Extending ministries

San Francisco Is Ripe for Harvest

Partners with the President with Mike Edwards and Andrew Hoffman.

The Bay Area has held a special place in my heart since my family and I moved to San Jose, California, in 1993 to serve as senior pastor of Hillside Church (EFCA). I’ve shared countless meals with families and friends there, witnessing the transformational power of the gospel firsthand in this region. Though my roots are in Minnesota (and now two of my sons are pastors there), I live in San Jose today and consider it my home.

As president of the EFCA, I’ve connected with district superintendents, pastors and churches in the Bay Area, hearing their stories of the deep need for the gospel. God has a compassionate heart for the people of San Francisco and the surrounding region, and the EFCA is urgently and boldly answering the call to send more missionaries and people with the gift of evangelism into the field to come alongside local churches in their ministry.

San Francisco carries significant influence on American culture and cultural conversations, especially through its robust technology sector that has radically transformed society through computers, the internet and social media. Despite all this innovation, the people of San Francisco are spiritually hungry for Jesus and His good news.

San Francisco ranks as the second most religiously unaffiliated city in America, and Barna called it one of the most post-Christian cities, meaning many have no connection with the Church or the gospel and lack a Christian identity, belief or practice. In a region where the gospel is largely unknown, we often don’t send pastors to plant churches—we send missionaries and people with the gift of evangelism to till the soil and plant the seeds that prepare the ground for effective local church ministry. I believe God has called us to do the work of evangelism in San Francisco today.

With this same understanding, EFCA West and EFCA Western district leaders invited ReachGlobal and Mike Edwards, the urban strategy catalyst for the Europe division, to come to San Francisco with the idea of mobilizing a City Team, similar to ReachGlobal ministry in post-Christian Europe. Mike has a heart to see lost people in cities, like San Francisco, know Jesus as their Lord and Savior.

With over two decades of experience as a missionary in post-Christian Europe, Mike learned how to evangelize in cultures resistant to the gospel and how to prepare the soil for churches and church planters to water the fields. To discuss this significant partnership, I invited Mike to write about the ministry opportunity in San Francisco and spoke with him and Andrew Hoffman (pastor of Solano Community Church in Albany, California, and director of ReachNetwork) to learn more about how this initiative came together and where they see God leading. Please take a few moments to read Mike’s article below and watch the interview to learn how you can support this ministry. Thank you.

Kevin Kompelien

EFCA President


"San Francisco." I can only imagine what Americans think when hearing about the “City by the Bay."

San Francisco has been a driving force in American culture for over a century: immigration during the Gold Rush, western expansion, 1960s counterculture, LGBTQ+ rights and the global center of tech innovation, not to mention its strong political connections. In one way or another, the ideology from San Francisco impacts all Americans every time we use the internet or a smartphone.

San Francisco represents something different to me. Moving to California after 15 years living in post-Christian Europe, I find San Francisco spirituality challenging. Many say San Francisco is the progressive edge of where post-Christian America is heading. Others see it as a place of evil.

For me, San Francisco represents one of the most significant opportunities to develop a relevant expression of Jesus for the coming generation.

How do we take advantage of this opportunity?

The Bay Area is part of the EFCA Western and EFCA West Districts. While several influential EFCA churches are in the region, a challenge lies in the specific urban areas of San Francisco, Berkeley and Oakland. These places share a worldview that is spiritually resistant to the gospel.

Discussions with district and national leaders over the years led us to conclude that these urban areas are mission fields, equally as challenging as any European or global city. In that light, the two EFCA districts asked ReachGlobal to engage San Francisco with an approach resembling their international city team strategy. In other words, to recruit and deploy a team of missionaries to serve the local church strategically focused on reaching not-yet-believers.

For me, San Francisco represents one of the most significant opportunities to develop a relevant expression of Jesus for the coming generation.

The strategic focus of this initiative is the following:

  1. Training, empowering and supporting current-day evangelists. In post-Christian Europe, we repeatedly learn that evangelism is not a one-time event. It is a long series of small acts, potentially requiring many years. Our training and coaching reshape our ways of engaging others, even amidst little response or outright rejection.  
  2. Positioning a team in a neighborhood to focus on the work of evangelism before planting a church. Like many European cities, San Francisco has relatively few believers. Starting a church requires evangelism. Engaging not-yet-believers is a means to understand the context so a church can launch with a sustained focus on conversion growth. This preparation process requires the gifting of the evangelist. 
  3. Using contextualization skills to effectively understand the rapidly changing urban culture to proclaim the gospel. Many factors shape relationships among widely diverse people. For instance, the divided history of Berlin gave us insight into the power of unity; the 120+ nationalities in Berlin informed us that a singular approach would not work and the rapidly changing urban context required a posture of constant learning. 
  4. To strengthen disciplemaking in spaces primarily occupied by not-yet-believers. Pursuing relationships with people opposing your moral or spiritual ideals is not natural. Learning to navigate love with truth is discovered only through practical encounters, growing primarily through trial and error. This process elevates learning while watching others follow Jesus in similar public spaces. 

