On September 17th, 2017, we launched Sozo Church in San Francisco, CA. It’s taken over a month to process and think through all that happened yet I wanted to make sure I shared it with you all. I’ve accumulated some pictures and some videos of the day but I wanted to make sure that I shared more than that. I wanted to convey my perspective in the launch.
Going into launch weekend, I kept having this thought - this shouldn’t be a event that I show up to but a milestone that I experience. For my me, this was something special that needed preparation and processing - preparation before the big day and some thinking and processing after. Spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and even physically.
First off - My parents came out for launch! My dad was planning on coming out and surprisingly, a few weeks out, my mom told me she was coming too. Them being here made the world of a difference as they also brought some goodies from back home. While it's been amazing to be able to be a part of what God was doing through Sozo Church, having my parents here to just affirm and support me was incredible. There’s nothing like the amazing gift of family that just wants you to succeed no matter what. More importantly, there’s nothing like having people there just to primarily encourage you.
We launched with around 275 people. The total number matters because every one of those individual numbers matters to God. Some were friends and family from out of town that came in to support the Sozo team from the beginning. Some where people from the Bay Area that drove 30+ minutes away. And some were people from the city of San Francisco. We had everything from young families who received our print mailers to inquisitive transgenders that had heard about us through social media. We had people who’ve been following Jesus for awhile and people that had never been in a church experience like ours before.
Let's cut to the chase. I cried like a baby. It was so embarrassing. I couldn’t stop crying. I’d finally get it together only to see something or hear something else and just lose it. One of my best friends, Matt Laborde, was there and I just remember looking over at him on the front row with both of our eyes all puffy and we just started laughing because neither of us could stop the tears of joy.
I specifically remember hearing the song “Let There Be Light” and as we sang the lyrics to that song over the city, I could so sense that this was the heart of God for San Francisco. That there would be light in the city so dark.
At the end of the service, when Pastor Jason gave people the opportunity to give their life to Jesus, I bowed my head and just began to ask God that someone would make a decision on that Launch Sunday that would affect their eternity. When I heard that not just one, but SEVEN people made that decision (I lost it again).
Each of those seven decisions changed those lives forever but those decisions changed mine as well. The entire process of making the decision to leave the comforts and safety of Gateway Church in Dallas, TX to move to San Francisco, CA to start a church suddenly had a tangible moment to look to. It was worth it. All of the heartache and struggle was worth it for those seven people's eternity to be forever changed.
We celebrated later that night as a team. We gathered friends and family and our Launch team together in a beautiful venue overlooking the bay and Golden Gate Bridge just to celebrate what God had done. Honestly, I was so tired (either from the lack of sleep or the crying) that I just sat outside and had this goofy smile on my face.
During the festivities, there was a time of encouragement by some of the veteran leaders in the room. Dave Patterson from The Father’s House in Vacaville, a great pastor who’s been serving the Bay Area for many years, shared some encouragement to our team and Jason & Jennifer. Then Mama Red, Jason’s mother - Judy Laird, shared about what God was speaking to her. Both of these were amazing declarations and we were so thankful for their encouragement and affirmation.
We thought we were all done and then I look over and see my dad grab the mic. I’ve seen him do this before in many environments where he felt the burden of what God was speaking and had to share it. He shared about how the western gate city of America was the city of San Francisco. And that the western gate represented the prosperity of a country. He spoke that God was entrusting the prosperity of this city and America to the pastors gathered there and that God delights in the prosperity of his people. Then he prayed over us and you could sense the presence of God as he used my dad to encourage the men and women in the room.
It was also one of those funny moments where so many of my friends in San Francisco could see where I get my sense of humor and personality from. As the night was almost over and everyone was headed home, a friend came over and prayed specifically for me. He spoke that God was more interested in what was happening in my heart than what was happening in my hands. It was something I needed to hear and I think that always rings true.
All together, it was an amazing day and I wish you could’ve been here for this. It’s been the prayers, generosity, and friendship of so many amazing people that have allowed me to be where I am doing what I’m doing. There have been hard times and there have been impossible times but on that Launch Sunday, it was beginning of the fruitful times. Thank you to every person that was there and so many that where there as a result of their prayers, giving, and love.