ISSUE 18 | July-September, 2016
EXECUTIVE EDITOR Mark Shetler
FROM PASTOR JESSE
y childhood was great. I had very loving parents and an awesome big brother and big sister. I had lots of friends, was very active in
sports and was fortunate enough to grow up being a part of this church.
EDITOR Melissa Shetler EXECUTIVE DESIGN Jessica Ripley CONTRIBUTORS Jennifer Briggs, Jane Daly, Rebecca Estenson, Kyle Kerchener, Cannessa Lewis, Jessica Ripley SPECIAL THANKS Christina Harrison Photography
In fact, some of my former Sunday School teachers are still here and they let me be their pastor despite some of the stuff I tried to get away with in their classes! This issue of the COMPASS focuses on childhood. Here at River City Christian, we believe in kids and we want to support families the best way that we can. We know that some of us had a rough time growing up, but we believe that Jesus can bring healing to those memories. And we want to remind adults, whatever their age, that there is still a child inside all of us that sometimes just needs to have a little fun.
COMPASS IS A PUBLICATION OF
RIVER CITY CHRISTIAN (Formerly First Covenant Church) P.O. Box 276450 Sacramento, CA 95827 916.861.2240 • rivercitychristian.org Physical address: 10933 Progress Court, Rancho Cordova
Our staff is here to support you and to help you connect with the River City family. There’s a lot of information inside this magazine to help you figure out where you will fit in. You can also check out rivercitychristian.org, and you’re always welcome to contact the church office if you want to talk with someone in person.
ABOUT THE COMPASS COMPASS Magazine is River City Christian’s quarterly publication. In a church our size, it can be an overwhelming task to meet everyone and know everything that is happening. The COMPASS serves as a platform to bring our church family
God bless you and your family! Enjoy this issue of the COMPASS!
closer together. Within its pages, you will find true stories about the people and ministries of River City Christian. And, most importantly, it will help guide you farther along The Path to becoming a fully devoted follower of Jesus Christ.
Jesse Smith, Senior Pastor
CONTENTS 04 • Who I Am in Christ 05 • Healthy Water 08 • Adult Child of God 10 • The Call to Worship 13 • Leaving a Legacy 14 • The Joys of Being Auntie 15 • Through a Kid’s Eyes 16 • What Is 30 Like?
THE HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION®, NIV® Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2011 by Biblica, Inc.® Used by permission. All rights reserved worldwide.
WHO I AM IN CHRIST
BY REBECCA ESTENSON
I am 22 years old and I am very thankful for my childhood. I started attending River City Christian when I was eight months old, so it’s safe to say I grew up in a Christian home. I have two wonderful parents who did their very best to instill sound morals and godly perspective into my life at an early age. Even though their parenting styles were in sync, other areas of their life were, unfortunately, not. In 2007, my parents divorced. At 12 years of age my little world was turned upside down.
G O D M E T M E I N S O M A N Y P L AC E S A N D P O U R E D S O MU C H T R U T H I N TO MY I D E N T I T Y A S H I S C H I L D.
Despite a foundation of wonderful memories and biblical teaching, divorce
During my DTS, God wrecked me in the best way possible! Through this six
created division within my family and, consequently, a division between my
month long journey, God met me in so many places and poured so much
heart and God. I had always seen Him as Creator; now I reasoned that He
truth into my identity as His child. He spoke life into the areas that had
had created this split in my family. My heart was torn. I felt alone.
been pained and broken. He restored relationships and brought me into a new understanding of how He had been with me throughout my childhood.
Even though I was sad on the inside, I worked hard at maintaining my outside
I became more aware of the indescribable magnitude of His love and His
identity as a “good Christian girl.” I was secretly angry at God, but felt I had
power to redeem the lost and broken. I discovered gifts and passions that
to appear as if I was taking this divorce with grace and understanding.
I never knew I had. I learned to accept myself as His daughter, wildly loved by the King of the universe.
