Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Open Letter to the SF Trip Team leaving on July 11th.

Hi Team,
     I am SO excited to send this to you!  Before we get into this thing I wanted to make sure and credit Steve Edwards as well.  We forged this journey together.  
      It's just under two months until we leave for SF.  We thought a review of our plans and WHY we're doing it was in order and what we hope to accomplish in this trip.  It's a bit long, but read it at your leisure.
      In Acts 1:8, Jesus gave the final words recorded from his earthly ministry - "But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” 
In those words, Jesus gave us clear direction to make sure the Gospel is spread and new churches in new places are launched - and not just where it's easy to get to.  With this objective in mind, in 2012, we, as a staff, felt led by the Spirit of God to pursue starting new churches as an objective for the church.  In January 2013, Darin announced our intentions to the church in one of his twice annually vision talks (once in January, once in September).  Church starting is something CBC has a rich history in, having planted 5 churches in Cherokee County.  While we'd done it before, we'd never done one outside of our home county nor had we done it recently.  The last church we started was about 30 yrs ago (Primeria Iglesia Bautista on Bolton St).  Doing it again would be a leap of faith in many ways.  Yet, after much prayer and study, we settled on seeking to start three churches - one in Texas, one in the US and one internationally (in keeping with Acts 1:8 - Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and the uttermost parts of the earth).  It wasn't an easy goal, but a worthy one.  These new churches would engage people wherever we planted them, reaching people we may never see.  To participate in that meant we would, by necessity, broaden our prospective to include other places and other people and allowing the newly started church to do things in a way that would allow them to reach their people.  Thus, the new church would reflect something to character of the people and places we put them.  
    Starting a new church in Texas is relatively easy.  We've chosen to pursue a Hispanic work right here in JVille.  Our city's trajectory toward Hispanic population made that an easy choice.  There's still much to be done there, but the wheels are turning.  The most important piece is the right leader.  We're partnering with the Baptist General Convention of Texas (www.texasbaptist.org) and Smith Baptist Association (smithbaptist.org) to help us through the process.
     Starting an international church is much more difficult.  We're working with the International Mission Board (imb.org - an entity we a church support every week when tithes and offerings are given.  A portion of those gifts goes to the IMB.).  As of yet, we've not chosen a specific location.  Tom and I visited El Salvador last November to check that out, but we've not settled the question.  
     Starting in San Francisco was a choice seemingly made by the hand of God.  In the fall of 2012, Darin undertook a study of the Apostle Paul's missionary strategy for starting churches.  There seemed to be three principles Paul used in choosing where Paul put them: (1) A port city.  (2) A multi-cultural center and (3) A population center.  Athens, Ephesus, Colosse, Thessalonica, Corinth. . . .all these churches are reflective of Paul's plan.  
Meanwhile, at roughly the same time, the North American Mission Board (namb.net) was crafting a similar strategy they call the SEND North America Initiative (http://www.namb.net/overview-why-send/).  NAMB targeted 32 cities across North America (US and Canada) that comprise 81% of the total population of North America.  These cities were the ones they targeted to do church start-ups.  When we looked over the list, San Fran fit the bill.  Right at the end of 2012, Darin got a note from Glynn Stone, pastor at Mobberly Baptist Church in Longview inviting him to go on a trip to consider starting a new church in. . . . San Fran.  Darin went (by his own confession, he went reluctantly given his deep and abiding distaste for the SF 49ers!)  While there, Darin felt assured this was the right place.  Committees meetings and discussion took from March to July to make it official, but it's all done now.  From now until 2017, we (as a church) are committed to a partnership with at least 6 other churches in supporting the work of LifePoint Church in San Fran (lifepointsf.com) and Randy Wilson, their pastor.  
     That's a little bit of why we're in this partnership.  Now here's a little bit of why we're going on this particular trip.  
     Starting a new church is easy - sustaining it is something else.  Many of the things we take for granted at CBC are structures and policies that predate any of us. None of that is present for a newly started church.  Like any newborn, much care would be needed to encourage its survival.  With that in mind, we've committed to bringing a team each year to serve in the city.  To serve the city may mean we do things differently than we expect or have ever done before.  
     Our trip consists of two parts: (1) The LifePoint portion and the (2) City Impact (sfcityimpact.org) portion.  They are not proportional.  Despite our investment in Lifepoint, we'll spend the smallest amount of time with them.  Frankly put, as a house church they aren't completely ready to employ us and another group (there will be a second group working with Lifepoint our same week) for the entirety of our week.  We will spend time with them on a rotating basis and will travel from our base to their location during the week but we won't be staying there.  We will return to our base at City Impact each night.  The region where the church is - Noe Valley (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noe_Valley,_San_Francisco) - is trendy and affluent to say the least.  Multi-million dollar homes are the norm and tech millionaires live in them.  It's filled with tech workers, young families and trendy coffee shops.  When when the staff was there in September, Coby and Darin found a Ferrari and a Lamborghini parked on the next street over from the church.  
     Our City Impact portion will dominate the week.  It's on the other end of the economic scale.  City Impact is situated in a region known as the Tenderloin (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tenderloin,_San_Francisco), one of the poorest parts of SF.  We will do a little bit of everything to meet the needs we'll find.  Why?  Because its important that we are in the city serving her needs - and the needs at City Impact are huge.  From drug addictions to pornography and homeless, we'll see it all in City Impact.  
     Lifepoint Pastor Randy Wilson spoke with Darin last week.  He told Darin how excited he is that we're coming.  More than that, he told Darin how grateful he is that we're coming with a plan to serve the city, not just Lifepoint.  
Action Points:   What you can do to prepare yourself.
(1) Get praying - You can't serve people who you don't love.  Ask God to give you a love for the people of SF even now so that when we arrive, we hit the ground running.  Pray for Lifepoint church.  Pray for City Impact.  Pray for those we will find when we get there.  Pray for yourself.  Pray for our families as we're away from home.  Pray for work of the Holy Spirit to guide our preparations.  Pray for those who will lead our services - that will be some of you.  Pray for Jesus to be honored in our preparation and our trip.  
(2) Get moving.  Physically, this will be a demanding trip.  San Fran is a hilly city and we'll walk everywhere.  In preparation for that, a minimum of 3 miles a day worth of walking would be advisable.  
(3) Get prepared - We've provided lots of information here for you to read and prepare yourself mentally for what we'll find.  Don't find yourself overwhelmed by trying to learn these things once we arrive.  Study up NOW and prepare your mind as well as your heart. 
(4) Get relational - Think relational thoughts!  Our purpose in going is people!  We're going to invest in eternity by investing in people, not tasks.  We'll have many tasks to do, but please bear in mind they are a means to an end.  We want to spend our time sharing life with the people of SF and sharing with them our love for Jesus.  Nothing else we will do matters more.   
God bless your preparation, God bless Jacksonville and God bless SF,
Darin and Steve