I first attended a Santa Barbara Community Church worship service in 1988, my freshman year at Westmont College. I was finally able to find a ride to church and was eager to worship with this congregation I had heard some good things about. So I went… and was not impressed! At the time, SBCC was meeting up on the Mesa and gathered for worship in concentric circles of folding chairs. It was pretty much only young adults. Music was accompanied by a couple guitars and was mostly what I considered youth group songs. Suffice it to say that it felt nothing like the large Presbyterian church I had been involved with at home!
Fast forward several years… I was a couple years out of college. After moving out of Santa Barbara for a year to intern at the previously mentioned Presbyterian church of my youth, I was drawn back to SB to enjoy the community of friends I missed so much. And by this time, pretty much all of these friends had become active in SBCC. So I gave it another shot – and this time I fell in love!
What changed? For one thing, I did. By this time I was looking for something that felt less “corporate” and more like a family. SBCC delivered on that in spades.
But at the same time, SBCC had also changed a lot in those 6 years. By now the church met at the St. Mark’s Methodist Church campus on Sunday afternoons for worship and was slowly expanding the generational boundaries (especially the younger generation… lots of little kids and a brand-new youth ministry!).
This fall marks SBCC’s 39th anniversary (and my 24th year as part of this church). There have been many changes over the years, and certainly this year brings the most significant changes we’ve yet encountered. But over this time, there are some things that have remained constant: a rock-solid commitment to the authority of God’s word; a cherished emphasis on the priesthood of all believers; a desire to be a part of God’s global mission both near and far; and a conviction that the local church is central to God’s plan for the world.
In this edition of the Community News, you’ll find stories of how God has used this spiritual family– with all its imperfections– to help us know and love God, to grow us up in Christ and to equip us to fulfill God’s purposes for our lives. Our hope is that as you read these short reflections, you’ll be led to praise God who has blessed us with an amazing church family. And perhaps you’ll even find yourself wanting to share your own stories of how God has used SBCC in your life. Don’t hold back! For the encouragement of the church and for the glory of God, let’s continue to share our stories and invite others into the life-changing community of the family of God.
I became a Christian in college, and soon after I started attending SBCC. I am from a non-Christian family and I never attended church growing up, so I had nothing to compare it to. To me the whole thing was foreign, slightly awkward…. and really wonderful all at the same time. As a new Christian, I jumped both feet into a homegroup and had amazing years of fellowship that transformed how I think about my relationship with Jesus and what it means to be a part of a community of believers. Over time at SBCC, I grew up in my faith.
Even though my faith was maturing, I was (and sometimes still am) aware of the fact that I had not grown up in the church. I’d often hear of Children’s Ministries and Youth Group but I had no idea what went on there. Despite my lack of knowledge in this area, one of our Youth Pastors asked if I wanted to help with Youth Ministries. At first I balked at the idea as I had never been to Sunday School let alone Youth Group. Eventually I was encouraged into serving.
For 8 years I have served in our church’s youth ministries. As a youth group leader, I got to walk alongside a small group of junior high girls though 6 years of their life. Every week, these girls came into my home with spunk and zest for life. Somehow through a lot of prayer I would try to channel their energy to studying God’s word. My girls always came with amazing questions and curiosity that challenged and grew my faith in new ways. I got to spend time really studying and thinking through some of the fundamental parts of my faith in order to figure out how to share it with them. Not only would they ask me questions about scripture, but also about my life. I learned that I had inquisitive eyes watching my life. They were watching me, looking at how I tried to live out my faith. I was telling them about Jesus and I wanted to be intentional about making sure my faith and my striving after God’s will in my life was visible for them to see.
During these years, my family grew from a family of two to a family of five. By serving in youth group at this stage of life I was able to see how God can work in a multi-generational way. Not only did I have these teenagers in my life, I also had their wonderful families AND my family had them. My small group girls would often have to pause and explore questions and curiosities from my 2 and 4 year-olds. And just like I had these teenagers watching me, my kids started watching them. Additionally, their moms were in a stage of life just ahead of me. They really poured into my life so I could pour into their daughters lives. When really great things happened, they were there to help me celebrate and when really challenging things happened, they were there to walk alongside me, praying for me and my family all the while. I was so blessed to be invited into their homes, to really get to see Christian families, and through these years I was blessed to see what it means to try and raise our kids in the larger church family.