In 2010, my sophomore year in high school, I experienced some spiritual renewal. I came back to God. I began to give His Spirit permission to deal
A key lesson He taught me during this time was to hold onto an unshakable
with my heart attitudes, as well as my actions. However, there were still
joy. This wasn’t simply an attempt to find happiness, but rather developing
places of bondage and insecurity in my life. As I entered my college years I
an ability to choose joy in everything. If God is always with us, and He is
knew that the Lord desired to bring more healing into my life.
the source of joy, I can choose to focus on Him and experience joy that overcomes any sorrow or pain that I may encounter. I learned that I can do
By my third year in college I acknowledged that I possessed no true vision
this through the power of the Holy Spirit living inside of me.
or passion. I decided to take a step back and ask Jesus what He wanted me to do. In that moment, God spoke clearly to me. He wanted me to
The intense time of discipleship and the subsequent outreach experiences
go into Youth With A Mission! YWAM was something I had half-heartedly
with YWAM were huge blessings in my life. I gained some amazing
considered in the past, but my brokenness always blocked any action. I
God-centered friendships. I participated in some incredible ministry
thought I needed to get my life together before I could serve God and follow
opportunities. Most of all, I began the process of learning who I am as
His plans. (Go ahead and chuckle; I do as I look back.) I had the option
His child. Even though I have known disappointment, pain and fear, I am
to step out in faith or to continue down the same directionless path I’d
beginning to replace those experiences with joy, trust and peace. I am so
been fighting to stay on. After much prayer, seeking counsel and wrestling
thankful for His relentless pursuit of my heart and His endless grace poured
with God, I finally decided to take a step of faith and pursue YWAM. I was
out upon my life. He is the loving Father who redeems and restores.
accepted into the Discipleship Training School (DTS) in Oxford, New Zealand, which had an outreach focus of ministering to the backpacking community.
HEALTHY WATER BY KYLE KERCHNER
In April, six men from River City got the opportunity to spend ten days in Uganda. I was fortunate enough to be one of those men. Since coming back home I have been processing what that global outreach trip meant to me. I’ve looked back at the experience attempting to find words to describe it. I’ve become overwhelmed. How do I share the meaningful moments in my life with people that haven’t experienced the same things I have? How do I synthesize the thousands of thoughts and emotions that filled each moment of those ten days into a short but meaningful description?
I SAW A BOY STARE AT WATER, AND NO MOMENT IN MY LIFE BEFORE OR SINCE SEEMED TO MATTER.
I journaled while I was in Uganda. I recently
He gulps it in. Back and back and back
reread the entries and found one to be
he goes. More water, more refreshment,
more new understanding.
I saw a boy stare at water today.
Have you ever jumped from a plane?
Confused, perplexed and in great wonder
Or been on a first date? Or had bacon
as to its meaning.
on your maple donut? Have you ever been overwhelmed by both confusion
“What is this?” his face asked as he stared at the newly installed pump well.
no moment in my life before or since seemed to matter.
“This is heathy water,” I explained, my eyes staring intently at the mud dripping from
Coming back home I knew what would happen.
his young weathered hands.
The same thing that always happens in me after a trip like this. In the weeks that followed
He looks back at the water. Tilting his
I walked around in silence. What could I say?
head he stares deeper still. He takes
Did words matter? I stared out windows longer.
a drink. He pauses. He puts his hands
I listened to music without emotion. My mind
back under the mechanical stream and
was processing the simple thought that people
with the force of curiosity he finds the
need help. Simple, real material help. Not
mud-less skin tone hidden underneath.
selfish wants. Not complicated things that I
Inspecting his hands he still finds them
can’t provide. But simple, real help. How can I
unworthy, and he kneels down before
go about my daily life the way I did before?
the well. His mouth touches the stream.
and joy? I saw a boy stare at water, and
Benefitting the Christmas Mall
But then, I did. Things became normal again.
only shared brief interactions with the Ugandan children, I believe those kids
The hugeness that was the trip is slowly fading
were impacted for life. Not because they
into memory. Certainly it made an impression,
met me. I’m sure they will forget the name
but the specific moments that boasted of
of the white bearded guy soon enough. The
monumental importance have become blurry.
impact is that they received hope from
I’m left with a vague remembrance of events
Jesus. They witnessed clean water entering
and less vivid emotions. I know that we did all
their village for the first time. They knew
sorts of good works in the African countryside.
that God provided for them.
