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We currently have a little over $1 Million dollars in liquid assets. We also have an estimated additional amount of $1.5 million dollars in non-liquid assets (existing buildings and land). Also, every year for the past 4 years we have experienced a surplus of giving to the general budget. This has happened because of the congregation’s generous giving to God, as well as our continual effort as a staff to cut costs and be wise in our spending. All of these resources have placed us in a better financial position than is typical for most churches (even mega-churches usually carry large debt loads). Cornerstone has no mortgage and is full of financial assets. These assets will allow us to put down a large amount towards the purchase of a building.
We may still need to secure a small loan through the Evangelical Free Church of America’s financial arm. The loan payments will be paid by us as a church family as we sacrifice together for the mission of Christ. This has always been the case since our founding as a church in 1955. Many of our spiritual ancestors in the 1950’s took out second mortgages on their homes in order to be able to contribute abundantly to buy the land at 700 Washington and build the Fellowship Hall (our first sanctuary). The same sacrifices occurred when we took out loans to build the second building, our current sanctuary. In recent memory, Cornerstone members donated money which enabled us to buy the four houses, two of which house our offices and our ministry center rooms. The other two houses have been recently sold at a large gain to the sum of nearly $700,000.
We also believe that as we go out into the fields of lost souls, we will see a harvest. As we disciple these new believers, they too will contribute to the shared financial burden, increasing our overall financial strength as a congregation to pay for the City on a Hill mission. Additionally, we believe that over time there will be money that will come in from community leaders and neighbors who desire the blessings City on a Hill will bring to the entire Yuba-Sutter community.
The short answer is, No. We are a 501(c)(3) organization with religious exemptions, allowing us to operate consistently within our Statement of Faith and organizing bylaws. We will not be separately incorporating the City on a Hill entity under a for-profit LLC, C or S corporation tax designation. We will not discriminate against anyone who wants to use the facility. Our whole agenda is to love all people, especially those far from God. We welcome them into our midst so that we can introduce them to Jesus Christ. However, we will not allow volunteers, workers and market vendors to be a part of Cornerstone’s City on a Hill operations if they promote a contrary worldview or practice. As a non-profit, religious entity, we have and always have had the right to not violate our conscience and sincerely held beliefs by having people represent us who oppose our views.
What happens when we begin establishing relationships with marketplace vendors who are for-profit business entities? In the lease agreements, they will have to agree to our standards of philosophy, practice, and promotion. For example, Planned Parenthood would never be able to have a “booth” at City on a Hill because they cannot agree to our standards. As an additional protection, we will stipulate to all vendors that they cannot hire employees to expand their business while at our site. They must maintain a very small business footprint while being a part of City on a Hill. This allows us to control the actions of the individual entrepreneur through our rigorous application and screening process. However, if that entrepreneur wants to hire additional staff, they are bound by Federal law to not discriminate for reasons that may be in violation of Cornerstone’s beliefs. In the vendor contract, we will stipulate that if the vendor wants to grow their business and hire more staff, they can no longer have a booth on our property. We are glad we could help them start their business and will bless them as we send them on their way, but we cannot take the risk of having them stay if they want to hire more staff.
We do not plan on starting the marketplace until far into the future. Our first goal is to house a playground and biblical counseling center. This gives us much flexibility. If we only have enough volunteers to be open two nights a week, so be it. It does not hurt our bottom line, since we are a non-profit. And the community will still be blessed, for two nights a week is better than nothing at all. As we increase our volunteer base, we will then open the doors more often.
We plan on hiring a low-skill wage-level employee to be on site to manage details. But we desire for the congregants of Cornerstone, as well as other Christians from like-minded churches, to volunteer. If everyone is willing to offer an hour or two a month to be at the site to welcome people and assist the on-site employee, we will have more than enough volunteers to open the playground many days per week. Also, as we reach more people for Christ through our efforts, we will do what the Church does best: disciple and deploy these new believers back into service for Christ. This will increase our volunteer base beyond what we can anticipate at this point. Finally, I (Pastor Jason) have been a part of a number of big-vision movements over my 5 decades in the Church of Jesus Christ and every time I have seen the excitement of being on mission activate more people than we could ever have imagined...people who formerly struggled to give their time while the church was stuck in the lethargy of “maintenance mode”. We expect the same will happen at Cornerstone.
