Still being sent!
“For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him.” (John 3:17)
“As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world.” (John 17:18)
These two verses capture the posture of Citizens Church in San Francisco. We, along with all Christians, have been sent into the world, not with a message of condemnation but with a message of salvation. "The Kingdom is here. The Christ has come. Jesus died for you, and is now alive. Repent and believe."
Four years ago, Citizens began when five people hosted a dozen neighbors for a barbecue.
Some lived in the house next door. Others lived in the urban forest down the street. A few already believed in Jesus, but most did not.
Over the coming years, everyone in attendance at that first cookout would hear the gospel many times. They would learn that we love them because God loves them. A few would believe. (And some will yet believe!)
Today, Citizens Church looks much the same, only bigger. Instead of five hosting dozens,
Citizens now includes a core of forty members showing hospitality and sharing the gospel with hundreds.
All of our gatherings—from Sunday worship to birthday parties—still include people who live inside and people who live outside. There are some who love Jesus deeply, some whose faith has dwindled to only a flicker, and a few who’ve never believed in Christianity but are curiously drawn to Jesus.
We haven't changed all that much, but we have matured. (Praise God!) We have focused our vision and honed our distinctives, so that we can concentrate on the work that God has uniquely called us to do. Through the mentoring of the Soma Family of Churches and the Sojourn Network, we feel strengthened for years of ministry in SF.
In addition to Sundays, we have multiple missional families and DNA groups. Members of Citizens have also established formal ministries for reaching and discipling the homeless, strippers, and musical artists. We now have two pastors, two part-time staff leaders, and six lay-level deacons.
Four years later, no place feels homier to us than San Francisco, but we have not arrived. There is work to be done everywhere! God is still sending us deeper into San Francisco. He continues to open doors into the heart of this city.
San Francisco is ripe for more Kingdom-investment.
We're not going to stop saying yes to God, but we need your help. In order for Citizens to further deepen and expand our ministry, we need more financial partners.
Read below to learn stories of what God is doing through Citizens, the challenges of planting in San Francisco, and what we'll need to thrive in this next season.
"You will know them by their fruit." Stories of change testify to the substance of a community's faith. Is it real? Is it worth it? Here are a handful of our stories.
+ Ali's Story
"With a fairly legalistic background, I had learned a lot of theology and doctrine, but in this past year at Citizens I’ve seen and tasted more of the heart of Christ than ever before. This church pushes past the awkward, the uncomfortable, the weird, the annoying and just straight up loves people and seeks Jesus. No one here has more time in a day than anyone else in the world, but you'd think they had double. Conversations are slower, listening is real, caring runs deeper. You are loved, valued and wanted before you're even known, just because of who your Creator is. "By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another." At Citizens I've seen that kind of love that doesn't make sense to the world, and in it the heart of Christ."
+ Lynae's Story
"When I first joined Citizens, Pastor CJ & Dave asked to meet with me and we all began by sharing our stories. This spoke volumes to me that this Church family truly wanted to know me. In a city where “hustle” is the motto, the need for true connection and family is imminent. I see the love of God being lived out amongst the Citizen’s whether through sharing meals during the week, helping me to pay for therapy, empowering me to walk into my gifts of leadership, and intentionally choosing to be a space where everyone from any walk of life can belong. In my job, I have many friends who are experiencing homelessness and its so beautiful to know that I can bring them to Citizens and that they will also belong!"
+ Tony's Story
"What does Citizens mean to me? It’s helping me become a greater individual and pointing me in a direction that I would not have otherwise been headed: heaven. I’m focusing on nothing but the Lord. I didn’t want to just come to church; I wanted to be a part of it - and I am! I wouldn’t be the same without Citizens. It’s a wonderful family to be a part of. I’m so glad that I’m here."
+ Anthony's Story
As a native San Franciscan, I am thankful for Citizens because it is a vibrant family that serves the city I call home and loves the people I call my own. San Francisco means something pretty profound to me, as my great grandfather settled here during the early twentieth century as an immigrant laborer. Many decades later, he would furnish humble quarters for his children and grandchildren (my father and aunt) on the edge of Chinatown. Though I never got to meet him, I did follow his footsteps in some poetic way – we both chose to make our living here as young men in our early twenties – albeit a century apart. He did not enjoy many of the benefits I do now, as a relatively hidden member of a historically ostracized community (Chinese Exclusion Act, 1882 – 1943). I am moved by Citizens' commitment to be family to the those who are less-resourced and living on the margins. Though the pursuit of equitable opportunity has been part of my heritage, I am consistently challenged by fellow Citizens who graciously demonstrate that there is so much for me to learn in regards to coming alongside the poor.