We built a guesthouse, installed three wells, ran a sports day attended by thousands, presented
In Matthew 25, Jesus challenges the
the Gospel in various settings, baptized people
people saying, “Whatever you did for the
in the Nile River and forged friendships with
least of these, you did for me.” I came
people committed to the same work. But after
back challenged and encouraged. I
less than two months the memories of the
still want to find ways to do more. I am
things that we did are fading. The names of
planning the next trip in January 2017. I
most of the people are gone from my mind, and
imagine how participants from River City
the few native words I learned have vanished.
will be changed because of that trip. May
I’m left with a short internal explanation of the
we be people who see every child as a
trip. “We brought clean water. God can use me
child loved by God.
to help people in need.” As I sit down to write this article for the “kids’ issue” I’m realizing something new. While I
BY CANNESSA LEWIS
rowing up, having childlike faith was fairly
Adulthood is not quite that simple, but neither
simple. Now I know what you are probably
is faith. In fact, faith as an adult comes with
thinking: of course childlike faith is easy when
some pretty deep and treacherous waters. Now
you are an actual child! But let’s ponder just
add that to the adult list of responsibilities:
exactly what it means to be a child of God even
maintaining your relationship with God as His
when you are biologically an adult.
child when you are no longer a child.
It’s no secret that being an adult is hard. Take
I’ve always wondered what it is about being
it from me, a twenty year old “young adult”
an adult that makes us think we can do every
juggling a full time job, a small business on
single thing on our own? I mean, let’s be honest,
the side, relationships, a social life and—oh,
you know it’s true. Take following directions for
yeah—going to school. I now laugh at how eager
example. Building a desk—what step by step
we were as children to grow up, graduate high
instructions? Driving to a new location—who
school, attend college, get a job and develop
needs a GPS or a map? If any of this is sounding
a sense of freedom from our childhood selves.
familiar, then yes, I am talking to you.
While that all sounds pretty grand, I have honestly found adulthood to be much more
All too often, we think we can do life on our
complex than getting to eat all the candy
own. Our prideful nature compels us to prove
you want or determining on your own what is
that we don’t need any help from anyone. It’s
like we have this preconceived notion that once you have reached adulthood you no longer
“I NOW LAUGH AT HOW EAGER WE WERE AS CHILDREN TO GROW
have access to lifelines, even when you are
UP, GRADUATE HIGH SCHOOL, ATTEND COLLEGE, GET A JOB AND
struggling or hurting. Growing up, we didn’t have this intense, prideful spirit. We knew that it was
DEVELOP A SENSE OF FREEDOM FROM OUR CHILDHOOD SELVES.”
okay to want or even need help. But as adults,
Maybe that’s why is it so important for us to
Embracing our identity as a child of God isn’t
we want to be smart enough, strong enough,
understand that we can still be children of
childish. In fact, I think it’s the most adult
good enough or, shall I say, “adult” enough that
God as adults. The amount of faith we had as
choice I’ve ever made. It blows my mind that
we can overcome hard times without outside
children is something we can still attain as
I have a heavenly Father who truly loves me as
adults. God doesn’t need us. God would be
His kid. Every day. “Yet to all who did receive him,
fine without us, cruising through the universe
to those who believed in his name, he gave the
Unfortunately, we can treat God as if we don’t
empty-handed of sinners. We, on the other
right to become children of God.” John 1:12 (NIV)
need Him either. We get so comfortable in the
hand, need God. But the Lord gives us the
routine of our lives that we believe we don’t
ability to choose to admit our need or not.
need God. But, if there is one thing I have
It’s up to us to either pursue Him with the
learned from being an adult it is that I really do
same trust and abandon that we did as young
need Jesus! Every day. Thankfully, we have a
children or to refuse the lifeline because we
Savior who longs to be our lifeline. Every day.
want to prove that we are all grown up and independent.