Cornerstone is “a community of calculated risk-takers for Christ and His mission”. We want to step out of the boat of our comfort and walk on the water with Jesus. We want to see Him do the impossible through us for His glory. However, He has also called us to be wise. That is where the “calculated” adjective modifies the noun of being “risk-takers”. At this point, we believe we can purchase another, more visible site in Yuba City that will operate as a missional “outpost” from the main, “mother” church, without having to sell our existing buildings at 700 Washington Avenue. We believe this may be a more wise strategy at the present time. Eventually, we hope that God raises up another campus congregation from the people who are saved and discipled at the City on a Hill site (Note: we plan on offering various Bible studies, discipleship opportunities, and eventually, worship services there).
Of course, it may be that God eventually leads us as a congregation to sell everything at 700 Washington and move together to the new, more visible site. We continue to pray about God’s will as we take each new step on this journey, and ask that you pray with us.
For 2,000 years, we have not had specific divine revelation from God about a lot of details concerning our individual lives or corporate lives as a Church. Some denominations do believe that God offers brand new, authoritative revelation to Christians. Our denomination is open but cautious concerning this view. However, we have seen far too many abuses with this view, and prefer to hold fast to the biblical witness that the final prophet was Christ Himself (Hebrews 1:1-2) and that everything contained in the completed Word of God, the Bible, is all we need for “life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:3)...even 2,000 years later.
Having said that, we do believe that the Spirit of God does lead us through the written Word of God toward specific actions that are not detailed in the pages of Scripture. Therefore, here is how we can know that the City on a Hill actions are the will of God:
First, the revealed Word of God is clear that we are to be on mission to go out into the world of lost souls and share with them the gospel, and if and when they receive Christ, we are to disciple and deploy them on this same mission. This is so clear in Scripture throughout both Testaments, it does not even need to be cited here. Every true Christian, who thus possesses the Spirit of God, will intuitively know that this is their main purpose in this life.
Second, the mission always requires a pragmatic method. In other words, you can’t accomplish the mission without actually doing something. If that is mobilizing Christians to enter the workplace to share their faith with co-workers through investigative gospel studies in the lunchroom, or spending a vast measure of financial resources to make the church more attractive so the unchurched desire to attend, or spending time and money to equip missionaries to flood the globe with the gospel, or any number of methods, so be it. These are all tangible methods with their mess of pros and cons and accompanying, unforeseen consequences. City on a Hill is just one of the many methods that “puts flesh” on the absolutely clear and unchanging mission of Christ. But nonetheless, a pragmatic method is the will of God.
Third, the Spirit of God leads through the leaders of His Church. Contrary to the popular opinion of American Christianity, the Bible in both Testaments does lay out a structure of authority to guide the people of God. This is why Hebrews 13:17 says: “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with groaning, for that would be of no advantage to you.” The Elders and Staff of Cornerstone, now totalling 20 unique individuals of various ages, backgrounds, experiences, temperaments, levels of risk-aversion, and histories with our church, have all come to a position of unanimous conviction and excitement about the City on a Hill vision. We crafted the details of this vision together over the course of several years, combined with much thoughtful prayer, discussion, and reflection. The $300K in 3 months is just one simple way to help us all think seriously about how God is leading us to give. Make no mistake however, this type of unique unity among the Elders and Staff cannot be easily overlooked or set aside by the rest of the flock. It is as clear a sign as anything that God wants us to at least take a next step toward the City on a Hill vision.
Fourth, the Spirit of God also leads us through the confirmation of the entire Body of Christ, the Church. Our denomination is one that values both Spirit-appointed leadership in the Elders/Pastors and Staff/Deacons AND congregational agreement. We believe that the Spirit will lead the entire congregation to a position of unity regarding our next steps with City on a Hill. We cannot expect perfect unity in this fallen world, nor can we expect the absence of healthy conflict that provides a beautiful context for sharing, listening, caring, and appropriate compromising as we grow in relational depth through our charitably-held disagreements (1 Corinthians 11:18-19). But we do expect that the Spirit will lead us to a general consensus that enables us to move forward with a methodology for our mission. If we can get to a place where 100% of the Body is in 80% agreement, that is a very good place to be in a world of imperfections.
