Living Missionally

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This past Sunday we talked about “Living Missionally”. The “Apostolos” or “sent ones” Jesus talks about in Luke 10 shows that we are all missionaries. There is no place we currently are that God has not sent us to proclaim and embody the gospel and the kingdom. Jesus gives us a road map for missional living in this text. He tells us to go wherever we are sent (job, school, neighborhood) and to find a “Person of Peace”. A Person of Peace is someone who:

1. You speak a word of blessing to. You express your favor on them; their hopes, their dreams, their flourishing. The word “eirene” here simply means, “to wish well”.

2. Receives and reciprocates the blessing. Simply put, you like them and they like you. There is ease in the relationship. These are people who do not know Jesus but are drawn to you because The Spirit lives within you.

3. You serve and they also serve you. Jesus tells us not only to sacrificially serve People of Peace, but to also find a way in which they can serve us in return. Alex Absalom says in The Viral Gospel, “Mutual service puts people on equal footing”. When we let someone serve us, we are signaling to them that we do not think we are better than them.

4. You remain faithful to. As long as a Person of Peace is responding to your blessing, and reciprocating service, Jesus wants you to remain patient and long-suffering. It may take a long time to see fruit. You may question or wonder why He has you in that relationship. Remain steadfast.

5. You offer healing and gospel proclamation. We are called to identify areas of brokenness in our Person of Peace. Do they need relational healing? Emotional? Physical? Spiritual? We offer prayer, and also a model of new, healthy, loving relationship. Jesus then wants us to open our mouths and proclaim the gospel. “All of the blessing and service I have bestowed on you is a result of the work that Jesus did on the cross”. It is critical that we not only exhibit the gospel in our deeds, but also with our words.

6. If they reject you, you move on. We will be rejected in San Francisco. People will hate the gospel itself, and perhaps hate us because we believe and proclaim it. Jesus calls us to move on when someone does not receive and reciprocate our blessing. There is someone else who needs to see and hear the good news.

Some helpful resources:
The Viral Gospel – Alex Absalom [FREE DOWNLOAD]
Total Church – Steve Timmis
The Celtic Way of Evangelism – George G. Hunter III

Feasting with the Poor

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Luke 14:12-14 (MSG) – “Then he turned to the host. “The next time you put on a dinner, don’t just invite your friends and family and rich neighbors, the kind of people who will return the favor. Invite some people who never get invited out, the misfits from the wrong side of the tracks. You’ll be—and experience—a blessing. They won’t be able to return the favor, but the favor will be returned—oh, how it will be returned!—at the resurrection of God’s people.”

What a humbling word from our Lord. Think about the last party you threw. Who did you invite? Was it those who never get invited? Was it those who spend their life on the margins? Was it the people in your life that you find most difficult to love? Or was it your family and closest friends?

Pastor C.J. preached a sermon to us in our Citizens Distinctives Series that addressed Jesus’ calling on all believers to not simply serve the poor, or feed the poor, but to feast with the poor. This is the clear exhortation in Luke 14. It falls in line with a theme seen throughout both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible that true worship of God always involves seeking justice for the poor and the oppressed.

James 2:1-6 (ESV) – “My brothers, show no partiality as you hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory. For if a man wearing a gold ring and fine clothing comes into your assembly, and a poor man in shabby clothing also comes in, and if you pay attention to the one who wears the fine clothing and say, “You sit here in a good place,” while you say to the poor man, “You stand over there,” or, “Sit down at my feet,” have you not then made distinctions among yourselves and become judges with evil thoughts? Listen, my beloved brothers, has not God chosen those who are poor in the world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to those who love him? But you have dishonored the poor man.

As a church family, we are fiercely committed to the marginalized, the oppressed, the broken. We do not just tolerate them. We don’t have a program made just for them. We need them. We have less of Jesus without them. We want to dine with The Lord, at His feast. And if we are indeed at Jesus’ feast, we will find ourselves sat honorably next to those whom might be cast out in the world, but are first in the kingdom. We all have a long way to go. But Jesus graciously invites each of us to take our next step. We hope this guide will help you to take yours.

I Am My Brother’s Keeper

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C.J. Bergmen
Christ Church – 7/10/2016
“I Am My Brother’s Keeper”

Right Click to Download

 

If you are a first century Samaritan, having experienced racial prejudice from Jews, and you decide to follow Jesus, you are in a precarious situation. Jesus told you that you would suffer and be hated for following Him. So, you will be slow to pull the “race” card when you are with other Jews who now follow “The Way” who are blind to, indifferent to, or even participate in some of this same racism. After all, you follow Jesus. Your identity, value, worth and eternal flourishing are wrapped in Him, not your present circumstances.

