It was spring 1998, and after serving 13 years at Montecito Covenant Church as the Youth & Family Pastor alongside Curt Peterson, change was in the air. God was up to something. We initiated a new campaign “Going Public With The Gospel”. The call was to discover fresh ways to get off the hill in Montecito and bring the Good News of God’s unfailing love into the downtown region of Santa Barbara. The idea was floated about starting a new church with me as the church planter-pastor. I was 38 years old and feeling very unqualified and inadequate…
It was spring 1998, and after serving 13 years at Montecito Covenant Church as the Youth & Family Pastor alongside Curt Peterson, change was in the air. God was up to something. We initiated a new campaign “Going Public With The Gospel”. The call was to discover fresh ways to get off the hill in Montecito and bring the Good News of God’s unfailing love into the downtown region of Santa Barbara. The idea was floated about starting a new church with me as the church planter-pastor. I was 38 years old and feeling very unqualified and inadequate. But God was putting the dream in my heart and mentors/leaders were speaking affirmation over me. God met me and spoke to me through His Word in the Bible confirming his call on me to “Get out of the boat & come to him” (Matthew 14:28-29). So I stepped out of my comfort zone and said “Yes”. But not just me.
The church family at Montecito Covenant stepped out of their comfort zone too- sacrificing and giving above and beyond to support this new adventure of planting a daughter church. Our mother church generously and sacrificially gave $140,000 and sent 40 adults and 20 kids (the signed charter is still in my office) who sensed the spirit of God leading them to come with us and begin a new church. In addition, God also led Chuck Wysong (a dynamic leader and Pastor) and Allan Anderson (retiring Hospital Administrator that we needed to keep us from doing stupid things) to both move from Chicago to join me on the start up staff team. In June of 1998, we invited anybody who was interested to come to the Hansen’s home for a luncheon and vision casting time. Out of that, we formed a core group launch team and started monthly sneak preview services at the Veterans Memorial Building.
While praying over the city one morning with Chuck Wysong, one of us prayed, “Lord from the ocean to the hills we pray for a mighty move of your Spirit over this city and region.” After we prayed we looked at each other and said “Oceanhills?! Lets call this church ‘Oceanhills’!” On January 24, 1999 Oceanhills started meeting weekly. Our locations for church have included the Vet, the Luke Theater, the Loft, House Church, Easter @ City College, the Lobero Theater, Church at the Beach, Christmas Eve Church Under the Stars, and Church at the Zoo.
Countless lives have been touched and transformed, helped and healed by Jesus over the years. Guest speakers over the years for special events have included Philip Yancey, Oprah Winfrey, Stedman Graham, Dr. Laura, and Dr. Mark Labberton. Through Oceanhills, you have generously given close to a million dollars to support local and global mission efforts, plant new churches, and provide clean water in the DR Congo.
A special shout out and thank you to everyone who has ever served on our Leadership Team elder board and helped promote the vision and protect the health and unity of our church family. Well done! And to all the staff who said “Yes” to serve and lead with us! Thank you for your sacrifice and service in helping our community go deeper in Christ and further in mission.
And an extra big bear hug and thank you to my wife Nathalie and daughter Shannon, who for twenty years lived, served, and persevered under the “glass house” life of being a “Pastor’s family”. I am so grateful for your love and support.
And finally, to the family and friends who have stuck with me through the highs and lows, sat under my teaching, my leadership in a small group, and all the audibles I’ve called over the years. Thank you for jumping with me into life- into a canoe, into a river raft, into the ocean, into prayer, on a bike, onto a trail, onto a mission trip, off a boat, off a bridge, off a cliff, or just jumped into a meaningful conversation with me around an outdoor fire pit… Thank you!
We are better together! We are stronger together! We are in it together!
Can’t wait to celebrate together with my Oceanhills family this weekend!
Oh and by the way… we’re not done – the best is yet to come!
Pastor Jon Ireland