It’s been a few months since I’ve last blogged, I thought I’d take the time to update ya’ll (for anyone who’s been following us, praying for us, checking in on us, and genuinely concerned for us) as to what’s been happening since then. It would appear that my last blog post certainly shook things up a bit. I’d like to think that it shook things up in a good way, but I’ve gotten word and received follow up calls from folks informing me that some folks were more concerned with how my blog might’ve made them look, than how we were doing. I gotta be 100% honest, that really hurt… but I’m a big boy, put my big boy britches on and kept it pushing.
We’ve taken some time to talk amongst our fellow elders and planters to talk about next steps, preparations, potential ecumenical and financial partners, as well as a temporary advisory board for encouragement and accountability. We’ve had friends in the OPC, PCA, as well as the RCUS reach out to offer prayer, and even some conversations as to what it would look like to join their denominations. All three of those are great organizations and we think that they’re doing great work; we’re just not sure if we’d fit in and since we’re already dealing with some denominational PTSD and not looking for anymore disagreements, arguments, or tension amongst friends we’re likely to pass. I think the latter being the most significant, no matter what anyone says, I know for a fact some of our friendships in this process have been damaged, not severed, but definitely damaged. It would’ve been impossible after all that happened for relationships to have remained unscathed.
So what now?! Well, for the time being we continue… we push forward and we push on! The Gospel MUST be preached and churches MUST be planted! None of the recent drama has kept us from doing what we’ve been called by God to do, none of it has derailed us, if anything it’s made us dig our heels deeper into the sand as we continue to reach our community with the Gospel, as we continue to train up the people of God and make disciples. Last month we ordained and installed 4 elders to our church. 2 of them (Sam Montes and David Cabrera) were sent to serve our San Bernardino church plant (Reformed Church of the Inland Empire – San Bernardino; RCIE), the other two elders (Martin Velazquez and Justin Corona) will remain at RCLA Lynwood to be trained and prepared to launch another plant in Orange County at which time they’ll be sent out with a team to plant Reformed Church of Orange County – Santa Ana; RCOC.
It seems like recently we’ve had an influx of some pretty amazing young men and women who had been connected to charismatic churches but were hungering for a much deeper understanding of God through His Word, so we’re helping to teach them the beauty and richness of Reformed Theology to know God deeper, love Him more intensely, and serve Him more passionately. Our church seems to be widening its reach as we’ve got theological studies going through the book of Romans in Long Beach for our Wilmington campus, our women are going through the Heidelberg Catechism, as are some of our men at a local barbershop run by a couple of brothers from Compton, we’ve got men breaking bread over tacos and studying the Westminster Confession of Faith whose minds are being blown with the simplicity yet depth of these historic teachings.
Our little church has opened up a small coffee/ tea parlor on the Lynwood/ Compton border in an effort to help create jobs, create a consistent stream of revenue for the ministry, as well as dig deeper roots into our community. And as our roots dig deeper, folks know us more, know our motives, and they trust us. I’m so humbled and honored that our city has embraced us and is always looking for ways in which we can partner together. Just a couple weeks ago, our beloved city of Lynwood hosted its annual event to celebrate our Special Needs kids and I was honored to have been asked to pray for them all. We’re now planning a full week of summer camp with water slides, rock climbing walls, and a whole lotta Jesus!
So going back towards the original question, what’s next? It must first be preceded with the logical question as to what have we lost denominationally, nothing really… not because it didn’t work out with the folks we were trying to join, but because we haven’t really had much denominational support since we launched, but were hoping to do so. In the meantime, there are other great things happening, so much so that I know if I go down the list, I promise it’s gonna sound like a brag-amony, but it’s all God’s grace and absolutely all for His glory. We have had some issues come up within the church too, what church doesn’t have issues. We’ve had disciplinary issues that resulted in excommunication, but our leadership remains strong! I can look back now and see how some of our earlier struggles helped make our team more cohesive, and as we’ve brought new elders onboard (even if for a season, because eventually they’ll be sent out to plant), they’ve adapted well and bring godly insight too.
Allow me to now answer the original question posed: “What now?” Well, that’s what we’ve been working on. After much prayer, after much conversation, Holy Spirit seeking, and Spidey sense (totally just kidding), but weighing all things out… considering that we have no money, considering that we’ll be alone for the most part… we’ve decided to go forward with building our own table, our own denomination that will allow us to have oversight, accountability, and protection for both the church and the pastor. I recently read an article on The Gospel Coalition addressing how denominations have a unified voice, unified mission, and come together under a unified confession, in our case the Three Forms of Unity.
