by Pastor Kent Carlson


I absolutely loved our church’s 30-year anniversary celebration weekend. I’m not completely sure why it was so profoundly satisfying and fun for me. I just know that it was perhaps the most enjoyable time I have had in thirty years of ministry at Oak Hills Church. Maybe it was because we were so very relaxed going into that weekend. Maybe it was because we weren’t really using the celebration for much of anything other than to have a party together. Maybe it was the amazing performance of the Oak Hills Rewind. Maybe it was seeing Rick Leary in long hair. Whatever it was, I had a blast.

The predominant feeling I have coming out of this celebration is gratitude. Thirty years is a long time to be in one place. In one church. There are so many stories, so many beautiful people, so many experiences of God’s grace and transformation. So many people who have sincerely sought to follow Christ in the midst of what seemed like impossible situations. And all these stories flooded over me, and I was, and continue to be, deeply grateful to God and to the people of Oak Hills Church, for all this goodness, all this beauty, all these stories that are a part of God’s great story of redemption. This Thanksgiving, without any effort at all on my part, but simply as the natural result of being overwhelmed by the goodness of God and the people of Oak Hills Church, I am deeply grateful. It’s a good feeling.

Now, on to the next thirty years!

I want to highlight two events to help us bask in the sheer delight of our 30-year celebration. First, we have our Annual Congregational Meeting and Vision Night on Thursday, November 20. We will worship together, meet our elders and vote to affirm them. We will talk about some of the challenges and opportunities in our future and have a time for questions and answers. We will have a scrumptious dessert. And most wonderfully, we will have a repeat of our Oak Hills Rewind. For those of us who have already seen it, we will be able to laugh all over again. For those of you who have never seen it, well, you are in for a treat. Please try to make this night a priority and let’s keep the celebration going!

Second, I want to encourage us all to come to our annual Thanksgiving Eve Service. We will worship together “in the round” and we will share together the Lord’s Supper. There will be ample opportunity to share with each other our deep gratefulness to God for all that He as done for us. I hope to see you all there.

With deep thankfulness,

Kent Carlson


Telling Our Story.

by Manuel Luz, Creative Arts Pastor

Page0030 - Version 2Everyone has a story. You do, I do, we all do. In a very real sense, a church can be defined as a collection of shared stories brought together by their common faith in Jesus. God, the Author of Days, writes His Story and brings us together through it.

The story of Oak Hills Church contains thousands of stories. And as we approach our 30 Year Anniversary, we thought it would be appropriate to share our stories with one another. I invite you to hit this LINK for more information on how you can share your personal story with the rest of our community. But for now, I’d like to share one of my stories. And it goes way, way back—almost to the beginning of the church.

I first began attending Oak Hills in the fall of 1985. I was an extremely young aerospace engineer by day who played in bands and recording studios by night. And I was brand new to the faith. Truth be told, I had gone to another church in the area for a short while, but was getting distracted by all the pretty girls in the singles group. So a friend invited me to Oak Hills, explaining, “You should come. We don’t have any pretty girls.” (He meant unmarried ones.)

My first impression was a good one. Although the church was small and less than a year old, the people were friendly, the preaching was sound, and the snacks were good. I could sink myself into my Bible without distraction. It felt like a place I could be at for a long time. So it took about a month before I came forward and offered myself to the volunteer Worship Leader, Dave Harbert. Dave, not knowing anything about me, informed me that I had to audition for the worship team.

Being a new church, Oak Hills didn’t have much in the way of a worship band. Dave played acoustic guitar and sang, Christie sang alto harmonies, and Steve was a teenager on the upright piano. I still remember pulling up to the Harbert house and unloading my equipment, which included a small PA, multi-tiered keyboards, drum machine, mic and stand, and a host of foot pedals and other paraphernalia. Dave must have thought he hit the mother lode.

The actual audition consisted of Dave and Steve poking at different buttons on my keyboard setup. I hadn’t played a note and I felt like I already had the gig. Now, I performed at a lot of clubs back in the day, and I could play keyboard on my right hand, bass with my left, trigger drums with my left foot, and sing harmony vocals. So single-handedly that night, I pretty much became the Oak Hills band.

Page0026 - Version 2That was 29 years ago. Since that time Dave and Teresa and I have been through a lot. The birth of their three boys. My marriage to Debbie, and our four children. Starting a project recording studio together. Coming on staff as the worship pastor, essentially becoming Dave’s “boss.” Moving to the high school, then the Presbyterian church, and finally to our present location. Designing and building (literally) the building together. Beginning and leading a host of different ministries with Dave and Teresa, from a symphonic band to a publishing ministry to the Art and Soul Gallery. Co-leading hundreds of people through thousands of services and decades of ministry. A thousand challenges and a million laughs and a billion memories.

