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I’ve often said things like, “I wish people knew that Clovis isn’t all cowboys.” For a long time I’ve been trying to make peace with the cowboy nature of my hometown with little to no resolve. I grew up on two acres in Clovis, but we didn’t have cattle or sheep or pigs. My dad had a few fruit trees and my grandma had a garden, so I guess you could say we were more like micro-farmers, than real farmers and definitely not cowboys. I’ve never owned spurs, let alone boots, except for when I was 5, but that doesn’t count. I did have a cowboy hat, but we bought it at Disneyland’s Frontier Land. That doesn’t count either. I’ve ridden a horse maybe once or twice, while it was being guided by someone along a trail in Yosemite Valley.

Now, don’t get me wrong because I LOVE CLOVIS. I even married an amazing woman who went to Clovis High School, the original cowboy school. I think it’s an amazing place to grow up, raise a family and be a citizen. I just never pictured myself as a cowboy, so I didn’t really relate to that side of Clovis. But after watching this video made by ABC30 news, I have to admit… when the man says “they just want to be a cowboy for one week out of the year”… I’m tempted to actually attend the Clovis Rodeo. And I have a secret, it would be my first. Don’t tell anyone, I don’t want to be disowned.

Although I’m thinking of going to the rodeo… you won’t catch me doing this.
cowboy

So, who’s going to the 100th year of the Clovis Rodeo in 2014 and who wants to be a cowboy for a week?

Meet Mauro & Chelsea

August 19, 2013 — Leave a comment

Mauro and Chelsea DeBenedetto are a part of our launch team at Two Cities Church. I met them just a couple of months ago. They didn’t know anyone on the team and are now they’re very involved. They also just released two singles available on iTunes [read about that here]. Enjoy their story.

#WeAreTwoCities

An Odd Easter

March 29, 2013 — Leave a comment

color_hues_easter_sunday-still-16x9-960x250

This Easter is a bit of a strange Easter season for me and here’s why…

  • I’m the pastor of a new church forming in the Fresno/Clovis area
  • We’re not having any Easter gatherings
  • I haven’t had an Easter “off” since, well, EVER

I have a confession to make. I kinda like it and here’s why…

  • I haven’t had an Easter “off” since, well, EVER
  • We’re not having any Easter gatherings
  • I’m the pastor of a new church forming in the Fresno/Clovis area THAT is a place unchurched people will love to attend. A guilt-free environment and what’s more guilt-free than telling people our first Easter, “Hey, we don’t have anything for you on Easter this year”?

Now, if you’re in ministry or a church-planter, you’re probably thinking one or both of these things

  • “I can’t believe you are missing out of the biggest opportunity possible, Easter MOMENTUM.”
    The thought here is that tons of people go to church on Easter who might not normally go and you have a chance to capture their imagination in this one event and possibly get them to come back next week.
  • “How can you possibly be a ‘church’ and not do anything on Easter to celebrate Jesus’ resurrection?!”
    I get that and it’s a pretty valid point, but in reality, we’re just not there yet.

What this unique pre-launch season of church-planting (start-up-from-nothing-church-creating) is it allows me to view things from an outside perspective. I’ve visited a bunch of churches in our area (Fresno/Clovis) and I come away realizing how we accidentally create an “us and them” culture in so many churches. It’s an invisible divide between the “Know and the Know-Nots” the “members and visitors” the “in and out.” It’s a terrible invisible wall and it’s part of the mission of Two Cities Church to tear it down.

Instead of creating a place where just Christians can come, be fed and worship. We want to create a place that unchurched (not been to church in 6 months) people would LOVE to attend. A place where the people, regardless of where they are in faith, who can experience environments that encourage them to take a step. That step might be to be in greater obedience to Jesus, to come back the next week or even to apply a biblical principle to their life. We want to encourage people to pursue 3 vital relationships: Intimacy with God, Community with other people seeking God and Influence with the community around us.

So this season allows us to KNOW OUR NEIGHBORS a little better. To know what it feels like to be on the outside of a church, to come in as a visitor, feel what they feel and look through their lens.

So it’s an odd Easter and I’m celebrating in a strange way… by remembering that our job is not done and there are MANY people in our community who will STILL not darken the doors of already existing churches. We are creating a place, a people, that will hold Easter services in the future, but with the memory of what it was like BEFORE we had a big Easter celebration. And I believe we’ll be better for it.

|| wearetwocities.com

It’s worth it.

August 22, 2012 — 7 Comments

If you follow my blog at all, you know very well that I am the Lead Pastor and Church Planter of Two Cities Church.

The other day I was in a Starbucks with a friend. We were talking about life in general and a young woman chimed in from several seats away. She said, “Your conversation is way more interesting than what we’re talking about down here.” Then she moved two seats down and joined in on our conversation. Needless to say, she’s not shy.