One of your Jewish friends who now calls you brother starts to learn about all of this. They didn’t realize how bad it was. They have started asking more questions and learning more, mostly because recently they adopted a little boy who is a Samaritan. They want to be sure that they are loving their own son, as well as those who share his heritage. So, this Jewish Christian starts to speak on your behalf. It is his obligation to speak on your behalf. This is what is meant by him mourning with you, suffering with you, giving you what he has, walking with you, loving you as Christ has loved him.

He gets flack for it. Oh yes, people hate him for it. You feel bad for him. “Brother”, you say, “but you are now suffering yourself because of us”. The Jewish man says to you, “I have just walked one step in the shoes you walked in for miles”.

Books:

“Black and Free” – Tom Skinner
“Just Mercy” – Bryan Stevenson
“The History of White People” – 
Nell Irvin Painter
“Between the World and Me” – Ta-Nehisi Coates

Websites:

The Liturgists Podcast – “Black and White: Racism in America”

Mika Edmondson – “Is Black Lives Matter the New Civil Rights Movement?”

A Law professor’s response”

“The Problem With Saying All Lives Matter”

Bryan Stevenson TED talk

“Yet another Study Proves That Systemic Racism Is Real”

1 John Series Artwork

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This month, we began a new preaching series in the book of 1 John. We commissioned one of our members, Anthony Lam, to paint a piece of artwork to accompany the series. This is his painted work and some words he used to express the meaning behind it.

“Stark Contrast. Tension. Light and Dark. Rigid Lines. Imminence. These are some of the stronger, thematic visual cues that pervade the text of 1 John. The piece is a meditation on these themes and their interaction within the broader space defined by the author of the text. A deeply personal and tactile dimensionality mirrors the opening text – ‘what we have seen with our eyes… what we have touched with our hands.”

Featured Resource: Desiring the Kingdom

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One of the most ironic things about humanity is our constant search to grasp the nature of our own identity. One would think that being the most intelligent beings of the creative order would make our self-awareness the easiest thing to grasp, yet, because of the disjointed and rebellious state we live in as a result of our broken relationship with God, we struggle to understand who we are. Questions like, “What is the meaning of life?”, “What defines ‘the good life’?”, and “Are we essentially rational or emotional beings?” have been asked by philosophers and other thinkers for hundreds of years, producing many interesting answers.

In Desiring the Kingdom, Christian philosopher James K.A. Smith focuses the lens on these questions. He critiques the modern-era fixation on rationalism as the primary means of human education and formation, and instead argues what influences humanity most prominently is the affective cultural practices we engage in automatically without our thoughtful awareness. Fundamentally, Smith argues, we are “desiring creatures” rather than rational creatures (i.e. Descartes’ “I think, therefore I am” dictum), stating that, “We are what we love, and our love is shaped, primed, and aimed by liturgical [worship] practices that take hold of our gut and aim our heart to certain ends [definitions of what we would call ‘the good life’]” (pp. 39-40). Smith expounds upon this major point by critiquing philosophical thought throughout history, citing contemporary psychological research for further support, and giving many examples of his thesis in contemporary society.
The core of this book, however, is found in the second half entitled, “Desiring the Kingdom: The Practiced Shape of the Christian Life”. Smith’s ultimate goal is explained here. His intention is to highlight the prime influence cultural rituals and practices have on humanity because of our desire-centered orientation, seeking to aim these desires toward Jesus, his gospel, and his kingdom through communal worship practices rather than the other “secular kingdoms” that vie for our allegiance.
This is where the rubber meets the road for us at Citizens. We desire to be a family not only shaped by the head (learning) and the heart (emotional-spiritual health), but also by habits. We seek a “thick” community of disciples of Jesus who worship him above all else because of his grace, causing our redeemed lives to be expressed in the habits of meeting together for prayer, meals, communion, service, confession, baptism, singing, hospitality, hearing the Scriptures proclaimed, and giving of our money and possessions. We look at all of these practices not as obligations we must fulfill to simply “do church”, but as habits we get to practice right now as we wait for the perfect expression of them in Jesus’ kingdom (Phil. 3:20). All are welcome as we take this journey of formation toward our true identity.
Malcolm Gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell vs. Rich People

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A few days ago, I heard about a gargantuan $400 million dollar donation given to Harvard by hedge fund investor John Paulson that made me feel only slightly annoyed (sarcasm). I remember looking at the headline and thinking, “Seriously?! Like they need that money! Don’t they already have billions of dollars sitting in a vault somewhere?” Then, a couple days later, I noticed an article entitled “Gladwell at tipping point over $400m Harvard donation” which compelled me to click and learn more. Apparently, popular author Malcolm Gladwell went on a tirade about John Paulson and his Harvard donation on Twitter. Here’s his thread:

I have to admit, I couldn’t help but crack a cathartic smile and shout a small, silent cheer at this rant. Gladwell encapsulated what I’m sure most of us thought when we saw that report. It’s another instance in which the rich get richer and the poor get poorer, invoking a familiar feeling that our world is not the way it’s supposed to be.

