Before planting RCLA, I went through a lot of training, lots of practical and hypothetical teaching, some things I thought were just so basic, how could someone not know this…but I’m realizing now, that there could’ve actually been even more emphasis put on the importance of surrounding yourself with solid friends, friends who were church planters, friends who’ve been there, friends who can speak into your life because they get it. One of the biggest blessings in my journey as we’ve planted RCLA in Lynwood and now getting ready to plant next year in Wilmington, has been the support, encouragement, and readily available friends, that are not jealous, not in competition with you, but instead truly…I mean truly want to see the best in you, for you, and the success of your church, ain’t too many dudes like that I can count on.
Just to give you an idea of what I’m talking about, look at this situation. It’s 9:30am on Sunday December 30th, I’m in Mexico on vacation with my family, and as I’m drinking my coffee, reading my Bible, wondering how we’ll spend the last few days in Ensenada, I get a call from my brother Chris Marquez. Chris was scheduled to preach that day, he hurt his back and was not able to even get out of bed. There was absolutely no way I could make it back to L.A. by Noon to preach. I’ve got a short list of people that I trust with our pulpit, one of them is the homie DJ, pastor of Imago Dei Church in Downey. They’re a 3 year old church plant who has loved on us in so many ways, ways that words can’t even describe. They’ve helped us get connected to grants we qualified for and even contributed generously themselves directly to us…did you catch that? A 3 year old church plant, gets it, they’re pouring into another church plant just a few minutes away. No jealousy, no competition, no rivalry, just solid commitment to support each other for the kingdom of Christ. We’ve been able to serve them in smaller ways and DJ’s wife Crista just spoke at our Women’s 1st Annual Lenten Dinner, and she killed it.
There’s a lot of people we know, people we call friends, people we’re connected to denominationally, networks, etc…but not as many good ol’ friends who’ve got each other’s backs for no reason other than because that’s what we’re supposed to do. I’ve noticed how the role that DJ has played for us has been something that we’ve been able to do for others. I’ve been blessed to walk with others as a church and individuals in walking with them, encouraging them, and supporting their ministry efforts. I’m having conversations all the time with brothers that are planting, thinking about planting, wanting to throw in the towel on planting, and struggling in church planting.
My brother Jose Hernandez, Pastor of Hope Central Watts, has always been there for us, helping us out with our youth ministry and inviting our Lynwood Kids to join his Watts Kids for Youth Camps and Retreats up in the mountains and sharing his resources with us. Pastor Nisan Stewart of Greater Emmanuel Temple in Lynwood is literally a few blocks away, and does not see us as a threat, but instead has offered help EVERY single step of the way for us in our planting journey and even offers the use of their facilities, if needed. And my white ninja, Pastor Kyle Blake, of The Gathering Lutheran Church in the LBC, his friendship and ability to speak clearly into my life and tell me things as he sees them is priceless. We need more people not scared of calling out BS when needed, or squeezing your head down when it wants to puff up.
There are many other folks who are there for us, but I wanted to point out just a few of those real friendships that I can honestly thank God for really being there for us, not just saying they care…but really living it out. Proverbs 18:24 says, “A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother.” I’m grateful for these brothers and the love they give, the ability to help us and not be in competition or rivalry, but a genuine love of God’s kingdom and willingness to help any way they can.
Friends, find yourselves “real ones” that can be there for you, there will be people who “have to” be there for you, there will be people that get paid to “be there” for you…I’m not talking about them, but find yourself some dudes who are genuine about kingdom building, dudes who aren’t scared of interlocking arms and marching forward, despite the proximity of your respective churches, differences in theology or doctrine…brothers who truly want to help you succeed. I pray God will gift you with people like this in your life of ministry, and that of your church.
I’ve got dudes all over that I call, text, message for the same things…my boy Jordan Hall of Trinity Church in San Francisco, my homie Kris Brossett that is up in Grand Rapids right now, Tommy Forrester of Epiphany LA, and Jack Veljkovic up in Tacoma, WA, my other white ninja Chris Godfredsen of Rock Valley, Iowa, the homie Jamie DeVries in West Michigan, my brotha TQ Senkungu in Texas, and a host of others, too many to name them all. The moral of the story is this, don’t try to do ministry on your own, don’t allow yourself to believe your church is an island all by itself, I know it can feel that way at times, but you just haven’t met the right folks yet. Keep trying and praying…it’s a 2 way street, I pray you find those you and your church can be in deep relationship with for the hard and sometimes lonely work of church planting and ministry work.
“The LORD bless you and keep you, the LORD make His face to shine upon you and be gracious to you, the LORD lift up His countenance upon you and give you peace.” Numbers 6:24-26