Two Cities Church just hit our Two Year Anniversary at the beginning of October. If you’ve been tracking with us for very long you may be asking, “Wait, it’s been like 4 1/2 years since you started talking about Two Cities Church.” You’re right. We spent just over two years building our team before holding regular services, before officially launching. So it’s been two years since we launched every week services, that’s when we were born.

I get calls and emails from would-be church-planters asking about our experience and I love talking to them. It really fills my cup when I can pour out whatever I’ve learned through this process and what I’ve learned from others. So if that’s you, don’t think, “Oh, he’s probably too busy to talk to me.” I’d love to talk with you.

Every few months I write a post about why it, church planting, is worth it. These are moments of clarity. These are events or WINS that help redefine and underscore why what we’re doing matters and I got an email last week that reminded me and our entire team why we work so hard to create a church that unchurched people would love to attend. Here’s a portion of that email:

Attending your church was an amazing experience. I’m feeling a little lost and in a weird place in my life right now. When [my friend] was struggling, she found Two Cities Church and I saw the difference that you made in her life. On Saturday night when she asked me if I wanted to go to church with her, I was hesitant. I was born and raised Catholic but I struggle with some of the stories and beliefs. I haven’t practiced my faith in a long time because I felt that Mass was always so somber and I also wasn’t sure what I truly believe in. [My friend] described your church to me and it was so different from my past experiences. She convinced me to attend. I am so glad that I did. The love, sex, and dating topic is something that I can actually relate to. Your talk really resonated with me. Two Cities is a wonderful, supportive, caring group of people. Being in the weird place that I am in life right now, I feel that a group like yours is exactly what will help. Thank you for changing my view on what church can be :).

That right there. That’s why we do what we do and that’s why church planting and creating churches that unchurched people love to attend matters.

That’s the mission. That’s a win.

If you wish you could bring your skeptical-haven’t-practiced-my-faith-in-a-long-time-friends to church with you. I got some good news, there’s a bunch of churches around the world trying to be a place, just like that. And if there’s not one in your area… start one.

See where they are here: North Point Network Churches.


THE PROBLEM WITHWhat’s the real problem with Fresno?

I grew up here and I grew up hearing your words. In many ways, your words have shaped what the people who grow up here, think about here. Do any of these statements sound familiar?

  • Ugh, it’s just so hot! I hate it here!
  • The only way to survive is to never go outside.
  • Fresno is the armpit of California.
  • Nothing good comes from Fresno.
  • Fresno, the drunkest city in California.
  • Fresno, the meth capital of the world.
  • I can’t wait to graduate and get out of Fresno!

And maybe you graduated and left. But like many of us, maybe you found yourself being pulled back by a gravity you did not understand. And maybe you acted on that gravity or maybe you stay away. Either way…

We need to change our verbage for the next generation. If we continue to talk about how hot it is, how miserable, how awful Fresno is, the best and the brightest will pick up on our scorn and they will leave and they will take their talent and their insight and their drive with them. They will build and contribute to the economy, the industry, the art, the humanity, and the aid of some other people in some other place.

I lived in Malibu for five years and Sonoma County for almost four years and surprisingly, I met a lot of people from the Fresno and the Central Valley area. At the church I worked at in Santa Rosa, we joked about how so many good people come from the Fresno area. We routinely said, “All good things come through Fresno.”

Now, since I’ve moved back and lived here for four years, I’m in love with our cities, with Fresno and with Clovis. There’s so much to love. From a great education, to a police chief that talks to the people and pleads with them to make wise choices, to a mayor who desperately believes in the revitalization of our downtown area, to local restaurants trying to make a genuine impact, not just a dollar. And the list goes on…

I’m not saying we’re perfect, far from it, but we have a strong community and we’ve got people working hard to make a real impact on our problems. People like Feed Our Future Fresno and the Pinedale Impact Center (more on this later).

So, back to my original question, “What’s the real problem with Fresno?” Well, it might be how you think about it.

