying to visit with anyone who happened to be in their yard. After dad passed away, through a very difficult time with the local priest, I started taking my mom to Sunday School as well as our two boys. God was waking up my need to know more about Him during this same period. When the POW’s were returned from Vietnam after being in prison in solitaire with daily beatings for years they said their faith was kept alive by sharing bible verses, tapping the verse in morse code through the walls. It was also during this period that I discovered King David was also the David from David and Goliath. I knew nothing after spending years in Sunday mass.

After attending SMCC for a few years and growing in our relationship with Christ, with the help of Dan Blair (Atascadero Gospel Chapel), Byron and I started an AWANA program for all the children of SM. We had realized from our own background how important AWANA and bible memory is. It was very well attended by not only children from our church family but many students whose only church experience was through AWANA. For the privilege of doing the circle games these children memorized many bible verses.

My husband Byron passed away last year from with a second bout cancer after 52 years of marriage. This last year has been another very important year in my life of faith. I am holding on my life of faith in a deeper way. I am asking God how I can now spend my time serving Him in a new and different way. 

I am still blessed to be fellowshipping at SMCC with both my boys families and my grandchildren.

To God be the glory.

Some Thoughts on Prayer

This week, Sally has some thoughts for us on prayer:

The Way

When Jesus died on the cross for our sins, He took the barrier away that was between God and man.  He tore the veil that had kept the common man from entering the Holy of Holies. Jesus made the way for us to approach the throne of God confidently and boldly.  That is why we pray in His Name.  He is the Way.

The What

We can go to God with our hearts open sharing our hopes, our disappointments, our thankfulness, our griefs, our petitions, our anger, our confusion, our praise, our lives and all that is within us.  We can pray wherever we are, whatever we are doing.

Our Heart

Though we have full access and can pray at any time, may we always remember to approach our Heavenly Father with all the reverence due Him and ready to listen to what He would say to us in response. May we always remember that God is Over All.  He is all Seeing, All Knowing, All Powerful, All Loving, All Wise and All Patient.  Everything that we need in this life is found in Him and through Him. In Him is everything we need for life and godliness.

So, speak to Him anytime, anywhere. Speak continually to Him.  Tell him what is on your heart.  Listen for His response. He is Faithful to listen.  He is faithful answer in His time and in His way.

Psalms 5:1,2                 Matthew 27:50-51                    John 5:22-24 11             Ephesians 3:11-12        

Peter 1:3                       Hebrews 10:19-23                     1 John 5: 14 -15             1 Thessalonians 5:17,18

The Consequence

Prayer changes things. It quiets us down and opens us up to that still, small voice inside. Prayer takes the desires of our hearts and lifts them to a loving, listening God.  Before we have even said ‘Amen,’ God graces us with a spirit of peace and blesses us with reassurance.

I Peter 5:7 Casting all your anxieties on Him, for He cares for you

Matthew 11:28-30 Come unto me all ye who are heavy laden and I will give you rest.

The wonderful thing about praying is that you leave a world of not being able to do something and enter God’s realm where everything is possible. He specializes in the impossible. Nothing is too great for His almighty power. Nothing is too small for His love.

Corrie Ten Boom

Praying Together

This is Sally Andrews.  Like Sue, my prayer journey began at Grace Church in San Luis Obispo. I arrived there a young Christian thirsty to know more about God and His Word.  I was 21 and single. At the time, the church had a wonderful ministry that paired an older saint with single, college aged young adults. I was paired with Francis Jackson, who I soon learned was a faithful prayer warrior. She not only taught me about prayer and prayed for me but showed me hospitality and love. I attribute any growth that has taken place in my life to her and to other faithful prayer warriors, pastors, and teachers that I have been blessed to learn from. I am grateful for the discipleship I received that built a strong foundation in God’s Word.

After Darrel and I married, we moved to Atascadero.  We spent a year of searching for a church in North County and were finally led to become a part of the Church of the Nazarene. I discovered here that worship and prayer often go hand in hand. I continued to learn about the value and necessity of prayer and began to understand all that intercessional prayer entails. My journey was to take me to practicing individual prayer (just God and I), walking and praying with one or more friends, praying with groups on a regular basis and praying corporately as a whole church.  I learned to pray for both specific and general needs.

