The OCeeker: Bethel Baptist Church and the Seasoned Saints of Santa Ana
God bless the Baptists.
The ol' OCeeker had been growing concerned about the Body of Christ (that's Scripture-speak for 'the church', ye heathen) in Orange County over the past few weeks, as it seemed every sanctuary he visited was peopled with believers who didn't own Bibles. It's bad enough being the (hunky) visitor to these hallowed halls, but when you're the only one in the pew with a Bible in your lusty lap, you sorta feel outta place.
Not at Bethel Baptist Church in Santa Ana. Nope. The OCeeker felt right at home on a warm Wednesday night recently, when he took in some mid-week teaching from the warm-hearted Dan Davidson, pastor of the independent, fundamentalist, Bible-believing church.
Located a couple miles south of the 405 Freeway on Euclid Street, the pale building with green trim is tucked behind a fence that discourages the riff-raff. One can never take too many safety measures in Santa Ana.
May 23, 6:45 p.m.
The OCeeker pulled into a spot marked for visitors, and promptly strutted into the sanctuary, where he was greeted by not one, but two kindly men, who took the time to shake his hand and introduce themselves. These weren't limp-wristed handshakes from hipster Christians, but manly grabs of affection. Nice touch!
The congregation of about 35 saints was already in piano-and-hymn mode when the OCeeker's magnificent footfall graced the holy ground. Indeed, they grouped themselves on the right half of the sanctuary, leaving the left side empty, giving the patron saint of sexy ample room to spread wide his bronze and bushy thighs.
Under his foot lay green carpet that spread across the aging sanctuary, its white walls lit somewhat dimly by lights that hung down from the ceiling and decorated with flags of the world. (Bethel Baptist has a terrific missions program.) The wall behind the stage was painted sky blue, with puffy little clouds added in, and a brown, wooden cross properly affixed. No goofy abstract paintings or too-cool sayings could be found, which brought back memories of the old times, before American Jesus sold out and went from holy to hip.
Based on Nahum 1:7, which reads "The Lord is good, a stronghold in the day of trouble; and he knoweth them that trust in him," we sang "God Will Take Care of You", with the lyric "be not dismayed, whate'r betide, God will take of you." Word.
Those in attendance were mostly seasoned saints, which was kinda nice to see. Orange County and its suffocating temptations, corrupt preachers and skin-deep spirituality can kill a man's trust in anything other than his carnal appetite, but these believers have survived the folly of youth and the private despair of middle age, and appear to be finishing well their long race of faith.
Davidson delivers a dandy
The hymn business finished, the elderly Davidson, who kinda looks like actor and former Republican presidential candidate Fred Thompson, took the pulpit, which stood on the floor at the base of the stage and faced the right side of the congregation. He sported a jacket and tie, and spoke with a honey-drip tone--slow and sweet. Really, the man's message was delivered with the tender care of a genuine shepherd, and big ups must be given to guys who are faithful to their calling these days, especially when they do so without any apparent desire to become Churchianity megastars.
Davidson gave an introductory message on the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus condemned self-righteousness before pretty much going liberal on everyone's ass, with talk about loving your enemies and blessing those that curse you. Davidson started with an overview of the Beatitudes, which begin: "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted."
Instead of blasting his church with commands to do what Jesus said (or else!), Davidson, rather tenderly, told them that Christ died to enable us to live out his teachings, and that it's not something we can attain apart from an abiding faith and real relationship with God. He said the teachings of Jesus both elevated the righteousness required of God, and yet demonstrated that the deity wants to produce an inward transformation that leads to outward demonstrations of true Christianity. The church today is marked by a superficial focus on self that is more concerned with what others think, rather than what God wants to do in the hearts of men, according to Davidson.
"Sometimes I think we think we're so good at fooling people, we think we're fooling God," he said. Yeppum.
But unbelievers are drawn to Christ through the lives of those who truly follow his teachings, and they can sniff out the hypocrites, Davidson said.
"The world is looking for real Christians today," he said. "They're not just looking for those who know about the Bible and have the information. They're looking for those who live the Bible...by demonstration." Hell yeah.
It was a fine sermon, about 45 minutes long, and the OCeeker gave it four out of five church potlucks. Dan Davidson is a dandy preacher!
After the sermon, Davidson patiently listened to prayer requests, and we interceded for all manner of infirmities.
Now, there were only a couple of babes in attendance, which was not unexpected on a Wednesday night at a place called Bethel Baptist. One attractive lass sat alone for a bit before her dopey guy friend arrived and sat next to her. The OCeeker knows how to capitalize on the weakness of men who can't catch the prey, but alas, he had mercy on the poor fella, and stepped lively to his car. A sinful blonde awaited the high-priest of poon in a south County bar.
Bethel Baptist Church meets every Sunday at 11 a.m. and 6 p.m., and every Wednesday at 6:45 p.m, at 901 S. Euclid St., Santa Ana, (714) 839-3600; www.bbministries.com
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