If you’re going to continue to contribute to the defamation of Fresno, you should probably go find some place to live that you’ll be proud of. I mean it, we don’t have the water or the jobs to support you, so go find someplace that does. Life is too short to live in a place you despise. What’s holding you back? Sell everything, uproot and go. I don’t want my kids to grow up hearing about how awful you think their hometown is. I want them to love it and be motivated to contribute to it. We don’t need to be defeatists, we need to be optimistic and hopeful.

So if you plan on being here, let’s make here the best here it can be.

Let’s be generous and lend a hand to the things that need fixing.
Let’s be active and positive about the future of our great cities.
Let’s be educated and proud of our heritage.
Let’s be supportive and loving to the disenfranchised and marginalized.
Let’s do the things we know we need to do to make our cities even better.

My family and I moved back here to contribute and partake. That’s what being a good citizen is about. You add value to your environment and you engage in the richness of its culture.

But here’s my hunch; a high percentage of you who will move away in the coming months and years, you’ll find yourself in a similar situation, a similar mindset as you have here. You may like the summer temperature in your new location or even the air quality. Those things might be significantly better for you, but in a year or two you’ll find yourself complaining again. The complaints may not be the same, but they will linger. Because your attitude about your city is more about your attitude than your city. Changing your perspective, changes your life and you don’t have to move cities to do that. You may have to move away from relationships or situations, but you may not have to leave your city.

Feel free to disagree, but I love these two cities and I think you should too.

Related Content: 8 Things I learned about Fresno from @HiddenCash
It wasn’t too long ago that I was having a conversation with someone who was upset that we were baptizing someone. When I inquired why, they said that this person was:

  • Not really a Christian
  • They were still sinning
  • They didn’t know enough about God
  • They didn’t know enough about the Bible
  • and so on…

I couldn’t help but chuckle a little, knowing this person pretty well and the fact that these things could easily be said about them as well. And I simply said this…

“Big scandal, we’re baptizing sinners!”

Needless to say, they did not like my response too much. But it’s true. At Two Cities Church we believe that every person matters and we believe there’s only one who’s ever been perfect, Jesus. We are made perfect in Him, not on our own. If we waited until every person stopped sinning, and had enough knowledge of God and the Bible for them to begin following Jesus, we’d have no church… anywhere… globally. Think about that for a second.

If you waited until you had stopped sinning, cleaned yourself up and had all the knowledge you could ever know about God, Jesus and the Bible– you’d be dead before you could follow Jesus. You can spend your whole life trying to be perfect enough for God, or you can confess your imperfectness and be made perfect through the grace of Jesus Christ.

When Simon (Peter) first came into contact with Jesus he said, “Go away from me, Lord; for I am a sinful man!” (Luke 5:8). Peter later confesses that Jesus is the Messiah, the son of God and Jesus says that upon that confession he will build his church (Matthew 16:13-20).

You think you’re too big of a sinner to follow Jesus? So did Peter. Don’t put it off any longer and don’t judge someone else’s effort to follow, begin with you and begin to follow because God’s grace is a huge scandal and it’s a scandal you need.

Is Family an Idol?

March 29, 2016 — Leave a comment

According to a recent video from Francis Chan, family is a huge idol in American-Christian culture. In this short video, Chan gives a challenge to the American church. Instead of re-hashing it, just watch what he has to say.

What do you think about that?
Does it upset you?
Does it challenge your assumptions?
Is it something you resonate with?
Do you agree, disagree, sort-of agree… what is your reaction?
I want to know.

Rachel Lewis is a Student Impact volunteer at Two Cities Church. She’s a student at Buchanan High School and this is the story of how she searched for and found Two Cities online. Came with her mom and eventually decided to be baptized. Here’s her story:

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I got my family back.

January 6, 2016 — 1 Comment

Missy McGrail has an amazing story of how she got her family back. Missy started hanging around Two Cities Church just over a year ago and now she serves as one of our Guest Services captains and her kids serve in our children’s ministry environments every-other-week. They are now a vital part of our church family. It is because of stories like these that we continue to push forward the mission and vision of Two Cities Church, to lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ and create a church that unchurched people would love to attend.

