What in the World is Alpha? – Bill White

About twenty years ago in England, a barrister (that’s their fancy name for a lawyer) named Nicky Gumble became a Christian and realized that churches were too stuffy and irrelevant for his secular friends that he wanted to invite. So he pulled together a group of non-churchy people and created the Alpha course, which has now run in over a hundred countries, attended by over twenty million people. It’s very simple, having just three components and one vision.

The components are this: First, serve food (everyone can agree that this is a good place to start). Second, present a brief message about the spiritual journey in language that everyone can understand. Third, let people discuss where they are at, their questions, and their perspectives in small groups. Pretty simple, right? And then there’s the overarching vision: to create a safe place where people can explore the Christian faith in a non-pressured, skeptic-friendly, and authentic way and where people can draw their own conclusions at their own pace.

Alpha at City Church runs for ten weeks and starts tonight at 6:15pm (Thursday January 22) in my home (click HERE for a map). After dinner, I’ll be speaking for less than 20 minutes about “How to Go on a Spiritual Journey” and then we’ll talk about it in groups. All kinds of people will be here. A number have already said they can’t make it tonight but will join in next week or the week after, which is fine (Alpha runs for 10 weeks and you can join any time). So if you are ready to go on the spiritual journey, come join us. Don’t hesitate to email me if you have any questions: bill@citychurch.org.  And feel free to check out the Alpha website here.

My 3 Favorite Things about Baptisms – Bill White

City Church baptized 11 people Sunday – and what a great day it was. There’s a lot to celebrate, but here are my top three

Dorothy and Randy baptizing Donta

Dorothy and Randy baptizing Donta


  1. The pastors don’t do all the baptizing. John 4:2 points out that it wasn’t Jesus who baptized, but his disciples. As a pastor, my biggest priority seeing disciples making disciples – and baptism is a picture of that. So yesterday Lucy and Alex baptized their three kids since they are the chief disciplers of their children. It was Donta’s teacher, Dorothy, who baptized him because she invited him to church and her family has invested in Donta week after week.
  2. There is new life for broken people. Nikkie baptized her husband Bobby, and there were lots of tears. That’s because she’s been praying for him for twenty years, and all that time she’s
    Bobby and Nikkie praying afterwards

    Bobby and Nikkie praying afterwards

    been dealing with his alcoholism and his dysfunction. And God is doing a brand new thing in his life. As Bobby went down under the chilly water’s of Mother’s Beach it was like his old self was being buried, and when he came up with a cheer it was like he’d been born into a new life in Christ.

  3. God loves kids. After Wendy baptized her little boy Garrison,he made it very clear that he wanted more of that water. But that’s not proper! is what I was thinking. But, fortunately, my copastor Jason was presiding and he said to Garrison, “That’s OK. Come on over and put your hands in the water – that’s your baptism water and it’s for you.” After a quick splash and Garrison’s huge smile (and a lot of chuckles in the congregation), it dawned on us all that Garrison had it right. He (and we) gets to touch, taste, and swim in the oceans of God’s favor and goodness.
Cheering after Alex baptized his son Nathan

Cheering after Alex baptized his son Nathan

Family Run, Family Fun, Family Mission – Bill White

Sometimes we think of focusing on family OR mission, right? Let’s serve at the rescue mission, but not during family time. We should separate the two out and keep our balance, right?

trot copyThis picture tells a different story. Forty-eight men, women and children from City Church headed to Hunting Beach on Thanksgiving morning to walk, run, and stroll in order to raise money to dig fresh water wells in the developing world.

I wasn’t there, but when I saw the picture later I was so thrilled – especially because of the kids. There’s just something that’s right about including kids on God’s mission. Instead of family OR mission, this is what it looks like to be family ON mission. The kids get included too.

When the kids get included, they start to develop their own giving muscle, they build their own serving muscle. Plus, all sorts of adults are bonding with other people’s kids along the way – it’s like an extended family get together. Which, of course, is exactly what the church has always been. There’s a reason the most common image in the bible for the church is family!

A special thank you to WorldHelp for sponsoring the event and doing great work around the world!!!  If you’d like to join them in their relief efforts, go to WorldHelp.net  (We partnered with them and gave our whole Thanksgiving offering to help Iraqi and Syrian refugees of the ISIS crisis, and we’d love to have you join in as well.)

Thanksgiving Worship Service – Wednesday 5:30pm

Everyone is welcome to come join us for a simple, family oriented Thanksgiving Worship Service on Wednesday November 26th at 5:30pm at Lafayette Elementary School auditorium, 2445 Chestnut Ave, Long Beach.

The service will last just over an hour and instead of preaching we’ll be hearing from people of all ages about the things they are grateful for this year.  There’s a nursery for the kids as well, and as always there will be snacks and coffee and friendly faces to greet you.

100% of our Thanksgiving offering in the worship service (and any one time donations through this website this week) will be donated to help Iraqi and Syrian refugees who have been driven from their homes by ISIS.  We’re giving through WorldHelp, who has partners on the ground in the Middle East working with refugees as they try to prepare for winter. You can read more about what they are doing HERE.