Looking back now, I realize that night auditioning for Dave and the worship team changed my life. So much of who I am and what I’ve done and what I believe can be traced to the moment my story and Dave’s converged. Thank you God that you brought me and my wife to Oak Hills, to be a part of a community that has loved us and cared for us and grown with us and believed in us. Thank You for 30 years of faithfulness to the ministries of the church. Thank You for writing my story into the story of Oak Hills.

[Photos: Top, the original Oak Hills Baptist Church storefront location, next to the laundrymat and the Kentucky Fried Chicken on East Bidwell in Folsom; Bottom, a very young Dave Harbert leading worship (pre-Manuel). Any resemblance to Napoleon Dynamite is completely coincidental.]

God Sightings


by Manuel Luz, Creative Arts Pastor

I was talking to someone recently about the evidences of God. No, not the vast creation/cosmological evidences, and not the theological/philosophical proofs. I mean the small evidences that show up in the often mundane and trivial moments of being, where He quitely shows up and reminds us that He is still God With Us. Because if God really is who He says He is, if we really believe in an Almighty and Ever-Present Triune Godhead, then the evidences of God should be frequent and normative and all around us.

So I thought I would share some “God Sightings” from the last few months of worship services. I hope to remind us that our God is the ever-active, ever-pursuing, ever-involved One who moves dynamically in and through our lives, and pours out great love and grace to us all.

God Sighting 1: God In Our Art

We were busy in the midst of the Sunday morning pre-service rush, working through the logistics of rehearsal and run-through, and I hadn’t had any time to check in with our worship painter for that morning, Mary Fong. After run-through, I decided to pull Mary aside and check in with her to make sure that she was settled with her paints, easel, drop cloth, and brushes, as well as find out how she was doing personally. She shared that she was somewhat nervous and was still unsettled about what she was going to paint. As is my custom, I lay hands on her and we prayed together.

She told me later that an overwhelming calm came over her at the moment, and she had a sudden and focused clarity of vision beyond the blank canvas that stared back at her. The result was the piece shown above. To paraphrase her explanation, the jagged pieces signifies God putting back together the chaos which comes over our lives.

God Sighting 2: God In Our Grieving

As I was preparing for an upcoming service, singing and praying over the songs in order, I was struck by the need to change one of the songs in the worship set. Rather than “At The Cross of Calvary,” which is a modern hymn and one of our congregational favorites, I felt the need to change the song to the old hymn, “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.” It was a little unusual as the hymn isn’t necessarily one I select often, and it didn’t flow as smoothly in the service. But I felt led to make the change, and didn’t think about it again until Sunday morning.

That morning, I told everyone of the change, and passed out music to a somewhat disappointed Worship Team. (I had to promise them I would bring back “At The Cross” later, as evidenced below.) But as usual, we went through the rehearsal, run-through, and both services with the song.

After the second service, Michael and Sarah Jackson approached me. Michael and Sarah are missionaries to India, working with the Foreign Mission Foundation, and they were visiting us that Sunday. Sarah explained to me that her father, the patriarch of her family, had just passed away this past week, and they were quite burdened by their sorrow. Then she explained that “Great Is Thy Faithfulness” was her family’s theme song, and they played it and sung it together all the time. She explained that the song came at just the right time—like a message from God.

I asked her when her father had passed away, and she explained that they had just heard the news on Friday, the day he passed. That’s when I felt a little shiver. Friday was the day I was playing through the music, the day I felt moved to change the worship set to include “Great Is Thy Faithfulness.”

120429 2 Impact - Version 3God Sighting 3: God In Our Song

During my time teaching and leading worship in the Philippines in June, I asked Henway Fong and Michaela Nasello to lead worship. Henway, in particular, provided steady and vertically-focused guidance to the worship during the three Sundays of my absence for which I was extremely grateful.

One moment in particular was Michaela leading a stripped-down worship team in a solo of “Oceans” which I have been told fell deeply upon the congregation. There was something quite Spirit-breathed in how she shared the song which moved people beyond mere virtuosity. God was working deeply in people during that song.

God Sighting 4: God In Communion

The following was shared to me by Dave Harbert. He tells this story well:

“There’s something very special about the hymn, “At the Cross of Calvary.” It’s hard to explain—which may be why we simply label it “A God thing.” Sure the author, Jim Heinze, is a friend of Oak Hills. Yes, we just found out his wife is battling cancer. And true, Teresa (ed: his wife) always reminds me she wants that song sung at her funeral. But those things don’t explain what happened last Sunday when we ended the service singing it during communion.

