our distinctives

Our vision and belief statement are not unique, nor should they be. Citizens cannot and will not improve on two millennia of Christian history. In fact, there are many churches in San Francisco today who we embrace as full partners in the gospel. We are regularly encouraged, challenged, and instructed by these churches, and we cannot wait to fully join them in worship when Jesus comes again and unites us forever into one church! We enthusiastically commend them to you.

And yet Citizens is unashamed of the unique character of our church community. In this present age, God is pleased to reach the world through a diversity of churches. Additionally, we believe that context and opportunity cries out for a certain kind of church. 

Because of God's work in our lives and in our city, we feel called to be a certain kind of church with specific convictions. In particular, Citizens embraces six distinctives: 

+ Disciples Who Make Disciples

Matthew 28:19 – "Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”*

These are Jesus's final words to His own disciples and the inauguration of the church. Both being a disciple and making disciples is what Jesus wanted for all who follow Him.

For this reason, at Citizens, discipleship is not an optional program; it is built in to the fabric of who we are. We agree that Christian discipleship is all-encompassing: participating in the sacraments, daily bible reading, worshipping with other believers among other things. But, more specifically, discipleship is no less than one believer in Christ taking responsibility for the spiritual growth of another. It is in these small person-to-person settings where disciples are made, and where true biblical multiplication occurs.

"I’m good with saying that the mission of the church is basically to “make disciples.” I like it because it safeguards the centrality of what the church alone can really do—bring people to faith in Christ."Tim Keller "Center Church"

+ Healing and Wholeness

Psalm 107:19-21 – "Then they cried to the LORD in their trouble, and he saved them from their distress. He sent out his word and healed them; he rescued them from the grave. Let them give thanks to the LORD for his unfailing love and his wonderful deeds for mankind."

We live in a culture obessed with medicine. We prefer medicine over healing. We prefer fad diets over a holistic change in our lifestyle and habits. But God The Holy Spirit is crazy about complete healing. He loves it. Jesus, walking in the fullness of the Spirit's power, didn't medicate or offer temporary relief to the broken people He encountered. He healed them, all the way. Physically, emotionally and spiritually. A blind man (John 9). A woman who is bleeding (Luke 13). A man who is posessed by a demon (Mark 5).

At Citizens, we believe in, and are committed to holistic healing. We work together, in power of The Holy Spirit, to identify how sin has fractured us physically, emotionally, spiritually, relationally and sexually. We trace these realities to their origin in our stories. We open up, deal with and pursue healing in all of these categories. We are not interested in spiritual dieting, or temporary behavior modification motivated by guilt or law. Instead, we are asking The Lord to set us free entirely from our broken past so that we may walk freely with Him.

“The man who articulates the movements of his inner life, who can give names to his varied experiences, need no longer be a victim of himself, but is able slowly and consistently to remove the obstacles that prevent the spirit from entering. He is able to create space for Him whose heart is greater than his, whose eyes see more than his, and whose hands can heal more than his.” – Henri Nouwen "Wounded Healer"

+ Facing Idolatry

1 Corinthians 10:13-14 – "No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry."

Certain words in the bible sound so primitive and archaic, like idolatry. As modern-day persons, we don't have little shrines of idols spread throughout our houses that we bow down to in worship. We don't go to pagan holy places in our cities to offer burnt sacrifices, throwing our money and possessions at them in order to gain a sense of favor or approval. Or do we?

The bible considers idolatry to be anything created by God that becomes ultimate in our affections. Anything we look to for approval, comfort, performance, or control other than the person of Jesus. If this is true, our idols are copious, though most of them ignored. The things we worship are often not idols inherently. Many desires are God-given. For example, God has created us to desire His approval, to have a sense that we are enough, that life is not out of control and to recieve comfort and affection. The problem is not the desires themselves, but our obsession with fulfulling them outside of Jesus.

At Citizens, we regularly practice rooting out the idols in our lives. We are less concerned with sinful behaviors, and more concerned with the hidden motives lurking beneath those behaviors. Not just the sin, but the reasons why we sin. We do this in our DNA groups and Missional Families. Regularly helping each other identify the root causes of our idolatry, and reminding one another that the desires we have can be far better fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ.

