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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.

MicahFoster.net
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.

micahfoster.net
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

The following post is part of a series of guests posts from people involved with Two Cities Church. This post is written by Tim Douty. Tim is one of our group leaders, our band director and he is also on our board. Tim recently emailed me some thoughts and I asked him to expand on those thoughts and write a guest post for my blog. Thankfully, he agreed. Enjoy.

My wife and I are church planters.

I’m not sure if I ever imagined I’d say that about us, but I suppose that’s what you call it when you start a new church. A couple years ago, we, along with some close friends, felt a nudge or heard a call or sensed something – whatever phenomenon you want to call it. It was a moral imperative for us that could not be ignored. Start this church.

So about two years ago, we started meeting and getting people together around a specific vision. You see, we weren’t just going to start another church in Fresno and Clovis. These two cities that I have called home all my life do not need another church. They are filled with hundreds of great churches. I met my wife in one of these great churches. These churches are reaching people and helping people grow and they are making a difference in our community and around the world. We are not seeking to duplicate them or replace them. These cities need a different kind of church.

We are going after a completely different market.

We are creating a church that un-churched people would love to attend. This is a place where anyone, regardless of their previous experience with church or religion, could come and feel welcome and would find it so captivating and helpful that they would want to come back. It is a place where the life-long Christian like myself and the person who has never cracked open a Bible or knows any of the Christian songs or lingo would feel at home. This is a place where the good news of Jesus is presented without shame or reservation, but where all the clutter of religion is removed to make it clear and practical. This is a place where people who are curious about God, or have questions or doubts, or believe in something greater than themselves but have found traditional churches lacking can come.

We want to reach people that no one else is currently reaching.

We call this place Two Cities Church because we are for these two cities of Fresno and Clovis, as well as the whole Central Valley. We have friends and family members – names and faces of real people – that we want to introduce to Jesus. But these people are not currently attending church or they have had bad church experiences or have simply found organized religion irrelevant. These are who we want. We want the rejects, the down and outers, the underdogs. We want the imperfect, the have-nots, the ones who don’t have it all together.

Because Jesus is for everyone.

So the Church should be for everyone.

This is a daunting task for several reasons. In the traditional church world, most churches are planted by other churches. One church either outgrows its facility or wants to expand their influence so they get a group of people together and they send them. They put together volunteer teams, financial support, and they plant the new church.
Well, Two Cities is different.

No one is really sending us. We have not received a massive influx of cash or volunteers or attenders to start this thing. We are starting from scratch. We are starting this church from nothing but the vision God has given us and the relationships we have. We are sustained only by the people who give to the church and attend each month at our services and by those who come to our small groups. That’s it. It’s a daunting, and at times lonely process.

In effect, we have started something from nothing.

But we are in good company.

In Romans 4, the apostle Paul writes about the faith that Abraham had. Even if you’re not religious, odds are you have heard of Abraham before. In the book of Genesis, you can read his story. God makes a covenant with him, an agreement, and he promises that he will make him a great nation and that from his children will come generations of people that will follow the one true God. Sounds great right?

Except Abraham didn’t have any children.

His wife, Sarah, was barren. And by the time God makes this outrageous promise to him, he was old and incapable of fathering any children anyway. In regards to the promise to father a great nation, Abraham had nothing. There were no kids, and there were no fertility doctors or medical procedures to attempt. As far as Abraham was concerned, it was hopeless.

But in Romans 4, Paul writes that Abraham still believed God in spite of what the circumstances told him. Paul says that Abraham believed God even though there was no earthly reason to do so. And because of his faith, God honored Abraham, gave him right standing with God, and honored his promise. Abraham became a great nation, in fact founding what would become the nation of Israel.

In telling this story in his letter to the Romans, Paul makes a startling phrase about God. This is a phrase that I could not gloss over when I read it recently. I had to stop because it was so astounding.

