Sunday #24 – Oak Hills Church, 19595 IH 10 West, San Antonio
Why this Church?
Last week, I decided to go to a Church of Christ church this weekend, so last night I searched the online Yellow Pages and Oak Hills Church came up near the top. I wouldn’t have known this church from any other, but a few months ago, I attended an event and met a woman named Denise. She told me all about Oak Hills Church and invited me to come. I said I would at some point, so when the church name popped to the top of that list, I decided it was time. I later learned that while this church has its roots in Church of Christ, it is now a non-denominational church.
Preconceived Ideas about Oak Hills Church
I know very little about this church other than the following:
- Max Lucado is one of its lead pastors. (I know he is an author of many best seller books and a recognized name. Still wondering if I’ve ever read any of his books, or have just heard of him through the grapevine.)
- I’ve also been told that either David Robinson or Tim Duncan go to this church. (Have great respect for both men, so it must be a good place.)
Denise and I agree to meet for the 9:45 service and fortunately for me, she tells me it starts at 9:30. I pull into the large expanse of a parking lot at about 9:28 a.m. and immediately see the Golden Ticket – a whole section for first time visitors.
As I’m directed to a parking spot by a young man dressed in shorts, tennis shoes and an orange shirt like several others in the lot, I smiled and thought; Yep, this is going to be a good morning.
He asked me if it was my first time, welcomed me and then directed me through the front doors, up the stairs and said I’d find the large auditorium at the back. Immediately, I was glad I’d gone back inside the house and switched from high heels to flats. Yes, there was an elevator, but for someone who just completed a five mile run, I thought that I’d feel like a wuss if I chose the easy way to the top.
Through the use of modern technology (smartphone), I eventually found Denise in a crowd of about 1500 people. She saved me a seat. Yay, Denise! As I sat down, I asked her about the Church of Christ thing, and she told me years ago it was a Church of Christ church, but later switched to non-denominational. She said that the earlier morning service is more reflective of those roots, with music that is done completely a cappella.
As with all the other non-denominational churches, this service begins with music directed by a band and yes (darn it) we stood. What is it with these non-denominational churches and this incessant standing at the beginning of the service? Isn’t anyone else running early in the morning and ready to sit down? Sigh The words to the songs were emblazoned across two large screens that were located way too high for my vantage point. I think those in the higher sections in the back were probably at the right angle, but nearer to the front, I had to crane my head to read the words. My favorite part of all this was thinking about the drummer located to the right of the stage in a little plexiglass box. Honestly, it reminded me of the Pope-mobile. I guess it’s for sound dampening, but sure looks funny. I’ve seen this in other churches, but never closed off on almost four sides.
Finally, after three songs, we got to sit. At this point, I looked back to see that hardly a chair in this auditorium was left vacant. Then Denise leaned over to say that with the combined services, the attendance is around 4,000 to 5,000 each weekend.
The worship leader then gave us the good news – The San Antonio Spurs are World Champions. That announcement got everyone going.
Then we sang another song, while the worship leader read some words from his smartphone. Some musician on stage played a black instrument that had an unusual sound. Still wondering what that was. It looked a lot like a clarinet, but the diameter was much larger. From this vantage point, I also had a good view of the deaf interpreter. These guys and girls totally amaze me how they can follow along and not get lost.
Time for the Message
Then everything went dark and it felt much like a movie was about to begin. Wasn’t sure if I was about to see a video production or hear a sermon.
However, this was just the lead-in to the sermon.
Then Max Lucado walked on stage and stood in front of a generic black music stand like thing – no fancy podium, no altar, just pastor Lucado and his notes. His sermon was the last in a series called “The Glory Days” and centered on the story of Joshua.
He first asked why the book of Joshua was in the Bible. The answer: Because the story of Joshua reminds us that we need to come out of the wilderness and claim our inheritance and stop walking around in circles.
In fact, Lucado said, the word “inheritance” is mentioned 51 times in Joshua. He also reminded the audience that the Israelites may not have wandered around for 40 years, if they had just claimed their inheritance. “They were delivered from Egyptian bondage but still remained captive in fear, anxiety and dread.” He went on to say that discipleship is learning how to access God and all that you have already inherited.
My favorite analogy was when Lucato held up his smartphone and said that this phone had amazing power and capability, but for many of us, the smartphone is smarter than we are. He said, “I may know what an app is, but if I don’t know how to access it through my phone, that power is unavailable to me.”
After the sermon, pastor Lucado called those people to the front of the auditorium who may want to receive a special blessing and prayer. This reminded me a bit about the Hope Center Church and seemed to be similar to what the Pentecostals do at the end of their service. Then, everyone went back to their seats.
After that, we all prepared for Communion. The choir sang while the plate of bread and wine (er, uh, grape juice) was passed out. At this point, I had to smile. While the choir sang, a picture of stained glass windows was projected onto the backdrop behind the choir. Who says you can’t have a modern building with stained glass in it? And I bet it cost a lot less, too! The Communion reminded me of all the years spent in the Baptist Church with a plate of chicklet-sized crackers being passed down the aisles with a half shot of grape juice to follow. In many churches, this is a rather quiet, solemn portion of the service, but at Oak Hills Church the music made it a bit more lively. We all held the sacraments in our hands and then once they were all passed out, the worship leader instructed us to “eat of Christ’s body and drink of His blood.”
After that, a prayer was given and we all stood to clap and sing. That was one happy choir – lots of hands raised in praise, a leader jumping up and down on stage and a lot of swaying to and fro.
At the end, black curtains that had been blocking the sun were rolled back electronically to reveal floor to ceiling windows that I never knew were there. Then, pastor Lucado made a few announcements, including the one that he and his daughter finally got last minute tickets to last Sunday’s final playoff game. Of course, he said he was in the section at the top, where they needed oxygen masks to breath and he said he was quite sure that he saw Archangel Michael flying just below his section.
After a final prayer, we departed. My friend Denise wanted me to meet Max Lucado, so she took me to where he was and snapped a photo. Nice guy!
Post Service Commentary
I’d consider this church to be one of the many mega churches in San Antonio – and there are many of those. This one has a different feel though and I liked it. Reminds me a lot of Mile Hi Church in Denver, so it really felt like home. I’ll still have to find a Church of Christ to go to at some point. Will keep looking for that one.
I’ll be in Angel Fire, New Mexico next Sunday. I’d like to go to a Native American church, but it is about 20 miles into Taos where that is located. I’d have to borrow a vehicle and just don’t do that. My father taught me long ago, never borrow someone’s car and never let someone borrow yours. It’s a rule I’ve always tried to live by. So, I may be going to a church that I can walk to in Angel Fire. Who knows where I’ll be?