C A L L TO WO RS H I P
Chris Alaways grew up in Nevada City but his
music it became a much larger part of our lives.
producer-friend of mine, I reached out to Will
musical talents took him to Nashville for the last
My sister has since picked up playing guitar
Denton (DC Talk, Steven Curtis Chapman,
several years. Now we are pleased to say that
and drums. My mom plays keys. My dad isn’t
LeAnn Rimes) and he quickly became one
God brought him to River City Christian as our
musical but knows more about instruments and
of my dearest friends. After touring together
new Director of Worship. We asked Chris some
gear than I do. My family is extremely supportive.
for several different artists over the past
questions to help you get to know this guitarist
few years, he and I decided to record our
with a passion for engaging others in authentic
What kind of music did you listen to growing
own project. I think we both reached a point
worship of the Lord of the universe.
up? Who was your favorite artist?
in our careers where we started asking
I absolutely loved rock music growing up. Still do.
ourselves, “Is this really it?! Is this all there
U2 was my favorite band for most of my life. “I
is?” So we put our heads together and set
We understand that you are an accomplished
Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” is one
out to do something different. Something
guitarist. When did you first pick up the guitar
of my all-time favorite songs. To me, their early
of value. Something organic that no one’s
and how long did it take you until you were
records epitomize a less-is-more approach that
heard before. Ambitious to say the least,
gave the music and songwriting room to speak,
but it’s been my most artistically fulfilling,
My mom had a really old classical guitar in a
a production style that’s elusive in today’s music.
exciting, soul-mending project to date. If you
cardboard box under her bed. There were a
The idea of four guys in a room making noise
listen closely, you may be able to hear me laughing in a couple guitar tracks.
couple of strings missing and at 12-years-old
together really resonated with me. I also admire
I could barely fit my hand around the neck, let
Bono for using his platform to raise awareness
alone push the strings down hard enough to get
for causes that are much bigger than U2. He
Was it difficult maintaining your walk with
a clean sound. I absolutely loved that guitar and
constantly strives to use his status to change
Christ while working in the music industry?
played it every moment I could, often until my
the world for the better, and it’s an inspiration.
Absolutely! Fortunately, I spent most of my
fingers bled. My poor parents had to suffer for
time in Nashville as a music director, which
months before I could actually play discernible
What other kinds of activities were you
meant I was able to hire musicians who I
notes. It took another year to become passable
involved in as a kid?
considered right for the job. Having that
as a guitarist. At age 19, I was able to make a
My dad is athletic so I played a lot of sports
kind of influence meant I had the freedom
living playing guitar.
growing up. Surfing was a heavy favorite. In fact,
to surround myself with solid, godly guys
I used to shape surfboards! Living in the south
who I didn’t have to worry about on the road.
When you were a kid was music a big part of
has certainly cut down on my time at the ocean.
We could all hold each other accountable,
Having lived in Nashville as part of the music
things got tough. They had my back and I
initially. I remember my dad having music on
industry for several years, what was the most
had theirs. God has placed some amazing
in the background whenever he was working
exciting project you ever worked on? Why?
human beings in my life who have been
in the garage, but that was the extent. Most
About six years ago I was putting a band
instrumental in shaping who I am today. I
people assume I grew up with a family dynamic
together for an artist on MCA records. All my
know I wouldn’t have survived the last ten
similar to that of the Von Trapps, but that
go-to drummers were already booked and I
years without them.
wasn’t the case. After I developed a love for
was forced to branch out to new territory. Via a
as well as look out for one another when
family life? I wouldn’t say it was a big part, at least not
Why do feel that God has called you to
What dreams do you have for the worship
become a Director of Worship at a church?
experiences at River City?
I actually don’t! Well, at least not “a” church. I
Oh man, how many pages are you going
feel like River City is THE church I’m supposed
to give me? An overarching theme of all
to be involved with. Churches are abundant
my visions: a healthy, thriving worship
out in the Bible belt and I’ve had several
experience that transcends music
opportunities to direct worship. I’ve never felt
styles/genres and connects the entire
led to invest in a church’s worship experience
congregation to Him. I want to use
until now. I feel like God is doing something
whatever influence and connections I have
new and exciting with River City. I really don’t
to draw more people into what we’re doing
want to miss out on it!
at River City.
When and how did you come to put your
What’s an interesting factoid that you’d
faith in Jesus?
like our readers to know about you?
