The Princess of San Pedro Street

I just made that name up right now and my friend might kill me for it. You see, we’re just building a friendship recently because we both have a concern for our neighborhood. The Princess is a local resident who moved into a downtown loft that is adjacent to Skid Row and I am a pastor whose church in Little Tokyo is also adjacent to Skid Row. We’ve only met once but our budding friendship is not because we necessarily share the same faith (which I’m unsure of) or have all the same values (also unsure of). But we do share one thing in common: we want to see our neighborhood flourish.

The main thing I know about The Princess is that she REALLY cares about people and the neighborhood and is willing to take action to make the streets a healthier and more beautiful place for everybody. I used to call her the Tree Lady because she is a guerrilla gardener. That means she goes around and finds ugly areas around the neighborhood and plants gardens and trees there instead, with or without permission from the owners or the city. She got the city to put in dozens of more trash cans so that the local residents–loft dwellers and homeless alike–have more receptacles so trash doesn’t end up on the streets (yes, people who are homeless use trash cans as well!). She makes friends with those in her building and on the streets as well as various organizations with differing views. She enlists everybody’s help to beautify the neighborhood. The Tree Lady just didn’t seem to fit her essence. But “The Princess” has a nice ring to it, don’t you think?

LApastor and The Princess are joining forces to help the neighborhood flourish anyway we can.

Visit her page and let her know LApastor gave her a shout-out.

Why would you sue somebody for helping the homeless?

That’s exactly what LA CAN is doing, an organization that opposes the work of Union Rescue Mision. URM’s CEO, Andy Bales, blogs about it here. Even though URM is one of the most efficient organizations when it comes to stretching each dollar to maximize the number of homeless men, women and children it serves, there are still service costs that are underwritten largely by generous private donors like you (not government money). But URM launched a bold and controversial Gateway program last April that has shown some great results in less than one year. I’m not saying every non-profit should follow URM’s lead in charging its guest to help underwrite services (some of which goes into the individuals own savings account, by the way) but I applaud ingenuity and experimentation that seeks to give dignity to those whom they serve. What URM is doing is adding to the conversation about how to end homelessness,  empower people to change their lives and launch people into independent lives free of addictions and destructive patterns. What they are doing is helping the neighborhood by working to get people who are homeless off the streets and into permanent housing. They do this tirelessly week in and week out.

But LA CAN doesn’t think what URM is doing is good and they certainly have a right to their own opinion and to advocate for what they think is in the best interests of the homeless population. I hope somehow all the different constituencies can sit with community leaders, activists, residents, artists and business owners and discuss how to create safe, healthy and generative communities that benefit everybody. Personally, I think organizations like URM are doing good and should be applauded for their experimentation and commitment to serve thousands of people who are homeless everyday. I personally have witnessed the dignity they try to instill in those they serve. I’m assuming LA CAN is doing good as well but hope they will see things differently and decide to focus their energies on eradicating homeless in Los Angeles instead of throwing stones at others who have the same goal.

As someone who’s church is adjacent to Skid Row and has homeless friends join us each week at the Bridge at Union Church, I know the importance of having safe, clean and healthy environments for people to find restoration and hope. Not every organization agrees as to how to do this but suing URM–an organization our church is partnering with–isn’t going to help anybody.  And it doesn’t promote helpful conversation between groups who are each trying to serve the homeless in their own ways.

 

Entrepreneur. Social Justice Advocate. World Changer. Survivor.

That describes my friend, Steve Hardgrave, who’ll be speaking at a luncheon in downtown L.A. hosted by the church I work for, Union Church.

Six times a year we bring together those who live, love or work in downtown L.A. to discuss how we can integrate our faith and work. With 500,000 people working downtown everyday, this is a strategic opportunity to begin a movement of Christians who are purposely seeking to bless the city in which they live. Steve wants to help us take action on ways we can do that in our everyday lives.