As a senior in the youth group I have been lucky enough to see what it looks like to be a strong Christian as an adult among the adults who lead and come to youth group to teach God’s word and to pour their love into the students. It has been a real blessing being surrounded by adults each week that would rather spend their time with high schoolers than doing anything else.
I think a lot about how I am lucky to be a part of a church where it is common for students to spend time with their leaders outside of church. I have been blessed to have many close relationships with adults that I would not have if I did not go to youth group. It is crazy to me that I consider some of my closest friends to be adults in the youth group and that I go to their houses to play games or to get lunch with them.
These Christians have shown me what proclaiming your faith without fear looks like, what it means to be a Christian as a young adult, and what it looks like to share your faith. Without the leaders in youth group pushing me to make my faith my own and to strive towards spiritual growth I would not be the same Christian I am today.
God has used the adults in the youth group to be close friends to the students and to show what spiritual maturity looks like in adulthood. I have been encouraged by these amazing leaders to share my faith and they have challenged me to be a better person everyday. God has blessed me and the other students by putting adults in our lives that help us aim for spiritual maturity. God is so good.
In attending Santa Barbara Community Church I was given a spiritual home. I grew up down the street from the Living Faith Center, the old building we used to meet in before merging with Trinity Baptist. I remember seeing cars parked up and down the street every Sunday and wondering what it could possibly be about. Then in high school a friend invited me to come to youth group with her. I got a taste of what it’s like to be known by Jesus and I wanted more. I went to Forest Home with the youth group and while there committed my life to Christ. When I came back I dove as deep into church life as I possibly could; I finally understood why so many cars filled my neighborhood. At the time, there was no way I could have known that joining this church family would also bring about deep healing through relationships that modeled Christ’s love for me.
By far the greatest impact that belonging to this church has had on my life is the mentorship I have received and spiritual family I gained. Our pastors, my high school small group leader, my friends’ parents, home group members and anyone who has had me in their home have shown me God’s love and given me glimpses of God’s kingdom. These relationships have also made me really excited to be that for other kids who couldn’t bear being at home. This church’s capacity and heart for showing Christ’s love through hospitality is like nothing I’ve seen anywhere else.
Most of the time I feel like an orphan baffled by the possibility that I might never have a place to call home. I still struggle with knowing and truly believing that I am welcome and belong to any place or any people. And in the rare moments I do manage to believe this, I still feel that I have to pay admission. Surely I must have to bring a gift, an offering, to perform and earn my way. But this amazing church family has shown and modeled for me that I am Christ’s chosen daughter and I am daily transformed by the truth that Jesus has paid my entrance and I get to simply show up and praise our wonderful God.
I came to Santa Barbara just over three years ago at a time of complete chaos and uncertainty. I arrived knowing only a few people and none that I could call ‘friend.’
Looking back, I have seen God work in me and in the lives of others around me. I have, for the first time, felt the satisfaction of this faith and the humbling of his grace. Even as He has taken nearly 30 years to bring me here, I now feel privileged to walk amongst the living Saints-many of whom make the long trip up Cieneguitas every Sunday.
As we are taught in John 9, some are born into this life subject to the most abject horrors of this life, but not because of our sins or the sins of our parents, but for the explicit blessing such a cross presents to God. Amongst these torments, there are some—chronic illness, disability, unending destitution, neglect, rejection, and abuse, to name a few—that hollow out the soul and deplete the heart.
It is because of our church that I might triumphantly proclaim that I am ill. From now until the day I pass on, I will suffer. Year after year, I fight the immense swells of emotion that come with my bipolar disorder. I live in unending, perpetual vigilance for all that might undo me. Until the very hour that our God says he is satisfied with my labor, I push ever onward, steeling myself from this onslaught and endure this life of thorns with a weary, joyful heart.