My dad’s a pastor so my sister and I started
Here are the first two that come to mind.
attending church at a fairly young age. I
First, my late grandfather was a captain
remember asking my mom about baptism and
for United Airlines for over 35 years and
she said it’s for people who have surrendered
taught me to fly at a very young age. While
their lives to Christ. I asked her how a person
I never got my license, I can still fly a plane.
does that and she offered to pray with me on
Second, I’ve played shows in every state
the couch. I was in grade school. Maybe six or
seven years old. You have only been recently introduced to our church family. What three words would describe your impressions of River City Christian? Dedicated. Passionate. Welcoming.
LEAVING A LEGACY–
LONG DISTANCE GRANDPARENTING
BY JANE DALY
up, they’re still sleeping. When they get home
Then finish this sentence: Everything changed
Eleven years ago, I stood in my driveway with
from school, we’re having dinner. When they’re
when… . Think about a significant event in your
teary eyes and watched my daughter, Heather,
having dinner, we’re getting ready for bed.
life. Looking back, can you see God’s grace at
and son-in-law, Craig, drive away, along with my five-month-old granddaughter, Audrey. My only
work? Were you protected from a disaster? Did Psalm 78:2 says, “I will open my mouth with
you experience a miracle? Perhaps you endured
grandchild. They were on their way to Oregon.
a parable; I will utter hidden things, things
a trauma, yet came through it with stronger
Craig received a promotion and it required he
from of old—things we have heard and known,
faith than before.
move the family to Portland.
things our ancestors have told us. We will not hide them from their descendants; we will tell
the next generation the praiseworthy deeds of the Lord, his power and the wonders he has
IT’S JUST AS IMPORTANT TO LEAVE A WRITTEN LEGACY FOR FUTURE GENERATIONS.
Over six hundred miles.
Being a long distance grandparent required
I recently spoke at a conference about the
extra effort. Both my husband, Mike, and
importance of leaving a legacy for your children
I worked full-time, and vacation time was
and your children’s children. We think of a
measured in days, not weeks. We drove to
legacy in terms of something big and important;
Oregon every chance we got, determined to be
perhaps a gift of money or other inheritance,
Finally, share your stories with your grandkids.
involved in our granddaughter’s life.
like a house or property.
Don’t email them. Even in this electronic age, kids still love to get something in the mail. That
Along came Micah, then Adelyn. Triple the reason to make the long trek to Oregon.
It’s just as important to leave a written
will make your stories more precious.
legacy for future generations. We realized our grandchildren need to know what makes them
Grandparenting with a nineteen hour time
Spending time with the grandkids: Priceless.
who they are. They need to know the significant
difference is a challenge. I am desperate
Saying goodbye: Not so much.
events that shaped us, which in turn impacted
to instill all that God has given me into the
how we raised our kids, which is impacting how
generations to come. It’s impossible to do
they raise their kids.
during a thirty-minute Skype call, with all three
I wish I could say it’s gotten easier. Craig and Heather believed the Lord was calling them into
munchkins grappling for the iPad. So I write.
full time ministry as missionaries. Mike and I
If you want to leave a written legacy, start
steeled ourselves for their departure.
with this phrase: God first became real to me
So this is my challenge to you. What’s your
when… . Write out your testimony as if one of
story? What legacy are you leaving?
Now, my grandkids are on another continent.
your grandchildren asked, “Why do you believe
Nineteen hours separate us, according to the
World Clock app on my phone. When we get RIVERCITYCHRISTIAN.ORG
JOYS OF BEING AUNTIE
BY JENNIFER BRIGGS
Anyone who has seen my Facebook or Instagram notices two things
I have been at births, birthday parties, holiday gatherings and other
dominating my pages: my latest baking project and children. The photos
get-togethers for my nieces and nephews. I have seen them at their
of kids on my pages often have people asking me how many I actually
happiest and not so happy. While I may not be their mom, they know I
have. The answer is zero, but I get to play “auntie” to several. I have
am someone who will be there for them.
always really liked kids. I started babysitting when I was in junior high and continued through high school because I enjoyed being around kids. For
Every once in a while I’ll get the awkward question from one of them
me, babysitting was more than just a way to earn some spending money.
about whether or not I have kids. They have never seen me with kids
(As a side note, if you need any stories about Pastor Jeff and Betty Koons,
of my own. I get it. They are trying to make sense of what they know to
this babysitter will be glad to share!)
be normal. One day this conversation happened between me and Rilyn, age 4. It went like this:
There is never a dull moment with children. They say some of the funniest things and see life through pure, sweet lenses. I have been there for some
Rilyn: Jennifer, do you have kids?
of my “nieces” and “nephews” since the day they were born. While I enjoy
Me: What do you think?