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Mitch, JamieRudyJoAnneDonnyAnnetteCadyMauro

Tripp and Tyler are at it again. Here’s their follow up to A Conference Call in Real Life. If you work from home or have a virtual job, you know #TheStruggleIsReal.
A few months ago I was on a call with a church-planting coach. We, Two Cities Church, were coming up on our One Year Anniversary and my coach had a few insights into what year two may look like. As always with any coach, there’s a good amount of encouragement and then a warning or a “Hey, you should probably be prepared for (fill in the blank).” I should know to expect it by now, but it always throws me a little off.

Those who have gone before us know a bit more about the process, the trends and what to expect than we do.

He said, “At the beginning of year two, you’re probably going to experience some people getting off the bus and some people moving seats. Don’t be alarmed, it just happens.” Well, when you’ve started a church with close friends… that’s alarming! He asked me a few questions that really messed with my head. He asked:

  • Who is on the box that needs to move?
  • Who needs to get off the bus?
  • If you had to remove one person from the team, who would it be?

Talk about questions you don’t want to answer! Geez! But that’s the hard work of leadership.

Our One Year Anniversary was on October 4, 2015 and since then we’ve had a good amount of movement on our volunteer staff team. We’ve had 4 people take a step back, 1 move to a different seat and 4 new additions. All of the people who have taken a step back needed to do so for personal reasons of capacity or time. Here’s the good thing, we’re all still friends and here’s what I’ve wanted each and every one of them to know as they step back, move seats or jump on board:

“I care more about you than what you bring to the table.”

All of this has forced me not to just accept that this sort of thing happens as you head into year two, and probably continually, but I want to know why this happens. So, I’ve been working on this theory and it is a working-theory.  I don’t have a great name for it yet, so let’s just call it: The 3 Keys to Staying Missionally Engaged. I’ve recently had the opportunity to bounce these keys off of other church planters who are farther down the road than we are and their experiences have been very similar. So, I want to share these and hope it helps.
While there are tons of different reasons people need to take time off or take a step back, I’d like to offer three things that I believe every staff person or volunteer needs to stay missionally engaged in the church.
I believe people need to be experiencing at least 2 out of 3 of the following in order to stay missionally engaged:
  • Experiencing Personal Wins:
    Inviting and seeing people come and get involved; Being in a small group and watching other people grow; Being personally connected to someone who is getting baptized or recently gave their life to Christ; Serving on or Leading a team that is winning; etc.
  • Experiencing Personal Growth:
    Growing in your own personal relationship with Jesus; Developing healthy habits; Surrendering previously un-surrendered areas of your life; Becoming more Self-Aware; Working through hurts, habits and hang-ups; etc.
  • Experiencing Extraordinary Care or Community:
    Involved in a community group (small group) or strategic service team that loves each other; Feeling cared for or caring for someone when life hits the fan; Gaining support from people in times of high stress or personal tragedy; etc.

I know there are other factors at play, external factors like having a baby, changing jobs or job loss, stress at home, health issues and more. But these principles, when applied over the lives of your leaders, will help you see where they’re at and how engaged they are.

When you feel distance coming between your team and the mission, ask yourself if they’re experiencing these 3 things. If not, try to help them head it off before you’ve come to a point of crisis. I hope this helps you as you engage your key volunteers and staff.

If you’re looking for ways to keep yourself from burn-out, check this blog post and podcast from Carey Nieuwhof’s interview with Craig Groeschel.

It’s been one year since we launched Two Cities Church into every week Sunday services. We had been networking, fundraising, and praying for what seemed like forever. It took us 6 years of waiting, praying, seeking, listening, learning and dreaming, plus two years of ground work, to get to our launch day. We were filled with expectation, curiosity, and nerves on that day. I remember being a ball of nerves. I don’t get nervous, but on that day I was. We launched with a vision message that we called #WeAreTwoCities. One year later, we took a look back and celebrated what God has done. [You can listen to that here or on our iPhone app.]

These photos were from our One Year Anniversary after party. See more Photo Booth pictures from our One Year Anniversary here.

After one year, a lot of heartache, ups and downs, changes in our team, changes in the faces that volunteer and attend and more… I continue to say, “It’s Worth it.” It being church planting that is FOR our community and the people in our community. But here’s the thing, it’s worth it because Jesus said with his actions, “You are worth it.” When he spoke to people the religious leaders avoided and he forgave people who didn’t deserve forgiveness and he taught and healed and loved… he communicated that each person, each individual is worth it all. And ultimately, when he died a gruesome and embarrassing death, he did that to pay for the sins of each “worth it” person. You and me.

