In 2006, the Church of the Nazarene called Dan and Esther Chung to plant a church in San Francisco. Dan Chung was leading a high school ministry through Young Life, a parachurch organization to reach young people. He recognized in the hearts of those kids a deep curiosity for God. It was then that through much prayer and guidance, the Chungs joined a small band of people to form Lifelight - a name drawn from John 1:9 (The Life-Light was the real thing: Every person entering Life He brings into Light) in The Message by Eugene H. Peterson.
Lifelight was planted with a vision of reaching the young people in the city of San Francisco who has never heard the Gospel or visited a church. We began meeting at the Chung’s apartment on Taraval Street across Ocean Beach. A small group of high schoolers regularly came, and soon more and more high schoolers would come. Those who came got a sense that this group of people coming together to seek God was so much different from the churches they knew. After all, they had never been to a church that meets in a living room. And because of this non-formal environment, they were able to place themselves interactively in finding more about God.
A lot of young people have been to Lifelight that have never attended church, nor have wished to attend Church. For many, Lifelight is their first real exposure to what Jesus has to offer, and what spirituality really means. In 2012, Lifelight was officially organized into the Church of the Nazarene in the Northern California District.
MATURING DISCERNMENTS: 2012-2015
While Lifelight drew many young people, it struggled to find stability and identity as a church. Being a church full of young people led by young pastors, Lifelight focused much on building relationships and reaching out to young people. Consequently, it became a revolving door of people coming and going. Seeing the need for deeper encounter with God and spiritual growth, Lifelight began the discerning work of realizing the essential work of spiritual growth in the lives of people, and discovering its unique identity as a church.
Lifelight added Joshua Whiteside to the pastoring team to offer the gift of his pastoral and teaching gifts, complementing Dan’s more apostolic and prophetic gifts. The pastoral team, along with Paul Chung who led a Korean ministry, continue to build up the church. During this time, we also invited the congregation to embark on a year-long discernment about the identity of the church and our essential practices through times of corporate reflection and discernment. Through this process, we affirmed together the simple church model that gathers for sharing, equipping, and encouraging, and aim for mature spiritual growth “to the measure of the full stature of Christ” (Eph 4:13). We also came to understand that forming cluster of small communities is the best way to serve our identity and practices.
During this time Dan Chung also worked on the degree in Doctor of Ministry at Fuller Theological Seminary to bring his learning to the community that helped us to navigate.
TRANSITIONS AND REORIENTATIONS: 2015-2018
As our church that began as many single young people in the city began transitioning into young professionals and couples, Josh Whiteside began the work of outreach toward middle and high schoolers with the members of the church as leaders, while the Chungs sought to form more small communities.
During our gatherings, many were ready to engage with the liturgy drawn from church history, practiced in a family-like setting. Some of our communities included young children and youth, and invited the kids to the same rhythms of reading of the Word and prayer we had learned over the past years, teaching the community in how to be “present” to Christ’s presence as we spent time hearing God’s stories responding in play and wonder.
At this time, Josh Whiteside was also led to serve in US Navy Chaplain. Our church blessed and said farewell to Josh.