As these initial thoughts waned, two questions arose in my mind, questions I often ask myself when I think about this subject of injustice. The first was, “Why doesn’t God do something about this?” The thought of Harvard elitists grinning with pride as they receive the check and add it to their pile is sharply contrasted with the picture that surfaces in my mind of famished families in our own backyard who struggle to even eat three meals a day. Even though I trust in Jesus as the Sovereign King of the world, I still struggle with why he doesn’t actively effect change in instances like these, causing the government to intervene or humbling the rich to see the error of their ways and divert some of the donated cash toward American communities that are suffering. Will he not call the rich to account for such overt injustices? To this question, Psalm 10:14 boldly replies,

But you do see, for you note mischief and vexation,
that you may take it into your hands;
to you the helpless commits himself;
you have been the helper of the fatherless.

All of Psalm 10 is a sincere meditation of angst over the injustices done to the poor and oppressed, a small glimpse into the overwhelmingly loud voice the Word of God gives to this subject. When I ask such questions in frustration and sadness, the Lord reminds me that he is not unaware of such pain, assuring me that, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord” (Rom. 12:19). Though I pray for a change of heart and grace to be given to the “haves” of our society (Rom. 12:20, 21), the reality hits home that not all will turn to God in humility, and I can be assured that someday he will certainly do something about it.

However, despite my righteous groaning and alignment with the values of God’s kingdom, another question surfaces in the midst of these thoughts; “What am I doing about these injustices?” This is indeed the question that I hope to avoid. I would much rather shift the blame away to people in power to take care of these problems than to let this weighty question confront my own soul. But I am a fool if I do so. The very context of Psalm 10 and Romans chapter twelve proves it; here we have a song and an exhortation meant to be presented to the people of God, either Israel or the New Testament church, the latter of which I have become a part of through the gospel. Because I have Christ, as an agent of his love to the world I am just as involved in the injustices of it, in reality more so, since I have become enlightened to the ethics of Jesus.

I certainly do not have the influence that Harvard, John Paulson, the government, or even Malcolm Gladwell have, but the Scriptures don’t aim themselves at others first – they always point the scalpel first at me, so that the Lord can perform the heart surgery needed to make changes for my own good, to recalibrate my life back into congruency with the kingdom I am bound for. This I receive not as a message of shame from God, but as a deep conviction and re-centering based on the mercy, grace, and love of God given to me to do all that I can within my limits to help others in need.

 

the emotionally healthy church

Featured Resource: The Emotionally Healthy Church

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In the Resources section of our website, we have several books listed that have served to shape the mission and vision of Citizens. In it you will find a book called The Emotionally Healthy Church by Pete Scazzero.

The Emotionally Healthy Church makes the bold claim that we cannot separate our Spiritual maturity from our Emotional maturity. Therefore, a person cannot be Spiritually healthy if they are not Emotionally healthy. Emotional unhealth in the church, primarily in its leadership, has been a large problem in the church in the U.S. It is very important to us at Citizens that we are healthy from the top down. This book is full of principles and practices that guide how we do life with each other and in our city.

We have small, gender specific discipleship groups called D.N.A. groups (Discipleship, Nurturing, and Accountability). The first thing we do in these groups is to read through The Emotionally Healthy Church and take the emotional health inventory. It is very important for us as Jesus followers to delve the depths of our souls and ask the hard questions about how our past has shaped us into the people we are today.

Want to buy cheap red carpet dresses.

churches in san francisco

7 Marks of a Missional Church

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At Citizens Church, we call ourselves a “Family of Servant Missionaries”, an identity statement rooted in the very nature of who we believe is the One True God found in the Bible – Father (Family), Son (Servant), and Holy Spirit (Missionaries). “Missionaries” is important to clarify since this term, as well as the adjective “missional”, can have different meanings to each person. Scripture remains the primary source used to define these terms, but much can also be learned from authors who have studied the Scriptures and have implemented their principles in actual ministry settings. Thus, what follows is a summary of six marks of a “missional church” adapted from Dr. Tim Keller’s book, Center Church, annotated with biblical references, with a seventh mark that is a value of Citizens Church specifically.