He says that Abraham became the father of many nations because “Abraham believed in the God who brings back the dead to life and who creates new things out of nothing” (v. 17, NLT).

I love that line. It’s almost as if the defining characteristics of God is a.) he brings back the dead to life and b.) he creates new things out of nothing.

After reading this, I immediately thought: that’s us. That’s Two Cities Church. There was nothing, and then, through a vision that God gave us, suddenly there was something. I also immediately thought of people I know who have experienced this amazing characteristic of God’s character in their own lives. I have seen God bring dead things back to life. I have seen marriages that were dead that God resurrected. I have seen futures given new life after it was believed they were gone forever. We have seen dead relationships with siblings and friends revived. We have seen families created from noting. We have seen impossible diagnoses miraculously healed. We have seen lives that were dead turned around by the incredible grace of God. And we have seen God take nothingness and turn it into something incredible.

We are Two Cities Church, and in this phase of growing, praying, waiting, pressing in, we know that at the same time we are in the exact center of God’s will for us. Because the God we serve is a God who makes something out of nothing, who takes dead things and gives them new life. He did it for me, he’s doing it for many others, and he’s doing it through Two Cities Church.


 

Stacy and I worked together at a local church several years ago. She was always helpful and supportive as the communications specialist on staff there. Allison, 14, has been a great volunteer and she perfectly expresses the vision of Two Cities Church in this month’s #WeAreTwoCities video. I’m so glad that they have jumped on board with Two Cites and when I ask myself the question, “What would go undone if Two Cities didn’t exist?” – These are the stories that keep me going. I hope you enjoy watching the story of Stacy and Allison.

Enjoy their #WeAreTwoCities story to find out why they’re so excited about Two Cities. [Can’t see the video? Click here.]

Meet Dennis and Bev Wyman. We showed their story this past Sunday at Two Cities Church. Dennis and Bev are a vital part of our team at Two Cities Church. Bev volunteers in the Children’s Ministry check-in area and Dennis serves on our Guest Services team. In addition they are a part of our Monday evening Launch Group at my home.

Enjoy their #WeAreTwoCities story below. [Can’t see the video? Click here.]

Click for more #WeAreTwoCities Videos.

Meet Donny and Amy

April 8, 2014 — Leave a comment

Meet Donny and Amy. We showed their story this past Sunday at Two Cities Church. Donny and Amy are a vital part of our team at Two Cities Church. Amy volunteers as a small group leader for 2-year-old kids in Waumba Land and Donny serves on our Service Programming Team running our graphics for the screens.

Enjoy their #WeAreTwoCities story below. [Can’t see the video? Click here.]

“We need a church where people feel comfortable going. Two Cities is that church where anybody can come in and feel like they’re ok being there.” – Amy
“These people care, they want you to be welcome and they want you to be a part of their lives” – Donny

Click for more #WeAreTwoCities Videos.

Step Up[date]

December 15, 2013 — Leave a comment

[Summary of What’s below: Update on our Step Up Campaign, What We Hope for in 2014, How You Can Help Get Push This Vision Forward]step up letterhead
Update
Here’s a quick update last post on our end-of-year Step Up campaign. Let me remind of you our goals for this campaign.

  • $10,000 in one-time gifts
  • $4,000 pledged in increased monthly giving starting in Jan 2014

As of this moment we are still in need of:

  • $8,620.63 in one-time gifts
  • $3,550 pledged in increased monthly giving starting in Jan 2014

What we Hope for in 2014
But here’s the deal. We don’t need the money to sustain what we’ve been doing. We’re not in maintenance mode. We want to step up the implementation of our mission and vision. To lead people into a growing relationship with Jesus Christ by creating a church that unchurched people love to attend.