We are thankful for churches that seek to do the mission of God through pragmatic methods. The Embassy of Heaven is a very different project than City on a Hill. The skate park is a wonderful gift to the community, but reaches a very different demographic than the playground. They also do not have a marketplace to help local entrepreneurs bless the city. Additionally, the biblical counseling center has a very different philosophy than GT’s deliverance ministries. It must be clearly stated that in some ways, GT is in a very different theological place than Cornerstone. We are grateful for all churches that are holding fast to the Word of Truth and the faith “once delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3). But we do realize that some churches can have very different foundational starting points in their theology. Therefore, it is good for the community to see another expression of Christianity, even while we still thank God for the unique things He is doing through churches that are very different from us.
We will continue to be fully dedicated to the worldwide calling of the Great Commission of Christ. He desires us to reach our Jerusalem (Yuba-Sutter), Judea (California), Samaria (United States), and the ends of the earth (every tribe, tongue and nation) (see Acts 1:8). Our regular giving to global mission will not be affected in any way by our renewed emphasis on giving to our local mission.
Our first desire is to buy a property. However, we are not necessarily opposed to a lease or lease-to-own scenario. There are a number of factors to consider: from the nature of the terms on the lease; the control or lack of control we may have under a lease; the cost of the lease relative to the same cost for a mortgage with its interest payments over a significant period of time; the willingness of the landlord to upgrade the property at their expense; etc. We also may be looking at our first foray into the City on a Hill methodology as a “beta” or “version 1.0” effort. In other words, we may try some things and decide to go a different route with a version 2.0. In this way, a lease could be a more advantageous route, depending on the various contractual details and variables, as listed above. The bottom line: there are likely 100 steps to moving forward with City on a Hill, and we are only at step 2 or 3. At each new step, we will seek the Spirit’s guidance as a church to determine the right next step to take.
We have looked at the Danna & Danna facility on Bridge and Cooper and have had discussions with Steve Danna and Kurt Hilbers about the possibilities. We also have talked with Ravjeet Basi of Ethan Conrad Properties. He is the manager of the Yuba City Mall real estate investments. We looked at the old Gottschalks building next to Planet Fitness and the old Sears Tire Center next to the new Hobby Lobby and Panera. Both have purchase or lease options. At this time, we are only looking and are not fully confirmed that any of these properties will be the right fit for us. Any decision on a property will always come before the entire congregation for a vote, when that time comes.
Did you know, that if everyone gave $1,000, we would exceed our $300K in 3 months goal? Some have already given far above the $1,000 mark. Of course, some have more means, some have less. And God uses us all whatever our capabilities. He wants us all to have the equal experience of sacrificing for Him, but not equal amounts of that sacrifice.
We say with the Apostle Paul: "Our desire is not that others might be relieved while you are hard pressed, but that there might be equality. At the present time your plenty will supply what they need, so that in turn their plenty will supply what you need. The goal is equality, as it is written: 'The one who gathered much did not have too much, and the one who gathered little did not have too little'." (2 Corinthians 8:13-15)
What does this mean for you? You may not have anything to spare now and your brothers and sisters will take care of giving out of their plenty so that in the future when God does bless you, you can have the opportunity to be one of the givers when you experience more plentiful times. But for now, after you make an honest assessment with God about your financial situation, it may be that the only thing you can sacrifice right now is an offering of Time and Prayer. These are valuable gifts too!
But in God’s timing, when each of us are able to sacrificially give, it will be truly amazing to see what we generate TOGETHER for our King and His Great Mission!
We plan on hiring a low-skill wage-level employee to be on site to manage details and provide some cleaning services. However, we already do have a long-standing, excellent relationship with our current janitorial services contractor. They give us an extraordinary deal to clean all 4 church buildings twice per week. We will very likely expand that contractual relationship to include the City on a Hill building and playground.
