Vision for downtown LA and cities (Part 2)

In one of my first posts I gave an overview of the need for churches to be planted and renewed in the major cities of the world and particularly in downtown L.A. Not only did the 2010 census estimate at least 15,000 new residents moving to downtown L.A. between 2000-2010, church planters and pastors I’m talking with think it’s conservative to estimate another 15,000 residents coming in the next 10 years. Just to keep up with population growth, we would need 30 new churches of 200 people each! Only a handful have started and I’m excited that Union Church is seeking to reach the diverse neighborhoods of downtown L.A. as it starts new ministries and continues the faithful presence it has had in Little Tokyo and throughout Southern California.

As I talk with church planting networks in Southern California, the East Coast and Northern California, everyone agrees that downtown L.A. is a strategic area that needs more churches to consider some kind of investment to build Christian communities in the various neighborhoods here. The need is for gospel-centered churches to work together to bring shalom to downtown L.A.

I have personally been so encouraged over the past few Sundays as I have begun my new role as pastor of Union Church of Los Angeles. I’ve met several visitors who are already calling Union Church their new home, getting connected and beginning to serve. They love that the church has nearly a 100-year history of sharing the gospel to its neighbors downtown and throughout Los Angeles. They enjoy seeing a diverse community of different races, backgrounds, ages and stages of life worshiping together. If you visit you’ll see blacks, whites, Asians and Latinos. There are several inter-racial couples as well. You’ll see 20-year-olds and 70-year-olds. Some are single and some are married. A few kids will be running around. We have college students, grad students and working professionals. Some are coming from the high-rise lofts and some come from Skid Row. We have committed Christians and those just checking out what it means to follow Jesus. The one thing we have in common is that each one of us is a fallen human who needs to rediscover that we are the song of God. It’s a beautiful picture of what the kingdom of God in its fullness will look like when Jesus returns to establish the New Jerusalem on earth (Revelation 21:1-2).

As we build this new community we are learning what it looks like to love another out of our common identity as God’s creation in need of the grace that comes through Christ alone. The Holy Spirit empowers us to be a movement in the city and in the world. We hope you’ll join us!

A Tearful Goodbye

Kati and I said farewell to our St. Andrew’s family of 9 years last Sunday March 20th as we prepare to join the Union Church of Los Angeles in downtown’s Little Tokyo. I was honored to not only give my final pastoral prayer in the services but the children laid hands on Kati and me and prayed for our sad hearts, for Union Church to grow, for Avery to make new friends and for Avery’s sickness to go away (she is on her second day of antibiotics and feeling better). At our goodbye reception between the services, hosted by a stellar team of individuals (too many wonderful people to name), a decadent spread of fruits, chocolates, teas and cookies were laid out amidst a beautifully decorated fellowship hall decked out in cherry blossoms in honor of our new Japanese church family who will be welcoming us to Los Angeles. Pictures from our time at St. Andrew’s scrolled on the screens as we hugged friends, shared stories and cried. It was hospitality at its best. I personally was touched by the dozens who shared an encouraging word of what our ministry meant to them whether through teaching, a pastoral visit, a meal in our home or just a casual encounter. Sometimes you don’t know how much impact you’ve made until you leave. It almost felt like being at my own funeral!

If there is a word of encouragement you haven’t shared with someone who has made a difference in your life, make it a point this week to let them know exactly what they did. I promise that you’ll bless their life by doing so.

Kati and I are sad to leave our St. Andrew’s family but so encouraged knowing that literally hundreds are praying for our new ministry at Union Church. Many have promised to come and visit in the months to come. We hope they do visit so we can show them what God is up to in downtown Los Angeles as we seek the shalom of the city.