1. The church must be a counterculture for the common good.

(Ex. 19:5, 6; Acts 2:42-47; Rom. 12:9-21; Phil. 2:1-4; 1 Pet. 2:4-10)

Society in general is made up of multiple clubs or associations typically based on culture, gender, profession, interest, race, socio-economic status, etc. Humans are naturally wired to associate with like-minded people and create community within that sphere. The church is similar in this way, while simultaneously being a contrast community with a calling to integrate each of these aforementioned particulars under the umbrella of the grace, mercy, service, and the truth of Jesus and his gospel. With the gospel as the focus of this countercultural community, a “missional church” can develop a “third way” of living in community that is neither overly individualistic nor collectivistic since the gospel breaks down the self-centeredness implicit in human institutions.

2. The church must contextualize skillfully and communicate in the vernacular.

(Acts 17:22-34; Titus 1:10-16)

Up until the last forty or so years, the U.S. could predominantly have been identified as “culturally Christian”, meaning that Christianity was the major religion practiced and the surrounding culture was more familiar with the concepts of God, sin, and salvation. However, multiple factors, including the advent of the technological age and the mainstream rise of evolution as a way to explain all of reality, have contributed to the marginalization of the Christian story. Presently, biblical concepts are not as easily understood, even though they still have made their way into mainstream culture (i.e. Harry Potter sacrificing his own life to save others and conquering death). A “missional church” recognizes this cultural shift and learns to connect the culture to the gospel in understandable ways without sacrificing the truth.

3. The church must itself be contextualized and should expect nonbelievers, inquirers, and seekers to be involved in most aspects of the church’s life and ministry.

(Deut. 10:17-19; Acts 11:1-18)

The practical outworking of a “missional church” model should not only result in doing contextually missional acts but should essentially be a contextualized community that can live in the tension of complexity. One major indictment on the church is its often factious or “clicky” feeling, which communicates an exclusive culture that is only accepting of like-minded people. Alternatively, the beauty of a community that at its core is humbled and submitted to the unmerited favor of God in Jesus Christ is that it can be “porous”, or penetrable by people from all walks of life, no matter how different they are from each other. A “missional church” then does not need to be dependent solely on evangelism programs to reach out to non-believers, but can readily expect them to feel welcome, cared for, and accepted in most aspects of the church’s rhythmic year.

4. The church must equip people in mission in every area of their lives.

(Ex. 18:13-27; Luke 10:1-12; Eph. 4:11-13; 2 Tim. 2:1, 2; 4:1, 2; 1 Pet. 2:9, 10; 13-25)

A church that looks at its elders as “professional ministers” compartmentalizes the role of ministry to only the institutional church sphere. Whereas we believe it is necessary to pay at least one pastor-elder to have oversight of a church, this role is not relegated to only performing “church work”, such as running programs, but is actually meant to be an equipping role for the saints in the community, helping each to embody “the priesthood of the saints” commission found in 1 Pet. 2:9, 10. A “missional church” trains and supports its community to communicate and live out the gospel in their personal relationships amongst families, neighborhoods, workplaces, and beyond.

5. The church must practice unity.

(Psalm 133; John 17:20, 21; Eph. 4:4)

Since the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, the church as institution gradually became associated with denominations. Denominations have indeed served a helpful purpose in differentiating the doctrines and practices of church communities over the last few centuries, but in the wake of the cultural shift away from Christianity and toward pluralism, denominations have become known more as divided religious institutions devoid of the gospel, popularizing a view that the Christian church is not unified and thus irrelevant. It is fundamental for a “missional church” to practice unity so that non-believers can see that the church is not about itself (membership, doctrinal “rightness”, etc.) but first about the gospel of love in Jesus. With unity in love as a primary focus, the church can better contrast with the surrounding worldly culture, exemplifying Christ as the reason unity and love can be attained amongst differing views.

6. The church must confront society’s idols.

(Jonah 3:1-10; Dan. 5:23; Acts 14:15)

As a community that has received ultimate forgiveness and grace because of the good news of Jesus Christ, the commissioning and natural compulsion of the church is to introduce others to this same great hope. However, all cultures from the dawn of civilization have always been deeply misled into worshiping anything but the one who created them, which is idolatry in its inherent form. In order to reconnect people to the God they have lost, they need to first see that there is no such thing as a “worshipless” person. Worship, or ascribing supreme value to an ideal, vision, or person, remains intact in American culture in forms of consumerism, materialism, and celebrity infatuation, and it is the calling of the church to expose these idols and plead with the worshipers in love, truth, and by example to return back to the only one worthy of worship, Jesus Christ.

