Sunday was assistant pastor Dave Holmquist’s last at El Cajon Wesleyan. After the opening worship — a singer/guitarist and a bongo player alone on the vast, spotlit, blue-green stage — he took his place down front for the announcements. “This morning, we’re going to be talking about how important it is for parents to put family first,” he said. “That’s the theme for today.”
A woman snagged the mic for a playful interruption, explaining, “John Rosemond is a parenting expert; he is a Christian; he is a wonderful speaker; and he’s going to be at Mt. Carmel High School on January 30. Everything he believes in, he bases it on the Bible.” (The bulletin insert provided Rosemond’s tagline: “Take Control of your Child, Take Control of your Family!”)
Later, a family sat down at the couch-and-chairs combo set up on stage right. Dad read the passage from Luke’s Gospel recounting Christ’s presentation at the Temple. Mom and the kids sat on the couch. Then pastor Steve Forsyth asked Dad, “What are you anticipating in the year to come?”
Dad answered, “Most importantly, through some of the trials that my entire family has been going through — job loss and losing our home — God showed to us, and to me personally, that we just need to trust Him and continue in obedience, walking with Him.”
“Praise God,” replied Forsyth. “And we know that any spiritual journey doesn’t come without bumps in the road, right?”
The family left the stage, and Forsyth moved down front. “We think that the thing that is greatest for us is that we want to see our child grow up with a sense of God,” he said. Forsyth noted that the Bible was largely silent about Christ’s youth. “But we hear about these significant moments,” including His dedication. “We want to make sure that these moments are something we don’t take lightly.”
He called a young mother, Jessica, to bring her daughter onto the stage. “Today, we’re going to dedicate Kennedy Daye to the Lord. We don’t put a lot of emphasis on baptizing babies. It’s more on dedicating them because we believe that dedication is about the parent — we’re saying, ‘There is going to come a time when Kennedy is going to make her own decisions about faith in Christ,’ and this dedication is saying, ‘God, we want Your divine favor upon Kennedy and upon this family’.... By this act, you testify, Jessica, that you have made your act of faith in Christ, and to your desire to raise Kennedy in the church as a Christian. Will you endeavor to do this?”
“I will,” she replied.
Forsyth dipped a rose into a bowl of water and touched it to Kennedy’s forehead. “I dedicate you now in the name of the Father...” (dip, touch), “and the Son...” (dip, touch), “and the Holy Spirit. We’re saying, Jessica, that we know you’re going to do your very best to lead her into a personal experience of Jesus Christ, and God’s divine favor will be upon her, and He will help you and give you strength as a parent.”
The singer came on for a heavy-synth version of “Mary, Did You Know?” which led Forsyth to a consideration of what was meant by “divine favor.” “Can you imagine what went through Mary’s mind when she was told by the angel Gabriel that she had found favor with God? You would think that would be encouraging, but then she starts remembering her ancestors.” Noah, Moses, Jeremiah — all were favored, and all suffered for it.
“We have the same troubles as non-Christians,” continued Forsyth. “We know things are out of our control, but we have that kind of confidence that God controls the future. We ask God to help us work through it. A lot of people think, ‘I’m a Christian, and now everything is going to be better.’ No, you’re just going to have divine favor to get you through the bumpy roads....
“God, we want Your divine favor,” concluded Forsyth in prayer. “What do we need to do to make sure we’re under the umbrella of Your divine favor? Father, in the name of Jesus, we give 2010 to You, but more than that, we ask you to intrude — into every family, every marriage, every circumstance. Help us to be willing to take the steps necessary to allow You to do what You need to do in our lives.”
What happens when we die?
“If you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, you go to heaven,” said Forsyth. “If not, you go to hell. But that’s a loaded question — if people haven’t heard of Christ, then I believe that God finds a way to engage with them. And they have a responsibility to respond to that.”
1500 East Lexington Avenue, El Cajon
Founded locally: early 1900s
Senior pastor: Steve Forsyth
Congregation size: 400
Staff size: 11
Sunday school enrollment: 50
Weekly giving: n/a
Annual budget: n/a
Singles program: yes
Dress: casual to semi-formal
Diversity: Caucasian, some Hispanic
Sunday worship: 9 a.m., 10:30 a.m.
Length of reviewed service: 1 hour, 5 minutes