C. J. BergmenSan Francisco, CA
C.J. grew up in the Central Valley in California, about an hour east of San Francisco. He has been married to his wife Reneé for 16 years and they have two kids, a son Keane (10 years old), and a daughter August (6 years old). Justin graduated from Grand Canyon University in 2003 with a BA in Biblical Studies and a minor in Vocal Performance. He went on to do graduate work at Talbot School of Theology, as well as Phoenix Seminary and Reformed Theological Seminary.
Vocational ministry for C.J. began when he served as the worship director for junior high, high school, and college students in Scottsdale, Arizona. Later he became the worship pastor at another church in Gilbert, Arizona. C.J. and Reneé always had a passion for disciple-making, building community, and reaching non-believers. There came a time when they felt like The Lord was inviting them to take a step of faith akin to Abraham’s call to Canaan. In 2012, they sold everything they owned and moved to San Francisco with no job and no home.
After serving as a worship pastor for many years, C.J. sensed a call to the lead pastorate and church planting. He became increasingly aware of the need in San Francisco for more church plants, particularly focused in neighborhoods and oriented toward the irreligious and the poor. In 2014 they began working toward a new church plant in the city called Citizens Church. Their desire is to see the city of San Francisco saturated with gospel-centered churches living out family, servant, and missionary identities. They believe this will happen through missional communities; people living out the gospel in the everyday stuff of life.
In his free time, C.J, writes, records, and produces original music for himself and others. Renee’ is a gifted speaker and writer. Keane loves all things hip-hop culture related, and August is a sassy princess who loves to laugh and have fun. Their family plays hard, works hard, rests hard, loves much, and longs for more of the kingdom to break in to their city.
Brian BerlMoultrie, GA
Brian was born and raised in Moultrie, Georgia. He is husband to Sydney and father to Hudson and Josie. God changed Brian’s life after his senior year of high school and gave him a desire to live wholeheartedly for Jesus.
At the University of Georgia, Brian developed a love for physical therapy through first-hand rehab experience from several sports injuries. Upon graduation, Brian enrolled at the Medical College of Georgia to pursue a Doctor of Physical Therapy degree. A few years into the program, God changed Brian’s career trajectory by calling him into ministry. After graduating, Brian devoted himself to a season of preparation for church planting, going on staff at Crawford Avenue Baptist Church and enrolling at Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.
In 2019, Brian and his family moved back to Moultrie to plant a new church in a community that they love. They hope to make a significant difference in Moultrie and beyond by starting a gospel-centered, disciple-making church that reaches people for Christ and plants more churches.
In his free time, Brian enjoys spending time with his wife and their two children, riding bikes outdoors, playing basketball and pickleball, and reading. He has a love for Jesus and a passion to help others come to know and be changed by the love of God.
Branden BrooksSeattle, WA
Branden Brooks was raised in sunny San Diego. He embraced the gospel of Christ at the age of 13, after some friends invited him to attend a church service. Immediately after coming to faith, he felt compelled to begin studying the scriptures and to share the gospel with friends, family, and anyone who would listen. Within a few years, he began to feel the internal call to ministry. At that time, Branden decided that he wanted to spend his life in ministry as a pastor. Branden was also a dedicated athlete. Upon graduation from high school, he received a full athletic scholarship to Portland State University.
College proved to be a very formative time in his life. In that season, he faced several new trials, temptations, and challenges. [Each of these] experiences taught him to depend on the Lord, his local congregation, and to pursue greater spiritual maturity and depth.
After graduating from Portland State with B.A. in the Social Sciences, Branden entered graduate school at Western Seminary. There he earned an M.A. In Biblical & Theological Studies and is currently completing a TH.M.
In 2009 Branden married the lovely Justine. The two of them have a three-year-old son named Blaise. Justine is also a seminarian and is passionate about ministry to women.
Branden recently became the Lead Pastor of New Light Christian Church in Seattle, WA. NLCC is a Multi-Ethnic Congregation located in the heart of Colombia City. The area he serves is one of the most diverse zip codes in the US. Prior to coming to NLCC Branden served Trinity Church of Portland, Harvard University through University Christian Union, and Lake Bible Church.
Branden has dedicated his life to the strengthening and development of healthy, informed, resilient, and faithful disciples of Christ. He loves the church of Christ and wishes to spend the rest of his days shepherding, teaching, leading and loving God’s people. Branden is passionate about developing diverse leaders who will plant and lead healthy congregations. His favorite pastime is spending time with Justine and Blaise. He also enjoys discussing life, theology, ministry, history, sociology, sports, hip-hop and other significant issues with good friends.
Justin ChappellLongmont, CO
Justin grew up in the Midwest, where everyone seemed to be a Christian and church on Sunday was a normal rhythm of life. But Justin describes his experience this way: “I heard all the Bible stories and learned all the Christian words, but it wasn’t until later in life that I began to discover that these seemingly simplistic stories had the ability to deconstruct and reorder my own complex story. The more I explored and pressed into the Biblical story, the more I experienced God’s love and delight telling a different, and better, story than the one I tell about myself; and the more I discovered that words like grace, adoption, and redemption had something to say to the doubt, shame, and loss in my own story.”
“Because I’ve grown up in and around the local church, I’m not a stranger to the imperfection and selfishness often found within it. These experiences have instilled in me a passion for the church to tell, and live out, the story of God’s love, hospitality, and delight – not merely for some personal benefit, but for the flourishing of all people and things.”
Justin and Caitlyn are planting a church in Longmont, CO, with the hope that it will beautifully and boldly tell this more satisfying story. Longmont is a wonderful mashup of our own experiences and passions - and has very quickly become home. They like to describe it as a place with urban values, suburban rhythms, and small-town aspirations.