7. The church must value and practice emotional-spiritual health.

(Psalm 77:1-3; Matt. 22:37-40; Rom. 12:15)

A final mark of a missional church that we at Citizens view as implicitly found weaving throughout each of these six aspects is the integral need to be a community that practices emotional-spiritual health in growing toward maturity.[1] Practicing brokenness, vulnerability, grieving, emotional awareness, reconciliation, and other aspects of emotional health are essential to being a church that can execute these missional principles in humility toward Christ and not in arrogance.

 

[1] See Peter Scazzero, The Emotionally Healthy Church: A Strategy for Discipleship That Actually Changes Lives, 2010, for a comprehensive look at emotional-spiritual health.

Easter Churches in San Francisco

Louange à l’Immortalité de Jésus – Easter 2015

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Louange à l’Immortalité de Jésus
(Praise to the immortality of Jesus)

For Easter, Citizens partnered with 2 other churches in San Francisco,
Lifepoint and King’s Cross. As young churches in the city, we wanted
to come together for the sake of unity, and also to build a service that
glorified Jesus and displayed who He is.

We did the service in 3 movements: Jesus’ Life, Death, and Resurrection.
We wanted the whole service to feel a bit like a wedding celebration,
simultaneously formal, and also accessible.

Below is an art and music piece centered around the Narrative of Jesus’ Life,
Death, and Resurrection from the service this year.

It was played live by Yuting Tseng and Amy Stephens.
Artwork by Megan Posas

San Francisco church

Why We Feast with Homeless People

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When we moved to San Francisco, we weren’t like, “Hey, we are going to hang out with homeless people, have them over to our house, eat with them, become friends with them, etc…” In fact, before we lived in San Francisco, we used to go thrift shopping in the Haight. We loved it–the getting cool clothes for cheap part–but we didn’t love how dirty it was and all of the pot-smoking hippies everywhere. For the first couple of years we lived here, we never went to that neighborhood. It wasn’t the last place I imagined us planting a San Francisco Church, but it was certainly pretty low on the list.We wanted to plant a church close to one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in the city, Pacific Heights. Lucky us. Then some stuff started happening. The Spirit was at work and up to something in our lives…1. Toby Kurth and Christ Church, one of our sending churches, had a dude named Jared going there. Jared worked for a ministry called “The Outer Circle”. They serve homeless people who live in Golden Gate Park. I liked Jared, but he had dreads, dressed like a hippie, and he smelled. That is a confession. Jared started bringing homeless people with him to the church, and he worked together with Toby to make the environment comfortable for them. When Toby told me he was having some of the homeless folks over for dinner, I didn’t know what to do with that.

2. When it came time to plant Citizens, Jared was getting ready to move out of the city. A week or so before he left, he came over to our house to talk to us about serving the poor. If you know me, I’m not a big “prophetic word” guy, but God was using Jared as his mouthpiece. He was saying things like, “If you plant a church, serve the poor, and the rich will come serve them with you.” “If you plant a church, never go any faster than the slowest person in the room.”

3. A guy named Tim Cain came to preach at Christ Church. He preached a sermon called “Feasting with the Poor.” He preached from Luke 14:

“When you give a dinner or a banquet, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relatives or rich neighbors, lest they also invite you in return and you be repaid. But when you give a feast, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, the blind, and you will be blessed, because they cannot repay you. For you will be repaid at the resurrection of the just.”

I have always been kind of a “If Jesus says it, do it” kind of person. I sat there and this text punched me straight in the gut. Tim talked about how we love to stand behind a table with rubber gloves on and serve a meal to people for an hour a couple times a year. That makes us feel good. But Jesus didn’t call us to do that. He called us to eat with them! A few weeks later, we started “The Meal”, a dinner hang out at our place, and have had it every other Sunday night for months.

The Meal has fundamentally changed our lives and our community. It has been the greatest joy in all my ministry experience. Every week it reminds me of how poor, homeless, marginalized, and reckless I am. It reminds me that I am the addict and the rebel. It reminds me that I tend to just take and never give. It reminds me that I am a fool and a sluggard. And it reminds me that Jesus threw a feast, made a table, and invited me to sit and eat with Him at it, calling me a friend and a brother, though I didn’t deserve it and could never repay Him.

Join us in serving those who are poor and marginalized. Learn more at Citizenssf.com