Over the last 2 years, our young church plant has undergone so many changes, changes that we’d been warned about, and actually told would happen, but we resisted believing because after all, it was “our” team… and we were different. We soon found out though, that in reality, we weren’t much different at all, status quo, like all the rest of them, in a sense that our team almost turned over completely. What does that mean? Well, during some basic church planting training, we were told that our launch team would be much different a year into it, and we were like, “Nah…not our team!”. But the truth is that more than ½ of our team has since left, for various reasons, some good, some bad, and some had none, they just… disappeared. But we’ve come to learn that church planting isn’t for everybody… you’ve gotta be a special kinda crazy.
This blog post is not to address those that have left, Lord bless them, but instead to honor and acknowledge those who’ve stepped up and stepped in. You see, the turnover started just 3 weeks into it, when the first family informed us that they’ll be leaving and going back to the church we’d just left. We also had primary leaders such as Worship Directors, Elder & multiple Deacon candidates stepped down or left the church altogether leaving huge vacancies and gaps to fill. The hard part in church planting is that we don’t want any open slots, no vacant jobs, everything must be filled. The thought is that because we’re small, or because we’re new that nothing can be left vacant, but that’s a huge mistake. We put people in spots they shouldn’t have been placed. But when you can’t afford to pay anyone, is it really feasible to think that folks will be in it for the long haul? Is it logical to think that folks would go through with commitments?
I’ll let you answer those questions some other time, but for now, I just wanted to give you some background so you can understand the context of us wanting to plant a highly theologically inclined church in the hood where there are no such churches. Theology can often seem a curse word in the church where it’s more charismatic and emotion driven and that’s what we have here in our area. Lots and lots and lots of churches… but, they’re the classic and stereotypical black and Hispanic churches. They love Jesus, but they just don’t know who He truly is… folks are more passionate about expressing their love of Him but not so much about getting to know Who He is through deep theological study.
So let me begin to tell you our story and start off with our Elder candidates:
Steve Price, I can remember there was a time when he was a bit sad that he was not considered as a Deacon in our previous church. I remember having a conversation with him to cheer him up and saying something to the effect of how he didn’t know whether God had a different calling on his life in the future, (this isn’t said to in any way downplay the role of a Deacon in the Lord’s Church). We had no clue at the time that we’d be planting a couple years later, much less that those very words would be lived out with Steve stepping into the role of an Elder candidate, to be ordained on Palm Sunday of 2020 when he preaches his first sermon. Steve’s natural abilities to lead and his love of God’s Word have allowed him in a much smaller church to be developed and has grown leaps and bounds.
We originally had 2 Elder candidates, but with one stepping down unexpectedly, it left Steve to cover the role of both and take on the respective responsibilities on his own, until Randy Fao was called in.
Randy Fao, is a huge Samoan teddy bear, who loves Jesus passionately, can hold a tune better than most R&B singers and gratefully accepted a call to prayerfully consider stepping into the role of an Elder candidate. Randy originally served on our worship team along with his wife Rachel (please see our story on Worship Director below) and definitely meets all the biblical qualifications for an Elder. To have witnessed the continued growth in Randy has been amazing. To watch his love and hunger for solid biblical doctrine (Reformed) and lead his family is so encouraging.
Rachel Fao has been with us since day one but served with and alongside two previous Worship Directors, both who also left unexpectedly, and she rose to the occasion, has led us, and actually raised the bar in how we worship. She has a deep love of God’s Word so she takes extremely seriously the task of only including biblically sound lyrics in what we sing in corporate worship, knowing that folks will most likely forget our sermons, but the songs will stay with them long past Sunday. This is such a big deal for us knowing that many Worship Directors don’t do this, they play most popular Christian songs without taking the time to examine the theology in them. To see her lead/ direct our worship team, develop a youth choir, and serve on multiple levels in the church makes me one proud pastor/ brother. She is humble and has also taken on the task of developing the next generation of worship leaders which include my daughter Natalia, as well as her daughter JoJo, there’s a small clip above.
As for our Deacons, we’re blessed with Eddie Moreno, now ordained and installed, his wife Catrina “Cat” Moreno, also ordained and installed, as well as Maribel Abarca, who is presently a candidate, all three are serving and leading our church with administration, and mercy ministry efforts.
Eddie is a brother who does whatever is needed, nothing is ever beneath him, and his energy to just get things done is awesome. He brings much wisdom to the team, and of our original Deacon candidates, he is the only one left. We’ve had 4 others step down at different stages of our planting journey. Watching Eddie lead his family and grandkids, take younger men under his wing and train them up from everything to set up, taking up offerings, just demonstrates a servant’s heart all around. We’re so thankful for his leadership!
