20 Years Ago

"Gettin Jiggy With It” by Will Smith was one of the big songs of 1998! 20 years ago… 20 years this month I stepped out of the boat (see Peter in Matthew 14) and followed the Whisper when I heard God calling me to plant a new church in downtown Santa Barbara. 20 years is a long time leading and Pastoring the same church. But I am more energized, passionate, and fired up than when we started this thing.

When I look back over the last 20 years of course I think of so many things- the audibles and anxious moments, the bloopers and blunders (yes we have made our share of mistakes- lots of them). I also think of and miss so many wonderful people God brought to and through Oceanhills for "a season” during our life together. People who served, sacrificed, gave generously, encouraged, mentored, led, and helped move the mission forward. Of course I am so grateful for the original founding partners and friends who jumped in with me from Montecito Covenant and the broader community who have stuck it out for 20 years. We will say a big thank you to them in November during our 20th Anniversary Weekend. 

So why am I more energized and excited about what God is up to at Oceanhills today than 20 years ago? 

God is doing a fresh work of growth and grace in my heart. My faith is growing as I press deeper into life in the Spirit and His love in the Scripture - this year I’m underlining and circling the phrase “unfailing love” everywhere it shows up in my Bible- wow it’s all over the place! (Unfailing love- SELAH that!). Soaking in the unfailing love of Jesus Christ is making and molding me into someone new. My marriage is stronger than ever. Nathalie and I will celebrate 35 years of marriage this summer and we are enjoying each other more than ever before. We are so encouraged to see our daughter Shannon and her husband Gerrit involved and serving Jesus on the Take Down Team, Okids Team, and Youth Ministry Team at Oceanhills. Thank you for praying for my family over all these years.

Why I am so filled up and fired up? 

Let me count the ways - the staff team, the unique culture, the vision, the core of great lay leadership, the heath, the vitality, the stories of life change, the generosity, the grace extended, the powerful weekly experience of God’s Spirit present and flowing in our Sunday gatherings, the impact at Franklin Elementary School and the DR Congo,  Church On The Beach, At The Zoo, and Under The Stars, the discipleship mentoring relationships that are happening, all those students going to CHIC this summer, the sacrifices people are making to fully fund the mission, the new protege program, and the love and support and affirmation I feel from you all. Thank you for loving me and my family so well. Thanks for leaning in. Thanks for extending lots of grace to us. Thanks for being willing to say “Hineni" to God’s whisper and come with us off the beaten path on this spiritual adventure. It’s only the beginning… the best days of Oceanhills are in front of us. "Summer summer summertime…"

Psalm 119:41, 64, 124 - "O Lord give me your unfailing love… your unfailing love fills the earth…I am your servant; deal with me in unfailing love."


Pastor Jon Ireland

Julie Lisea