Here’s what the cash from this campaign enables us to do:

  • Hire a Service Programming Director – The person in charge of the adult worship experience from the parking lot to the stage.
  • Increase service frequency from 1x monthly to every 3 weeks, then every other week, then every week. [The rate at which this increases is determined by increasing volunteerism, giving, inviting and involvement with small groups.]
  • Pay off the credit we owe to our credit card, due to the purchase of our equipment and trailer.
  • Pay for our December events (KidStuf Christmas Edition and Christmas Night of Worship).
  • Give us a little margin entering 2014 for the unexpected expenses we’ll face.

In 2014, we will:

  • Open UpStreet (K-6th grade environment) – in January we will have a BETA version open!
  • Continue to grow Waumba Land – it was doubled between our first two services
  • Host every week services by mid fall 2014
  • Increase our engagement with each other through more group opportunities
  • Increase our engagement with each other through our Strategic Service teams

In 2014, we hope to:

  • Hire some of our key volunteer staff
  • Create a Starting Point group for seekers, starters and returners
  • Continue baptizing people
  • Increase our community impact by partnering with local non-profits that are getting it done

*In 2014 we will receive $25,000 in matching funds from Growing Healthy Churches. Some of this end-of-year campaign will qualify us to receive some of those funds*

Push the Vision forward:
So, here’s how you can help us reach our goals for this campaign.

1. Give or increase giving, monthly
2. Give a one-time gift (tax deductible for 2013) online
, by mail (1865 Herndon Ave K304, Clovis, Ca 93611) or in person at our Christmas Night of Worship
3. Invite your friends, family, co-workers and neighbors to our events, like these (KidStuf Christmas Edition and Christmas Night of Worship)
4. Join a launch group (small group) in January
5. Join a Strategic Service team, just let us know at our next event

You may think, “I can’t afford much, so it’s not that big of a difference.” Every penny matters, every act of faith is significant. When you give, you’re not just saying, “I want to support this.” You’re saying, “I trust God to do something significant with this.” It’s an opportunity to grow in your relationship with Jesus… which is accomplishing our mission.

Let’s Step Up together so that Two Cities Church can Step it Up!

One Small Step…

December 2, 2013 — 1 Comment

The life of a church plant goes through many phases or steps.
Here are just a few, off the top of my head.

Prayer/Exploration:
A person or collection of people feel a call, pray about it, seek counsel and explore the options.
Decision:
A person or collection of people make the final decision and begin to talk about it with a selective group of people.
Build:
A team of people begin to form around the call to build that church. I’m not talking about a physical building, I’m talking about a body of people. That’s what the church is… a body of people.
Pre-Launch:
That team begins to hold small gatherings of interested people to share the vision.
Pre-View:
That team begins holding semi-regular “glimpses” into what the church services will be like. (This is where we are at) Those glimpses increase in frequency over time, as cash-flow increases.
Launch:
That team and the people who have come around the vision of the church start “every-week” services.
Continued Growth:
The years and decades to follow impacting the community, country and world.

This probably isn’t every church plant’s story. But it’s ours.
I’m getting comments left and right from people who have come to our services saying these three things.

I love Two Cities, it feels like home.

I just wish it was every Sunday.

We’ll be there when the elementary environment (UpStreet) is open!

So here’s where we’re at:

In order to increase our service frequency and open up UpStreet, we need to increase The 4 Things:

  • Percentage Giving:
    The amount of people giving a consistent amount every month needs to increase by at least $4,000 a month. In addition to the increase in monthly giving we have a goal of raising an extra 10K at the end of 2013. That money will be used to pay the last couple grand owed for our portable church system (credit card), various insurance plans we’ve recently started, events we’re holding in December and give us a little margin with which to begin 2014.
  • Strategic Service:
    The amount of people serving needs to increase.
  • Authentic Community:
    As we grow, we need to continue to create small environments, groups, that meet in living rooms.
  • Invest & Invite:
    Investing in the people around us and invite them to come to a service or event.

So, how can you help? Take one small step today.
Give regularly online, let me know you’d like to serve on a team, join a group in January and invite everyone you know to come and see what Two Cities Church is all about.