Our God has lead me here to you, and with you I have found the bedrock for my purpose. For many years I have suffered and I have struggled, but it was not until I found this community that I have felt safe in sharing how I suffer or find confidence to share this good news.
In my experience, the American Church is in a dire place, where prejudice and fear run rampant, and judgment is placed on those who do not deserve it. Yet with you I am content to be bold and I feel safe calling for your aid. I know you hear the Spirit’s call to faith, but not because you attend home group or because the 11 AM is at capacity. I know your faith is true because you love those like me, and acknowledge the times when you cannot.
I yearn for the close, where my hourglass is empty and my days are numbered no more. When closure comes, I will find that rest. Until that day, I will live on, pleased to take on another scar for this King who died for me and honor his Crown of Thorns. And until that day at Heaven’s gate, I know I will have a home here-and I glorify God for bringing me to you.
Casey & Kathy Roberts
How has Santa Barbara Community Church blessed our lives? SBCC was there when we were still in college; when we got married; when we received news that our fathers died during the first 16 months of marriage; when our sons were born and more. SBCC truly has been an “anchor” and a blessing in the ups and downs of life for Kathy and me the past 39 years we have attended. We have been weekly encouraged by the teaching, collective worship and fellowship of the body in church, home group and at play with fellow followers of Jesus. Kathy and I have been encouraged to live out the life of Christ in every aspect of our lives in the seasons of life. We have rejoiced with those who have rejoiced and we have mourned with those who have mourned. We have not been alone but have been encouraged by watching faithful believers carry on their daily lives. Thank you fellow SBCC members for encouraging us on to love and good deeds in the name of Jesus all these years. Thank you, SBCC for being our home! Here is to many more years of worshipping God together!
It is accurate to say that SBCC has been central to my development as a person and as a Christian. How did I get here? John and I were engaged as seniors in college. Since he was at Westmont, I visited often on weekends and would worship Sunday afternoons on the Mesa with SBCC. College ended, we got married, and then went to Fuller Seminary to move towards ministry. Over and over I learned about the characteristics of a healthy church. John and I would look at each other and say, this looks like SBCC. Fast forward… after seminary I worked so John could go through law school. When deciding where to live next the only thing that really drew us anywhere at all was the community of SBCC, so here we are!
As I reflect, the many ways I have grown over the years—deepening faith, establishing friends, healing from unfortunate childhood events, overcoming challenges in life, using my gifts and abilities, (and the list goes on)—are a direct corollary of my involvement in our church community. I’ve experienced the incredible teaching of Scripture and been pointed to habits and disciplines that continue to draw me closer to the Lord, refining my thoughts and behaviors. John and I were loved through his cancer and our adoptions, and I have been walked with in sorting out and healing from past seasons of life. Allowing people into my life and engaging with others in SBCC has grown me into who I am today. It’s discipleship in community, and community in Jesus.
I Met Jesus in Home Group . . .
My first visit to SBCC was 17 years ago when I was invited by my dear friend Monica Stanton. I did not grow up in a church and did not have a Christian family. My daughter Chloe was 2 and my marriage was in trouble. The first sermon I heard was Ephesians 5:22 – 33 (wives and husbands). I don’t believe that was a coincidence! I looked around the room at the glowing faces, outstretched arms, voices lifted high, and I did not know how to comprehend that heartfelt, spiritual joy. At the time, Monica and her Home Group, led by Bobbi and Bill Konieczny, were praying every week for me to come to their Home Group, and this is where the journey began.
Home Group has been at the core of my walk with Christ. Beginning with a year-long study in Matthew, I developed a relationship with Jesus. Weekly SBCC sermons led me through the Bible and taught me about who God is, how He loves us, how to live, and what my purpose is in life. I accepted Christ as my savior and Steve Jolley baptized me at the annual church retreat.