SINGLENESS FEELS LIKE A BURDEN, UNTIL I START REMEMBERING ALL THE GOOD THINGS ABOUT MY SINGLE LIFE.
taking them to do fun activities, it is really
their excitement to be with me that I live
Me: Really? Have you seen me with kids? Do I hide them
for; so much so that it is a running joke
when you guys are over?
with my best friend as to whether I come
Rilyn: No! Silly! You have us. We’re your grandkids!
over to see her or her kids.
Me: (I laugh a little) Are you sure I can’t be your aunt? Rilyn: No. We’re your grandkids.
Being auntie consists mostly of ups, but
Me: Okay, that works.
it has its downs as well, especially for someone who has always wanted kids. While the best feeling in the world is showing up and hearing them
She wanted me to know I mattered and was a part of their family. They
scream, “It’s Jennifer! Jennifer’s here!” or being introduced to other people
are so smart, picking up on feelings or thoughts that I often think I’ve
as “My Jenn,” the worst part is going home to no kids. Although I know I
hidden. It’s in these moments I wonder how they know what needs to be
have had amazing opportunities, I still cannot help but feel like something
said. It is because of moments like this, and many others, that the joys
is missing sometimes. I do not bring this up to say that single life is not
of being auntie outweigh any bad day.
great and married life with kids is the only way to go. From what I can see, they both have their appeal. But, at times, I want the married life with kids. Occasionally, singleness feels like a burden, until I start remembering all the good things about my single life.
CHRISTINA HARRISON PHOTOGRAPHY
If you could be any age you wanted right now, what age would it be and why? I’d be 36 because I could be a pro baseball player on a pro team. What do you wish more adults understood about kids? That kids are more fun than adults and more cheerful. What do you think kids need to remember about adults? That adults have lots of responsibilities to think about. What are your favorite hobbies, sports, activities? Baseball. I like baseball a lot! What do you like about River City Christian? It’s fun! I’d go here even if my mom didn’t work here. What do you think you will be when you grow up? A baseball player on the Red Sox. You have a pretty big family. What’s your secret to getting along with everyone? You gotta do stuff for them and try being nice. If you could ask Jesus one question right now, what would it be?
THROUGH A KID’S EYES
What is Heaven like? Is it fun there? What three words would you use to describe Jesus? Fun, awesome, cool.
For this issue we wanted to interview a kid who
What’s your favorite Bible verse or Bible story?
is involved in our church. Meet the energetic,
John 3:16 is my favorite verse because it tells us
charming and fun 9-year old Travis Smith, son
that God loves everyone. Oh, and I really like the
of our Children’s Director, Shannon, and her
story about David and Goliath because the little
guy wins when nobody expected it! What would you want to say to kids your age
What do you think is the best thing about being
that don’t know if God is real?
You have to believe and have faith. But I also
You get to live longer than someone who is
would ask them how they think people were
What do you think is the best thing about being an adult? They can drive.
BY JESSICA RIPLEY
“I wonder what I will look like when I am 30?” a wildly curious, seven-year-old version of me often pondered. I assumed that at 30 I would be taller, that my permanent teeth would have broken through my gum line and that I’d maybe (by 30!) be brave enough to remove a BandAid without tears. Beyond these assumptions though I was perplexed, convinced I would not recognize my future self. My stream of consciousness as a child was frenetic. Thoughts jumped from, “I want ice cream!” and, “Where did my stuffed doggy go?” all the way to, “What will I look like as an adult?” It makes me laugh now, but I guess I had it in my mind that my appearance would change drastically over the years. However, looking back at old photos and comparing them to recent ones, I see the same dark haired, long armed girl blinking during the flash in both sets of photographs. I hate to break it to my younger self, but the film captured the same Jess, just two decades apart. Perhaps seven-year-old Jessica would be disappointed to find the grown-up version of herself still very much resembles the child. But
MY STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS AS A CHILD WAS FRENETIC. THOUGHTS JUMPED FROM, “I WANT ICE CREAM!” AND, “WHERE DID MY STUFFED DOGGY GO?” ALL THE WAY TO, “WHAT WILL I LOOK LIKE AS AN ADULT?”