When I say, “It’s worth it” — it’s worth it because of the stories depicted in the video below, and many more untold stories that have arisen within our community at Two Cities Church.

I know I’m right where God wants me and I can’t wait to see what he does in and through Two Cities Church in our second year.

It’s Worth It. Part 1
It’s Worth it. Part 2
It’s Worth it. Part 3
It’s Worth it. Part 4
It’s Worth it. Part 5

autumn moments

Yesterday I got a screen shot in the form of a text message from Chris Loach, a good friend and one of our volunteer staff at Two Cities Church. It was an email sent from… me. Only it wasn’t from me and I immediately thought, “OH NO! I’VE BEEN HACKED! WHO ELSE IS GETTING THESE?!!!” I’m sure you can relate to those kinds of panic moments. I haven’t had a hacking situation like this since MySpace was a real social media option. Here’s a screenshot of the email Chris received.


After a few minutes of digging around, I realized I wasn’t hacked, I was Spoofed.

There’s different kinds of spoofing attacks, but mine was fairly simple and just about anyone can do it explains My spoofer simply sent an email from what looked like me, but when you press reply, it showed his real address. He or she was not using a very complicated method. However, sometimes they’re a bit more complicated as explains. So what did I do about it? The following is how I seem to have spooked my spoofer from spoofing me again.

5 Steps to Spooking your Spoofer

Step 1: Know When it Hits
In order to go from spoofed to spooker, you’ve got to know when it happens and you need to know fast because the chances are, they’re not stopping with one email. That means you need your contacts not to just delete the email, but to actually inform you that it happened, like my buddy Chris did for me. (Thanks man!) Once you know, you need to take immediate action to avoid fall out from your contacts.

Step 2: Hit Reply
I asked Chris to click on the name and make sure it says my email. He did and it did. Then I said, “I wonder what would happen if you hit reply” and boom. There it was, the real email that the spoofer was spoofing from.

IMG_6790 email 3

Step 3: Research
Once I had the real email this person was sending from, I went on a hunt for information about that person and that email. First stop, Google had nothing to say about that email address. No social media accounts. No other usages in forums. No previous articles, websites or blog posts mentioning the email ( So I decided to figure out what I could about the user via the gmail account recovery process. I went to and plugged in the address, then I clicked on “forgot my password” and chose the text me option. In order to actually get the password you’d need a lot more information, but I wasn’t trying to hack them. I was trying to get information about them. It revealed that their phone number associated with their account is **********77. Here’s what that tells me, their number ends in 77 and it’s one digit too long to be a number from the USA. So they are international.

Step 4: Invite Them to a GoogleTalk Video Chat
I invited them to a video chat. Imagine, what if they had actually accepted my invitation and I could video chat with this person? Wouldn’t that be shockingly amazing?! But they didn’t. But I’m sure that’s when they started getting a little spooked.

Step 5: Email Them and Block Them
I sent two emails to the address and explained that their attempts to scam my contacts would not work. They’re much too smart. People doing these kinds of scams are looking for low-hanging fruit, people who are frazzled by emergencies and many of whom are elderly. As soon as they realize they aren’t going to profit from scamming you or your friends, they’ll move on. In the email I sent, the point was not to make them angry, it was to scare them…hopefully enough to abandon or close the email they used completely and or out of the business. I’m hoping by the end of the time that they realized someone tried to log in to their real email, the person they were spoofing tried to video chat them and they were found out that they were spooked.

Bonus Step: Don’t Get Spoofed Again
I am the administrator of our church domain,, and so I have the ability to go into the admin console and block them from emailing anyone within the organization. I took great pleasure in that step.

Here’s the deal, you can’t stop people from being dumb and trying to scam you, but you can make it difficult for them and you can spook them. So let’s make it difficult for the spoofers who are trying to take money from your contacts. Have you ever been hacked, spoofed or scammed? What was your experience and how did you deal with it?