The ways that the Lord has used prayer in and through my life has varied as much as my life has varied, but prayer has remained a constant in my walk with God. I praise God for faithful friends who have become faithful prayer partners, some lifelong and others for a season. Through the joys and the sorrows, sickness and health, faith filled times and faithless times, prayer has been part of my life.  At times I have been the one praying, calling down the heavens; at others times I have relied on others to intercede on my behalf. Life is filled with ups and downs, sorrow and rejoicing.  James 5:13-16 comes to mind: Is anyone among you in trouble? Let them pray. Is anyone happy? Let them sing songs of praise. Is anyone among you sick? Let them call the elders of the church to pray over them and anoint them with oil in the name of the Lord. And the prayer offered in faith will make the sick person well; the Lord will raise them up. If they have sinned, they will be forgiven. Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

I look forward to sharing at the Women’s Conference some of what I’ve struggled with and learned over the years about individual prayer, praying with prayer partners or small groups and corporate prayer.

Praying Prayers of Lament

In 2003, Bob and I found ourselves relocating.  We were leaving our children, grandchildren, and the home we had lived in for over 28 years to move to Atascadero.  For reasons I won’t bore you with, it was not a choice we ever thought we would make –  or ever wanted to make.  I knew NOTHING about Atascadero.  We moved because that’s where the job was – not because we took a quiz on the 100 best cities in America to relocate.  All I knew at the time was that Atascadero was home to the, then, “largest hospital for mentally disordered sex offenders in the US.”  <insert confetti and balloon emojis>

For the weeks prior to the move, I prayed fervently to God asking why and pleading for intervention.  Nothing.  Nada.  Zip.  My prayers seemed to go as high as the ceiling before drifting to the ground.  I didn’t have a spiritual crisis.  I didn’t lose faith.  We moved, and I decided to stop complaining to God and “be happy”  – trusting that there was a reason for the move, despite the fact that God didn’t seem to be listening.

Maybe you’ve had an experience like this.  Maybe there have been, or are, times that when you don’t feel like God is listening. In the opening verses of Psalm 10, the psalmist asks God why he is standing far away – apparently unengaged.  Then he asks, “Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?”  So now not only was God standing far off, but He just stepped out of view entirely.

Fast forward to March 2020 and Covid.  I joined an all-staff Zoom meeting for Amor Ministries, the organization where I’d served for 30+ years.  The news was not good.  The border was shut down and the groups that had scheduled for spring trips to build homes were cancelling. Families who had looked forward to receiving homes wouldn’t be getting one – and whether we could survive as an organization if restrictions continued was (and still is)  in question.  Gayla, one of the founders of Amor, suggested we lament.  She offered a short article to read and suggested we consider writing our own lament.

I read the article and read a couple of laments and talked to Bob about laments – which sounded a lot like whining to me. He pointed me to a podcast about Lament….and that was a game changer.  Not only did God expect us to complain, He even provided us with a language to use for just such a time.  And this is the time! Issues like Covid, faltering small miinistries like Amor, racial issues, rampant abortion, “new” morality (or old paganism) provide lots of opportunities to lament – “A prayer in pain that leads to trust.”  Lament has a direction – It provides a way to complain to God that leads to a deeper trust in God. I’m looking forward to sharing more about Laments at our Women’s Conference.

Oh, and the move to Atascadero?  Among the most wonderful years of our lives.  A beautiful community, an unbelievable church, great friends…..I could go on and on.  Yes! God had a plan – and a great part of that plan was the 14 years at SMCC growing in theology and understanding – thank you, Robert!

As a PS, we moved back to SoCal in August of 2019 to be nearer to our family, and it turned out to be the right decision at exactly the right time.  Besides being close to and involved with the lives of our kids and grandkids, we benefited from their loving care during the worst of the pandemic. We also enjoy being involved with a growing group of friends at our new church – Northpoint Community in Corona.  (Ask the Campbells and the Powers about that!)

Seasons of Prayer

Matt and I moved to Santa Margarita in December of 1986 from San Luis Obispo. At that time we had two children, Ben and Michelle. We were attending Grace church in SLO. We felt well connected there and the children were comfortable in their Sunday school nursery.

In the spring of 1990, we welcomed Sophia into our family and it became very clear, very quickly, that getting three little ones up on Sunday morning and over the grade to church was going to be quite the challenge. I can’t remember how many times we attempted to get to church in SLO but I don’t think it was many.

We needed a church closer to home. In usual Andros fashion, we simply walked around the corner to check out “that church on “I” Street”.  We didn’t do any research, just walked around the corner. We heard a pastoral candidate, Paul Schliep, preach and enjoyed the sermon.  We were greeted and welcomed by people whom we still know and love today; Dave and Leslie Bryson, Steve and Janine Wagner, Steve and Jean Collins and Dave and Debbie Redel.  No, it was not missed on us that all the men were either Dave or Steve!