she might also be surprised if I said that the
Jump ahead a few years. 20-year-old Jessica
What I have learned in the twenty years since I
resemblance ends with the physical. Spiritually
had a stronger relationship with God. Once again
first pondered the question of what I would look
speaking, grown-up Jessica is unrecognizable.
she thought, “Now I get it. Now I am no longer
like in the future is this: God is sanctifying me
childlike.” While clearly pride and humility were
and keeping me aware of the process. It was
At seven I was neither convinced that God
still being worked out, I was actually growing in
a neat moment when it dawned on me that,
existed or that He didn’t. While I had some
my faith. God would reveal aspects of my life I
with each passing year of my life, I have grown
exposure to church as a child, I didn’t
needed to work on, relationships I needed to
closer to God. The best part is that this growth,
understand the concept of God. I sang, “Jesus
mend, habits I needed to break and I would
this sanctification, will only continue. So that
Loves Me,” but failed to see the profound,
actively seek to do so. The thought of having
curiosity of childhood returns. It finds me here
life changing truth in those lyrics. It would be
finally grown up in my faith would reoccur
at 27, once again thinking, “I wonder what I will
another ten years until it clicked in my mind that
however, and I would take pride in how much
look like when I am 30?” This time, however,
Christianity meant relationship. So there I was,
I had changed. This seemed to be the pattern
I ponder in terms of my spiritual appearance:
at 17, thinking I had finally figured it all out; that
every few years—God would prompt growth then
Where will God take me? What will He teach me?
surely I looked different from my younger self.
need to remind me that it was not the last time
Where will He use me? How will He grow me?
True, I knew more about what my faith meant,
I would have to strive for maturity. But the fact
but I mirrored my childhood self in selfishness,
remained: there had been substantial spiritual
rebelliousness and immaturity. Apparently some
growth from age seven to 17, 17 to 20, 20 to 22
struggles know no age.
and so on. Each year I grew and looked different spiritually than I had any year prior.
DAVID AND GOLIATH,
because I loved to hear how God used a simple shepherd boy to defeat a giant. David saved his people when the strong, adult men soldiers, who were trained and armed to fight, were afraid to even face Goliath. It taught me God can use anyone, even a young boy like me, to fight His battles and be a brave conqueror for Him.
DANIEL AND THE LION’S DEN. I loved tigers and lions as a kid and I thought how cool it would be to be able to hang out and play with lions. Fortunately my parents watched me closely when they took me to the circus! —FRED HAMMER, PASTOR OF COMMUNITY OUTREACH
—TED SMITH, PASTOR EMERITUS
I didn’t have a favorite Bible verse when I was young.
I WAS A CHREASTER CHRISTIAN (Christmas and Easter) and seemed to hear the same couple of stories whenever we attended church. It wasn’t until I got older that I learned how rich the Bible really was. —KELLEE BAKER, ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT
My memories are often tied to music. The first song that comes to mind is NOAH
E ASKED OUR CHURCH STAFF WHAT THEIR
AND THE ARKY, ARKY.
FAVORITE BIBLE STORIES WERE
parade of animals on the flannelgraph (a precursor to modern media) and the hand motions that went along with the verses of the song. Ultimately, I’m most thankful that it’s a song of hope and God’s redemption. (Come to think of it, this may be a great choir special for the fall!) —JIM PLASKETT,
GIVE YOU A GLIMPSE INTO THEIR
I always enjoyed the
DIRECTOR OF CLASSIC WORSHIP
WHEN THEY WERE GROWING UP. THEIR RESPONSES MAY CHILDHOOD AND EARLY SPIRITUAL FORMATION. SOME MAY JUST MAKE YOU CHUCKLE.
