Don’t Take It Personal

Even though I went through some training prior to church planting, nothing prepared us for some of the difficulties we’d encounter. My good friend and LCMS Pastor Kyle Blake gave me some great practical prophetic insights as to what I should expect, and what he said would happen, did. He said that those people we thought would surely be the first to have our backs, wouldn’t. And that the people we least expected, would be the ones to actually hold us down. And that’s just the way it went down. No need to mention names, but that’s exactly what happened and some of it was really hurtful, I thought I’d gotten over it, but as I’m writing now, I realize that I have in fact forgiven, but haven’t really gotten over it. For some of the folks that left us, it really, really hurt us and for others that left, it didn’t bother us one bit. Folks always throw the phrase “Don’t take it personal” around very casually, but it’s not that easy to live out, it is so much easier said than done.


I haven’t unfriended folks, but I have hit the “Unfollow” button quite often, only because it’s just healthier to not see some stuff or people, you know what I’m talking about, right? You don’t want to “unfriend” because there is still some form of connection, but it’s best (emotionally wise) if you have less contact. As strong as I am, or as thugged out as I used to be on the streets, there is no more tough guy here, let me tell you! I’ve realized just how soft I am, just how tender God has made my heart and it brings to memory the Prophet Ezekiel’s words when he says, “And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.” (Ez. 36:26). Not too long ago I read the following social media post and it stirred up lots of feelings:

  • “Reflecting on pastoring for 20 yrs: With a therapist, I catalogued all the folks that have ghosted me (almost 100 over the years). Spend time in their homes, baptize their kids, cry with them in pain, counsel them through crisis. Then vamoosh they’re gone. It’s a weird job.” Dan White Jr. – @danwhitejr

One of my church planting homies shared it and it made me think of just how many people have “ghosted” us, not just me and the church, but my family too. In the event that you’re not familiar with the term “ghosted” it refers to people vanishing on us and disappearing as ghosts. Now, this post is not meant to speak ill of those that have “ghosted” us and the fact this stuff happens is very real, but instead let this serve as an encouragement to those that have been hurt by someone else’s departure and tell you, “Don’t take it personal”.


There is a common term or phrase that is used in our world and that is, “church hurt”. It is often used to describe how a church has hurt someone and affected them so bad that they’ve left the church altogether and have no desire to return. These bad experiences they’ve had have been directly by church leaders, ministry directors, or sometimes even the pastor is listed as the offending culprit.

Upon reflecting more and more on the “ghosted” article, it made me rethink the whole “church hurt” thing and see it from a different perspective. The phrase usually applies to those who’ve left the church because they’d been hurt by it, but how about those in the church being hurt by those that have left? If you think about it, you might have experienced this situation yourself, it is so much more common than we’d like to say, especially because we don’t really talk about it, or at least not in a healthy way. But very often, especially in a consumer driven world, people leave churches because things don’t go their way, the church lacks a specific ministry program, folks don’t wanna be pushed out of comfort zones, they want titles, they don’t want titles, they want to lead, they don’t want to lead, there are just far too many reasons that folks leave.

I don’t think their intent was to hurt you… I don’t think that they really meant to hurt your kids… they might have not realized that by taking their kids away after you’ve loved on them for so long, took care of them, let them spend the night at your home with your own kids that other families would suffer. I don’t think they meant to hurt you by breaking a sacred trust that you’d placed in them, they might have not realized they were your “go to” couple, people you’d trust for marital issues, that they were needed for your own accountability, or just a “safe” place to be open and transparent… so don’t take it personal! I wish it would really be that easy… I wish we could really not take it personal, but it’s impossible, it’s difficult, and it hurts. But if our Savior Himself was “ghosted” by His disciples the very night He was betrayed by Judas and arrested why would we expect anything less. Our very Savior was hurt by His church when they denied Him, even Peter as the rooster crowed, was he reminded of his own “ghosting” of Jesus.

Psalm 55:12-14 brings to light an all too common feeling of being ghosted or hurt by someone close to us.

12 Now it is not an enemy who insults me—otherwise I could bear it; it is not a foe who rises up against me—otherwise I could hide from him.
13 But it is you, a man who is my peer, my companion and good friend!
14 We used to have close fellowship; we walked with the crowd into the house of God.

And Psalm 41:9 also addresses the same issue when it said:

Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me.

This is the same story that has happened over and over again in the whole biblical narrative, why? Because people, sinners that we are, will always end up hurting those we love, to some degree or another… but there is One that will never hurt us, there is One that will never forsake us, there is One that will never abandon us… there is One that will never “ghost” us. As the song says, Christ will hold us fast;

When I fear my faith will fail, Christ will hold me fast;
When the tempter would prevail, He will hold me fast.
I could never keep my hold through life’s fearful path;
For my love is often cold; He must hold me fast.

