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The Sunday service in the well-used sanctuary at Highland Baptist ran the gamut of the Christian experience. Well, maybe not the gamut — the gamut is pretty huge — but a fair swath of it. This is going to read like a list, but pause (if you will) over each item — putting ’em all together might make for an interesting exercise. A kind of spiritual connect-the-dots. (I’m not going to dwell much on the sermon’s treatment of Timothy Leary on hippie philosophy, the proper mode of detachment from the world, Israel and Gaza and true peace, and the Christian vision of manhood — but you should at least know it was there.) So, beginning with:

Love for the poor — exhibited by people who are not themselves rich: “On Wednesday,” announced Pastor David Womack, “we’ll have 600 to 700 people here when we do the dual senior-adult distribution. We’ll probably give away two truckloads of food before the evening is over.... Next week, we’ll have our first annual canned-food drive. We used to have 30 to 50 people show up for our Friday commodities giveaway. Now we’re averaging about 212 bags a week. And we’re going to need blankets and warm clothes for the winter.”

Bible study: “We’re back up to 12 home Bible studies — an hour to two hours sharing the word of God. It’s exciting. Tonight at six will be part three of the Second Coming from Revelation. This morning’s message is simply an introduction to tonight’s message — we’re looking at the beginning of the millennial reign after the tribulation.”

Scripture, including the really scary parts, from Revelation: “And I saw an angel...who cried...to all the birds flying in midair, ‘Come, gather together for the great supper of God, so that you may eat the flesh of kings, generals, and mighty men...’ Then I saw the beast and the kings of the earth and their armies gathered together...And all the birds gorged themselves on their flesh.”

Fellowship, starting with handshakes and introductions and smiles at the outset: “This Saturday at 11:30 is Baptist motivation,” said Womack, grinning. “Those of you who like to eat are invited to come fellowship with the pastor at D.Z. Akins. We can have a whole lot of fun. What is our church goal? Have fun!”

The search for God: Music leader Wayne O’Connell said, “When I look back over 2008 — just the things, you know? The doctor told me I had cancer. You know, I went back, and God said, ‘No, you don’t.’ The doctor said my wife” — O’Connell paused to compose himself — “‘No — she doesn’t.’ It’s not just Wayne and Trish...I know He has blessed some of you out there, too.”

Evangelization: “Tell someone about it. That’s what it’s all about. It’s all about Jesus.”

Praise...gently, with a ’70s vibe: “I sing praises to your Name, O Lord...For your name is great and greatly to be praised.” And later: “Jesus, Jesus, Jesus/ There is something about that name!”

Petition...a mournful ballad: “Precious Lord, take my hand/ Lead me on, let me stand/ I am tired, I am weak, I am worn/ Through the storm, through the night/ Lead me on to the light/ Take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.”

Encouragement: “You’re going to face some problems of life today!” bellowed Womack. “You’re going to have spiritual problems! I know that one out of ten of you will lose your homes this year! I know that financial problems will come because of gambling, because of drinking, because of bad decisions and overextension of credit! I already know that many of you will face abuse issues. You may have a family that is hurting. I stand before you and say that Christ is with you! He is standing with you; He is working with you!”

Exhortation...Womack again: “Salvation is not found in weapons and war, but in Jesus Christ alone! Walk with confidence, therefore, with Christ! Stand firm!”

Finally, theology: redemption through communion with the divine. Sung over a rollicking piano: “Are you washed (are you washed)/ in the blood (in the blood)/ In the soul-cleaning blood of the lamb? Are your garments spotless/ Are they white as snow? Are you washed in the blood of the lamb?” And later, a congregant at Communion: “We thank you so much, Father, for that precious blood, and the sacrifice of Your Son Jesus Christ.... As we drink from this cup of the New Covenant, we humbly ask for the forgiveness of our sins.”

What happens when we die?

“We go to heaven or hell,” said Womack. “It’s all based upon your belief in Jesus.”

Highland Avenue Baptist Church

2605 Highland Avenue, National City

  • Denomination: Southern Baptist
  • Founded locally: 1941
  • Senior pastor: Dr. David Womack
  • Congregation size: average of 1200 people from various groups per week
  • Staff size: 22
  • Sunday school enrollment: 112, including AWANA
  • Annual budget: $200,000
  • Weekly giving: n/a
  • Singles program: no
  • Dress: mostly casual, but some formal
  • Diversity: Caucasian, Hispanic, and African-American
  • Sunday worship: 11 a.m., 6 p.m. (English)
  • Length of reviewed service: 1 hour, 10 minutes
  • Website: habcnc.com
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rgillchr April 13, 2009 @ 9:24 p.m.

Like any good shepherd, Dr. Womack knows how to pull the wool over someone's eyes - this reporter's, for instance. On any given Sunday the combined worship service attendance for the 5 congregations that utilize the campus is between 300 and 350. The largest group, the hispanic congregation, usually numbers around 150; the other 4 churches have less than 100 in attendance per group. Yes, the church does provide space for the National City Food Bank, and they do distribute a lot of food on the third Wednesday of every month, with additional giveaways on Fridays. The 12 home Bible studies are conducted by the Filipino congregation, not the HABC group - Dr. Womack has nothing to do with that. Dr. Womack is now gone, moved back to Texas where many things are a lot bigger, including the myths.


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