“I was moved so powerfully during the song that I had chills running up and down my spine. The words, the music, the harmonies, the Spirit all blended into “a moment.” After the song ended and the benediction was delivered, I turned to Amy, who was leading worship beside me, to share our usual after-service hug only to note that tears were not only streaming down my face, but hers as well! We were part of something bigger than the two of us. Later I found out that Teresa, who was our sound tech that morning, had to have the Kleenex box moved next to her because she was sobbing through the song. She struggled to keep it together enough to focus her attention on finishing the service.

“Thank you Holy Spirit for helping Jim Heinze write that song, for moving through your church and for stirring us from the inside out.”

What Is Your God Sighting?

We do indeed live in a God-breathed world, where the Kingdom is alive with the hallelujah of His creation. We need only squint a bit, and focus ourselves out of the self-centered myopia to see it.

Do you have a God sighting? Please feel free to share it with me at Thanks!

Why Arts Month?

by Creative Arts Pastor Manuel Luz

arts monthOne month a year, Oak Hills takes the time to emphasize the arts during our services and in the many other activities of the church. We have visual artists participating in the worship time, musicians performing between services, and other artistic elements like dance and art gallery. And the reasons for this are straightforward—we believe that we are made in the image of the All-Creative God, and part of our journey as disciples of Jesus includes understanding and expressing who He made us to be.

While it seems obvious to us, it is not something often found in many churches. The arts in the evangelical church are somewhat misunderstood and often commodified. And that goes for the artists in many churches as well.

Thankfully, we understand the arts to be more than a medium for a message. It is who God made us to be, and how we can express our lives in Christ to one another and to the world. So during the month of July, if you see a painter or a dancer on stage, understand that they are painting or dancing as an expression of worship, and in a sense, they are worship leaders, just like the people singing and playing instruments.  When you see musicians performing between services, understand that they are expressing a unique and God-given gift which needs to be celebrated in the church. When you pass by the art gallery (which features art from our Arts Camp children), understand that the artwork is an expression of young minds who are learning about God and his love for them.

Our scheduled artists for the month include: Jacquelyn Venter (harpist), Mary M. Fong (visual artist), Ashley Hansen (dancer), Artistic License (Vocal Quartet featuring Jason Dyer), Allison Carlos (painter), Anna Agundez (sculptor), Pneuma (Dance Troupe under the direction of Kelly Archer), Michaela Nasello (songwriter), Melinda Word (painter), and Bill Walsh (guitarist/vocalist). Most all of these people are from Oak Hills too! We’re excited, and we hope you will be too!

[Note: Many of you don’t know that Pastor Manuel has written a book on faith and the arts, entitled Imagine That. We recommend it if you’d like to know more about living in faith and expressing the arts.]

October Arts Month

Mention the word, “artist,” and many things come to mind. A man in a paint-stained smock and beret. A rock diva with a microphone. A brooding, melancholic figure with one ear.

Yet, that isn’t consistent with God’s concept of the word. We were all intended to be artists, to be creators of expression, narrators of the human condition. Unfortunately, we have forgotten this simple concept. It is like the little girl who asked her father what he did during the day, and he, being an art instructor, told her he taught people how to draw. “You mean, people forget?” was her honest reply.

What we seem to forget is that art is a deeply spiritual process—and we are deeply spiritual beings. It is much more so than any of us understand. The arts allow us an opportunity to pull back the curtain, to have our hearts quicken and be moved, to transcend ourselves. Such is the music of Bach, the paintings of Da Vinci, the writings of C. S. Lewis. And although the arts have been used for many other reasons, we believe God’s intention was that it ultimately point us back to Him. It is the same for all of beauty, whether it be a snow-capped mountain, or a crimson sunset, or the coo of a newborn baby. All creation ultimately points to the glory of God. For these reasons, at Oak Hills, we believe in the arts and believe in our artists.

During the month of October, Oak Hills will be celebrating the arts in a variety of ways. On Saturday, October 6, we held our annual Mosaic: A Night with the Arts, featuring some of the best of the arts at Oak Hills. This event was a benefit for the Twin Lakes Food Bank. Also, our Art & Soul gallery will display a variety of different art forms from different visual artists in our church. And on each Sunday morning in October, we will also have musicians performing between services. And we will also have a variety of worship artists painting throughout the services. All of these expressions are from artists from or related to Oak Hills.

We invite you to enter into the month of October, as well as into the art of the artists of our church.


Mosaic: A Night with the Arts

“Another Kind of Love”

The problem with the word “love” is that it seems too small. The world’s romantic definition, while valid, seems to pale in comparison to the bigger love that Jesus taught and modeled in the Bible. The kind that loves enemies, that is patient and kind and other-centered, that cares for the poor and the marginalized. It is another kind of love altogether.