“He will hold me fast” Keith & Kristyn Getty

Although there is no blame pointed in any direction, it does not dispel that there are folks in almost every church that are hurt when good friends leave their church, there are good folks in almost every church who have kids that are hurt when their friends no longer go to the same church because their parents decided to go elsewhere. If you’ve been one that has been hurt, please forgive your brothers and sisters who’ve ghosted you… don’t take it personal. And if you feel like placing blame on someone or something that caused them to leave, be reminded of Romans 5:8 clear description of just how God shows His love for us, in that while we were STILL sinners, Christ died for us.

We’ve ghosted others too… we ghosted the One Who least deserved it, our Savior Himself… and He didn’t take it personal, He still went to the Cross willingly for us, He suffered a horrific death we deserved knowing we’d ghost Him, He resurrected and ascended as He said He would, He granted us a path back to fellowship with God because of His love for us, and He paid our debt knowing we’d ghost Him… that is the Good News, and THAT you have to definitely take personal.

I’ve noticed many folks that come to church, are a part of a church, or serve at a church when it’s convenient, when they’re lonely, when they’re sick, when a loved one is in need, or void needs to be filled… and those are great reasons, I truly believe God uses those means to draw His people in, but what about when those needs are met? When we finally get a job, find a significant other that takes away the loneliness, when there is a medical healing, or when we just feel we no longer need God… our mouths may not actually say those words, but our actions shout loudly, that we’re no longer desperate for Christ as when we were in church.

I know there are folks who might read this and think it’s about them… it’s not, this wasn’t written for one person, group of persons, but the things that I’ve experienced in my 10 years of ministry, but especially what I’ve lived first hand these last two years in church planting. I end with this… If you’ve been hurt by the church, by either the church directly hurting you, or you’ve been hurt by someone leaving, I give you this quote from Jackie Hill Perry:

“Do you know who God used to heal me of my church hurt? The church”

Don’t take it personal, and don’t let a bad experience rob you of the beauty we live and experience not by “going to church” but by being the church, and that includes belonging to a local church, giving, discipling, and serving joyfully, generously, and sacrificially. I’m sure someone will get their undies in a bunch over this final statement, but I don’t believe one can be a true Christian and not belong to a local church. Only at the local church can we belong, give generously, serve joyfully, disciple and be discipled sacrificially, encouraged, and be held accountable… so even if things aren’t working perfectly at your church, stay there… it needs you.

Even though you don’t get your way all the time… it’s not Burger King… stay there…it needs you.

Even if you think you can do a better job than the pastor… you’re not the Pastor, so stay there… he needs your support.

Even if you had a sharp disagreement with someone… stay there… it shows we follow Christ’s command to forgive.

Even if you think the worship music is lame… if you could do better, you’d be up there leading… stay there… they need your support.

By leaving a church whenever things don’t go your way, when things aren’t done the way you’d probably do them… you confuse your kids, you confuse your church family, and you confuse the community your church is desperately trying to connect with and show them you care. Do you really care if you bounce for small or dumb stuff? Leave because there is moral failure in leadership and there is no discipline. Leave because the pastors are preaching heresy. Leave because leaders are stealing money and no one has gotten locked up yet. Be wise… be mature… and above all be Christ-like.

The Importance of Good Friends- Proverbs 18:24

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.

Pastor DJ of Imago Dei Church in Downey, stepping in at the last minute to cover our pulpit for us.
Crista Jansson of Imago Dei Church bringing a word to our Women’s Lenten Dinner.

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.

Pastor Jose Hernandez of Hope Central Watts
Pastor Nisan Stewart of Greater Emmanuel Temple in Lynwood
Pastor Kyle Blake of The Gathering Lutheran Church in the LBC

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

When the excitement wears off? John 4:34

Like anything else, we can get really excited about things in life right? A new car, a new house, a new job, for some of us hood folks a pair of new Jordans. But what happens when the excitement wears off in a church plant, what happens when the excitement you had, the reason you were so pumped up about something starts to fade and the reality of it becoming more and more real…then what? What happens when the pressure comes, when people don’t agree with you, when people start bickering and arguing over things that aren’t even really that important… then what? IMG_7739.PNG

That’s a really great question and the answer is this, that’s when the hard work of ministry really kicks in. That’s when all the spiritual attacks get real, that’s when we continue to remind ourselves that church planting is a calling, it’s not a “thing we do” for a couple of months. Don’t get me wrong, there are people who support in such a way temporarily. There were many people who were a part of our original launch team that left after the church was planted. We are glad for their help, grateful for their support, and thankful for their role in launching RCLA, but now comes the reality and extremely hard work of growing, nurturing, and loving the congregation and community as we strive to teach them about Jesus, live out the Gospel, and pray they follow suit.

