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Affluent Bay Area community is focus of seminarian’s ‘passionate pursuit’

SAN FRANCISCO (BP)–Looking at the old building erected by the Portuguese fishing industry in the San Francisco Bay Area more than a century ago, it isn’t obvious by that a new church is in town.

But for church planter Ed Pincusoff, a student at Golden Gate Baptist Theological Seminary, the building isn’t what matters anyway. The thrust of ministry, he said, is mobilizing God’s people into local neighborhoods and communities with compassion and service in Jesus’ name.

That kind of distinction has given an old church in Sausalito, Calif., just north of San Francisco, a new start in reaching people for Christ. Since the mid-1950s, the facility had been home to First Southern Baptist Church of Sausalito. But this past February, the church’s two co-pastors retired and the half-dozen members remaining at First Baptist agreed to become part of Sausalito Christian Fellowship, a new church meeting at the old site.

Pincusoff and several other students from Golden Gate Seminary in nearby Mill Valley, Calif., had launched the alternative contemporary worship expression there several months earlier.

Together, the two groups have dedicated themselves anew to reaching Sausalito’s affluent oceanfront community.

Pincusoff praised the attitudes of the older First Baptist congregation in committing to the new church.

“They have been such God-sent servants to us that we have developed a wonderful bond with the old and the new which really could have been a problem as we introduced new styles of ministry,” he said. “They’ve been wonderful, encouraging supporters and that’s been one of the things that made the whole thing possible.”

Pincusoff called his ministry at the Sausalito church “a passionate pursuit of God’s call” on his life, even though he supports his family by running a carpet cleaning business and is engaged in full-time master of divinity studies.

“Sausalito Christian Fellowship exists to meet, embrace and transform the people of southern Marin County with the love of God,” Pincusoff said. “We hope to accomplish this through our four prime directives: enter community, explore truth, experience God and express faith.”

He said the church is a result of a “window of opportunity” the Lord has created with a meeting of circumstance, prayer and a movement of the Holy Spirit.

“This is God’s time,” Pincusoff said. “Everywhere I go, people are saying that God is doing something in the San Francisco Bay Area and they are joyful that there’s a new evangelical expression of Christ in Sausalito.

“People in various stages of Christianity are dying for a culturally relevant expression of Christ — and they may not even know it — but when they see it they want it,” Pincusoff added. “There’s a ‘sleeping remnant’ of Christ’s body in Marin that first will be awakened and then we will reach Marin for Christ.”

A Jewish believer, Pincusoff made his commitment to Christ 20 years ago, following months in study and contemplation of the biblical evidence for the Christian faith. A musician who feels called by God to bring others to worship, he involved himself in worship ministries as a leader and instrumentalist throughout his Christian pilgrimage, much of it at Casas Adobes Baptist Church in Tucson, Ariz.

He considers his current preaching and teaching ministry a further expression of his desire to bring others into God’s presence. One of his favorite Scripture passages is from Psalm 89: “Blessed are those who have learned to acclaim you, who walk in the light of your presence, O Lord.”

Pincusoff hopes the church can communicate five essentials to people searching for a fulfilling spiritual life:

— God. “Our fellowship consists of people who are experiencing and expressing God through their lives in Christ, therefore God is the subject of all that we do. Because we believe that God is the center of all life, we gather to learn, experience and share his reality in many ways that are culturally creative, as well as many ways that have been part of the faith for thousands of years.”

— Life’s meta-narrative. “We believe that humanity is part of the meta-narrative revealed in the Bible. It is an overarching story that … offers the people of the world a story into which they can place themselves, and find forgiveness for their past, purpose for their present and hope for their future. Only in Christ do we fit into and perceive life in the context and fullness for which we were created.”

— Community. “God created people for community. By sharing life in Christ with one another, we experience joy, peace, power and love beyond our individual and natural resources. We believe that the community is the medium through which we experience and express the very real love of Christ.”

— Compassion in action. “We desire to spend our time, money and energy showing people that Jesus loves them by genuinely loving them ourselves.”

— Spiritual Power. “Only God provides power for living an abundant and blessed life. Christ is the conduit for that power.”

Pincusoff is committed to personally helping people live out those values.

“I feel that it’s vital to further emphasize the reality of the power for living that exists in Christ,” he said. “He is the key to the limitless holistic and transformational power and authority of the one and only God of the universe.”

The Sausalito community’s introduction to the new pastor was an article in the weekly newspaper that described how serious he is about compassion in action. The article recounted Pincusoff’s meeting a local resident battling leukemia and his immediately becoming a bone marrow donor for the woman.

“This church has the strategic opportunity of finding a way to express the Christian faith in a way that connects with people in one of the most fully postmodern settings in the country,” said Karl Ortiz, director of missions for the San Francisco Peninsula Baptist Association. “They are in a great location in terms of being able to both represent Christ and reflect their community.”

The San Francisco association has provided some financial resources to help the church in its “start-up” phase.

“I think the ministry values they’ve articulated have real potential to fully embrace Sausalito as it is and become part of Christ’s mission there,” Ortiz added.

Every Friday night, as has been the years-long custom, the church hosts a food ministry to needy people from nearby communities. The church building’s dining room was recently remodeled through the efforts of the Marin Community Foundation and community volunteers and donors.

Pincusoff brings to the church experience in homeless and prison ministries over the years, as well as small group ministries as a leader, coach and trainer.

His wife, Terrie, is the worship minister at the church, working to bring practical and passionate worship experiences to the community of Sausalito. They have two children, an 11-year-old daughter and a 9-year-old son.

Herb Drake, one of the former co-pastors of the old First Baptist congregation and a part of the new fellowship, has enjoyed the new emphasis on reaching out into the community.

“Ed has moved in there with quite a bit of energy and is really putting a lot of effort into it,” Drake said. “He’s been able to do a number of outreach things that have brought in a number of people from the community. It’s kind of fun to see.”

Drake noted Pincusoff has been able to develop a team able to utilize some of the new techniques of contemporary worship and make better use of the old facility. He noted the congregation has begun making some improvements to the facilities interior, exterior and surrounding landscape.
(BP) photo posted in the BP Photo Library at http://www.bpnews.net. Photo title: ED PINCUSOFF.

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  • Cameron Crabtree