Church Blog

SMCC Christmas Eve Candlelight Service Explained: What We Do and Why

Each year we mark the celebration of Christmas with a Christmas Eve Candlelight service. This is a reflective service rejoicing in God’s salvation come in the birth of Christ. This year we will continue with how SMCC has traditionally observed this service: with scripture readings, singing carols, and candle lighting. We will relight the four advent candles we have lit throughout advent, culminating in the lighting of the Christ candle to mark the birth of Christ. At the end, the congregation will light each other’s small candles from the flame of the Christ candle.

For the order of the scripture readings and prayers this year, we will follow the plan of the “Nine Lessons and Carols” service. Why this model? For over a hundred years now, many churches have followed this same service order on Christmas Eve. It consists of nine short “lessons” (scripture readings) which tell the story of man’s fall through to the birth of Christ, interspersed with carols sung by the congregation or a choir. Though first begun in 1880, the form followed today was set by Eric Milner-White in 1919. He began the service on Christmas Eve 1918, just 6 weeks after the end of the First World War, with the goal of focusing on the warmth and delight of Christ’s birth to comfort a grieving people. The service is thus beautiful in its simplicity and fitting for reflecting on the wonder of the incarnation. The service leads us in just what it encourages us to do in the opening call to prayer: “Let us read and mark in Holy Scripture the tale of the loving purposes of God from the first days of our disobedience unto the glorious Redemption brought us by this Holy Child.”

Please join us to celebrate together on December 24th, 6 pm, at the Oyster Ridge Barn.

Remembrances: Bible Study

Fall started off with a rush this year. I think it was just wonderful to be able to gather again in what feels like a normal routine. Whatever the reason, we are gathering and we are growing. We added Sunday school Classes, Table Groups and more Bible Studies than ever.

Our Bible Study method, a manuscript style inductive study, has brought a ton of unexpected fruit to those involved. Perhaps we should have expected that opening the Bible together in depth week after week would change us even if we couldn’t have imagined how much. Here is a link to know more about the Manuscript Bible Study.

These men and women, gathering 4 different times during the week, are doing the hard work of showing up. They are putting their heads down to study the Bible and then discuss it. Above all, the Spirit of God is using the Word of God in the mouths of the people of God to change their hearts.

There are few things that make a Pastor’s heart happier than seeing his people study the Bible. I am grateful for you.

Keep it up and keep paying attention the work of God going on in our church. We are gaining ground.

Pastor Robert

Inductive Manuscript Bible Study

Many people enjoy watching the Olympics. It’s thrilling to see world records broken as athletes perform better than anyone ever before. However, seeing a world record broken cannot compare to the athlete’s experience of setting a new world record. This is why we do manuscript Bible study. While it can be instructive, convicting, and intriguing to hear a lecture or read a book about a Bible passage, it doesn’t compare to the thrill of understanding a passage and being convicted by what we learn from our own study. As athletes work hard to train for competitions, we have to work to do manuscript study, but the fruit of those efforts makes worthwhile. So, what is inductive manuscript Bible study?

Group Study

Manuscript studies are group studies. God gifts people differently for the benefit of the group. My first manuscript study was discouraging. I had trouble making observations and asking questions. I sat and listened. Often at the end of the discussion, I would say, “So, are we saying…?” When I mentioned my frustration, the leader said not to worry about quietly listening. My gift was summarizing what we learned in the passage. I gained from the groups’ comments. They gained from me pulling it all together. Group study allows us to benefit from each other’s gifts and learn more together than we would alone.


Our manuscript studies are inductive. This means we look closely at the text to discover what it means, then we apply it to our lives. We intentionally use a particular thinking pattern to study. We label the steps and purposely walk through them slowly. The steps are simple. Everyone uses them daily: Observation, Interpretation and Application. Want to see a movie? You read the movie listings. (Observation) You consider your schedule, the movie schedule, what you want to see and you choose your movie. (Interpretation) Finally, you see the movie. (Application) In Bible study, we look at the text. What does it actually say? How does it say it? (Observation) Then, we ask questions about the text and decide what it is teaching us. (Interpretation) Finally, we think about how it applies to us today. (Application)


Manuscript study does take effort. However, the fruit is tremendous. First, we learn much more studying together. Second, it becomes normal for us to have spiritual conversations. Third, we gain confidence studying scripture. We begin to see how the Old and New Testaments are connected. Fourth, we use Bible resources to find answers to our questions. Fifth, we develop a hunger for God’s word. Finally, we grow individually and corporately as we regularly apply God’s word in our lives together.

Remembrance: The Parish School

I mentioned last Sunday morning that the passage on memorials encouraged me to pay more attention to those things that I am (or at least should be) grateful for in the life of our church.

While so much seems to be standing still in our world, we are clearly gaining ground. I see it and I want to celebrate it with you. I see it in the strength of our fully functioning staff and how well we are working together; I see it in the beauty of our meeting place out at Oyster Ridge; I see it in the growth of our congregation with so many of you only a part for a few months; and I see it in the size of ALL of our midweek groups, just to name a few.

Overall, I am just grateful to be your Pastor and I hope that you are grateful to be part of this church.

Today, I want to celebrate the children and families at The Parish School. As you know, education has been complicated for Christian families for a long time and it became increasingly so in the last school year. Many of our families have gathered together to support each other in some version of home schooling. Some attend charter programs on other days and some do all of their schooling at home.

We determined that we would gather together in order to form a common culture that is centered on the life of the church. We share those things that shape a local culture: we learn the Bible together (also learning those passages at home), we learn the same catechism and we sing the same songs together each Wednesday morning.

This is so encouraging because we can clearly see that the simple efforts to read, pray and sing really do produce fruit in our lives and in the lives of our children.

I wish I had a picture of 20 children piled up around me as I read the Bible to them or show them pictures of Gideon’s shophar, but I do have a little video of the children singing Psalm 67C, God Show Mercy to Us. They really are able to learn it and to sing well. One of the books that Miss Jean (Collins) provided for our music instructors (Claire Daniels on Wednesday morning and Caleb & Maegan Campbell on Wednesday night) said this, which we have found very encouraging in the goal of giving our children the gift of music:

“By third grade, at least 95% of students I have taught since Grade One match pitches accurately.”

Enjoy. Be encouraged. Keep making efforts to learn the Psalm for yourself and keep gaining ground.

Watch Video Here.

Pastor Robert

1000 Generations

Four Truths that Stand Test and Time

This weekend we begin a series of sermons highlighting 4 key doctrines that stand up to both testing and time. If we were to believe differently in these areas it would produce a very different kind of fruit, if you could call it fruit at all.

Aug 1. The Godness of God: We start with God because God starts with God. God is. God is simple. God simply remains the same.

Aug. 8 The Condescension of God: the only way that this God can relate His creation is by stepping down to do so. We call the form of God’s condescension a covenant. We are born into a covenant with Adam. We are born again into a covenant with Christ.

Aug. 15 The Worship of God: The God who exists by His own power and condescends to be in relationship to man regulates His own worship by His revealed Word in the Bible.

Aug 22 The People of God: The people of God confess the faith together once for all delivered to the saints. That truth has been summarized, put in forms to be learned and passed on from generation to generation.

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.