I think it’s safe to say that of our original launch team (no longer use the word CORE), at least half of them have parted ways with us for different reasons, and in the midst of potentially debilitating fears that can seem to hold the flesh hostage (extremely true), God is/ was working behind the scenes. As some left on to their next mission, God brought in others, He was doing an amazing work that, at least for me, had me feeling so ashamed for not having trusted His sovereignty. Seriously, how the heck can I be reformed, acknowledge God is sovereign yet not trust Him? That makes me either one very weak and wannabe “reformed” Christian or, just a very real human, a very real sinner, one that needs to be checked and put in his place by God often, to remind him just Who is in charge.

So now what? Although the initial zeal may be gone (not for everyone) the knowledge of God remains, the call of God remains, and a team that God divinely assembled to stay and fight remains… some have moved on but God has brought others in.  I think of what would have or would NOT have happened if we’d all thrown the towel in when things get rough…when ministry can appear to be mundane…when we’re tired from a long days work and just wanna go home and relax… when the kids have a bunch of stuff to do that takes us away from personal time… when people start to act weird and funny… what then? When we feel like giving up (God knows that happens often), then we should start to look back and reflect and see just what God has done through all the hard times, through the struggles, through the lack of zeal and overwhelming fatigue at times… what has God done?

We’ve been blessed to get lots of support from local government officials at various capacities. We’ve been blessed to help launch the Lynwood Commitment, Mayor’s Clergy Breakfast, FREE youth summer camp, and even Trunk or Treat.

Pastor Rudy w/ Gary Hardie Lynwood School Board President, and Mayor Solache
Lynwood Commitment mural at Lindbergh Elementary led by local Lynwood artist @amoearte
Lynwood’s 2nd Annual Mayor’s Clergy Breakfast
RCLA’s 1st Summer Camp in 2018, and now we’re getting ready for 2019.
2nd Annual Trunk or Treat in the city of Lynwood

So what happens when the excitement wears off? Ministry happens… that’s what! Folks get discipled…people get baptized…couples prepare for marriage…jobs get lost and new ones found…people lose loved ones and the church is there to comfort them in the Lord…marriages struggle and are loved, encouraged, and held accountable in love…kids mess up, parents get encouraged, and children are raised in the ways of the Lord…victories are shared together, and losses are mourned together…we fight, we argue, and we make up…the Word of God is preached, the Word of God is prayed, the Word of God is sung, and the Word of God is taken at the Lord’s Supper every Sunday…

This is what happens when the excitement wears off, we do ministry…and we prepare to plant another church…this time in Wilmington! God has given us favor and it looks like we’ve already got the building in which we’ll be meeting, God is so good to us…when the excitement wears off, we do life together…we encourage each other and spur each other on towards love and good deeds and not miss corporate worship with the saints (Hebrews 10:24-25)… when the excitement wears off, we weather the storm… we acknowledge that the enemy is super pissed at what we’re doing, and we put on the armor of God like this dude here:

I can remember the day my spiritual father, Rev. Eddy Aleman, General Secretary of the Reformed Church in America commissioned Chris and I as pastors of RCLA, he said, “You’ve got to be a special kind of crazy to be a church planter” and I think that can also be said of our team…I love them and am so grateful for them, to them, and in awe of how immensely God has blessed me with them in mine and my family’s life. Our team is not perfect, but man… they’re some pretty awesome people! Our elders, deacons, ushers, youth leaders, worship team, and set up crew all love Jesus, all acknowledge their need of Jesus, and are a true blessing to me, our church, and the city of Lynwood.

So what happens when the excitement wears off…we roll up our sleeves and do ministry, the hard work expected of any professing follower of Christ!

Follow the way of the Cross! Mark 8:34, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.”

Happy New Year!!!

I woke up this morning in Mexico with my granddaughter Isabella hanging on to my arm, best feeling ever!

As I write this short piece, I’m sitting in my suegra’s (mother-in-law) dining room on a soft sofa seat in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico and it’s FREEZING!!! It like 48 degrees, so cold that gangsters are walking around with their pants pulled up!!! We came to get away for a few days but as usual I find myself working even when I should be chillin’… well, everyone is still asleep, the house is quiet, and as I got my new Bible reading plan ready to dive into, I checked my social media (don’t judge me!) and see some of the continued madness about this being the year of breakthroughs, our year of increase, it’s time to come up, time to start making money, time to find the right companion, no more losses, etc… and I was reminded again about how quick we are to want to avoid hardship, struggles, and trying times! What if you went to school and prepared for a better job, what if God don’t want you in a relationship right now, and instead wants to prepare you for that person He has in store, what if you actually hustled at work to get a promotion, feel me? Entering into 2019 has got nothin’ in itself to do with that.

What if this is an actual time in which God is working on you, in you, to prepare to work through you. I’m not saying that we should actively pray about God putting us in hard times, but come on family!!! We’re Christians, and to be a believer in Christ is synonymous with suffering, right? Our Lord Himself says, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” John 16:33 and then 1 Peter 5:10 tells us, “And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, Who has called you to His eternal glory in Christ, will Himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you”. So if this is all true, why do Christians generally think of these things as being bad? Why do so many of us self-identify with our failures? Or… on the opposite end, self-identify with our achievements? Failure nor achievements identify who we are, they are simply markers… this happened there or that happened here… those things don’t dictate nor determine who we are. The only thing that determines our identity is what Christ did on the Cross.


