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Better Together

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From C.J.

Just over a year ago, James and Liz Delarato felt The Lord calling them to leave San Francisco and move back to Arizona. We blessed and affirmed their decision, but have deeply felt the loss as a church family to no longer have one of our pastors. Renee’ and I, along with the members of Citizens have labored in prayer, asking The Lord to bring us another family to partner in leadership with us.

We have held on to hope in this regard, but have struggled knowing how hard it is to live here in San Francisco, the cultural transition, cost of living, calling, vocation, etc… We have often thought ‘how will it be possible for The Lord to send us someone? And even if He did, how would we be able to affirm their call here, how would we support them, and how do we know they would be a good fit for our church family?’

For the past couple of years I have gathered regularly with 2 other pastors in the city, Randy Wilson from Lifepoint and Dave Ainsworth from King’s Cross. These have been 2 other church planters here that have been faithful friends, and have demonstrated character and commitment to mission, discipleship and service to the city. I have mentioned our need for more leadership often to each of them over this past year, and they have faithfully encouraged and prayed for us.

This past November I received an email from Dave Ainsworth telling me that The Spirit had been nudging him that perhaps he was meant to be the answer to our prayer for another pastor. He and I have shared much mutual respect and similar vision, and also have gifts that compliment each other well. He wondered if I would be willing to consider merging our 2 churches together. I was so grateful to get his email and we began the process of seeking wise counsel, praying earnestly, talking with our people and taking steps to follow the leading of The Holy Spirit in this direction. We asked The Lord to be abundantly clear in the process and halt any plans made in our own flesh.

I am thrilled to announce that as of Easter Sunday, Citizens and King’s Cross are officially joined together as one church. We will remain Citizens Church of San Francisco. We have referred to the merger as an adoption process, where Citizens has primarily been the leading church. We will continue to live out our Family, Servant, Missionary identities and remain part of the Soma Family of Churches.

King’s Cross is aligned with The Sojourn Network of churches, and we are thrilled to begin the process of being aligned with them as well. We are so excited to welcome Dave and Maggie Ainsworth to our staff as well as the 20 or so people that have called King’s Cross their home church for the past few years. These folks are, and continue to be a gift to us in so many ways. We at Citizens are eager to fan in to flame their unique gifts and welcome them into our intimate church family.

Praise God for His timeliness, for His provision, for His listening ear to our needs. He is so kind to us and I bow in worship as I reflect on how He has remained steadfast in His love for us for the past 5 years in San Francisco. What a dramatic tale it has been if you have followed from the beginning 🙂

From Dave

I always told people that if King’s Cross Church fell apart, I’d take my family to Citizens Church. Over the past three years, we’d grown to love the Bergmens and admire their leadership and gifts. I knew that the vision of Citizens was identical to my hopes for King’s Cross. Most importantly, C.J. had pastored me through some of the hardest moments in my life. It would be a joy to follow him.

As my life stabilized and the church plant began to grow, the Holy Spirit kept nagging me, Why does King’s Cross have to fall apart for you to have this joy? Isn’t plurality biblical? Isn’t partnership healthy and strategic? And wouldn’t church planting be more fun?!

After entertaining the idea quietly off-and-on for a couple months, I finally sent the email. At first, C.J. and I wore poker-faces, asking the Lord to do his will and not ours. But soon, like children, our prayers became a lot more opinionated. Please, Father, give us this gift. Finally, after much counsel and prayer, our two church families decided to become one.

The merger with Citizens has brought immediate fruit in our lives – love, joy, peace and all the rest. Our two church families are still in the get-to-know-you stage, but relationships are taking shape. Unique gifts are starting to emerge. There’s nervous excitement and hope.

Pray for us as we grow: that we would become by experience what we are in Christ – brother and sister; that the sudden increase in our size would not make us apathetic toward the lost, but instead would energize us for mission and service; and that we would persevere even after the honeymoon phase subsides.

Thank you for your support of Citizens Church. Church planting in San Francisco never goes as we plan, but God is faithful to those who wait. Thank you for continuing to give and pray and wait. God is working.

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.”

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.

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

Amazing post with all the goodies

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