Saturday #32 – Community Bible Church, 2477 North Loop 1604, San Antonio
Why this Church?
Plain and simple: they had a Saturday service! By going to this church and then another on Sunday, that puts me back on track for 50 total church services by the end of the year. Also, a friend from my neighborhood book club goes to this church and made the recommendation.
First place I head when deciding upon a church is to its website. This CBC church website is top notch. I chose the “I am new” tab to get a drop down menu where I then chose “Services.” I found that they not only had a 5:00 p.m. Saturday service, but also had a button to invite a friend. After looking at scads of Unity Churches around the country and lamenting the 1990s look and feel of all their websites, this site gave me hope that some churches are making websites more user friendly. However, when I clicked the button to invite a friend, I got an error message that said, “Not Found.”
If I wanted to invite my book club friend, I’d have to use email, or GASP the telephone! Oh how last century would that be?
As I pulled into the large parking lot, I immediately saw signs for Visitor Parking. Must have been a lot of visitors yesterday, because these spots were almost completely filled. However, I found one and then headed toward the large building on foot.
Upon entering, I noticed that this large mega church is much like the others, but this is the first one with its own café. If I’d had a few more minutes, I would have gone for a Chai Tea Latte!
I walked straight into the large….and I do mean LARGE sanctuary. I had no idea how many people this place seats, but by the time the service started, it was at least 95 percent filled. Such a dramatic difference between this Saturday service and the one right down the street at Concordia Lutheran where less than 50 had been in attendance the Saturday night I attended.
As I wondered about the draw of this church, I watched churchgoers of all ages and nationality stroll in wearing in jeans, shorts, capris and all sorts of attire. Now that’s a draw, especially when it hit 101 degrees at 5:00 p.m. yesterday!
As the massive purple velvet curtains part, I see a large choir standing in street clothes and a full symphonic band beneath them. Oh this is going to be fun. I’d been hoping for an orchestra, but to get strings and winds on a Saturday afternoon, YIPEE! Plus, we all remained seated for the first song. This is my kind of place!
As we stood for the second song “You are Good,” I couldn’t pinpoint the lead singer, but perhaps they didn’t have one, because off the 20 or so people standing upfront on stage, the soloists kind of took turns as lead on the microphones.
We remained standing for the third song and sang along as the words appeared on three large projection screens at the front of the sanctuary. Bathed in purple and blue light, the talented singers regaled the crowd as I watched a few people in the crowd and on the stage raise their arms high in praise.
Then one of the ministers asked us to “please be seated.” Three of my favorite words! At that point, a video popped up of an ALS challenge that three church leaders and workers did the previous week that brought a bit of laughter from the audience. Then, the minister asked all first-time teachers in the audience to stand. He recognized those and then he asked all current teachers and administrators to stand. Teachers are very well represented in this church! He then gave a special prayer for all those who stood. While certainly appropriate for the time of the year, I still had no idea what was to come in this service.
We then were asked to stand for the third song. I really don’t mind standing, as long as there are breaks in between the songs, so this was right in line with my comfort level. I took a moment to look around the vast sanctuary and thought: Where do all these people come from? This place was 95 percent filled. In the immediate area, only one seat remained empty, the one next to me.
<I swear I put on deodorant. I really did.>
After the song, another minister came to the center of the stage and gave a very short message about his plane trip from Odessa. He asked if anyone in the audience had been to Odessa. Then he said for those who haven’t, all you’ll find in Odessa is DIRT – some great people, but just a lot of dirt!
Then the minister did something like an altar call where people were asked to make their way to the front if they had something heavy on their hearts that they wanted someone to pray with them over. People came from all over the sanctuary and knelt down. As the music continued to play, the minister walked from one side of the stage to the other with his hand stretched down from above the kneelers as if passing along healing energy. In silent prayer from the stage, he continued to walk as the music played in the background. Some might think this odd but I found it rather touching at that moment.
As the people made their way back to their seats, we stood for a fourth song from the band. Then after another prayer, a short video hit the screens from www.iamsecond.com. I’d never heard of this organization or movement, so this was all new to me. If you are struggling with anything at all – drugs, alcohol, divorce, anger, abortion, sex addictions, disabilities, abuse, cancer – this is a website you want to check out.
Then the minister introduced Gabriel Salazar, who was on the video that we all saw and probably not the one that you’ll see when you open the iamsecond website.
Gabe Salazar is originally from the south side of San Antonio and is married to a former San Antonio news anchor; they now live in Los Angeles where his wife works and Gabe visits schools and talks to students all across America as his profession. The students identify with Gabe whose mother was a single teen when she gave birth to him; Gabe says he only saw his “DNA dad” one time when he was about four years old. While growing up, Gabe struggled with poverty and gang influence.
Named America’s #1 Latino Youth Speaker by Popular Hispanic Magazine, you quickly understand why. With a rapid fire, comedic delivery, he gave the deaf interpreter standing to the side of the stage a run for her money yesterday. She really got a sign language workout!
When I chose this church service, I had some idea of what to expect, but comedy with a message was not one of those. As Gabe started off telling us about growing up poor, the thought stuck that we all have gifts and this man was using his to its fullest impact. Just made me want to tell everyone: Don’t try to be like someone else. Be yourself. You have such genius within you, so let it out.
While Gabe often toes the line between secular and spiritual as he visits schools, he makes his point about God by asking kids about their dreams. He relayed one story of asking a young man what he wanted to be when he grew up. The young teen said, “a doctor.” Gabe said, “Great! What are you doing right now to make that happen?” The young man didn’t have an answer, so Gabe said, “Man, that’s not a dream; that’s just a wish. There’s a big difference.” Other teens he has asked the question give ridiculous answers about wanting to be dinosaurs, ninja’s or drug dealers. He even relayed one tragic story about a time when he was speaking at a school in Houston.
Gabe interspersed his routine with illustrative bible verses read from an iPad sitting next to him on stage. Additionally, he brought the audience and specifically parents up-to-speed about the drugs that kids are presently using and how they are using them. Probably more information than parents want to know. But, as Gabe shares it’s what parents NEED to know, as surprisingly, parents are the number one supplier of alcohol and prescription drugs to kids who become addicted to these substances.
At the end of the “Stop Wishing. Start Dreaming.” message, Gabe performed a skit that was so impactful that he asked that it not be filmed. After watching him, I understood why.
At the end of the service, all teens were asked to stand up around the sanctuary and a special prayer was said for them as they begin this school year.
Post Service Thoughts
I arrived on time and even wrote out a check in advance this time. Felt so ready for this service and wouldn’t you know….not one basket, bucket or pail was passed for donations. After the service, I went to the lobby hoping to find a place to drop a donation and quickly noticed a kiosk. I stared at it for a few minutes and realized the only way you could donate was by credit card. Really? Am I really THAT antiquated? So as I dusted off my wrinkles, I turned and resolved to buy a stamp and stick the check in the mail. I wonder if they will know what to do with it when it arrives?
In all seriousness, this service was the most impactful that I’ve attended. I love comedy and to hear someone share such a poignant message in comedic fashion was refreshing. It reminded me of listening to Rev. Barry Ebert at Mile Hi Church give the weekly church announcements using his dry wit. Priceless!
Back at it again tomorrow, so I can officially be caught up in my 50 churches in 50-week journey. Headed to the local Unity church