As we talked about life and eventually talked about the church plant, she made it very clear that she was uncomfortable with the idea that she just started talking to a pastor. She grew up in a church where you needed to know all the secret handshakes and rituals to interact with a pastor. She’s had her unfair share of interactions with insincere church people. She has no desire to be connected to anyone who is fake or playing church. But she was looking for something authentic. By the end of the conversation she asked us to keep her updated on the church plant, exchanged business cards and went our separate ways.

She wants something real. Something relevant. Something unpretentious. A place that doesn’t pretend to be perfect. And something worth bringing her family to.

That’s why we’re planting this church. I’m coming into contact with more and more people who have similar thoughts and interests. People who are disconnected with church. People who have some sort of faith background, but nobody to process biblical principles with and apply them to their lives. Are there great churches in town? Yes. But the people I’m running into are not in them and all the studies I’ve read on growing the Church, say that the fastest way to grown the Church (the Kingdom of God) is to plant churches. So, there will always be a need for more churches.

The #1 question I get is, “Where do you meet?” I respond by telling them about the process of planting a church, in the way that we’re choosing to do it. It’s not quick. We’re building our Launch Team and asking them to participate in “The 4 Things.” Because we know something from watching other church plants, you need a good foundation in order to sustain a church. So we’re not holding every week services until we know we can sustain it.

The 4 Things Are:

  • Strategic Service: Serve in the church in some way
  • Community Groups: Get involved in a small group
  • Percentage Giving: Determine a percentage you will give financially and give consistently
  • Invest & Invite: Invest in the people around you and invite them along

We feel that if we have 80 people committed to “the 4 things”, $20,000 in monthly giving and $100,000 in the bank for start-up costs that we’ll be in a great position to launch and sustain Two Cities Church. So our team is giving now, starting our first Launch Group (small group) next month, holding monthly informational and connection events and praying like crazy. There’s about 20 people committed to the 4 Things right now and that’s a great start, but that’s just the beginning.

Help us build Two Cities Church and pray about joining our team… It’s worth it.

If you’d like to know more about Two Cities Church, let’s grab a cup of coffee… or you can come to our next event in September (date pending). Comment below for more information.

bad drivers

December 27, 2011 — Leave a comment

It’s easy to spot a bad driver in Santa Rosa.

Volunteers, Thank You

December 17, 2011 — Leave a comment

Volunteers, thanks for being a part of our mission to lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ at New Vintage Church.

on becoming family…

January 30, 2011 — Leave a comment

Last Sunday Nathan posted this on his blog. Just thought I’d share.

My Church Family
About a year ago I realized that I was missing a number of things in my life. Since moving away from the safety of my residence in my Small High School Town onto my Beautiful College Campus (which I now live adjacent to), I had not regularly been attending church. My first two years in college, I did not have an automobile with which to transport myself, and all the churches I rode my bike/scooter to did not interest me.

I figured that as long as I lived by the principals of Christianity, and kept a fellowship of believers about me, I’d be fine. And to some extent, that was true. The sins I committed weren’t any different than those I committed while regularly attending church, and I got to sleep in on Sundays too.

Some poor choices, and good friends who were there to comfort me in the wake of poor choices, made me question why I was not attending church. I realized that since I had acquired my driving license and an automobile, I really had no reason not to attend church. Additionally, I had friends who attended churches. So I began attending churches with my friends.

Then one week a number of my friends were out of town. In fact, everyone who I had been attending churches was gone. Now I grew up in a household where if you go to church, you go to church. EVERY WEEK. NO MATTER WHAT. So Saturday night, I made a google church for churches in a town nearby my Beautiful California University, where I’d found better church options. Now, the town next to my Beautiful California University is where I grew up until I moved to my Small High School Town. I remembered that one time when I was about 13 or so, I heard about a church that was doing new, crazy and innovative things. I didn’t remember what the church was called, so I went on Google Maps to the location of the church, and then Googled the church. After browsing the website for about 10 minutes, I decided that it looked retro and trendy enough for me to check out. I noted the address and the service time, and went to sleep.

I walked in and was greeted. Woohoo. I was greeted again when I walked into the actual auditorium where the service was held. I sat in the back. I worshipped, then listened to the sermon, which was on a topic that came up multiple times in my life the week before (this is a whole other story though). Then I left.

The worship service had lights and smoke, like a concert. The speaker was really energetic and engaging. I was intrigued, and interested in going back. I called one of my friends that had been attending churches with me, and told her about it. She was excited, as opposed to my vague skepticism. The next week she went with me, and liked it. We attended together for awhile, then summer break came, and she went home for a few weeks.