Before making Longmont home, Justin spent some time in Chicago, married his high school sweetheart (Caitlyn) in St. Louis, and enjoyed a few years in south Florida. Along the way, he has helped a young church get established and helped revitalize an established church. Together Justin and Caitlyn love throwing parties and being competitive (board games, especially).
Justin KarlBirmingham, AL
Justin lived all over the United States growing up and finished high school in Atlanta, GA (Gwinnett County). He met Jesus near the end of high school through a local FCA and during his years at the University of Georgia learned to follow him through Campus Crusade for Christ (Cru).
Justin met Alana, who also started following Jesus at UGA, and they married immediately upon graduation and went on staff with Cru at the University of Alabama to continue their outreach and discipleship of fraternity and sorority students. During their years at Alabama (Bama Cru!), the Lord widened their hearts for the local church, international students, and the beauty of a racially and economically diverse church.
For the past six years, Justin has served in a variety of staff roles at Sojourn Community Church- Midtown in the city-center of Louisville, KY ending with being Pastor of Next Steps and serving on the teaching team. In the fall of 2015 (on the eve of seminary graduation), Justin conducted a survey of twenty mentors and friends asking them: “What is my best fit in the kingdom of God?” The affirmation was vast, unanimous, and matched what was already stirring in his heart: Justin should pastor, preach, and particularly, he should plant a new church sooner rather than later. After a few more years of prayer, affirmation, and training, Justin is currently planting Citizens Church in Birmingham, AL
Justin enjoys fishing, reading, and the NBA. He holds degrees from the University of Georgia in International Affairs B.A. and Religion B.A., as well as an M. Div from Southern Seminary. Alana and Justin are celebrating their 10th year of marriage (2009) and have two children, Eloise and Tyler.
Michael MeredithLexington, KY
Michael was born and raised in Louisville, KY. He is the husband to Jennifer and the father to their Annabel, Sam and Ellie. He first heard the gospel in high school as friends invited him to a youth group and after nine months of attending church and hearing the gospel from his friends, he came to faith and started following Jesus. It was clear early on that God was leading him toward ministry and he began going to school for training. He graduated from the Boyce College with a B.A. in Biblical and Theological Studies and Southern Seminary with an M. Div. in Pastoral Ministry. He met Jennifer at church and they have been married since 2007.
After finishing seminary, Michael went on staff at a church in Jacksonville, FL. In 2011, Michael began to sense God’s leading into church planting. Through months of prayer and seeking the counsel of trusted friends, he and his family stepped out on faith to move to Chattanooga, TN in the summer of 2012 to join a launch team to help plant a church there.
As a group of a dozen people and a few kids meeting for Community Group in a two-bedroom apartment on a small hill just north of downtown Chattanooga, God began to give the Merediths a very impactful and formative experience. They began to do life in biblical community in a way they never had before - seeing the gospel change everything in peoples’ lives!
The church was growing through relationships…one Community Group multiplied into two. At the beginning of 2013, Sojourn Chattanooga began meeting in a school cafeteria weekly for Sunday morning gatherings. Michael began leading the Hospitality Team, coordinating volunteers to handle parking, greeting, coffee, info table, follow-up, etc.
During the weekdays, Michael was working in construction as a project manager and Jennifer was homeschooling. Michael and Jennifer were serving in several ways: leading a Community Group for several years, Michael served as an elder of the church (overseeing Community Groups, construction, pastoral care, etc.) and then later would enter into church planting residency.
In 2017, the Merediths became part of the Sojourn Network, a network of churches “helping pastors plant, grow, and multiply healthy churches that last.” In the spring 2018, the Merediths put their house up for sale in Chattanooga in preparation to move to Lexington, KY. After several months of waiting, their home sold and they moved to Lexington in October 2018 to begin the work of gathering a launch team for planting Bluegrass Community Church.
In his free time, Michael enjoys spending time with his wife and three kids and woodworking (sawdust therapy). He has a love for Jesus and the mission of God and is passionate about reaching the unchurched with the gospel and making disciples who make disciples.
James WestbrookOakland, CA
James accepted his calling to the Pastorate and church planting while in college and has been assisting established churches and church plants in various capacities throughout the United States in fulfilling the Great Commission ever since. He has been eldering and on staff pastoring for a combination of 12 years. James is currently leading Realm Church in Oakland, CA.
James has a deep passion for the Arts. As a trained portraitist, He's been doing art for 30 years; His favorite medium is oil paint and charcoal. James has an MTS degree from Gateway Seminary, and a Bachelor’s degree in History/Religious Studies from Missouri Baptist University. He served as a Pastoral Intern at Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, DC, and studied and worked at Southern Seminary as a Fellow prior to moving to the Bay Area in California to work as a Recruiting Manager.
He has over a decade of experience working in non-for-profit leadership. James' expertise and joys in Non-for-profit life include Community Engagement, Curriculum Development, Strategic Planning and Team Building.
James' passion for preaching has been in small, medium, and large multiethnic and multigenerational congregations, and companies nationally and internationally and he possesses additional skills in entrepreneurship and leading organizational growth. His has a passion for teaching and preaching the Gospel especially in urban areas, and both James and his wife, Desireé have a special heart for reaching locals, the lost and the Nations in Oakland, CA. Desireé spent her formative years in Southern California. She is a Paralegal by trade, has a graduate degree in Counseling, and a Bachelor’s degree in Mass Communication (with an emphasis in Journalism and Media). She enjoys discipling women and using her gifts to serve the Body of Christ. James and Desiree’ have two children, Amara and Justus whom they love dearly and are raising to love God, love people and live on mission.