Rhythms at Citizens
Humans are both created for worship and creatures of habit. That means that everything we do is "liturgical" -- a habit of worship that has the power to shape what we love. We are commanded to love God and others, but our world is constantly forming our hearts in the opposite direction -- with our social media feeds, 24/7 news-cycles, 2-day shipping, and more. The Economist once referred to such modern amenities as "golden handcuffs."
Jesus came to set us free. He has declared us to be his family, his missionaries, and his servants. If we are saved by grace through faith, we are the church by grace through faith. No need to apply; just show up.
And yet our souls must still be remade and reshaped into what God has called us to be. We can't just read a book or craft a vision statement. We must become disciples of Jesus, devoted to "counter liturgies--embodied, communal practices that are 'loaded' with the gospel and indexed to God and his kingdom." (James K. A. Smith, You Are What You Love). Only then will our faith be sustained until the end of life.
To that end, Citizens has committed itself to three sets of rhythms: Missional Families, DNA Groups, and Sunday Gatherings.
"The Christian community demonstrates the effectiveness of the gospel. We are the living proof that the gospel is not an empty word but a powerful word that takes men and women who are lovers of self and transforms them by grace through the Spirit into people who love God and others. We are the living proof that the death of Jesus was not just a vain expression of God's love but an effective death that achieved the salvation of a people who now love one another sincerely from a pure heart." (Chester and Timmis, Everyday Church)
Missional Families are the primary organizing structure of our church. These are diverse smaller groups of 8-20 people. This is where the details of our discipleship and worship are fleshed out, as we strive together to be a family of missionary-servants. We love one another, partner together, and bear each other's burdens.
Seasons and circumstances vary widely between missional families, but the ideal missional family is engaged in the following monthly rhythms: 1) we meet together in homes around God's Word and prayer (at least twice per month); 2) we serve the poor and marginalized together; and 3) we invest in peaceful relationships with those who aren't yet Christians (at picnics, happy hours, game nights, etc.).
That's an ideal month. Some seasons will require emphasizing one identity more than the others, but we are committed to regularly asking God to show us what following Jesus means for this group in this season. The details are up to the Holy Spirit.
What is discipleship? Broadly speaking, all of live is involved in Christian discipleship. But biblically-speaking, Christian discipleship is no less than one believer taking responsibility for the spiritual growth of another believer. The mandate for all believers in Jesus is to be discipled and to make disciples. This cannot be done generically. The call to discipleship is not abstract, but personal and specific.
To that end, within missional families are DNA Groups. These are small 3-4 person, single-gender groups which are committed to mutually discipling one another towards greater faith in Christ. This is where an individual member of Citizens will be most fully-known and most fully-loved.
DNA stands for "Discover - Nurture - Act." This acronym forms the pattern of the group's time together -- with Bible open, they discover who God is; they nurture each other's hearts with grace; and they prayerfully challenge each other to act in the Spirit.
At first, "D-N-A" is a forced pattern, like a "Couch to 5K" plan for spiritual friendship. Eventually though, intimacy, honesty, grace and worship become the relationship's foundation. "There is a friend which sticks closer than a brother." But this kind of friend doesn't just appear, but is the fruit of commitment and rhythm.
"The church's worship is the heart of discipleship. Yes, Christian formation is a life-encompassing, Monday through Saturday, week in and week out project; but it radiates from, and is nourished by, the worship life of the congregation gathered around Word and Table." (Smith)
Citizens is committed to gathering together for worship regularly. Corporate worship is vital for Christian faith in San Francisco. Every week, we are invited to pause our busy lives and remember that what we most need and want has already been accomplished by Jesus Christ. Because of Jesus, we are forgiven, washed clean, accepted, approved, beloved, dignified, secure.
In song, we remember that God is holy, that we are sinners, but Christ is our Savior. Through God's Word, we are called again to repentance and faith. We receive the Bread and Wine at the Lord's Table, tasting our hope in Christ. We give what we have to the poor, remembering that Christ gave all for us. We witness baptisms, remembering that we too were once dead in our trespasses, but have been raised to new life. In celebration, we feast together. All this is done alongside people who should be strangers--Greek, Jew, barbarian, poor, rich, man, woman--but who are now brothers and sisters. And then, we are collectively sent. Sundays are not an end-in-themselves, but both the fuel and fruit of life together as family, missionary, and servant.
(Currently, Citizens gathers just the first three Sundays per month. On the fourth Sunday, we worship together in our smaller missional families.)
So, of all the churches in San Francisco, might Citizens Church be your home?
You'll notice that our three commitments--Sundays, missional families, and DNA--are increasingly intimate. So, it's only natural that joining a DNA group will take some time, and likely follow membership. Prospective members can't just check out a DNA group, or join a DNA without having first committed to Sundays and to a missional family.
If you're prayerfully considering whether Citizens might be your church home, first of all, thank you! We are humbled that you would set our small community alongside the many other faithful churches in San Francisco. Second, God-speed! We believe that choosing a church is more than simply making room on your busy calendar. It's a commitment of love, relationship, energy, risk, and resources. So, how can you know whether this is the commitment God is asking you to make?
Reading through our website is definitely a start, but nothing replaces person-to-person interactions. Please visit us on Sundays. Join us for lunch at one of our First Sunday Feasts. Fill out a connect card. Arrange coffee with a member you meet on Sundays. Talk with someone about connecting with a missional family, first at one of their social or service opportunities and then at one of their core meals. These personal interactions will confirm whether God is calling you to join Citizens. We can't wait!