Start off the Thanksgiving holiday by giving thanks to the One who has been so good to us.


The Tablecloths Were a Disaster! (by Jason Brown)

Barragan Boys

Nathan and Brian

So, how do you be a church without owning any property?

I have no idea how I’d do it without coffee shops. I’m pretty sure the start of the recent church-planting movement in the U.S. coincided with the ubiquitizing of coffee shops (and perhaps the advent of the craft-beer brewing explosion). Do any of you want to run a statistical correlation on that?

Anyway, where was I heading with this blog?

Ahh, yes, being the church without buildings. It requires homes. It requires people who are willing to open up their homes. It requires people to play the time-consuming and thankless job of church janitor – without pay!

Tgiving Table 2

The Table Looking South

Opening your home is a big deal. It’s costly. It’s scary. It’s inviting people – sometimes people you don’t know – into your space, your world, your inner-circle. It’s also about the connection between faith and your real life – which is the connection Jesus has always been interested in making.

Last night, Rick and Diana opened their home to 51 of us (33 adults and 18 kids). They’ve been co-hosting our Open House since the beginning of the summer. Sometime last week, Diana had the brilliant idea of having a Thanksgiving Dinner for Open House. So, she got on the horn and called folks to bring pumpkin pie and potatoes and stuffing and canned cranberry blob.

We spilled. We got crumbs all over. The table cloths will need to go to some sort-of therapy for what was done to them. But, towards the end of the main course, all the grown-ups shared something they were thankful for. It was beautiful.

Tgiving Table 1

The Table Looking West

Then, came the pie. I was one of the lucky ones who managed to secure a slice of the chocolate pecan that Kaytie made. Afterwards we chatted in groups of 3’s and 4’s – which was so good because we’re all still getting to know each other.

Is this everything? No. But part of being the church in a culture that makes strangers of us all is learning to be a sort-of surrogate/alternative-family who eats Thanksgiving meals together, who welcomes others into our homes and who normalizes conversation about Jesus around the table.

Candy and Tortilla Soup – Bill White

I think Halloween should be retitled “National Church Planter’s Field Day” and find its way onto the Christian Calendar like Ash Wednesday or Advent. I mean, really, when else do neighbors go out on the street and actually talk to each other? Halloween is a miracle in American culture, and it needs to be celebrated!

The tortilla soup in transit to my house

The tortilla soup in transit to my house

For me personally, Halloween has become a parable of my life as an accidental church planter. Last year on Halloween, my friend Patsy said she was dropping off some soup at my house “for everyone.” When I got home from a meeting, I saw this enormous vat of tortilla soup, and immediately called Patsy to let her know it would take a month for my family to eat it all. “It’s for everyone, Bill,” she said. “You know, for your neighbors.”

“Right,” I mumbled. “Of course.” The thought had never occurred to me.

But what a riot Katy and I had last Halloween, passing out candy and tortilla soup.

Fast forward to last week. Patsy again makes tortilla soup and asks me if she can invite others over to help out. What am I going to say to that? (besides maybe, “the thought had never occurred to me, again,” which is just too embarrassing to admit).

Favorite costume: an Elephant Pirate Robot

Favorite costume: an Elephant Pirate Robot

Friday night, October 31, rolls around and the soup shows up. Then David and Jamie show up with about ten pounds of chips and cheese dip. Then the Garcias show up to help serve, then the Valdez’s show up to greet folks, then the Macias’s

show up with Ceviche, and someone else brings some cookies, and piles of candy show up from somewhere, and there’s Tamara serving up soup and Erykah helping clean up…


And that’s not to mention the neighbors who don’t go to City Church. A zillion spider men, cheerleaders, zombies, and robots joined the party – often a crowd of thirty or forty was hanging out on the sidewalk and front yard. A game of chess broke out, a play date got arranged, I think my friend David might have sold some car insurance, and a game of basketball started up. Not to mention a thousand other connections, neighbor to neighbor. Best Halloween ever!

Hanging out in the front yard

Hanging out in the front yard

Our New Youth Pastor – Bill White

We’d like to introduce our new youth pastor. He’s not that young. He’s 46. And he doesn’t have any training as a youth pastor. He’s not hip. He’s not particularly good with kids. He talks too much. He’s not a great listener. He doesn’t Snapchat. He’s made only 4 posts on Instagram and the majority of those were by his son. And he is a dinosaur who still uses email and Facebook.

Yep, it’s me.Youth

But take a look at those amazing teenagers in that picture and you’ll realize why I’m in the picture. These are great human beings, and God is doing an awesome work in each of their lives.

And thank goodness, I’m not the only youth pastor. There are half a dozen other folks who lead our younger kids, and a bunch more who care for our toddlers. It’s really a village mentality here – we’re all in the business of raising kids, whether we have them or not, whether they are ours or not, whether we’re good at it or not. As a church we’ve said, “These are our kids. We will love them.”