Most 'Churchless' US City Inspires Holistic Gospel Mov't Using Church Network

(Photo: Reuters/Robert Galbraith)The Golden Gate Bridge is seen in the background above a neighborhood of tightly-packed homes in the Richmond District in San Francisco, California, March 27, 2012.

Churches throughout the San Francisco Bay Area were mostly individual assemblies that were disconnected from one another. However, the Transforming the Bay With Christ initiative hopes to change all that and usher in a gospel movement to improve the quality of life for area residents.

"There was no collective sense of what each other was doing," said Mark Labberton, Fuller Seminary President and advocate for Transforming the Bay With Christ, to The Christian Post in late January.

Not only were churches acting as disjointed, individual assemblies that were diconnected from one another, but residents of the Bay Area mirrored that spiritual disconnect. According to a 2014 report from Barna Group, a research organization that studies faith and culture, the San Francisco metro area was considered America's most "churchless" city.

In fact, 6 in 10 of Bay Area residents met the organization's definition of "unchurched" — adults who have not attended a church service, with the exception of a holiday or special occasion, at any time within the past six months.

To help reverse this negative phenomenon, VMWare CEO Pat Gelzinger began the task of networking churches together to collaborate for the common good of the Bay Area. The result was Transforming the Bay With Christ.

TBC aims to inspire a holistic gospel movement in the Bay Area that results in spiritual and societal transformation through an increasing number of people loving God, as well as people loving their neighbor as themselves, according to a description on the organization's website.

"Within our faith communities, many churches live a siloed and isolated existence, which greatly diminishes our potential collective impact," writes Gelsinger on the TBC website. "We are just beginning but we're filled with the hope of 'what could be' as we dream and work together."

TBC is a mission of grace, says Mark Labberton. "The mission of grace that Transforming the Bay With Christ advocates is a grace that is a saving grace that's certain to call people into relationship with Christ … a grace that is actually both personally and emotionally transformative," he told CP.

The TBC outreach attempts to minister to a region of the country that has been plagued by violent crime. According to the 2014 FBI report Crime in the United States, the city of Oakland ranked No. 3 nationally in violent crime per capita and documented almost 17 violent crimes per 1,000 residents. In 2014 the city had 80 homicides, 3,140 assaults, 3,481 robberies and 209 rapes.

Vallejo was the Bay Area's second most-dangerous city behind Oakland. In 2014 it experienced 8.65 violent crimes per 1,000 residents. Rounding out the top five most dangerous Bay Area cities were San Pablo, San Francisco and Antioch, among those with at least 25,000 residents.

Still, the Bay Area offers great opportunity, and is home to some of the most wealthy citizens in the nation. Five San Francisco neighborhoods rank among the most affluent in the U.S., according to the Higley 1000

Pat Gelsinger knows the Bay Area's pitfalls and glittering potential, as well as the importance of his work through TBC. "We are home to incredible universities, businesses, sports teams, social movements, cultural venues and endless opportunities. Often what starts in the Bay Area ripples out to affect the rest of the world."

Email me: kevin.porter@christianpost.com
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