Schools and daycare facilities also use an ergonomic and efficient device to spray down their playground equipment very quickly with a safe, germicidal treatment. We plan to use this as well and occasionally do a deep clean with our janitorial contractor and/or City on a Hill employee.
For many generations, it was a given that people would naturally find their way to a local church. When they did, it was expected that many of them would eventually become Christians and be discipled under the faithful preaching and teaching offered within the walls of that church. As the Moral Revolution began to reshape American culture in the 1960’s, this generations-old accepted methodology began to come under fire as less people were interested in attending church.
The next methodology to arise in the late 60’s and on until the early 2000’s was the Church Growth “Seeker Sensitive” Movement. This movement aimed to do whatever it takes to make attending a church as attractive as possible to the unchurched. Unfortunately, this led to a reformulation of the very nature of what the Church should be. Was it a place for true disciple-making depth, or a fun, less-sacred experience to funnel unbelievers into a possible relationship with Christ? The jury has been out for awhile on which pathway is best for God’s People, but as Church attendance nose-dived in the mid 2000’s and an endless string of high-profile abuses were revealed in the business-like mechanisms of many seeker sensitive megachurches, the jury appears to be deciding that this methodology has far more cons than pros.
At the end of the 2000’s, in the wake of the demise of the seeker-sensitive, megachurch methodology, a new methodology emerged. This methodology attempted to motivate Christians to no longer simply “invite people to church” so that the church programmatic structures could “save and disciple” them. Rather, the goal was for individual Christians to share Christ with others in their “spheres of influence” in the world. This, of course, is far more in-line with Jesus’ model for disciplemaking. However, many Christians found it challenging to engage others in the world. It was hard to overcome the awkwardness of finding the right time and context to engage their co-workers and extended family members in spiritual conversations. In spite of every effort made by church leaders to equip the saints for this work, the numbers of Christians attending church in America continued to nose-dive.
City on a Hill is a new methodology. It has its pros and cons. And some of these will not be apparent until much later in the future as we look back at this period of Church history. City on a Hill is not unique. It is unique, to some degree, in Yuba-Sutter, but not unique in America. I (Pastor Jason), have several pastoral friends and acquaintances who are doing a version of the City on a Hill vision in their local contexts. What distinguishes this methodology from the others is the ability to control a neutral context in which to share Christ.
Satan is the “ruler of this world” under the ultimate rule of God (John 14:30; Ephesians 2:2). Every time we are in our workplace and seek to have conversations about Christ with our co-workers, it is challenging because we are essentially “on Satan’s turf”. The environment is not one steeped in the overarching and foundational worldviews and truths of Christianity. Therefore, any conversation about these things feels disjointed and awkward. We should still seek to have those conversations in our workplaces and in the homes of unbelieving family members, but it is much more challenging for most Christians to open up these conversational doors.
City on a Hill allows the Church to control its own turf. It is a little slice of the Kingdom of God with all of its foundational truths permeating the very essence of the space. This means there will be clear indication that this is a place owned and operated by the Church of Jesus Christ. And we will be very forthright about all the ways in which we would like to bless them, from signage regarding Biblical Counseling to classes on parenting to opportunities for more social interactions. Additionally, conversations about Christ will become much easier to start. For example, imagine inviting an unbelieving neighbor to hang out with you and their kids at the playground. It will not be difficult for you to simply say that this playground is run by your CHURCH to serve and bless the community. If God is drawing your neighbor to Himself, it will be very likely that your simple statement will prompt further inquiries like, “Why would your church do this?” At that point, you are “off to the races.” Any Christian should be able to drive a gospel Mack truck through that wide open door to deliver the good news of Jesus Christ! On top of this, there will be many times we will offer live Christian music, prayer, open-air discussion groups, and eventually, worship services on site.
At this time, we are just beginning the process of sharing this vision with other like-minded churches. I (Pastor Jason), interact with about 12 other pastors from Yuba-Sutter on a monthly basis. I plan on opening up more dialogue about the possibilities of all of us working together to reach the 90% of our neighbors who do not know Christ. Be praying for the Great Commission to happen through a Great Collaboration (John 17:17-21)!