Nearly two years ago a unique group of Christ followers came together, asking the question: What would it be like to help catalyze a holistic Gospel movement in the Bay Area?
Nearly two years ago, when this group of Christ-followers, who were in the business world and in the church world formed a board — TBC was born. It isn’t often that business folk and church leaders come together, much less STAY together. But this vision was so compelling it formed a kind of binding agent. The hope was that God’s Kingdom would gain ground in this area that at first glance seemed to have little of it.
For all of us that live in the San Francisco Bay Area, it is a Tale of Two Cities. It is a truly remarkable place that has had a magnetic pull on us…that’s why we’re here. The creativity, innovation and opportunity are nearly unparalleled in history. The entrepreneurial spirit is celebrated; new and amazing companies seem to start every twelve seconds.
The natural beauty here and radiating out a few hours is staggering….from Big Sur to Tahoe, to Yosemite, Marin, San Francisco and all places in between, there are places of jaw-dropping, awe-inspiring splendor. The food is organic, plentiful and delicious.
In many ways it is a spiritual desert. Depending on your sources, church attendance hovers between 4-10%. The amount of people who identify themselves as Christians is lower than almost any other place in our country.
Success is worshipped, and the gods are only as good as their last IPO. The constant hum you hear is the turning of the hamster wheel that at first looks inviting, but soon is consuming and nearly impossible to get off of.
Our children our stressed, we are busy all the time, and the fear of what the answer might be to “what is this all for?” is so terrifying, that few pause to ask.
11 Counties, 256 cities/towns, 7.8 million people…that is the Bay Area. And within that, nearly 15% of our children are living below the poverty line. In this land of influence and innovation, a staggering 51% of our third-graders are not reading at grade level. There are over 7200 foster kids waiting for a permanent home.
And yet, our affluence places us at $95K/year for a family household average income…landing us squarely in the top 1% in the world. And out of that great affluence, the average charitable contribution per household is under 3%.
A Tale of Two Cities, indeed.
It is a place groaning for God’s Kingdom. Waiting for, as Jesus put it, the disproportionate impact of small things. The explosive life contained in a seed. The infusion of flavor that comes from a sprinkle of salt. The hope from a single shaft of light in a dark place. The expansion in a slab of dough from a few grains of yeast.
Unify. What if those who follow Christ, actually knew each other? Imagine what might happen if Christ followers who lead efforts in all areas of culture, began to chip away at the walls that divide us, and have the courage to step over the rubble and come together?
What if instead of comparing or ignoring, there was knowing and loving? Might something exponential be possible?
What if barriers were replaced with connections, and we prayed, imagined and strategized together? What if we learned together, and then came back a while later and learned together some more…might that be a small thing that is capable, over time, of the kind of disproportionate impact of God’s Kingdom?
Amplify. Everyone I know whose heart races at the thoughts above knows this…as bleak as it seems, it doesn’t take long to realize that Jesus is already at work, even in the Bay Area. Even in this discouraging spiritual landscape, it doesn’t take long to see that Jesus is at work in and through his people. Christ-followers are tackling education, poverty, homelessness and anti-trafficking challenges. Churches are taking seriously the call to disciple people, to cross denominational divides. Individuals are taking seriously the ‘theology of neighboring.’
Is it possible that there are ways to spotlight, accelerate, catalyze and foster these efforts? For people to SEE the kingdom before they are asked to RESPOND to the kingdom. For the apologetic of serving to become the ‘tip of the spear.’ For people in the Bay Area to see ‘dents’ being made in social ills….dents so deep that the light shines through. Dents so deep that people are surprised that God’s people are the ones leading the efforts. Dents so deep that people ask ‘why?’ And the answer is Jesus.
Multiply. What if the ‘ecosystem’ of the Bay Area was such that new church start- ups grew deep roots and ‘stuck’? What if there was a kind of ‘connective tissue’ supporting these efforts, in all forms: urban churches, multi-site churches, folks meeting at the companies they work for worship/fellowship, house churches….
What if new church start-ups began to think about multiplication not in three to ten years, but from the moment of inception…if the DNA of the church was one that planted soon and often?
Here’s why I think it’s possible: I’ve seen it. In all three of these categories. Not in fully mature ways, but in glimpses. I’ve seen unity in the Rohnert Park/Santa Rosa area that took my breath away. I’ve seen serving efforts in the Dublin/Livermore valley that are spreading and gaining strength, inspiring others toward what is possible. I’ve seen church start-ups in Oakland, San Mateo and Salinas, who should not have, at least ‘on paper’ made it…and they are solid, flourishing and working toward replicating.
Great things always start with small things. And when those small things bump up against each other, they ignite and move toward tipping point. That is the vision of God’s Kingdom even in this place…doing together what we cannot even imagine, in the power of Jesus. Please join us on Saturday, January 9…at Epic Church in San Francisco.
Article by Nancy Ortberg, TBC CEO