I remember having a conversation about this mindset with my family almost 2 years ago, you see, we were in church planting mode and mindset when all of a sudden, I get an invitation from a church in Florida to come out and continue a conversation we’d had some months before about me coming on staff there. They flew my family and I out to spend a few days there, we had a chance to meet the congregation, and I preached there again. It was a really great time with some awesome people… we came back with an offer to move out there and help the church grow in a rapidly increasing Latino population in Tampa Bay. What possible reasons could we dream of for saying, “No”? Money would not be an issue, Florida and it’s weather are gorgeous…but…we came back to California and had some really good conversations as a family. Should we go? Should we stay? My daughter Gabby had just gotten engaged to her boyfriend…my suegra in Mexico would no longer see us that often, kids would have to make friends all over again, but those weren’t major issues… one thing we’d be in Florida would be this… comfortable! Yes, we’d be comfortable… but the thing is, we were already comfortable! I lived in Paramount, a really quiet neighborhood directly across the street from the church we were a part of, lived in literally “The Most Beautiful Home in Paramount”, seriously! Brand new home, 2 stories, 4 bedrooms, 3 bathrooms, 2 car garage, and a pool. Relax, it wasn’t mine…HAHAHA, the church I worked at owned it, and that was a part of my compensation. But… I was comfortable, the church there was already established, almost 100 years old, they’d done some amazing stuff in the city, where other churches had fled, they stayed, where other churches where dwindling, they were thriving… I wasn’t the Senior Pastor, and probably never would be, so I would always be limited to do things the way God had wired me to do ministry…and now I had an opportunity to join a church in one of the most beautiful spots in the world, do ministry my way, money wouldn’t be an issue, and we could live pretty comfortable… easy choice, right?

Not really, you see when we came back to L.A. we went out to dinner, literally the next night. I can remember us meeting at a California Fish Grill and bringing out a notebook and all 5 of us going over our time in Florida and what it would look like to move out there. We made list of Pro’s and Con’s for moving to Florida or moving into Lynwood to help plant RCLA. Financially and materialistically speaking, we should’ve went straight home to start packing for a cross country move to Florida… but we didn’t. To us, it was more important to follow the way of the Cross… the same one that Jesus spoke of in Mark 8:34 when He said “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” To us, as a family, to have gone to Florida was too easy…not that we hope for poverty, or pray we get into super difficult situations, but we thought to stay here and move into Lynwood, and help start a church from scratch, not knowing where we’d get money from to pay bills from, not knowing how long we’d be able to secure funding to keep putting food on the table, with so many uncertainties, that was our way… the way of the Cross. We chose to trust Christ for all our needs, according to His glory (Philippians 4:19).

We’re a family on mission for Christ! We’re not perfect by a long shot, but we truly aim to please Him, follow Him, and as we serve Him… carry the famous Cross Jesus talked about, the Cross so many are quick to mention and even quote… but not live out. My wife opens up our home (we live on the border of Lynwood/ Compton) for discipleship and has helped start a women’s Spanish group, my two daughters serve on our worship team, and my 16 year old son is our sound engineer, my family has given up many comforts in order to serve Christ…the way of the Cross. I think of my homie and co-pastor Chris Marquez, who helped plant this church too… what’d he do, how about not taking one red cent all year long, as a contribution to help the church get started. I think of the families that have stuck it out with us, that have hung around and are giving their absolute best, giving their all for Christ. I can’t help but mention the Fao’s. Randy and Rachel…she leads and directs our worship, is discipling her young daughter Jojo of 14 years old and my daughter Natalia of only 13. She’s taken our worship to another level and sometimes it can be a huge struggle to serve, as she’s the mother of 5, with one of them being a newborn of 5 months old. The Fao’s are following the way of the Cross.

Randy and Rachel Fao, she does an amazing job leading and directing our worship team, training up our next generation of worshippers, and rallying the women together for bimonthly meetings.