Many people have said to us that denominations are no longer a good thing, that they’re outdated, and that they’re old school… well pardon me, but I wanna be as old school as possible, such as when the church didn’t compromise, a time when the church really cared about people, old school like Jesus walking the hoods of Jerusalem, old school like the patristics who were gangsta’ with it. We know that belonging to a denomination also brings theological precision, removing the blurred and skewed lines that would define and establish boundaries as to what we believe and practice.
We want to help build something new that doesn’t just connect us and our churches theologically but also pragmatically and socially. Meaning, I want to be able to meet up with my fellow brother pastors to talk, hang out, interact with our families socially too to talk about ministry, struggles, and open up for accountability, encouragement, but especially for social interaction. I’ve seen how many, if not most, denominations bring their ministers together only for Presbytery or Classis meetings, not much else going on outside of that. We want to start a new thing based on old school ideas that worked until something was lost. For instance, I recall speaking to a brother in a certain denomination, who told me that they didn’t know who they were, that they’d never really established their identity outside of being the conservatives who’d left their previous denomination. They just seemed angry as they were adamant about what they were against, and not doing much in the way of reaching the lost.
We don’t want to be just known for what we’re not or what we’re against. We want to be known for who we are, what we’re for, where we are, what we teach, who we represent, and that folks from all over would be able to connect with us. We want folks to know and feel that no matter what their background is, they’ve got a home with us… not just in word, but in deed as well. That they would truly feel welcomed and able to fit in. I know that lots of churches aren’t really very welcoming, and that’s not who we want to be. Yes, we want theological precision and to be known for that, but we want to do it in such a way that seems natural and not forced. We want to be known for our humility and hospitality… theological arrogance is NOT a fruit of the Spirit, and that’s not who we want to be. So friends… allow me to share with you that Reformed Church of Los Angeles, in Lynwood and Wilmington will be partnering with our future church plants to establish “Orthodox Missional Reformed Church”.
Why OMRC? Because we believe that every church should be missional, something many Reformed/ Presbyterian churches are not doing. Because we believe that many Reformed/ Presbyterian churches that are being missional have abandoned orthodoxy. So how can we be missional while remaining orthodox and Reformed? That’s what we’re doing (although some may disagree because what we do doesn’t look like what they’re doing) as we are being Reformed, orthodox, and missional… just as Jesus would want. We want to reach the hoods and barrios, that all saints, sinners, and skeptics would all truly be welcomed in. We want homies, hynas, seminary educated and those without even a G.E.D. to fellowship comfortably and admit they can learn from each other and do so.
What good does it do us to have an amazing theology yet never do anything with it other than minister to our people yet not disciple our people? What good does it do us to theologically train our people yet never do anything with it outside the 4 walls of the church. I mean, after all, Jesus didn’t wait in the synagogues and wait for folks to come in, right? He went to the streets and shared His message to everyone not just seminary trained, theologically astute folks, and middle-class people who front like they’ve got their lives together and confess to sins like pride and anger but deny lust, racism, gluttony, and envy. Christ came to die for the hoodrats, the gangsters, the tweakers, and the winos too… we can’t just wait for them to walk into churches whose only focus is theological astuteness and hope they’d fit in, I know for a fact they won’t feel comfortable nor accepted… that’s just truth! As it pertains to folks from my cultural demographic, there are extremely few folks that I know of who’ve actually walked into ultra conservative Reformed churches and felt welcomed, because most often than not, they are highly encouraged to assimilate to the church and encouraged to lose their own culture. We want to be not just one church, but a group of churches that these types of folks can walk into whether it’s Lynwood in South Los Angeles, Wilmington in the Harbor Area, Santa Ana in the OC, Maryvale in the Phoenix desert, San Bernardino in the Inland Empire, and maybe even Chi-town. Yep, that’s right… maybe even the Chi!
So friends, would you please pray for us. Would you please consider donating to us? Would you please consider joining us? We know there are lots of people like us, looking for a church like ours, with a vision/ mission like ours, and we want to create that space to minister to those folks that most Reformed/ Presbyterian churches won’t look twice at unless they walk into their church… and we know that even then, it’s not likely that they can connect with them, much less empathize. In advance, thanks for the love, prayers, and encouragement and remember “Soli Deo Gloria”!!!