“Hurting people loved here,” read the tall, black letters on the sign outside North Park Baptist Church. “I think that’s started getting us in contact with people we don’t normally get contact with,” said senior pastor Glenn Wade. Just past the sign, in the vestibule, a stained-glass window named Jesus as both the Door and the Good Shepherd.
“Enter in, enter in/ All God’s people, enter in,” repeated the choir in a soft, swaying croon, backed by cello, bass, piano, and the gentle thrush of the drum-kit cymbal. High, yellow windows glowed down on the mid-century Sanctuary and the well-worn pews. Later, hymns picked up the tempo and featured scriptural introductions: Jesus announcing Himself as the way, the truth, and the life before a rollicking “Blessed Assurance” and Psalm 66’s command to “make His praise glorious” before the tango-bongo beat of “Glorious.” “When you come into his presence/ Liftin’ up the name of Jesus/ And you hear the music playin’/ And you see the people praisin’/ Just forget about your worries/ Leave your troubles far behind you.”
A trio offered prayers of thanks and petition. “For those in hospitals, who don’t know if they’re going to take another breath...thank You for Your provision... Help us to see each other as You do... Give us eyes to see, ears to hear, the words to say.”
“Is there anyone here who is in transition?” asked associate pastor Rob Mahan. “Who needs a job or a better job?” A few stood, and Mahan prayed, “Favor upon them...that You would prosper them, and break off any pronouncement or judgment or curses on their lives...and I say, Lord, that whatever is past is just a stepping stone, not an identifier. I declare that they are children of God, and so I commend them to Your care....
“It’s announcement time!” cried Mahan, and a few whoops came from the congregation. Much back-and-forth and laughter as everyone sorted out who was meeting where — Bible study on Wednesday, praise team on Thursday in Peterson Hall, recovery group same night in room nine. “If you have some addiction issues that you want to work through, there is a group of people that will stand alongside you.”
Stephanie Mahan gathered a trio of children up at the Sanctuary stairs. “I’m going to read you a story.... It reminds me how God is always there, no matter where we go. Not only can things not separate us from God, but God is always looking for us.” She read: “‘If I had a little rowboat, I’d row across the sea/ I’d row, row, row, row, and I’d bring you back to me....’ That’s God’s promise: ‘If you’re away from me, I’ll search ’til I find you.’ There’s nothing He won’t do in order to keep us close to him.”
Wade’s sermon treated “the authority of the word of God” and set the Bible to making a case for itself. He quoted Paul’s letter to Timothy — “All Scripture is God-breathed” — and the letter to the Hebrews: “For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow.” And again in Ephesians: “Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” As an example, he cited Jesus’ response to Satan when tempted in the desert: “He would simply answer him by quoting Scripture, and that was sufficient to withstand the devil’s attacks.”
Then he turned to the personal — Psalm 119. “The Psalms are a great place to go if we are hurting....” The Psalmist poured out his praise for the law from God’s mouth because “it helps us not to sin. The more we put the Bible into our heart, the easier it will be to do what God wants us to do.”
He closed with a personal story — hearing Proverbs 3:5–6 on a Bible CD as he worked in his garage: “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding...and He will make your paths straight.” “That pierced my heart,” recalled Wade. “There were areas of my life where I was worried, where I was not trusting the Lord. Anytime you try to explain something that happens to you spiritually, it just falls flat, and that’s the way I’m sure this was. But let me tell you, I do believe the word of God is working actively. I want to challenge you this week: Do whatever it takes to get yourself to God’s word. Read the Psalms; do something. I promise you that if you do, God’s word is going to be active, and it’s going to penetrate your life in a good way.”
What happens when we die?
“Those who love Jesus will be with Him forever,” said Wade.
North Park Baptist Church
Denomination: primarily Transformation Ministries
Address: 3810 Bancroft Street, North Park, 619-283-2026
Founded locally: 1923
Senior pastor: Glenn Wade
Congregation size: about 80
Staff size: 1 full-time, 1 part-time
Sunday school enrollment: about 10
Annual budget: n/a
Weekly giving: n/a
Singles program: no
Dress: casual to dressy
Sunday worship: 10:30 a.m.
Length of reviewed service: 1 hour, 30 minutes