I also think of the Price family, Steve and Liz, who go above and beyond the call of duty, having been at an established church for over a decade and believed in their call to help plant this church. They too are involved in everything the church does, and continue to surpass any expectations. Steve is an elder candidate and Liz has taken on the task of leading our women in missional community, and organizing so many church functions as well as opening their home and being hospitable to many. I think of the Morenos, Cat and Eddie, they’re both deacon candidates at our church, she’s also administrator and works effortlessly to keep our finances in order. I think of the Centenos, Henry and Mayra, he’s a deacon candidate and she’s our treasurer, also sacrificed being at an establish church forever, to take on the call of helping establish this church plant. I think of Robinlyn, our beloved Echo, who followed the way of the Cross by no longer being comfortable sitting in a pew, but instead is a deacon candidate, leads our children’s and youth ministries, disciples our younger girls, hangs out with them, goes on girl dates with them, shopping sprees (at thrift stores HAHA), and shares Jesus with them. I think of all the other families like the Morales’ and Torres-Orozco’s, and too many others to give specific details about. Many people who have also jumped on board with what God is doing, following the way of the Cross, abandoning comfort to serve the Lord and His people and His church, people like the Gonzalez family, the Abarca’s, the Hilton’s, the Rebollo’s, the Moya’s, Vallejo/ Barron’s, the Aranda’s, the Galapon’s, the Caceres family, our beloved Hendrix’s, the Camacho/ Sandoval family, the soon to be Murillo-Martinez family, and recently the Galindro’s, as well as many others who join us weekly for the corporate worship of our Lord Jesus Christ. Men like David Canales and John DeVries who have a deep love of the reformed faith and tradition and have recently decided to make RCLA their home.

May we all be a people who gladly abandon comfort, who seek to follow the way of the Cross, to help serve and expand the kingdom. Again, please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not saying in order to be a “real” Christian you must abandon all of life’s comforts, that’s not what I’m saying, but what I AM saying is this, we should not serve God based on our level of comfort. We should not give based on whether or not it will make us pinch pennies and affect our comfort, we should not be involved in ministry only if we’ve got nothing else scheduled… Jesus Himself said, “PICK UP YOUR CROSS” meaning you will have to suffer, STOP tryna’ live comfortably and and thinking you’re sufferin’ for the sake of the Cross at the same time… stop making comfort a number 1 priority. If we already know that the Christian walk will cause us to sacrifice a certain amount of pleasure and comfort, then accept it, learn from it, and serve our Savior through it. Stop using excuses as to why we can’t go to church, why we can’t serve the church, or why we can’t give to the church… or how it’s ok to love Christ but not His bride.

This morning as I was reading my devotions, I came upon Mark 2:1-12 and the story about the 4 people that were trying to get their paralytic homie to Jesus, that he might be healed. But peep game, there were so many people already there that they couldn’t get close enough, so instead, these dudes got up on the roof, cut a hole, and dropped homie in… now THAT is gangsta’… seriously!!! How many in the church today would gladly use the excuse that there was too many people, there’s no parking, got something with the kids, maybe next time, tired from work, etc, etc, etc… there will ALWAYS be a plethora of excuses on which we can stand upon to avoid Christ or service to Him… Christ is God, He could’ve easily excused Himself from going to the Cross… but He didn’t, out of love for us, He willingly went to it, He didn’t just go to the Cross, He literally carried it… tired, hungry, got whooped on and was beat up, and still He carried it… He fell, and even had to get helped by Simon of Cyrene to carry the Cross… but He did. Friends, Jesus didn’t just come to give us theory, He didn’t simply come to hypothesize, He came to physically and literally demonstrate the things we should do and the lifestyle to lead.

I remember speaking with the homie Chris Centola of Hesperia a couple months ago about a big choice he had to make, does he stay here and plant a church through RCLA, or does he go to Idaho to take over as lead pastor of an existing church? Both would be kingdom minded decisions, right? But only one would be  the way of the Cross! I remember talking to the homie and hearing the internal struggle in his voice, of “What do I do?”, and I remember telling him my story about the church in Florida, and how our family worked through that.

As we enter 2019, what is the comfort God calling you to abandon for the sake of ministry? What is He telling you that you need to start doing? Most everyone is too focused on what they should stop doing like eating, drinking, etc… but few are asking what they CAN start doing for Christ, how they can better serve, how they can give more with a joyful heart, and how they can be more of a blessing… think about that, meditate on that, and pray on that. What is God calling you into in this new year? I know I’ve got a long list of the things I need to start working on, and the first is His temple… yo’ boy is way too outta shape, and disgustingly so… who wants to work out with me in the early morning. That is my comfort… food, food in ministry, and ministry around food. Help keep me accountable, what is/ are yours? Self-care is something I always sacrifice for the sake of ministry, that stops too… I WILL care for myself… I’ve often sacrificed time with family for the sake of ministry, to the point where the church became my wife and my wife became my lover… that too stops! I will focus on a more balanced life, I will not pressure myself to do more… what about you? Are you serving, giving, and living for God… or is it more about you and your comforts? Whatever your story may be, keep in mind that His mercies are new every morning, great is His faithfulness (Lamentations 3:22-23).  Happy New Year familia! If you’re looking to get behind something new this year, please consider RCLA. You can pray for us, join us, or give to our ministry. Check us out at or watch this clip of our ministry.

Church hurt? “…forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” Colossians 3:13

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to you, thanks for keeping up with me, us, and our church planting journey. Before I get too much into this blog post, my brotha’ Chris Marquez has been working on some new stuff for us, including this new logo…can you see what’s new about it? Probably only Lynwood folks will get it. Let me know when you see it!


