My first note upon hearing the band at Grace was "powerful." Not so much the lyrics — the songs were familiar enough that I remembered at least three from last week's service at another church — but the energy. My second note was "diverse." Three different vocalists led the music, and they looked, dressed, and sounded the parts of gospel, emo-folk, and country-pop, sometimes putting their various stylistic stamps onto different sections of a single song. The congregation reflected that diversity — and that energy. Murmurs and cries of "Amen" and "Oh, yes" provided frequent punctuations to the various pastors' teachings — many of which, as it happened, had to do with God's power.
Pastor Renee Crenshaw read from Paul: "'I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened, in order that you may know...His incomparably great power for us who believe....' I don't know what you're going through today, but He has incomparable power...and He wants us to share in that great power. Whatever you're going through, I pray you will claim it.... We're not going to walk around surviving, we're going to walk around overcoming! God bless you as you come and share with our prayer partners!" Cheers and applause as congregants, singly or in groups, approached the row of prayer partners at the foot of the stage — partners young and old, black and white, male and female -- and prayed with them. Some held hands, some embraced, some placed hands on shoulders, forehead to forehead. The room was burbling with voices — prayer and chatter and song: "My God is mighty to save/ He is mighty to save."
"Our God is mighty," said Pastor Joel Davis in the midst of the music. "He is powerful. Even death couldn't hold Him down. God's power is available to us today. I want to encourage you, no matter what you're facing.... Rejoice together, knowing our God is mighty to save.... We believe that when we put God in His rightful place, enthroned upon our praises, He comes and He moves in a mighty way. He says He inhabits the praises of His people.... Let's lift Him up once more!"
Pastor Mike Mieritz detoured from the theme for a moment, reminding the congregation of its part in God's movements: providing gifts for needy children at Christmas, bringing Thanksgiving meals to the poor in motels and on the streets. "When we reach out to the community like that, that's what God calls us to. This time we are spending now is meant to encourage us to get outside these four walls...and to serve the nations." He then returned through Psalm 96's account of "God's incredible presence and incredible power," which enjoined the hearer to "ascribe to the Lord the glory due His name.... Bring an offering and come into His courts."
Pastor Matt Woltjer, the emo-folk part of the music team, played a solo during the collection: "I used to be mad at you/ A little on the hurt side, too/ But I'm not who I was..."
That set up another detour from the theme of God's power, this one from Pastor Scott Crenshaw. "Oh, man, I'm so glad I'm not who I used to be. But it's a process, isn't it? Paul said, 'I have to die daily.' Holiness, joy of God, transformed life — it doesn't just happen, does it? 'Come up and sign a card, and you can get it today.' No, it's a process, and part of the process is being determined to say, 'I'm going to kill this flesh.'"
But Crenshaw got back on track for the bulk of his sermon — a sermon lovingly illustrated with anecdotes from Crenshaw's youth and carried along on swells of volume and intensity — starting with David's plea for help in Psalm 27: "'Hear my voice when I call, O Lord.' I want you to hear something this morning: God meets needs.... We have a God who loves to pour out upon his children. But then David says, 'My heart says of you, "Seek your face."' There is a huge difference, my friends, between seeking the hand of God and seeking the face of God. Does God meet needs? Yes. But we were not created to seek after the things of God; we were created to seek after God.... I make you a promise: you go after His face, and His hand will move."
Crenshaw finished with a prayer and a plea: "Could we all just be still for a moment? Could we just love on Him, just for a moment? Not because of what He's doing or what He's done, but because of who He is."
What happens when we die?
"We believe that what the Bible says is true," said Crenshaw. "It says that at death, every person stands before God to give an account of their life."
Grace Community Church
Address: 855 Barham Drive, San Marcos,
Founded locally: 1996
Senior pastors: Steve and Becky Riggle
Congregation size: around 275
Staff size: 3
Sunday school enrollment: 90
Annual budget: n/a
Weekly giving: n/a
Singles program: in development
Dress: casual to semiformal
Diversity: very diverse
Sunday worship: 10:15 a.m.
Length of reviewed service: 1 hour, 20 minutes