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thank-you-for-changing-my-view-on-what-church-can-be

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.

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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MissyMitchJamieRudyJoAnneDonnyAnnetteCadyMauro

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.

You may also like these stories:
Mitch, JamieRudyJoAnneDonnyAnnetteCadyMauro

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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 bus 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.]

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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

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When we started Two Cities Church, we literally thought to ourselves, “What would a church that (insert name here) would go to look like?” Jamie Medeiros was one of those names. Erica and I have known her for many years now and we’ve never stopped praying her and her family. At one point she told me, “I hate that $%#&*#$* bible.” And now she proclaims Jesus. I am blown away at how God has worked in her life. Now because of the faith she has in Jesus and because her and her son Jack come every week, her son is now telling others that Jesus loves them.

In her story, you’ll notice the many different people played a role in Jamie’s story. One of my favorite quotes is from one of those people and reads, “You are his princess and I love you.”

Imagine how differently our lives might be, if we honestly knew and lived as if this was true.

If you’re looking for a place…
  • that you can be yourself
  • that you are not judged for not knowing about the bible
  • that you can ask the questions you think
  • that you can explore faith without pressure
  • that you can remain anonymous as long as you want
  • that you can belong before you believe
  • that you can believe before you behave
  • and that you can get a sense of family and acceptance

Come and See what we’re all about.

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Rudy, JoAnne, Donny, Annette, Cady, Mauro

I Was Blown Away.

June 9, 2015 — 1 Comment

Rudy Gonzalez has an amazing story of redemption. From a stubborn heart to an unbelievable man of God that I am proud to say is my friend. Rudy’s story should be a testimony to us all about grace. I love it when he says, “I was blown away.” I remember that day very clearly and it’s because of these kinds of stories that I continue to seek God’s will in this church-planting adventure at Two Cities Church.

Sometimes people who are making a huge difference in the world don’t even realize they’re doing it. We have a bunch of volunteers at Two Cities Church who have no idea the impact they have every week on the people walking in our doors. We don’t know the stories of everyone walking in, but a simple “Hello, I’m ______ and we’re so glad you came” goes a long way. It might even change a life.

This is Josh. Jost lost his dad. Josh was bullied. Josh moved to a city school and reinvented himself.

So next time you think you’ve got to have a billion dollars or some significant leadership role to change lives, just remember Josh is changing lives and nobody asked him to. He’s just a door holder.

We’re always looking for more volunteers to help change the world. Why not you?

In what ways are you holding doors?

youre-welcome
A couple of weeks ago I woke up to a Facebook message from someone that I don’t hear from often. There’s a transcript of the conversation:

Friend: Do you need anything?
Me: What do you mean?
Friend: Money?

Let me stop your right there from reading the rest of the conversation. I mean, who wakes up to someone asking them if they need money? That doesn’t happen in real life, right? Well, it did and it happened to me. Ok, keep going…

Me: Well, we are trying to raise 50k to upgrade our elementary environments, invest in chronically hungry kids in Fresno, and hire a second staff member.

I was thinking he was talking about the church, since we’re trying to raise money for our end-of-year giving campaign and expand the work of the church. He responds…

Friend: Nice! Well, I woke up feeling like I needed to give you $300?
Me: Well, I woke up to a crying child and so that brightens the day! LoL
Friend: Haha I should be out of work by 4
Me: Ok, you can also do it through text. Just type WATC to (559) 745-7009. It will ask  you to register a card and then you can text in the amount (300) and it will deduct if rom your account.
Friend: I think it’s cash for you

At this point I was shocked. I thought, “So, you mean to tell me you feel like God is telling you to give me $300 cash, personally… for me? Not for the church?”

Have you ever had an experience like that? No? I wouldn’t expect you to.

Here’s the thing, I met up with him in the Target parking lot. I’m sure it looked like a drug deal to onlookers because we both got out of our cars and he shook my hand with a wad of cash in it and gave me a hug.

I said, “Did God tell you what I was going to do with he cash?”

“No.” He replied.

I thanked him, we chatted and he left.

Imagine the burden to do what is the right thing with this $300. In my family, we have everything budgeted out. We have specific amounts that go to specific categories. We do not frivolously buy anything. We weigh it out because we want to be good stewards of the money God entrusts to us… but for some reason, this $300 weighed extra heavy on us to do the right thing. The problem was, we didn’t know what the right thing was.

So for three days, we prayed about it and one verse kept coming to my mind:

“Whoever can be trusted with very little can also be trusted with much…”
Luke 16:10 NIV

At the end of those three days, I reached a decision. We were going to give it to the end-of-year campaign at Two Cities Church.

Not even five minutes after I made that decision I got a text from a church planter in Rohnert Park, CA.

Friend: I just saw something on your Facebook about year-end-giving… did you receive our cashiers check? We mailed it.

I had just been thinking about how we need to be faithful with every little gift and God will entrust us with more. That’s exactly what was happening. Now I realize that they had already sent the check and we would’ve received it either way, but I believe God withheld the information until we made the decision he knew we would make.

Later that day I went to the box and do you know what was in that box? A check for Two Cities Church from Discovery Church in Rohnert Park for $1,000. That’s right one-thousand dollars.

Want to see God do miraculous things in your financial life? Don’t squeeze every penny for yourself. Be generous and willing to share. (1 Timothy 6:18) In fact, when it comes to giving, it’s the only thing God actually says to test him on.

“Bring the whole tithe into the storehouse, that there may be food in my house. Test me in this,” says the  Lord  Almighty, “and see if I will not throw open the floodgates of heaven and pour out so much blessing that there will not be room enough to store it.”
Malachi 3:10

You have an opportunity to invest in something amazing, the local church. If you do, I think God might do something miraculous in your own life. Be a part of something amazing. Be a part of funding the church so that we can expand our efforts, reach more people, and feed more hungry kids in the name of Jesus Christ.

How?

watc
4 Simple Ways You Can Give to Our “WeAreTwoCities” end-of-year campaign:

  • Send a check to Two Cities Church
    1865 Herndon Ave K304
    Clovis, Ca 93612
  • Send a Text
    “WATC” to 559.745-7009 and then the amount you’d like to give. Here’s a little video to show you how easy it is.
    https://vimeo.com/111665925
  • Give Online by clicking here
  • In Service
    Drop a check or cash into our offering bucket during a service

Your gifts are tax-deductible and you’ll receive a giving receipt in January.

Thank you for being a part of something amazing, the local church, which is the hope of the world.

givingtuesday

Today is #GivingTuesday, a National Day of Giving. Take the #Unselfie challenge by choosing to be generous today. There’s no better way than doing that by giving to Two Cities Church.

“Why should I give to Two Cities Church?”
We’re glad you asked. It’s simple really. We exist to lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ because we believe it’s the most important mission in the entire world. Lives and eternities are being changed. 

Here’s a text from someone who just two Sundays ago waived the White Flag and gave their life to Christ: 

“It’s so nice because everyone is soo soo welcoming. They aren’t judging me because I am just now deciding to be a Christian. I always thought I would be judged for that. I am glad that I took a leap of faith and joined Two Cities. BEST DECISION OF MY LIFE. HANDS DOWN. :-)))”
Thank you, Two Cities, for being a place that is “soo soo welcoming” and nonjudgmental.

Will you take the #Unselfie challenge today and help us kick start our end-of-year giving goal by contributing to #GivingTuesday?

All you have to do is text “WATC” to 559.745.7009. We’ll text you back a link, you’ll have a 10 second registration and then you can text in any amount you’d like to give.

Be a part of the most important mission in the world, leading people to Jesus.

P.S. You can also give through our traditional online giving. Just click here.