Back to the blog… not more than a week ago, as I was reviewing my sermon, a thought come to me, in my sermon I hoped to challenge or afflict the comfortable in our church as well as comfort the afflicted. I’d been reflecting and going over in my mind all of the lessons we’d learned in our church planting journey thus far! And with a major announcement coming in the new year, the reel in my mind kept replaying all the things we’d experienced. So many good things, many “not so good” things, moments we celebrated victoriously, as well as moments in which we mourned losses together. And as I was going over everything in my mind, I posted the following on Saturday December 22nd, 2018 at approximately 11am.


Many people responded to this post, some in agreement, some discontent, and still others questioning it and requesting biblical support.

“Where does it say we need to be in church Rudy?” Uhmmm… Hebrews 10:25!

Why do we need to be a part of a church?

For fellowship (Acts 2:42), accountability (Gal. 6:1-5), for encouragement (1 Thess. 5:11), for discipleship (Matt. 28:18-20), to serve (1 Cor. 12:28), to give (2 Cor. 9:7), and even to be disciplined (Matt. 18:15-20) when need be…yes, discipline! I think it’s something that is not used much anymore. I’m not talking scarlet letter type discipline, but sometimes people need to be sat down, help them deal with sin, and be restored in love. What I’m saying is this, in order for these things to be happening, you have to be a part of a church. You can’t be church hopping, going to church every now and then, serving if you have spare time, and giving from what you have left. It just doesn’t work that way… If you’re at an established church, historic church, mega church, etc… you probably have no clue why this would even be so important to a church planter… but please, keep reading.

There were a few people that showed up to church on Sunday and said the post reminded them of their need to be there, and after the sermon on Sunday many people approached me saying that they needed to get more involved with the church to serve, and some even asked about becoming members of RCLA. This did NOT happen because of some fancy or eloquent speech I gave, but simply because God works through the preaching of His Word… not story telling, not endless testimonies, not hip schemes, great coffee or a cool lighting system and fog machine! Now, please don’t misunderstand me either, I’m not saying that churches with these things aren’t godly, or that God doesn’t work through them… I know that God will honor a needle of truth in a haystack of error, so why not work in churches that have cool names, fog machines, and tell stories instead of preaching. Those types of things might fill seats, but they don’t make disciples! Only solid preaching, true discipleship, fellowship, and accountability on a long term and consistent basis help grow mature believers.

One of my good friends and seminary professors, Dr. Chuck DeGroat, reached out to me via this post and said:


I totally agree with Chuck, not just because I’m gonna tag him on this, or because he’s my professor, but because he’s a really smart guy and Professor of Pastoral Care at Western Theological Seminary in Holland, Michigan. My response to him was that I agreed and would flush this out in my next blog, and VOILA!!! Here we are.

My original post, was not soft, nor do I think it was too harsh either…but it definitely shook some things and people up! There are people in my church (as well as outside) that needed to read that, as there were people that needed to hear the sermon on Sunday. It shook up some folks that were comfortable, as well as comforted some folks knowing they are giving and serving generously, sacrifically, and joyfully… Although I agree with my friend, and as he said perhaps my post needed some nuance of pastoral care, I think that there is alot of pastoral care already going on, alot… and sometimes pastors are not as stern as they need to be, could be, or should be! I’m saying this because as I mentioned in my last blog, I see too many churches drifting away from orthodox Christianity and playing into culture, luring people in with everything and anything other than the Gospel. This places us at RCLA, at odds with just about everybody! Seriosuly! To liberals we are conservatives and to conservatives we are liberals… it’s like we can’t keep everyone happy, and that’s okay…that’s not what I (we) are trying to do. We have an audience of One, we want to honor Christ, we want to raise people up to serve Him faithfully, to truly trust His Word, His commands, and not compromise biblical truths for cultural relevance. And sometimes, we need to go hard in the paint…in love! I think of how many toes Jesus stepped on, I also think of how many people His words were a salve to their hurting and pain.

Dr. DeGroat referenced church hurt, and he’s so right! So right in fact that we ourselves, the homie Celah and I, recorded an episode of “Grace And Two Fingers” on the subject of church hurt. The homies at “Brothers of Ash” also recorded a 2 part series on church hurt, it’s a real thing. So the issue definitely is being addressed! But…IMG_6400IMG_6401

There are also hard truths and people like Jackie Hill Perry have commented on it, and I can’t help but agree with her wholeheartedly too. Look at her post earlier this year:


If it sounds like I’m agreeing with everyone and landing no where, it’s because I feel there needs to be a time to be pastoral, as my homie Dr. DeGroat mentioned, as well as a time to speak strong and in love, it must be done in love. We don’t need to be hurtful, although what we say can hurt, right? Who likes to be told they’re wrong? Who likes to be rebuked? Who likes to be told they’re doing wrong? But that’s what the Word of God does… doesn’t it? It’s profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness (2 Tim. 3:16). I’ve been approached on more than one occasion about things I’ve said, how I’ve acted towards someone, or handled a situation. Sometimes it was to say thanks for having done something right, and other times it wasn’t. I have to be honest and say I don’t like being told I’m wrong, but if I’m a true believer and slave to Christ, I MUST take it on the chin, and readjust as needed, and it’s usually my attitude that is being realigned. I believe it was Spurgeon who said that, “Many are troubled because the Gospel interferes with their sin”. Amen to that! Who likes to be told we’re in sin?

