By Carl Stagner
“This definitely isn’t the Bible Belt,” Pastor Mike Moberg explains, as he considers the unique aspects of the prevailing culture in San Francisco. “But when you find yourself saying somebody ought to do something, it’s kind of a dangerous thing.” Mike and his wife Ann began ministering at the Church of God in San Francisco, California, in 1994, and haven’t let up since. While it’s not glamorous spreading the gospel in the city of the Golden Gate, it’s certainly of eternal significance. Like other urban ministry centers, Church of God Outpost struggles for income and attendance, yet celebrates stories of life change you won’t hear anywhere else. This San Francisco ministry team isn’t concerned about a full house, however; they’ve realized they were the ones God was calling to be bold and offer grace to the “least of these.”
At first, there was San Francisco First Church of God, founded in 1906. That wasn’t enough. Pastor Mike and Ann wanted to do more, and more needed to be done. They began hosting groups for short-term mission work in their home and at the church. Providing necessary services for the church’s outreach, and offering groups of youth and adults the chance to experience urban missions, the San Francisco Mission Outpost brought the church to its present location in the heart of the city. Offering a third service to the community, the church began investing in the children of the community through Crossroads Ministries. Now the Church of God in San Francisco is one, but one in three transformative expressions.
“We had to think outside of the box,” Mike explains. “The people that attend our church are the last and the lost and the least. And you really can’t depend on a tithing base. It’s a loaves-and-fishes experience, but God has provided, even when it seemed impossible to move forward.” The mission was launched as an outpost—intentionally named as a halted command to protect against advances of the enemy. Since the first group came in 2000, this outpost has not only served to protect against the dark forces of evil, but also to go a step further and take back what hell has stolen. Perhaps that’s why they’re so driven to leave the ninety-nine for the one lost sheep.
“It’s a slow process with conversions and baptisms,” Mike reflects. “Helping people with mental issues, addiction issues, earning the right to speak into their lives. A lot of times, people enter the church and later relapse, but when they finally turn the corner, it’s an amazing, miraculous thing!”
Mike tells of one who was struggling with drug abuse to the brink of death. This “walking zombie,” as Mike described him, has now been completely clean and sober for two years. Now he’s serving on the board! So is one who was involved in the gay lifestyle.
“We have people coming in from time to time that may be transgender, transsexual, or gay,” Mike explains. “They feel welcome here. We try to love them. You may see a guy coming in wearing a dress, and the tendency may be want to put them in a pair of pants, but we have to love them. Even though we’re preaching biblical standards, they feel loved, so they often stay. And we’ve earned the right to speak the truth to them.”
A unique advantage of the Church of God Outpost in San Francisco is its ability to reach neighbors through a congregation that lives among the poorest of the poor. Whether they live on the street or in residential hotels, they are proving to be salt and light. In the way that they live and love, they’re being Jesus to people the traditional church has a hard time reaching. Urban residents know they have a neighborhood church that is there for them, and though the church won’t compromise on principles, grace is abundant. “Some of our Crossroads children that started in 1995 have gotten into drugs, others have even been killed,” Mike reflects. “But they were given life skills and opportunities they wouldn’t have had if they’d gone the direction of their peers. And as they’ve gotten older, some have come back to us because they know they have a neighborhood church. From time to time, we’ve had bullets come through the building. It’s not as bad as it was, and we still have difficulties, but it’s our neighborhood.”
Anderson University and Warner Pacific College, as well as student ministries groups and adult groups have experienced urban ministry in San Francisco through Church of God Outpost. For more information on how you can schedule such an experience, visit www.sfmo.org.
Were you blessed by reading this story? Support the ongoing work of Church of God Ministries with your gift to the World Ministry Fund at http://www.jesusisthesubject.org/world-ministry-fund/.