At this time, I must note that I had absolutely no interest in connecting to the church I was attending. I did not want friends, I did not want to deal with church politics, I did not want to become one of those yuppies who goes to lunch after church. I did not want any of that. I was perfectly happy going to church, then returning home and continuing with my day.

Early-ish in the summer, a man added me on Facebook through my churches Facebook page. I learned that he was one of the leaders at my church. Then some other people did. The man, who has a name (Micah, in case you were wondering) sent me a message on Facebook, and asked if I’d like to get lunch. I agreed, and we met at In-N-Out. I had a yummy cheeseburger. He probably thought I was crazy for bringing in my sustainable water bottle, instead of just getting a cup. Whatever. Anyways, little did I know this was the first step in a long journey.

Through this lunch, I became involved with the youth program on Sunday mornings at my church. I was going to be a small group leader. I was excited to stretch my strengths and try new things. All my work has been with college students. This was a chance to work with a different age group. Yay!

In the fall, the youth program started up after a summer hiatus. At first, I still didn’t care to connect to the other leaders. I would talk to them and stuff. One week we went to frozen yogurt, and that was cool. But overall. Bleh. Then this guy named Chris came along and shook things up. Micah told us to all go to lunch together and brainstorm some ideas for games to play before the youth service started. So we went to lunch. The discussion was legit. And fun.

The next week, Chris was all “let’s go to lunch!” I was like “eh. okay. sure. whatever” and went. Then the next week, he was like “let’s go to lunch” and I was like “yeah. alright.” Slowly, it became a regular thing. It was no longer “let’s go to lunch,” now the question has become “where’re we going to lunch?”

In fact, I now have a church family. I am involved as a volunteer at my church. I go to lunch every week after church. In fact, in a way, I have accepted this and planned it into my life. It is the weekly thing. Go to church. Hang out with awesome jr. high and high school students. Lead discussions. Have fun. Go to lunch. Be there ’til 4pm-ish.

I spend all week looking forward to hanging out on Sunday afternoons with Chris, Erika, Amy, Kelsey, Seth, and sometimes Lisa-Marie. Even Micah, Erica and Josiah would join us. A few times, we were even joined by Andy, the church pastor. I look forward to it so much that I’ve started getting coffee with Chris during the week.

I didn’t realize how much this meant to me until today. Chris and Erika were out of town. I felt a little bit of an empty spot and I realized how much my church family meant to me. In fact, as I was talking to Amy today about going to Grad School in August-ish, I realized that in just a few short months, I’m going to miss this family I’ve become a part of. I’m going to miss them a lot.

So I wanted to share a bit of that with you.

My Story: Chris

January 28, 2011 — Leave a comment

A new reality tv show has been released. A new episode every week for 5 weeks.

Annual Goal Setting

January 3, 2011 — 2 Comments

I just got this from Andy VomSteeg, Senior Pastor at New Vintage Church. We’re going to talk about this later this month at an all-day staff retreat. Cant’ wait!

Annual Goal setting
Questions that can guide you in your 2010 review and 2011 goal setting.
Consider the following areas as you answer these questions:

  • Physical
  • Emotional
  • Mental
  • Spiritual
  • Financial
  • Family
  • Community
  • Service
  • Fun
  • Creativity
  • Recreation
COMPLETING AND REMEMBERING 2010
Review your list of all completed projects
What was your biggest triumph in 2010?
What was the smartest decision you made in 2010?
What one word best sums up and describes your 2010 experience?
What was the greatest lesson you learned in 2010?
What was the most loving service you performed in 2010?
What is your biggest piece of unfinished business in 2010?
What are you most happy about completing in 2010?
Who were the three people that had the greatest impact on your life in 2010?
What was the biggest risk you took in 2010?
What was the biggest surprise in 2010?
What important relationship improved the most in 2010?
What compliment would you liked to have received in 2010?
What compliment would you liked to have given in 2010?
What else do you need to do or say to be complete with 2010?

CREATING THE NEW YEAR
What would you like to be your biggest triumph in 2011?
What advice would you like to give yourself in 2011?
What is the major effort you are planning to improve your financial results in 2011?
What would you be most happy about completing in 2011?
What major indulgence are you willing to experience in 2011?
What would you most like to change about yourself in 2011?
What are you looking forward to learning in 2011?
What do you think your biggest risk will be in 2011?
What about your work, are you most committed to changing and improving in 2011?
What is one as yet undeveloped talent you are willing to explore in 2011?
What brings you the most joy and how are you going to do or have more of that in 2011?
Who or what, other than yourself, are you most committed to loving and serving in 2011?
What one word would you like to have as your theme in 2011?

Anybody want to do this with me?