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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




At Two Cities Church we have six staff values. They are a basic agreement, a basic way of operation for loud our staff. These are commitments we’ve made to each other and God and we believe that these values will help shape the culture we hope to continue to build. We didn’t make these up. We borrowed them from North Point Ministries in Atlanta, GA because we’ve seen them create exactly what we feel every community needs. That is, a church that unchurched people love to attend all for the purpose of leading people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ.

These values are hard to live out. As soon as we put these on paper, they began to be challenged by our circumstances. In particular, the one staff value that has been the most challenging is Remain open-handed.

We have had the amazing company of fantastic couples who believe in the mission of Jesus Christ, as expressed through Two Cities Church. But the job market in Fresno and Clovis has not been good to us. There have been three critical and key couples who have had to move away due to job opportunities outside of our area. They all wanted to stay. They collectively applied to what seems like hundreds of jobs in our area, but ultimately got one somewhere else. They are now a part of our extended family!

Dale and Susy Cobb lived in Visalia and drove 45 minutes just to come to small group every week. They move to the central coast for a new job opportunity. Erica and I had the pleasure of having dinner with them a couple of months ago and we miss them.

Mauro and Chelsea DeBenedetto joined our team and a few months later he was hired on full-time as a worship pastor at a church in one of the out-lying Fresno communities. You can see Mauro’s baptism video here.

Eric and Tracy Bomgardner have been an essential part of Two Cities since we moved back to town from Santa Rosa, Ca. Eric recently accepted a job in the Seattle, WA area. Tracy is still in town for a few more months, but we already miss Eric at our services and groups. Eric remains on our board.

Chris and Lisa Hansen are our most recent couple to move. Chris left for Dallas, TX while Erica and I were recently on vacation. He has been on a job search for a long time. He got a great job in Texas and Lisa is moving out in a couple of weeks. We will miss them dearly.

It’s difficult to remain open-handed, but what choice do we have, right? These are circumstances beyond our control, like most things. Here’s what we know, every loss we experience in terms of people moving away is an opportunity for new people to step into a greater role. For example, Chris Hansen was leading our Guest Services team as a volunteer director. As soon as found out he got the job, we began to imagine who God might use to fill that role and I’m thankful to say that someone else has already stepped up. (More on that in a future post.)

Staff values are important because they help govern your responsiveness to challenge and they shape the culture you create. These are not statements on a piece of paper, these are guidelines to which we hold ourselves. And at this point, this one in particular, is difficult for us to live out… but we trust Christ, that His plan is being made perfect and He is motivating a host of people to get their hands dirty in the ditches of relationships and ministry at Two Cities Church. You might even be one of them.

If you’d like to know about our other five staff values, please leave a comment and I’ll be sure to post about those as well.