Cat Moreno, Eddie’s wife, stepped up and into the role of a Deacon/ Administrator when our previous Admin also left unexpectedly. She has a history in finance and taxes, but a love for serving Christ surpasses the others. She is humble, adamant about being good stewards, and has helped serve on and support multiple other ministries too, it is always encouraging to see her interact with out church family. I’ve seen her growth from having watched her invite homeless folks into our services when we were in the park to her advising on financial issues now and bringing guidance shows just how the Lord always provides for our needs (Ph. 4:19).
Maribel Abarca, actually heard about RCLA being planted in Lynwood, and since she’s a Lynwood resident, she stopped by shortly after we started. We had just moved from the park into the Lutheran building (present location) and her family was quickly brought into fellowship, discipleship, and her entire family was baptized (Dad, Mom, and 3 kids). Maribel’s husband Tony serves on our A/ V team, and Maribel was invited to contemplate Consistory as a Deacon candidate, which she’s been preparing for and serving as for the last year, or so. She stepped in when there was a need and serves with joy. She also has experience in finance/ banking and brings wisdom and guidance to our Consistory and church. She’s always demonstrated a character of humility and love of Jesus and His people.
Liz Price, Steve’s wife, is a life-long teacher in the LBC, has supported our church planting efforts since day 1. She’s helped serve in other areas and actually established a Women’s Ministry soon after we planted, she’s the most amazing servant, and when it comes to organizing, leading, and decorating for special events, watch out… she’s on it. Our Children’s Ministry leader also left unexpectedly (horrible pattern, right?) and Liz didn’t take long to agree to step in, lead, re-organize, and gather up a team twice the previous size, to help her succeed in re-launching our kids’ ministry. The fact that she’s an experienced teacher is a huge plus for us.
We’ll be having one more Deacon step into candidacy next year, brother Bill Hilton, who’s been a Lynwood resident for 30+ years, we are confident he too will bring his giftings to our Consistory and help strengthen our existing team.
Then there are people like Kristina Camacho, Yvette Alvarez, and Diego & Sara Vallejo who are stepping up as a team to lead our Youth Ministry (yep, you guessed it, because our previous Youth Leader left unexpectedly too). They’ve recently recruited the likes of Paul Solórzano and Jerett Soto to joining their team. I’m excited about where they’ll be taking out Youth ministries too.
There are women like Ruby Morales, Kristina Camacho (again), and Edna Rubio (yes, my wife) to help lead the Women’s Ministries. We’ve got our set-up teams with Rudy Ruiz, Edwin Martinez, and a handful of teens. Speaking of teens, Diego Mercado, my 17 yr. old son, stepped in at the age of 15 to lead our A/ V team when (yep… right again) our previous sound guy unexpectedly left the church. Diego single handedly took on that role for over a year and now has Tony Abarca on the team, doing a great job.
As you’ve seen, many folks have stepped in to serve in roles that needed to be filled, but we’ve learned that we made many mistakes in planting this church. Because we needed roles to be filled, we handed out titles too quickly, we didn’t take our time to see how people would work under pressure, how they’d resolve conflict, work as a team, be cohesive, etc. So, after certain roles were vacant, we weren’t in hurry to fill them, but God has sovereignly brought these humble servants to step in, be developed, and lead alongside our team. Friends, God provides! Not just money, but the people, the right people to help do what we’ve been called to do… plant a Reformed, Confessional, liturgical, multicultural church in the hood that will plant other churches in the hood.
Please pray for our team, God has sovereignly brought this group of folks to lead His church here in Lynwood. We had to go through many things, situations, and circumstances to get to this point, which is exactly where we need to be. I’m so grateful for these folks and what they bring of themselves to our team.
As we read in Galatians 6:9, “And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up.” be reminded that in ministry, it’s ok to never get tired of doing “more” for God; feel free to stay in the fight, feel free to not throw in the towel, feel free to stick it out and see how God will use you… why? Because Jesus’ conditions weren’t perfect either, and He stuck it out for us, He voluntarily went to the Cross for us, He didn’t give up. Support your pastors, support your leaders, give all you can for Christ… for He is worthy. There is no such thing as the Spiritual gift of “comfort” and “selfishness” is not a biblical qualification for anything. In a world where everyone wants something new, I lift up and honor those who are willing to step up to the plate, and go the long haul to get it done… this isn’t for us, it’s for King Jesus!