Paul was hired as preacher and we began to make SMCC our new church home. As I got to know the other ladies in the congregation, four women stood out to me.  They were older saints (actually they were my current age but seemed old at the time) and were, to me, the church matriarchs.  They were Hazel Hunter, Edie Culbreath, Katharina Bybee and Evie Brown.

These were the kind of ladies who always made a point of checking up on you.  They would ask about Matt, ask about the children, ask how I was doing. They weren’t just “church ladies”.  They were seasoned believers who each had a life of substance. Individually, they had each lived a life of faith and had met many challenges along the way.  All of them but Edie were widows. In other words, they knew what they were about.

Turns out, one of the biggest things “they were about” was praying for their church family.  I’ll never forget when the light finally clicked on in my brain. These women weren’t just making small talk when they asked how our family was, they were learning about us and finding out what our needs were.

What really blew me away was when they’d check back in with me a few weeks later and ask very specific questions about a child who had been sick or how Matt’s job was going.  Could it be that they were ACTUALLY praying for us?  Well, turns out they were.  Shoot, Edie, and her husband Charles, were praying through our church directory!

All I remember thinking was “how in the world do they find the time to actually pray for all of us”? Through the years I watched those lovely woman pray for us and love us. They have all passed on to glory now but they left me a big gift…I wanted to be just like them when it came to prayer.  It wouldn’t happen right away.  I needed to be a bit more seasoned.

Well, now I’m one of those older saints and considerably more “seasoned”.  I now have a set time for my prayers and a list of all the people I’ve promised to pray for. It’s hard to describe but my morning prayer time is all about praying for others but I am the one who is fed. Finally reaching a time in my life when this kind of commitment to prayer is possible has grown my faith like never before.

When I look back over the years, I ask myself why I couldn’t get my act together enough to be this kind of prayer warrior years ago? Why did this kind of mature prayer life just now become a part of my life? I wish I could say I don’t know why, but I do. My life has had “seasons” and most of those “seasons” did not lend themselves to quiet mornings with my bible and prayer journal by a sunny window.

When we gather together at our women’s conference, we are going to be talking about prayer.  We are going to explore the idea that there are “seasons” in life and our prayer life might reflect that. I do know some friends who have been champion prayer partners, no matter what was going on in their lives, and they have always inspired me.

I hope, as we talk and share, that we can encourage each other to a fuller and more meaningful life of prayer. I also hope we can give ourselves some grace as we learn that there might be times when prayers are said on the go and squeezed in just before falling exhausted into bed. There are even times when we are so sad or discouraged that our dear faithful friends say our prayers for us.

I’m looking forward to our time together. My sincere desire is that what we learn together will inspire and not overwhelm. I hope we will be encouraged but not overcome with guilt. We want to lead each other to a closer walk with Jesus no matter what season we find ourselves in.

Women’s Conference 2021: With One Accord

2021 opened with glimmers of hope in the shadow of a year filled with fear, unrest and isolation. While there are sparks of hope, reality is that it will take time to settle the unrest, vaccinate enough people to remove the isolation and calm fears. However, reflecting on last year’s conference, I see the Lord’s hand preparing us for 2020 by reminding us that our hope rests securely in Him. He is sovereign. He is good, gracious and compassionate. His steadfast love endures forever. He will not let His children go. He did not let us go in 2020.  He provided means for us to worship in the midst of the pandemic. He showed us new ways to encourage and bless one another in the midst of the pandemic.  Our church grew in the midst of the pandemic.

For our conference this year, God is leading us to focus on Acts 1:14.  Before ascending into heaven, Jesus told his disciples to wait in Jerusalem to be “baptized by the Holy Spirit.” Not at all sure what that meant, they never-the-less obeyed, gathering in Jerusalem and waiting.  While they waited, we are told:

All these with one accord were devoting themselves to prayer together with the women and Mary, the mother of Jesus and his brothers.

Two phrases stand out in this verse: with one accord and devoting themselves to prayer.