I’m grateful for people like Chuck, people like Celah @ Grace And Two Fingers, the homie Jack Barry at Brothers of Ash, as well as the many other people that speak to this, and acknowledge the need for the church to step up their game, and us who know this is a problem stepping in to help do something about it. The church is full of hypocrites, full of sinners, and full of people who hurt others because they (we) are also hurting. Hurt people, hurt people!

I’ve got many stories of how I too was hurt, I mean many times… by people that I thought cared about me, people that were supposed to love me and protect me… people that should’ve been concerned with my emotional, mental, and spiritual health, but instead chose to be selfish with certain decisions and guise it as concern and love. I could’ve walked away from the church too, with GREAT reason… but as sista’ Jackie Hill Perry said, the same thing that hurt me, God used to heal me. Not the same church, though… but universally speaking, we are all one church, right?

I’d be willing to speak to anyone who is currently struggling with having been church hurt, I promise to be a safe place to hear you, pray for you, and encourage you. And to keep it even more real, if I’ve been someone who has hurt you, please contact me privately, and tell me so that I may make ammends. So what does this all have to do with church planting? Everything… because real people, with real feelings, with real problems, with real pain, and real needs are in every one of our churches, or staying away from our churches because of situations that caused them pain. At least that’s what we’ve experienced at Reformed Church of Los Angeles. And at RCLA we’ve gone through ALOT in our short time of existence, and because we don’t know it all, we’re constantly trying to learn to do better and give Christ our best, because He deserves nothing less. We want to shepherd His people, train them up, and challenge them to step up and step out for Him… to do ministry, not just occupy a pew seat on Sundays. Church planting is hard, hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I’ll say it again, I can’t see myself doing anything else… I love teaching people about Jesus, sharing a Gospel presentation EVERY SINGLE Sunday, I love inviting people to do life with us and seeing their very lives change before our eyes as they draw nearer and nearer to Christ. And sometimes, we need to be reminded of who we are in Christ and that we are expected to behave certain ways, and do certain things…not to get saved but because we are saved. Work out your salvation brethren, with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12-13).

But as I come to and end for this blog post, I’ll end it with my original post from last week…and say this with love, now nuanced with some pastoral care because it can be a tight spot between a rock and a hard place to say these things… but nonetheless, I say again:

Dear Christian,
If you’re not a part of a church, you’re in sin!
If you’re comfortable in church, stop it!
If you’re not serving, you better get busy!
If you’re serving w/ an ungrateful heart, stop it!
If you’re not giving faithfully, sacrificially, and generously, check your heart not your bank account.
Are you listening and paying attention to your pastor’s sermons, allowing God to speak to you through His preached Word?

Get right w/ yourself by getting right w/ God…His mercies are new EVERY morning, great is His faithfulness…

That is all, carry on…

I think I might just be recording an episode on the HOOD GRACE PODCAST about “Church Hurt” to be able to talk about and help folks who are working through this and help them if they’ve stayed away from church because of it, while at the same time encouraging us all to not let that get in the way of fellowshipping with the saints, being members of a solid biblically based church, serving, giving, and supporting kingdom work.


 If this blog spoke to you and think someone else can benefit from it, please feel free to share it!

Also, please check out Dr. Chuck DeGroat’s books that he’s written, I’ve read them all, and I must say, they are GOOD! He’s got a great way of getting through to Pastors to care for others, as well as ourselves… but that’s another blog in the making.

“Leaving Egypt: Finding God in the Wilderness”

“Toughest People to Love: How to Understand, Lead, and Love the Difficult People in Your Life — Including Yourself”

“Wholeheartedness: Busyness, Exhaustion, and Healing the Divided Self”





What I’ve learned in church planting this year! Proverbs 19:20 “Listen to advice and accept instruction…”


It’s a Saturday night in December and I’ve been reflecting on many things as we bring our first official year as a church plant to a close. Here are some things I’ve noticed and learned in no certain order or priority…ready? I’m gonna keep it 100…Here goes!

Not everyone who says is for you, is really for you!

Not everyone who says they’re going to support you does!

Not everyone who says they will partner financially with you does!

Not everyone who says they will have your back does!

Out of sight out of mind is a real thing!

Church planting can be a lonely experience!

Church planting is a very scary experience!

Church planting makes you depend on God for everything…really!!!

