by Susi Lamoutte
Santa Barbara Community Church… Why is it special? What has made a difference in my life? Growing up, my family did not go to church, not even on Easter or Christmas, and although we did celebrate those holidays, they did not have anything to do with Jesus. I knew my parents had gone to church at some point, and later in life I understood my mom was a believer and would have chosen to go to church, but my dad enjoyed recreational activities that took up Sunday. And that was that.
My older brothers both became Christians, and one of them lived in my home town. He knew of a church taking junior high students to Hume Lake for summer camp, signed me up, and I went. Early in the week I realized in my eighth grade mind that I was lost and Jesus died on the cross to save me. Early in the week I realized in my eighth grade mind that I was lost and Jesus died on the cross to save me. Enter church – a place to go and learn about this Lord and Savior, and have fun. Youth group was Wednesday, so our family activities on the weekend did not keep me away. Because of issues and events in my life, and the resulting dysfunction and bad choices, two youth leaders reached out to me. I was blessed to have people, both kids and adults, who loved me and would not let me go. Over the next several years I grew in my knowledge of Scripture and God began to transform my life – which is an ongoing process.
Fast forward… At the end of college John and I got married and went to graduate school. John went to Westmont his junior and senior years and SBCC was his church (it helped that Reed Jolley was his R.D.). I had visited the church several times while we were engaged, and eventually when we were able to settle in Santa Barbara I was very excited to be part of SBCC.
How SBCC made a difference in my life is summed up in two words – Community and Church. When we moved to town, I was just starting to realize the results of my dysfunction and bad choices. God had drawn me into a new trajectory, but that did not remove the damage from the old. Here I found a community that was a safe place to find friends, to open up, to process the things of life. I have received love, and grace for many misplaced words and emotions, and have been encouraged and exhorted. I have been brought up into adulthood in the Word of God, which is ultimately the conduit through which God forms and transforms us. I found people to share and pray with, and have been discipled in community, the community being church. To me they are one and the same. True community is only in Christ, only in a local church. I am exceedingly grateful to be part of SBCC!
Whether you have been here for years or you are new, you might say to me, But you know so many people and have long-time relationships. Of course you feel that way! That was not the case in when I arrived. I came hungry for friendships and for community, which did not just happen. I had to take risks and invite others to get together, and accept invitations to get together, even when I was not so sure I liked those people! I had to listen to know people, and be honest and forthright to be known. Not always easy!
Here is my encouragement: If you are new or lonely, take a risk. Talk with people. Find someone you like and spend some time together. Invite, listen and share. Join a homegroup or small group. Go a little deeper – let yourself be known. If you are hurting, share that with your leader, or group, or people you have begun to connect with. Let someone know you. This is a safe place. Not perfect – there have been hurts and disappointments. We are a church full of humans. But safe! We are all broken people who need God’s mercy in our lives.
If you’re not new, and have enoughsignificant friendships, don’t stop there. Remember back to when you were new and someone brought you into a community? It doesn’t take much to include one more person, or couple, or family into your circle. Let’s love one another and be Community and Church together.