ZACCHAEUS was my favorite. For obvious reasons! Like him, I had to learn to climb
trees to see over the crowd. I also liked Lazarus. We used the King James Bible and it said that he “stinketh!” —MARK SHETLER, EXECUTIVE PASTOR
I always liked the story of MOSES’
BROTHER AARON being used to speak for Moses. Having the same name, I identified with Aaron being able to talk to a lot of people. I didn’t quite identify with him when he made the golden calf and led the people away from God—clearly someone else must have been to blame! 18
—AARON BRACKNEY, MIDDLE SCHOOL PASTOR
OUR FAVORITE BIBLE STORIES
My favorite childhood story was SAMSON because I thought it was cool that the Bible had its own super hero. Then, when I got a bit older, I read the story in the Bible instead of a story book and realized this guy’s life was an absolute mess. As a parent I found it somewhat humorous that he was in all the children’s Bibles usually as some kind of hero yet he really is an example of what not to do way more than a person to emmulate. —JESSE SMITH, SENIOR PASTOR
I didn’t grow up going to church. However, I do vividly remember that the movie
KING OF KINGS would air on TV every
Easter. That movie hand a profound effect on me. Every Easter I would make sure that I rallied the family to watch it. It was something I looked forward to every year. I still own the VHS and DVD versions of the movie. —TIM LAYFIELD, HIGH SCHOOL PASTOR
NOAH AND THE ARK.
It fascinated my forever curious nature and mind on many levels. How in the world could all those animals get into one vessel with all the food they needed? What about all the animal waste involved with such a long journey? And what happened to all the ants, chiggers, mosquitoes, gnats and sand fleas that always bit me? Were they on board, too? (When you live in Tennessee, Oklahoma and Kansas, as a kid ya’ gotta’ think of these things, right?) What did Noah and his family do on the boat when they wanted a hamburger? How could the little bitty animals not get trampled? Who organized the inside of the ark and decided who took which stall? And, then after all that time on the ark together, how did the animals know where to go to get back to where their native habitat was after the flood ended? —LYNN CAMPBELL, WELCOME MINISTRIES COORDINATOR
One of my favorite Bible stories was
DREAMER. I enjoyed the “Stories that Live” series
and grew up popping in the cassette tapes and listening as I followed along in the illustrated books. This story absolutely fascinated me with how faithful God was even in the midst of such terrible circumstances. God was so much bigger than I could imagine. I was amazed at the trust Joseph had in God, despite the constant difficulties he went through. It greatly encouraged me as a young boy.
—MATT NEWTON, PASTOR OF GROWTH GROUPS
DAVID AND GOLIATH.
I loved the idea of a kid slaying the giant! This young kid was so courageous, strong, and fearless. I was able to envision this BIG man with a BIG sword and shield next to a small boy with nothing to shield him and no weapons except a homemade slingshot. We used to sing a song “only a boy named David, only a rippling brook, only a boy named David and five little stones he took….one little stone went into the sling and the sling went round and round and the sling went round and round. Round and a-round and round and a-round.” That last section was the best part. We all pretended to have slings that were being whipped around many, many times until it flew to kill the big, bad giant. —PEGGY MATHEWS, DIRECTOR OF WOMEN’S MINISTRIES
SHADRACH, MESHACH AND ABEDNEGO.
It had the potential of being pretty gruesome, but I loved the fact that God rescued them when they obeyed His commands. —SUZANNE PENNINGTON, OFFICE MANAGER
THE PRODIGAL SON. Our church did a Children’s Musical on the parable and it was my first glimpse into God’s mercy and character. It continues to serve as a good reminder. —CAROLYN MELVILLE, ADMINISTRATIVE ASSISTANT AND DIRECTOR OF DANCE STUDIO
JOSHUA AND CALEB. I loved their
courage and conviction that God would give them the Promised Land. Twelve spies were sent to scout the territory but only two had enough faith to overcome their fear. These two young men who had just gained freedom from
Egyptian slavery knew that God had even more miracles in store for them. Their story of courage and faith ends when they are old and Joshua has become the leader of Israel. Caleb is 85 years old but asks for the heavily fortified, enemy occupied hill country as his inheritance (Joshua 14). He says, “I am still as strong today as the day Moses sent me out; just as vigorous to do battle
now as I was then.” He goes up as an old man and defeats his enemies with the help of God. I named my first son Caleb because of this story of a man who, from youth to old age, never wavered in his courage, his faith in God or his willingness to fight for what was right. —DAN PALMER, EXECUTIVE TEACHING PASTOR RIVERCITYCHRISTIAN.ORG