On October 6, we’ll be exploring “Another Kind of Love” through a variety of art forms in a once-a-year event we call Mosaic: A Night With The Arts. Mosaic is a special evening where we gather the best of what we do—music, drama, dance, literary arts, visual arts, and other artistic expressions from the people of Oak Hills. This year, our theme is “Another Kind of Love,” and we will offer many types of the arts in this vein, including lyrical and interpretive dances, a short story, photographic journalism, performance art, some edgy drama, and original music, from improvisational jazz to rock. Mosaic will be on Saturday evening, October 6, 2012, beginning at 6:30 PM for the Art Gallery reception and 7:00 PM for the program.

This year, we are pleased to present this as a benefit for one of our long-time ministry partners, the Twin Lakes Food Bank, a local organization which feeds thousands of people in the Folsom and surrounding areas. Admission is free, but we encourage everyone to bring non-perishable food items to replenish the stores at the Food Bank for this fall (you can also give money if you’d like too!) Free childcare is also provided for children third grade and below, but please RSVP to to confirm your children prior to that evening.

If you’ve been around Oak Hills awhile, you realize that the arts are an essential and normative expression of our faith. From our Intersections Conference to Arts Camp, from our Art & Soul Gallery in the lobby to our Sunday morning worship, the arts plays a big role in our church. This is a great opportunity to invite your friends and neighbors to a thought-provoking, artistically moving event, so we hope to see you all there!


Intersections Arts Conference ~ March 17

Intersections: Faith and the Arts Conference 2012 will be held this year on Saturday, March 17 at Oak Hills Church in Folsom.  This conference, featuring local Sacramento-area artists and speakers, is intended to help further the dialogue between faith and the arts.  This dialogue includes both connecting artists of all disciplines together, as well as connecting deeper with the theological and spiritual aspects of the arts.  This year, we have a wide variety of artists speaking, and many other opportunities to connect with one another. We believe that any artist of faith will gain insight and encouragement from the event.  Please register now by emailing to reserve your spot.

We are quite pleased that our speakers this year represent a wide variety of disciplines, including film, theater, dance, music, and writing, as well as theology of the arts:

Alan Koshiyama,  an award-winning composer with an impressive resume of feature film, television, video game (can you say “Pac-Man Party”?), and national commercial work with clients including Disney, Time Warner, various national networks, and video games.  Variety Magazine calls Koshiyama’s music “evocative.”  Koshiyama also serves as Worship Music Director at Adventure Christian Church in Roseville.

Steve Scott, British expat, finished art school  in the mid 1970s and then moved to US, initially to record an album with Larry Norman. He ended up moving to northern California to join the staff of arts-friendly Warehouse Christian Ministries, and since that time  has released ten albums of music, published three small press books of poetry and two books of collected essays on art theory.  He directs CANA (Christian Artists Networking Association), which has helped organize arts conferences in SE Asia and Eastern Europe.

Manuel Luz is a creative arts pastor, musician, songwriter, speaker and author, and has served concurrently at Oak Hills Church in Folsom, California, and South Delta Baptist Church in Vancouver, Canada, for the past 21 years.  His first published book, Imagine That: Discovering Your Unique Role as a Christian Artist (Moody Publishers) reveals his passion for the arts (and for artists of faith!), and he is currently working on a follow-up book, in addition to his fourth solo CD project.

Susan Miller has been a part of Sacramento’s theater and broadcasting community for over 20 years. Her broadcast experience ranges from on air and production radio work in country, pop and smooth jazz formats as well as voice-over and on-camera work for area television stations. She now divides her time doing commercial VO with her own production company, and house managing everal area theaters including Sacramento Theater Company and California Musical Theater’s Music Circus. The “productions” she is most proud of are her 4 great kids who have inherited her love of music and the theater.

Katie Albert is a talented photographer, graphic artist, and occasional helicopter pilot.  She will be sharing her experiences and photography from her recent missions trip to Manipur, India, in partnership with one of Oak Hills’ ministry partners, the Nehemiah Project, which assists local pregnant women affected by HIV and runs the Nehemiah Children’s Home.

Yvette Johnson is a third year dance major at UCSB. She has been dancing since the age of six and trained at Northern California Dance Conservatory during high school before moving to Santa Barbara to continue her studies. It was in Santa Barbara where she encountered the presence of God in the dance studios through various relationships with a very special group of dancers.  Her dedication to following Jesus and moving for the Lord provides the basis for her testimony at Intersections.

The Intersections Conference features a variety of expressions including painting, photography, dance, and music; breakout sessions in specific areas of the arts; a panel discussion by local experts; and a wonderfully catered gourmet lunch (we believe highly in the culinary arts!).  Registration begins at 8:30 AM with our Common Grounds Cafe serving complimentary coffee.  Cost for this event is $30 (includes lunch), payable at the door.  Please reserve your spot by emailing today!