"We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased." – CS Lewis "The Weight of Glory

+ Living Missionally

John 17:18 – "As you sent me into the world, so I have sent them into the world."

For a long time in the American church, the word "missionary" referred to a select group of practicioners who left their home country and traveled abroad to tell people about Jesus. But in the New Testament, the word is translated from the greek "apostolos" - literally, "sent ones" - and is used to refer to Jesus, His first disciples and all believers. If you follow Jesus, you are part of a sent people. You are called to go, not across an ocean, but into your own backyard, your own workplace, your kids' school to proclaim The Gospel and The Kingdom. Where are you? You have been sent there by God.

At Citizens, we live with a missional orientation. We are constantly asking The Lord to reveal who He has placed in our path to share about Himself. No one is off-limits. Many will reject the claims of the gospel, but some will hear and believe the good news. We are committed to living missionally: not as isolated individuals, but as a collective group. We believe that mission involves plurality – shared gifts, shared experiences and shared roles. We work together in Missional Families to create spaces for the people of God to gather with people who do not yet follow Jesus.

"God dwells with his people, and they are missionaries whom he sends into the everyday stuff of life. Jesus intends to saturate the world with his presence through his Sprit in his people—his sent ones." – Jeff Vanderstelt "Saturate"

+ Feasting with the Poor

Luke 14:12-14 – "He said also to the man who had invited him, “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.”

Jesus did not command His disciples to feed the poor. He commanded them to feast with them. He didn't command them to put on gloves, stand behind a table and hand out food. This raises barriers, establishes hierarchy and is often self-serving. Instead, Jesus says, sit beside, at the same table with, the poor. And esteem them even more than you do your rich, privileged neighbors. What a lofty and humbling command this is!

The truth is, Jesus has already thrown the feast. There is a party going on now. The question is, will we come to His party? If we do, the poor will sit at our right and our left, and with you next to them, the poor will be on their right and their left as well!

At Citizens, we don't just serve the poor. We don't just tolerate them. We don't program for them. We don't simply welcome them. We need the poor. We require them. They are of the utmost value. We want more of Jesus, and we can't get more of Him without them. They are essential to our Christian experience.

“I can’t stand your religious meetings. I’m fed up with your conferences and conventions. I want nothing to do with your religion projects, your pretentious slogans and goals. I’m sick of your fund-raising schemes, your public relations and image making. I’ve had all I can take of your noisy ego-music. When was the last time you sang to me? Do you know what I want? I want justice—oceans of it. I want fairness—rivers of it. That’s what I want. That’s all I want.” – Amos 5:21 "The Message"

+ Seasons and Rhythms

Ecclesiastes 3:1, 11 - “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven... He has amade everything beautiful in its time."

2 Corinthians 3:17-18 - “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.”

We live in an ambitious culture, which is fantastic. Both outside and inside the church, there is an acute sense of injustice and brokenness along with an earnest desire for our world to be made right. Generally, people want good things -- healing, justice, love, friendship, peace, maturity. Our church is no different -- just look at the rest of our distinctives! We are ambitious.

Unfortunately, we also live in an impatient culture. What we want we want now. But friendship can't be microwaved. Maturity can't be streamlined. Wholeness is a process. And try as we might, we cannot speed up these eternal goods. In fact, if we try, we're likely to settle for a crude counterfeit.

Citizens Church confesses that we cannot fix everything at once. We cannot do everything at once. We cannot hurry our redemption, or hurry the redemption of others. And if we cannot do it, then God is not calling us to do it. In fact, God has good reason for our redemption to take time, for planting Citizens to take time, and for fruitful mission to take time. This is good news to us! Citizens is not trying to catch up to God. He is behind, with, and ahead of us.

While Citizens remains firmly committed to our vision, we also know that fulfilling our vision will take sustained commitment over a long time. Specifically, we are committed to rhythms and seasons in keeping with our vision -- rhythms of worship, friendship, devotion, service, presence; seasons of feasting and fasting, thanksgiving and lament, celebration and silence.

"Almost anything in life that truly matters will require you to do small, mostly overlooked things, over a long period of time with [Jesus]... Hurry cannot accomplish such things... Haste has a habit of not coming through on things that truly matter." –Zack Eswine, The Imperfect Pastor