San Francisco is widely reported as one of the most unchurched cities in America. But something is happening there.
Four years ago, I reported on Reality Church, an exciting new church in the city. I ended the article by quoting Reality’s senior pastor, Dave Lomas,
I’m very optimistic for the future in San Francisco. I see people in our church living out the call of Christ in the city. They are genuinely excited about being a part of something God is doing. I think that we haven’t even scratched the surface of what God can do here
God is certainly at work in the city.
Recently, I have become acquainted with an amazing new church – Hillsong San Francisco — with growth that would spark the envy of any in San Francisco’s start-up high-tech community.
On October 21, Hillsong celebrated its first anniversary by hosting four church services with over 1,200 people in attendance. Regular weekly attendance averages between 800 and 1,000 people. To put those numbers in perspective, half of the US churches average fewer than 75 people in attendance.
Numbers are only part of the story. The church attracts an ethnically diverse congregation, of all ages from babies to seniors, with my observation that the most concentrated age group is predominately 16-40 years old – an age group that some experts say have given up on church.
While most of the worshippers were from the city, Pastor Brenden Brown notes that worshippers at Hillsong SF travel from as far away as San Ramon and Walnut Creek to the East, San Jose to the South, and Marin County to the North, and even Sacramento, which is a two-hour drive from the church.
Its worship gathering is celebratory, lively, and dynamic with some people pouring to the front of the stage dancing to contemporary praise songs and, along with others, raising hands in adoration to more reflective, slower worship songs. Others were on the knees singing their hearts out.
I just love that God is building a church here. He is building a home with people, not just an institution. It’s a house of God. It’s a family. It’s a church. And that’s why we say this is a church to see people come home. To see the sick healed, to see the broken restored. To see those who are separated reconciled. To see those that are lost to be found. To those without hope find hope and community!
Hillsong SF is more than lively worship gatherings. It encourages its people not just to hear God’s Word but to understand and practice it. The church has spawned a vibrant small group ministry called “Connect Groups” with small groups meeting not just in San Francisco, but all over the Bay Area – even as far away as Sacramento.
Hillsong SF engages its people in ministering to the homeless and disadvantaged, many of whom are within steps of where the church meets on Sundays, currently on Van Ness Avenue, between Bush and Sutter.
The church is, of course, part of the Hillsong worldwide community of churches that was started in Sydney Australia in 1983 by Pastor Brian Houston and his wife, Bobbie. Hillsong is best known for its music with popular worship recordings from groups like Hillsong Worship that has had several songs that topped the Billboard Magazine charts.
Today, Hillsong is now in 21 Countries, on six continents and has 80 churches worldwide. Hillsong SF is one of its most recent campuses – one that is off to a great start, helping transform the lives of young people as well as the homeless and disadvantaged.
The church’s “Welcome Home” sign at the entrance of the church aptly describes it personality and desire to serve the community as a family.
Currently, worship services are every Sunday at 11:00 am and 6:00 pm at 1300 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco.