Inside this issue:

The Gospel in the Bay Area

Ministering on the USS COLE

The Kingdom Campaign

Reaching Today’s Culture

The San Francisco Bay area has never experienced a major spiritual revival. Today, six recent PCA church plants are seeing the work of the Holy Spirit.

MNA:  Reaching North America with the Gospel...
to Reach the World

Winter 2001/2002


The Gospel in the Bay Area

The Gospel is Bringing New Life to the San Francisco Bay Area

When gold was discovered at Sutters Mill on January 24, 1848, the sleepy hamlet of San Francisco had 820 residents. Almost overnight, it was transformed as thousands of people arrived from around the world to seek their fortune. By 1849 the gold mines were exhausted, but San Francisco had become a city of millionaires with a population of 40,000. Since then, people with a hunger for riches have continued to come to this “city by the bay.”

Today, PCA churches in the bay area are promising riches of the secure kind — the riches of Christ — to an extremely secular population, which now numbers about 8 million. In the central city of this region, Fred Harrell started City Church of San Francisco after he was called to establish an anchor church that would launch a church planting movement. Arriving in August, 1996 with his wife, Terely, three children, and a few potential prospects, he started a Bible study.

Fred describes San Francisco as “a city on the edge where people come to make it in their career pursuits and explore alternative worldviews.” He says, “It is much like Corinth in the first century — a bustling, prosperous seaport city. In fact, our context is much like that of many of the urban church plants we read about in the New Testament.”

City Church’s philosophy of ministry is built on the belief that the Gospel should be central to everything it does and should always be comprehensible to seekers, as well as to those who are skeptical or unsure of what they believe.

As Fred puts it, “I think we have a biblical mandate to explain and apply the historic Gospel without any of the Christian sub-culture jargon that so easily confuses and even offends the uninitiated. At City Church, we assume that non-Christians are present at every event. We want our services to be so insightful, welcoming, and beautiful that believers will think, this is what I want my non-Christian friends to hear, and this is how I want them to hear it.”

The church’s teaching combines intellectual depth with intense practicality, so that life’s deepest issues are dealt with honestly and with the fullness of the historic Christian message. Its community groups, which involve 75 percent of the congregation, build relationships, promote spiritual growth, and develop leadership.

City Church employs a variety of means to bring people in contact with the Gospel. One example is open forums, a concept first used by Redeemer Presbyterian in Manhattan. These forums, usually held at night, focus on a topic of broad appeal, such as sexuality or success, examining it through music, a lecture, and a time of questions and answers. There have been startling conversions as a result.

When it comes to missions and mercy ministry, City Church is clearly committed. Through its Shepherd Ministry, members assist AIDS hospices by providing meals. They volunteer with social service agencies in the area, and participate in short-term missions outside the country. Equally committed to church planting, the congregation allocates a tenth of its budget to missions that emphasize church planting and, during its brief history, has partnered with PCA church plants in San Diego, Oakland, Silicon Valley, Seattle, Vancouver, and Harlem.

Even though San Francisco’s first roots were planted by Roman Catholics in the 18th century with the establishment of Mission San Francis de Asis, and many Roman Catholic churches dot the landscape, the city has never experienced broad scale revival. Nonetheless, there are evidences that the Holy Spirit is now at work.

“There’s nothing new or tricky going on here,” Fred explains. “It’s simply the power of the historic Gospel in action — the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes.”

Since the mid-nineties, five other PCA churches have been planted in the bay area, and they are applying a similar philosophy of ministry in reaching out to communities where Christians represent a small minority. Each of these congregations is committed to planting additional churches.

For example, Grace Presbyterian in Palo Alto which was started by Drew Field. Drew began his career as an investment banker in Manhattan, where he became active at Redeemer Presbyterian, and then was called to the ministry. After completing seminary, Drew was sent to the West Coast by Redeemer to plant a church.

Because of the economic downturn in this area, things have changed dramatically since Drew arrived in August, 2000. “It has been tough for the people here, but also humbling. And that has drawn people together. We’re a close congregation — people typically hang around for an hour or so after the service just to talk .”

At Redeemer Presbyterian in Santa Rosa, mercy ministry is a key theme and includes personal participation as well as financial support (one offering per month is given to mercy ministries). Members volunteer with a variety of community services, such as the local soup kitchen, clothing and food giveaways, a rescue mission, and a crisis pregnancy center. Benefactors of these ministries have been drawn to the church.

“As we see it, this church is a mission,” explains church planter Mike Hayes, “and we’ve been able to reach a wide range of lifestyles, incomes, and ethnic groups. We emphasize messages that are redemptive as well as Gospel-oriented, and we avoid cultural issues that would be lost on the people we want to reach. We’re missionaries to the community and thankful that we’ve seen conversions regularly.”

In Oakland, church planter Lewis Ruff started All Nations Presbyterian in April 2000 and has seen many conversions since then. This past September, All Nations moved to a church building to accommodate a growing children’s attendance. In October, members produced a weekend arts and music festival with a strong multicultural essence, offering a colorful array of music groups and art exhibits. “Our purpose was not only to draw attention to the church, but also to reaffirm our commitment to the mix of cultures in our community,” Lewis explained.

Two church planting apprentices have been associated with All Nations, one who will begin an Asian church and the other a Hispanic church elsewhere in California. (Continued on page 5.)

New Church-Berkeley has attracted hundreds of unbelievers to weeknight worship services held in a public auditorium.

Allan Collister started New Church-Berkeley in 1995 in a community notorious for liberal thought. “We figure,” says Allan, “if people see the Lord working here, many will be impressed and drawn to the church.”

Sermons are centered around the saving grace of Christ, and conclude with an invitation. “There have been many who have decided to put their faith in Christ — including Muslims, Jews, and Buddhists,” Allan points out. Although it is difficult to find appropriate places in Berkeley to meet for worship, the church found larger space last summer, and attendance has grown.

In the wine country of California, church planter Dave Swavely started Faith Presbyterian in 1999 to reach Sonoma and nearby Napa. The church meets in Sonoma, where only two-tenths of one percent of the population attends an evangelical church.

Faith Presbyterian began with eight families who wanted to establish a PCA church in the area and, from the beginning, has been self supporting. “God has truly blessed this church and brought together very generous people,” says Dave. “As a result, we can be generous with our giving to overseas missions and mercy ministries.”

Dave has lived in the area for five years and built an excellent reputation as a biblical counselor, serving people both in and out of the church. “Through counseling, I’ve seen the Lord resolve the most complex problems, everything from troubled marriages to almost lifelong drug addictions.”

 


City Church’s congregation of about 500 reflects the area’s population mix: i.e., diverse cultures and backgrounds and many well educated professionals. Some have had bad experiences with churches, but have discovered the truth of the Gospel here. Numerous conversions and renewals of faith have taken place.

 

In Palo Alto, the center of the Silicon Valley and home of Stanford University, Drew Field leads a Gospel-centered church reaching high-tech professionals as well as grad students. In about two years, he anticipates the launch of Reformed University Fellowship on the Stanford campus.

 


Lake Merritt, Oakland, CA

 


In Oakland, a city of 400,000 across the bay from San Francisco, All Nations Presbyterian serves a multicultural congregation of about 150. Members represent a variety of lifestyles, from struggling artists to high-income dot com professionals. Most are in their 20s and 30s, singles as well as couples.

 

In Santa Rosa, the heart of wine country 50 miles north of San Francisco, Mike Hayes has been leading Redeemer Presbyterian since 1995. Worship services average about 300 people who represent a cross-section of the community.

 


Seated left to right, bay area church planters: Lewis Ruff, All Nations Presbyterian, Oakland; Allan Collister, New Church-Berkeley; Fred Harrell, City Church of San Francisco; Mike Hayes, Redeemer Presbyterian, Santa Rosa; Drew Field, Grace Presbyterian, Palo Alto. Standing, left to right, City Church staff: Vince Strawbridge, youth coordinator; Vicki Dunton, administrative assistant; Steven Starfas, worship arts assistant; Jonathan Gilley, director of worship arts; John Haralson, associate pastor.

 

In the city of Berkeley, with a population of about 122,000, the culture revolves around the university, which is noted for liberal thought. Here, Allan Collister started New Church-Berkeley, which has attracted many graduate students to its congregation of some 400.

 

 

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Ministering on the USS COLE

Reprinted here are abridged excerpts of an article PCA chaplain George Ridgeway wrote about his experience aboard the USS COLE. The complete article appeared in a Navy publication.

“This was not an act of cowardice, this was a calculated act of war by a determined enemy.” Those were the words of Vice Admiral Charles W. Moore, Jr., spoken on the fantail of the USS COLE one day after it was severely damaged by a terrorist attack while moored to a refueling dolphin in the port of Aden, Yemen. Seventeen sailors were dead, with eight remains buried in the blast wreckage. Forty-two were wounded — most of them had been evacuated to hospitals. Chaplain Mike Mikstay and I stood among this crew that had become our cherished flock. Tension was extremely high as the threat of additional attacks had not been ruled out.

Although we’d had little sleep, we were wide awake when we arrived at the COLE. Sleeping sailors were strewn about the flight-deck, wrapped in gray blankets. The whole ship smelled of the explosive residue that covered everything. What followed was a week of counseling and pastoral care that I will never forget. My children are the same ages as most of these crew members. Their pain was very real to me.

The situation was particularly challenging for ministry because it was a hostile terrorist attack, not an accident. The ship and crew remained in “enemy territory” where the ongoing threat felt very real. The sailors were haunted by worries of small boat or swimmer attack, sniper fire from the cliffs above the harbor, and even poisoning through locally purchased food.…prayer and encouragement helped them gather strength to carry on.

Get the Whole Story: for a copy of the complete article by chaplain Ridgeway, contact the MNA Chaplain Ministries office: 912-877-5157 or mnaguardian@pcanet.org


MNA Chaplain Ministries sponsored a breakfast at the PCA General Assembly last June where many PCA chaplains gathered with MNA Chaplain Ministries Coordinator Dave Peterson and other PCA leaders.

Literature to Share: PCA chaplains often find their budgets inadequate to cover the cost of Christian literature to share with troops. If you or your church are interested in helping fund this need, please respond via phone or email (see above).

PCA Chaplain George Ridgeway, a commander in the US Navy, was stationed in Bahrain when terrorists attacked the USS COLE in nearby Yemen last year. A military chaplain for 15 years, he was one of three chaplains who ministered aboard ship the day after the attack. He has recently returned to the US.

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The Kingdom Campaign

   

Benefits of the Kingdom Campaign: Since MNA Church Vitality, led by Coordinator Archie Parrish, introduced the Kingdom Campaign last year, a number of PCA churches have reaped the benefits. Among them is Kirk of the Hills, St. Louis, MO, whose ruling elder, Charles Waldron, was lead speaker at the Church Vitality luncheon at General Assembly. Charles praised the campaign for its powerful impact, saying, “Focused prayer has affected our church, our session, my life, and my family — it has changed us. Prayer is no longer a duty, but a delight…kingdom-focused prayer is not about a program, it is about power.” He encouraged listeners to consider conducting kingdom-focused prayer training in their churches.

Crossroads Community Church, Upper Darby, PA, where Tim Witmer is senior pastor, also experienced gratifying results after Archie conducted a three-day kingdom-focused prayer training program for this congregation of about 260.

“Our congregation is enthusiastic about the campaign and more focused on prayer,” says Dave Van Meerbeke, associate pastor. “It has certainly helped me personally. Best of all, we’ve seen an increase in the number of conversions.”

At Crossroads, Tim and Dave and other church leaders head up “fire teams,” which meet monthly for accountability and discipleship. These teams will multiply as participants spin off to establish additional groups. Shortly before Easter, as a means of further emphasizing its commitment to focused prayer, the church held a 24-hour prayer vigil which drew a large number of participants.

 

 


The topic of the MNA Church Vitality luncheon at PCA General Assembly was the Kingdom Campaign, which Church Vitality coordinator, Archie Parrish, hopes will motivate 120 people in 120 churches in 120 communities across North America to participate in kingdom-focused prayer. Training about how to implement a prayer program is conducted at
individual churches and provides necessary resources and strategies. Participants are urged to pray an hour each day for the church and its leaders and to meet monthly for accountability and discipleship.


Crossroads Community Church, 
Upper Darby, PA

 

 

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Reaching Today’s Culture


At the General Assembly Church Planting Breakfast last June, Tim Keller, senior pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian, Manhattan, talked about how the church can successfully communicate with an increasingly secular and multiethnic population. Stressing the importance of reaching the culture as it has become, he advocated talking the language of the culture, rather than the “in house” language of the church, and becoming more evangelistic than ever.

Among the PCA churches reporting at the event who exemplify this philosophy were Providence Community Church in Victoria, BC, led by Scott Rich, and Divine Providence Mission, Laredo, TX, led by Carlos Ireta.

The church in Victoria serves a community where most people are unchurched and where witchcraft, New Age, and other cults are strong. Through intense community involvement, relationship building, and opportunities for church involvement which attract unbelievers, Providence has seen quite a few conversions.

The Laredo church serves Hispanics in this growing border city. In spite of a strong Roman Catholic heritage, 80 percent of the population is unchurched and not knowledgeable of the Gospel. Carlos reaches them by stressing the truth of God’s Word.

 


Tim Keller, senior pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian, Manhattan, spoke at the breakfast. The church planters who also gave testimonies were, above, left: Carlos Ireta and his wife, Adela, Divine Providence, Laredo, TX; and Scott Rich, Providence Community Church, Victoria, BC.

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