Dave, our two younger kids, and I went to Yosemite Church in Merced this morning. Our two older kids wanted to be at New Life, so they went on their own. (I must say, I am so grateful that our children LOVE being at church. I think it's a good thing when your teenagers don't want to miss a Sunday morning or a youth event. I can't give enough thanks to Jake and Jennah, Vince and Cheri, and the entire youth staff team. We, as a church, are blessed more than we realize. If you see or interact with anyone involved with our youth leadership, please be sure to let them know how valuable they are and how much they are appreciated.)
Anyway, back to my story. We visited Yosemite Church, which is located, ironically enough, on Yosemite Road in Merced. They are at a fairly new campus, and there were some things I loved about what I saw/experienced this morning.
First of all, I loved sitting with my husband in the back row for a whole service. (We didn't choose the back row, folks; it was the only place in the auditorium where the four of us could sit together!)
It was the Sunday service after their VBS (Vacation Bible School) week, so the stage was set as a pirate ship and all the kids were there, sitting on the floor at the front of the church. We saw a video of their week, and we heard them sing two of their special pirate songs. I could tell that they had had a great week.
Dave and I met the pastor, Jeff Leis, and his wife YEARS ago at a conference in Southern California. We haven't kept in touch, but Dave and I have always wanted to visit their church, so since Dave had the day off, we decided to go.
They have a cool outdoor baptism pool sort of thing by a big, rough-hewn cross. Very neat! They were having baptisms out there today after the second service. They must keep it drained when they are not using it because otherwise it would be a BIG liability issue as there is not fence around it.
Pastor Leis spoke about becoming a "Lie Detector." Good stuff about discovering the lies that we believe and the process to overcome those lies (that often become strongholds) in our lives. I loved his points:
1) Deception Detection - figuring out what the lie is and why we are vulnerable to it.
2) Deception Confession - We must agree (confess) that we have bought into a lie. We have to face the fact that we are owning wrong thoughts.
3) Deception Correction - We must seek the truth of God's word in relation to the lie we find ourselves believing, and we must commit to those truths.
The church has a cool outdoor amphitheater, much like CSUS, but obviously on a smaller scale. They also have an outdoor stage built at the base of the amphitheater, so it makes it easy for them to do outdoor services or concerts.
By sitting in the back of the church today, Dave got to experience the noise that came in from the lobby. He didn't realize how distracting it can be sitting in the back hearing the doors open and close, hearing the people laugh and talk in the lobby, and hearing the chairs being brought out and moved. One of my pet peeves (I'm just being honest here) is when people at our church talk loudly during services in the back hallway. Do they not realize that they might be disrupting someone from hearing what God has for them that day? I've been known to "hush" people a time or two, and you know me, I do try to do it in the nicest way possible. It's much easier to hush the teens than to try to hush the adults. It just seems like a respect issue to me. I want people to visit, don't get me wrong, but please do it where it won't interrupt others who are longing to worship. Okay, I'll come down off my soap box now. :-)
I love, LOVE being with other believers, and I thank God for all of our differences. I loved how multi-ethnic the church body was. A prayer of mine (since before we came to New Life) has been that the church we would serve at would reflect, ethnically, the body of Christ. We miss so much richness when we are so homogeneous.
Yosemite Church has a big boulder outside of their sanctuary (Half Dome Worship Center) that is engraved with a likeness of Half Dome and says, "Meeting people where they are and loving them to where Christ wants them to be."
All in all, it was a great day, but I'll look forward to being back at New Life next weekend! :-)
FYI: on July 29th at 7:00 PM, Yosemite Church is the site of a free Listener Appreciation Concert featuring Building 429. If you are free, you might want to travel down for that. The doors open at 6:00 PM and it is first come, first served.