As followers of Christ, we are privileged to be deeply unified. Whatever our differences of opinion about what it looks like to walk by faith, we are all children of God, adopted into His family through Jesus’s death and resurrection.  As family, we are called to love and care for one another. Even if I am that relative that everyone tolerates at family gatherings, I am still family.  We are profoundly united in Christ. Our passion for Christ and proclaiming the good news of His gospel supersedes all differences of opinion. As we are learning in Romans, we neither judge nor scorn believers whose opinions about living by faith are different that our own.  God has welcomed them.  They will stand before Him because they stand in Christ, just as we do.

The second phrase, devoting themselves to prayer, is central to Christian life.  We all come to faith through prayer, repenting of our sin and asking God to apply His glorious salvation, redemption and reconciliation in Christ to us. Then, as children of God in Christ, we are privileged to come before the Creator of all things seen and unseen as our heavenly Father.  He hears our heartaches, renews our minds, softens our hearts and strengthens our faith so we can walk in a manner pleasing to Him.

We will think more deeply about our unity in Christ and prayer at the conference. As we wait, let us praise God for the ways He has not only sustained, but grown us as a church family this year.  Let us praise God that we are His children, one family in Christ. Although we may differ how we live our faith out our fingertips, we remain firmly tied together, united in our passion to worship God and proclaim His goodness to those around us.  Let us lift one another up in prayer alone in our closets, in our “pods,” over Zoom and as we gather for worship. Finally, let us look forward with anticipation to gathering in small groups or one large group to glorify our Lord, study His Word and pray together as sisters in Christ.

From Today’s Bible Reading. Wednesday, Nov. 18

Acts 27:35 (ESV): And when he had said these things, he took bread, and giving thanks to God in the presence of all he broke it and began to eat.

These words are not the ones spoken by Jesus at the institution or the last supper, as much as they sound like it. They are supposed to sound like it.

This is how Acts describes the table that the Apostle Paul set for a ship full of sailers and prisoners in the middle of a storm just before the ship was about to wreck and they all had to swim to shore or die. Do you need to read that again?

Here is a very significant principe in the world God has made and, especially, in the church that God has called to assemble.

First, God created a world in which His creatures gather for worship every seven days. The 1689 Confession reads this way:

It is the law of nature that in general a portion of time specified by God should be set apart for the worship of God. So by his Word, in a positive moral and perpetual commandment that obligate everyone in every age, He is especially appointed one day and seven for a Sabbath to be kept holy to Him. From the beginning of the world to the resurrection of Christ the appointed day was the last day of the week. After the resurrection of Christ it was changed to the first day of the week, which is called the Lord’s Day. This day is to be kept to the end of the age of the Christian Sabbath, since the observation of the last day of the week has been abolished.

And so, we gather to be fed with the Word and the Table, every week, as often as we come together. Then this heart, this thanksgiving, lives at our tables every time we sit to eat our daily bread from the hand of the Lord. The stability, the formation that happens there in this repeated practice will ground your faith and your family when everything else is going crazy. At the risk of being too cheesy, even in the midst of a storm.

So, come to the Table of the Lord. Get to that Table. Fight, scratch and kick to get to the Table where Christ nourishes your faith with the ordinance of bread and wine. And, set your table, giving thanks, no matter what else is happening, even storm and the threat of death. Set your table. Do it again. Do that for 100 years.

From Today’s Bible Reading. Tuesday, Nov. 17

Acts 22:25 (ESV): “Is it lawful for you to flog a man who is a Roman citizen and uncondemned?”

In this passage, the Apostle Paul calls on the legal authorities to do what is right in the sight of God and in the sight of the law.

Why can Paul make this appeal? According to protestant political theology, we understand that God has appointed rulers to exercise just law on behalf of the people. That means that they are accountable to God, the law, and the people.

Let me remind you of the spheres of authority that God has designated. We know these according to whom God has given clear and designated the commands.

First, God has given the home as the ministry of education, health and welfare. God has given the rod as a tool for discipline in this task.

Second, the church is the ministry of Word and ordinance (or sacrament). God has given the keys as a tool to include or exclude from the fellowship of the Word and table.

Third, the state is the ministry of justice. God has given the sword as a means of exercising just punishment.

Some want to add a fourth, that is really first, the responsibility of self-government to which conscience is the tool that aids us. Without proper self-government, none of the others will be effective.

Each sphere is accountable, as we have said, to God, the law (to do what they are commanded and not usurp another’s jurisdiction) and to the people they are given to serve.

Paul can confidently call on this right because it is true and given by God, even when Caesar fails to recognize it.

This is a good time to remember our theology. As Samuel Rutherford has said, “Truth to Christ cannot be treason to Caesar.” Tell the truth today. Live in truth today.