Steve has spent significant time both in Mexico and India using his skills and resources to develop new financial networks that give access to the poorest in the world. He is a committed Christian who has worked with at-risk youth in Santa Monica, helped develop a thriving college ministry in L.A., is an active leader in the social enterprise movement, and is a pragmatic dreamer who is actively changing the world. I get to be his friend. You’ll quickly become his friend once you meet him.

The great thing about Steve is that he believes that you can change your world right where you’re at. He sees the beauty and brokenness of Los Angeles and gets excited just imagining what a handful of Christians can do if they got together and work with everybody regardless of faith in order to purposefully bless the city.

Each week that I share at our new 11am worship service I say that we are a church seeking to “Love God and Bless the City.” One reason I think that God has called my family to serve in L.A.–and particularly in downtown–is that there are 500,000 people who converge on downtown everyday who have the potential to impact our city in a positive way. These luncheons are geared to helped Christians consider that God has brought them to L.A. for a purpose to bless the city, not necessarily to bless themselves.

So I hope you’ll come if you are the Southern California area that day. You’ll be glad you joined us.

Click here to sign up for this FREE event.

Christmas Worship in Downtown L.A.

This Sunday morning I will be at Union Church leading our Bridge Service on Christmas Day, the culmination of our Advent season. It will be a special day not only because it’s Christmas morning and my parents, sister and in-laws will be in attendance, but also our friends from the Anne Douglas Center at the L.A. Mission will be worshiping with us. What an honor it is to lead a church that is multi-ethnic, multi-generational and multi-socioeconomic right in the heart of L.A. It truly reflects the diversity of downtown L.A. and the kingdom of God where one day all the nations will gather at the Second Advent of Christ.

If you’re in town, consider joining our diverse family to celebrate the birth of the True King of the world and worship Jesus, God wrapped-in-our-skin, who came 2000 years ago on Christmas.

Downtown Professionals Luncheon #2

A couple months ago I hosted the first Downtown Professionals Luncheon at Union Church for those who live, love or work in downtown L.A. I didn’t know I would have several drive long distances joining the 70 in attendance who had backgrounds in business, law, education, art, social work, entrepreneurship and not-for-profit organizations that service downtown and the greater L.A. area. No matter if people drove a long distance or walked from their offices, all had an enriching time learning about the 7-11 Principle and how God has specifically called them to seek the blessing of the city.

Some Christians think that the only way to stay true to their faith is to remove themselves from the city and culture that God has placed them in. Other Christians assume that if they want to engage the city then they will have to give into the larger cultural values that might be antithetical to the gospel. But Jeremiah 29 says that God wants us to engage the city but stay true to Him. As Tim Keller says, “Your work matters to God.  God matters to your work.”

On Wednesday, Nov. 9, we will have a second luncheon to continue a discussion of how God wants to integrate your faith and work. Please RSVP and join dozens of other Christians who are seeking to Love God and Bless the City right where God has placed them.

 

 

 

One Question to Consider for the Next 30 Days

Meeting with a group of leaders recently who love, live or work in downtown Los Angeles, I asked them to consider this one question: Why are you in LA?

Lots of people to move to LA for the weather, to make money, to get famous, for a job and for many other good reasons to help improve and further their life. But Christians must consider if God brought them here not to further their lives but to further God’s kingdom. Perhaps God has brought you here, not to make your name great, but to make His name great. This led to three sub-questions about how Union Church can partner with leaders in LA:

1. How can Union Church help you bless the city?

2. How can you help Union Church to bless city?

3. What can we do together to bless the city?

But the essential question to ask yourself is: Why are you in LA? I challenged the group to take the next 30 days and ask themselves this simple question. Bring this question before God. Ask other people about it. Journal about it. Facebook it. Reflect on this very very simple question about why you live where you live and to consider if you live there for a greater purpose than pursuing your own dreams. Perhaps God has placed you here for a purpose beyond your limited vision yet using every aspect of your skills, education, network and resources.

At Union Church we are trying to ask questions that aren’t focused on blessing the church but how we can bless the city and the neighborhoods that we find ourselves in.