Understanding the close connection this initiative has to the local church is vital. The goal is not to create ministry outside the local church but to equip and support the local church. Therefore, the initiative will not result in new “ReachGlobal ministries”; it will develop and expand local church ministries that uniquely fit the church’s calling.

Prioritize one thing that impacts everything

When I was an executive pastor at a large church in Tennessee, the group I frustrated the most were the intercessors, people called primarily to the ministry of prayer. My strategic thinking and organizing frustrated them. I did not understand how to empower them. (This was common in the non-charismatic churches of the 80s.)

Engaging not-yet-believers is a means to understand the context so a church can launch with a sustained focus on conversion growth.

Over the last 30 years, I have observed the meaningful influence of empowering intercessors globally. They have contributed to local pastor reconciliation, city-reaching movements, unification and calling us to a deeper relationship with the Holy Spirit. Rarely do I visit a church that does not have prayer before, during and after services.

The Apostle Paul teaches that Christ gave evangelists to equip Christians for works of ministry. The role of equipping others was a significant element in the expansion of the early Church. As the culture moves away from the evangelical church, we need a similar empowerment for people energized by being around not-yet-believers.

Historically, missionaries are the part of the Body of Christ best experienced and gifted to do this work. Missionaries today are needed specifically to develop evangelists in the local church; not to do the work of evangelism for the church but specifically to equip others to do this work, while remaining in the church community. This effort calls us to understand today’s version of evangelists and the specific challenges they face.

Empowering evangelists will be the focal point that drives each strategic element of the ReachGlobal San Francisco City Team.

The City Team will serve the local church to identify evangelists, uniquely equip them, multiply them and support them to be in places outside the church’s walls. One step in this direction is to recruit 20 team members to serve long and short-term to lay the groundwork for five church plants before 2028.

Doing first things first

I learned to develop missionary teams by building a team in Berlin and helping other ReachGlobal teams in Europe. Many challenging steps in the process require earnestly seeking the Lord for timing and direction. There are many unknown aspects; yet, with Jesus, there always seems to be a clear “next step."

Missionaries today are needed specifically to develop evangelists in the local church; not to do the work of evangelism for the church but specifically to equip others to do this work, while remaining in the church community.

You can imagine the challenge of missionaries living in one of the most expensive cities in America—my 900-square-foot apartment costs over $4,500 per month without utilities. I cannot help but think that this is Satan’s ploy to frustrate us, but God is not bound by our financial needs.

Frankly, this effort cannot move forward without the generosity of churches and individuals across America. It will require around $250,000 to support a team leader in San Francisco in the early team-building phase. The research and development phase was partially funded through specific individual donations, the Office of the President and ReachGlobal Europe. Moving forward requires a broader support base.

While the cost is substantial, the opportunity appears more significant. Please prayerfully consider asking God if He’s calling you to provide financial support to launch this important initiative. Learn more.

Your support is vital for this ministry

Comparable to Europe, the move toward a post-Christian America will present vast challenges to the church. The difficulties are already a reality in San Francisco. It requires us to move beyond refining our current methods. Like the many forms of innovation accelerating around America, some Christians must think differently to discover fresh applications. The essential core of the San Francisco initiative is training, empowering and supporting evangelists as they remain in the local church. We do this to proclaim that Jesus is good news for today, not an irrelevant idea of the past.

Actions you can take to help:

  1. Give. The most urgent need is to contribute to the San Francisco Initiative. Your generosity encourages us to share the gospel with people in San Francisco.
  2. Partner. Ask your church to join this initiative, starting with supporting a missionary, like supporting any other overseas missionaries.
  3. Send. The initial team members will likely be bi-vocational. Encourage young professionals to intersect their vocational aspirations with the traditional missionary role. ReachGlobal will train, deploy and support them.
  4. Pray. This effort needs intercessors! Send a note to sanfrancisco@efca.org if you desire to join our prayer team.

You can learn more about the San Francisco City Team here.

Mike Edwards

Mike Edwards is the ReachGlobal City Team leader in San Francisco. Prior to that, he served for 14 years as the City Team leader in Berlin, Germany, and for 10 years in a variety of pastoral roles at an EFCA church in Tennessee.

Kevin Kompelien

President, EFCA

Kevin Kompelien is president of the Evangelical Free Church of America, serving in this role since June 2015. He previously served more than 20 years as a local pastor in the EFCA and then nine years as international leader of the Africa division with EFCA ReachGlobal. He and his wife, Becky, are members of Hillside EFC in San Jose, California.

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