At New Song Community Church in Oceanside, California, the Great Commission and a desire to be a church that “joins God where He’s at work,” says Executive Director Steve Foster, are the primary focus. The North County San Diego congregation has become known by its military community as the “church for Marines” stationed at the nearby Marine base, Camp Pendleton.
After hosting a one-day event called “Operation Yellow Ribbon” on the base of Camp Pendleton, the 12-year-old church began to see the real needs of its military community. In addition to regular Family Fun Days on base that often include large giveaways and even fresh fish, the church has presented financial seminars geared specifically to military personnel, as well as marriage conferences for the military (70% of Marines are divorced in the first three to four years of duty).
And in weekend services at New Song (newsongchurch.com), Pastor Hal Seed regularly asks, “Has anyone recently come back from the field? We just want to say thanks.” When someone raises a hand, invariably the congregation is on its feet in applause, Foster says. The church is currently praying about and considering the idea of developing, growing, and funding a staff position that would oversee its outreach and ministry to the military.
The congregation is now a mixture of civilian and military cultures, as a large influx of Marines, both single and married, visit and find their church home at New Song. Still, the process of reflecting this unique culture and community is ongoing, Foster says.
“As often as we can, we try to ask, ‘How can we do this more meaningfully? How do we serve this culture?’” Foster says. “We really want to be a church that if we weren’t here next week, our community would weep for us. Embracing and serving these Marines and their families is one of the ways that’s actually happening.”
In San Rafael, California, 17 miles north of San Francisco, a man wearing a shirt buttoned low sits down in a group of 150 people, his chest sparkling with glitter. In this group, which is accustomed to reaching out to its surrounding community, the man and others like him are welcome.
At Church of the Open Door (opendoorsanrafael.net), caring for homosexuals through Frank and Anita Worthen’s New Hope Ministries (newhope123.org) is part of what the church is about. The ministry, Anita says, has two principle goals: to rescue and to prepare a place.
“We present the truth to those who come to us and nurture those who will surrender to the will of Christ, pointing the way to change,” she says, explaining New Hope’s first goal. The second goal is about educating the Church on how to meet the needs of those making such a life-altering decision, she says.
New Hope is a continuation of the ex-gay ministry Love in Action that Frank Worthen, an ex-gay and an associate pastor at the church, founded in the ‘60s. The ministry continues to work “arm-in-arm” with the church, Anita says, serving the community around it.
The Church of the Open Door has many ex-gays in its congregation. “Our young people have grown up with people of all kinds of backgrounds and have seen how our church nurtures the people in our community,” Anita says. “We’re known all over the world as the little church that could.”