If we truly believe that God has called us to the cities in which we live then we begin to have the perspective the God hasn’t brought me to this place to bless myself and to make my name great but to bless the city and make His name great. We begin to get a new set of eyes for our neighborhood. Our eyes hear things differently. Our feet take us to different places. We might even get to know the names of our neighbors!

So many come to cities to get something from it but Jeremiah 29:7 tells us to be part of the prospering and blessing of the city, bringing the holistic shalom of God into every ordinary aspect of life.

This is the 7-11 Principle that I’ve shared about before. “You don’t get 11 until you do 7.” You don’t get the blessing of God until you are a blessing to your city.

God blesses those who bless the city in which they live.

So what brought you to the city in which you live? Perhaps God has brought you there, not just so you could advance your life, but so that you could advance God’s kingdom and make His name great.

Will you join with us the next 30 days in asking why God has placed you in this very city you’ve found yourself in? Perhaps God has an idea He wants to share with you about why He’s placed you in this city at this time with your unique talents, resources and connections.

Asking this one question could change your life and it will probably change your city for the better.

 

Sermon video from speaking at Bel Air

I had the privilege of returning to my “home” church in Los Angeles, Bel Air Presbyterian Church, where my wife, Kati, and I helped minister to hundreds of college students and young adults during our time there. Pastor Mark Brewer and I did a team-teaching format at all three services talking about God’s heart for the city.

Tim speaking with Mark Brewer at Bel Air Aug. 14, 2011

Join us in blessing L.A.

Every week it seems as if God brings someone else into our lives to join us in this adventure to bless the neighborhoods of downtown L.A. and see God’s blessing emanate throughout Los Angeles. Just this past week our family had the privilege to getting to know several women from the Anne Douglas Center at the Los Angeles Mission who are going to join our faith community as we continue to grow as a diverse community reflecting God’s family. God has also brought several leaders into our lives that want to join us in what God is already up to in the city: educators, community leaders, counselors, interior designers, lawyers and entrepreneurs who want to use their time and resources to bless the great city of L.A. Perhaps God is calling you to join us in this work. We’d love to build a friendship with you and talk about how we can do this together.

We’re having a luncheon at Union Church where I pastor on Wednesday August 31 at 12pm. If you live, work and/or have a heart to bless downtown L.A. then please consider joining us. You can RSVP here.

 

Can L.A. become a great city?

The Greater Los Angeles area makes L.A. one of the great global cities of the world following only Tokyo and New York City in significance. It’s the media capitol of the world that likely has more impact creating culture than any other city. So in one sense it’s already a great city because of its global influence. But can L.A. become the greatest city for Christ?

This is the mission of Bel Air Presbyterian Church in Los Angeles, our wonderful partner supporting the new efforts at Union Church to reach downtown L.A. and its surrounding neighborhoods.

I get to share at Bel Air at all three services on August 14 about my family’s call as missionaries to downtown L.A.. They’ll hear me share about the 7-11 Principle and why our call is personal, strategic and biblical. They’ll also be invited to work with us to bless the city as God commands us to do in Jeremiah 29.

I am excited to join with other Christians who seek to to live in L.A., not to make a great name for themselves, but to make a great name for the God they worship and serve.

Going to those who might never come to church

I had the privilege over the past several years to spend some time with a professional tennis player, David Martin, who sees his time on the Tour as an opportunity to minister anyone he comes across. I’ve often told Dave, “You are the only pastor most of these people will ever meet.” Dave has taken that responsibility to heart and seeks to be a loving presence who is ready to share about Jesus on and off the court. Recently a church in London highlighted Dave and produced this video.

David Martin — pastor to the tennis world

Our church in downtown LA realizes that we can’t simply expect people to show up at our church. We are prayerfully having conversations about what it might look like for us to engage the neighborhood in a way that reflects how Jesus would.

How do you see your own vocation as an opportunity to reveal God’s love in your everyday lives and encounters with people?