A new life in Christ has made me a better wife, mother, daughter, sister and friend. God’s extravagant mercy and grace has sanctified my marriage. Participating in corporate worship, reading and hearing God’s word, prayer, fellowship and taking to heart every member ministry, God moved me to become a Home Group co-leader. The blessings from serving in this way are immeasurable. Expressions such as “being chosen”, “a child of God”, “adopted into His family”, resonate in me as the Holy Spirit continues to work in my heart, body and mind. I have a glimpse of God’s Kingdom, His Glory, and I experience the joy witnessed amongst those who stand firm in their faith and seek God’s love. I will be forever grateful for SBCC, the Home Group ministry, and all those who serve the Lord through this body we call the church.
Coming to Westmont in the Fall of ‘76, I was a brand new Christian as I had met Christ at a Young Life camp. I had no idea what the Old or New Testament or a hymn was. Charleston Heston was Moses, the Pope was Catholic, and Jan Brady (Brady Bunch) was cute. In my 4 years at Westmont, Bedside Baptist was my favorite church and the goal on most Sundays was to get up before the Dining Commons closed.
In the early Spring of 1980, as a senior, I heard about a bar on State Street that was opened on Sunday morning. I was drawn to this gathering because one of the TA’s in my Leadership Class was a founder of this new church. His name was Steve Jolley and, gosh, was he an overly confident guy! Sitting around the dance floor, my first week there, Steve preached about the importance of the local church. The next week, his twin brother, so I thought, spoke on the same topic and how critical it was to be committed to one. For the first several weeks, people were only somewhat friendly, I felt, probably because they did not want flaky college students like myself. Somehow, I was drawn to this group and kept coming back for more.
After several months, I was able to finally join a homegroup and experience community life. Through this group and subsequent homegroups, I began to learn God’s word in a more intimate setting, enjoyed fellowship, and was accountable to others. Wow, what a sweet feeling it was knowing that I belonged to God and, now, to this church. So this began my journey with this church family…the only one I’ve ever known. Looking back over the years, there were some major events that literally changed my life:
- Being baptized by Steve in the ocean across from City College;
- Getting ready to join San Francisco Young Life staff and Reed saying “I think you should stick around and be a part of this church”; can do and did!
- Being healed from a severed relationship with my biological father;
- Moved by God’s Spirit when Steve spoke about missions from Luke (which led me to take a leave from work and go on a 3 month short term mission to Japan…where I met Pam);
- Learned that all Christians are ministers;
There were so many others and still so many yet to come… On any given Sunday, I feel like the songs that we sing, the things people share, and the teachings from the Bible are all specifically meant for me. You can almost say that I become a Christian every Sunday.
How has SBCC affected me? I’m reminded that I have a Heavenly Father and I am part of His family and, frankly, that forever changed everything. To God be the Glory!
I first came to SBCC in 1986, 2 years into my relationship with Christ. I was introduced to many new things: biblical teaching, corporate worship, a community of people that I would soon call family. But, what has informed my faith journey the most was this idea of “every member ministry”. Growing up Catholic, I thought there was a great and insurmountable divide between pastors/priests and the rest of us. And much to my surprise, as I read 1Peter, I discovered that I was a priest! The whole people of God were chosen to be a “royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God” (1Peter2:9). There was a book that many at SBCC read during this time called “Liberating the Laity” by Paul Stevens that talked about how all of us were ministers regardless of title or job description. And not only a minister at church, but also at work, with our families, friends and strangers. I took this calling to be a minister seriously. How did I do that?
I watched how others at SBCC ministered at home, church, neighborhoods and work by using their gifts in a wide range of ways. I sought out mentoring, instruction and advice. Then I looked for ministry opportunities—from putting the song transparencies on the overhead projector during worship in the 90s (throwback!) to being a youth group leader to caring for and walking alongside people within SBCC and in my workplaces. I tried ministering in some areas because people recognized my gifts and encouraged me to use them. Other times, I saw a need and asked if I could help. Along the way, I’ve learned from SBCC that the key to “every member ministry” is to step out in faith with the assurance that He who began a good work in me is faithful to complete it (Philippians 1:6).