Citizens has also extended a warm welcome to my nearest and dearest – members of my nuclear family, my closest childhood friends, and even coworkers. I am served and loved in ways inscrutable when Citizens members pursue genuine relationships with these who are closest to me, not only for me but for themselves. I am grateful for a prominent liturgy of 'breaking bread together' outside a church building. It has been a particular joy to witness a coalescence of sorts between my new Citizens family and my old Bay-Area-local family. The one gets to understand new dimensions about me while the other gets to experience Christ at work within a gospel-centric community.
+ Athalia's Story
When I first came to Citizens, I was worried that this was going to be another church I had to be my best polished self. There was one night where we all shared our stories & I remember thinking to myself, “Just let them know the good parts, no one wants to be burdened with your family of origin/childhood trauma story.” So, I shared only bits and pieces of my story. But as I finished my story, I remember looking at CJ & Renee and having them both tell me, “It seems like there’s something still there. When you are ready to share it, we are here with open arms, sister.”
Months at Citizens went by and I finally felt some courage to share the depths of my story. As I finished sharing this story over dinner with CJ & Renee, they came over and hugged me & were so sad & grieved, but reminded me of the hope we have in Jesus. That He makes all things new & I don’t need to be polished/ put together. This is a church where we can come as ourselves.
This response was so different because in the past the answer would always be, “Oh man, you just need to pray & you’ll be okay!” Later on my Pastors recommended that I see a therapist & that the church would provide for these visits. Going to therapy & working through some emotional health/inventory with my church family, husband, & Jesus has been life changing. I feel loved & safe & always welcomed to come as I am when I’m at Citizens."
we are grateful for these stories and are praying for more.
Will you consider partnering with Citizens Church, and pray for the hundreds of individuals who are regularly seeing and hearing about the love of Christ for them?
Most American Christians know San Francisco is both 1) a challenging place to plant a church, and 2) a vitally important region for church planting. Here are the facts.
Demographics | A Global City
Cost of Living | An Expensive City
Spiritual Climate | A Lost City
What's next for citizens?
We cannot believe what God has already done in and through Citizens in San Francisco!
Through Citizens, hundreds of people are hearing the gospel of Christ regularly.
They are enjoying the fruit of the Spirit, to the glory of God. Hungry people are being fed. Hurting people are being healed. Doubting people are heard and taken seriously. God's image--so pervasive in this dense, eclectic, broken city--is being dignified with the love of Christ, and God is pleased. We are humbled when we consider all that God has done through us.
And if that weren't enough, we have been changed, too! Over the past four years, God has honed our vision and calling, established our leaders in the city, and given Citizens a beautiful family of servant-missionaries devoted to each other and to the gospel.
The foundation has been laid.
Doors are opening in the marketplace, in the music scene, among the poor, in our neighborhoods, and in the school system. We are now mentoring and encouraging younger partner churches popping up in Oakland and San Ramon and Fremont. We're finally able to look beyond next week and next month, dreaming and praying for years down the road.
But we still need your help.
The city continues to be expensive and challenging. We are still vulnerable to financial crisis. We have seen church plants leave as quickly as they are planted. Local resources are scarce, too, with fewer established evangelical Christians compared to other regions.
Our church is working hard to support itself. For a small congregation of poor people in an expensive city, we are proud of our faithfulness. But with our focus on the hurting and marginalized and unchurched, self-sustainability remains at least a few years away.
We are looking to raise an additional $8,000 per month. This will allow us to do three things:
Bring our two part-time staff to full-time. In order to walk through the doors God is opening for our church, our people need Georgia and Kevin's full-time leadership in the areas of mercy, worship, and evangelism.
- Invest in the poor and marginalized. There are individuals at our church living in poverty who now know Jesus and are ready for all-of-life discipleship, including the financial investment required for God to lift them out of poverty.
- Establish long-term financial security. Churches in expensive, urban contexts need to be ready for the unknown. Your financial support will help secure us for the future, so that we can be both boldly obedient for today and responsible for tomorrow.
If you are convinced of the need for long-lasting churches in San Francisco and encouraged by the work of God in Citizens, will you partner with us? Will you invest in the eternal work of God in San Francisco? Do you know another individual or church who would love to hear about what Citizens is doing?