The term “core team” should be replaced with the term “launch team” because they don’t look the same a year later.

There are also certain trends I’ve noticed…I’m noticing many churches that say they’re reformed, but really aren’t, or at least it’s not really evident

Some historic churches have pulled away from the “reformed” name and adopted more seeker friendly approaches to doing ministry and abandoned the richness and beauty of the reformed tradition. Others that are new to the “reformed” faith are extremely zealous and passionate about their discovery and can push people away, becoming legalistic, and impose crazy pietistic expectations of all those that claim to be followers of Christ.


Some churches are coming up w/ some really hip names for their church, they focus on what kind of coffee they’re going to serve, coming up w/ cool schemes or hooks to get people to come to church, and preach watered down sermons w/ little to no clear Gospel message at all. Jesus is love and that’s about it!


On the flip side other churches are so focused on expository preaching that it would seem that the whole goal of preaching is to exposit…they’ll even parse Greek and Hebrew words, give profound explanations, exegete the Scripture, yet never bring their message to the Cross… while others will just reiterate that Jesus is love and that He’s got a purpose for your life, and that we shouldn’t worry because the best is still yet to come.

Artists, pastors, and even seminary professors are more and more avoiding talking about difficult subjects, evading controversial questions, throwing it back on the person who asked a difficult question and afraid to speak the truth in love. Why?

Pastors, especially church planters, are not being supported sufficiently, they’re forced to focus more on fundraising at times and being bi-vocational, and less on discipleship, and leadership development. Some churches talk a lot about training up leaders, and will even pour time and resources into them, yet never let them lead. Decisions are made from fear, ministry has become competitive w/ other churches, and people and resources could be better used to plant more churches.

Some churches believe, or operate under the assumption that if people are being kept busy they are being discipled…wrong! Busyness doesn’t equal discipleship! Some churches have great vision, and mission, but no team to get it going. Others have a ton of people, but people that aren’t committed… some pastors are burning out because they have to do everything themselves… others don’t do much and are in it for the paycheck…it’s become a job and there’s no more passion driving them.

I’ve noticed some folks have been discipled for years now, and they’re still not being challenged to take things up a notch…I think that’s a horrible sin. Same people in the same groups doing the same thing but haven’t multiplied, haven’t grown, and have no desire to break out of the church social group model but because they go to the same church and are gathered in the name of “the church” they still consider it a small group, but it’s really more of a social group. Not much depth, no real accountability, nor are they being challenged to step up and step out to lead, to multiply, but instead remain stagnant…

Why am I saying this? Because we’re figuring a lot of this stuff out as we go. We’ve got our ideas, our mission statement, vision frame, and BIG God dreams… zero comfort! Zero chill! Zero compromise! Zero cage stage! Zero desire to fail God! We don’t have it all down, we don’t have it all together, but because of all the stuff I’ve written here, it makes us wanna do good! It makes us wanna step out of comfort zones, go the way of the Cross as we do ministry…

We think we’ve got great theology, but we’d rather do outreach, evangelism, and discipleship, than spend hours on social media arguing with someone we don’t know and will probably never meet! We think our doctrine is solid and our high view of Christ, confessions, creeds, and the Lord’s Supper demonstrates that…as the Lord’s Supper every Sunday is a pretty big deal…not just in remembrance of Him… but moreso that it’s actually spiritual nourishment. You see our baptism and identity is in being a part of God’s covenant family… and now that’s a big deal. #HoodGrace



No shade…just observations…

No arrogance…just tryna figure it all out and share our experiences…

No attitude…just submission to Christ and wanting to help others succeed in their quest to serve the LORD and do it wisely… Grace & Peace!!!


“Neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God Who gives the growth.” 1 Corinthians 3:7

So much has happened in the last month and change since my last blog. We partnered with the city of Lynwood again in October to host Trunk or Treat at Lynwood Park, this year it seems there were so many more people than last year. We must’ve given candy and church invitations to 1,000 people that night. img_5933.jpg

We also held baptisms again bringing our total for this year to 29; almost 30 people being brought into covenant with God through our young church plant.


And we also had to make some changes and readjustments that were hard. We’d started a Spanish Bible study in the summer and it just didn’t give the results we’d expected or hoped for. With being such a young church plant, the last thing we want to do is stop ministries, but even more so is we don’t want to waste time and resources that aren’t being effective. Our group started strong and then dropped to only 7 or 8 people, half it’s original size so we made a decision to stop and recalibrate.


At about the same time my wife and another sister from church (Denise) had been talking about starting up a Spanish Women’s Group and then it clicked. The Spanish Women’s Group might be what God uses to help us gather a team and grow it to later use as a launch team for a Spanish service.

And one of the biggest surprises for us this season has been that our church marched in Lynwood’s Christmas Parade, well… not the whole church, it was actually our Kidz Ministry that did and they represented us very well. Here are my daughter Natalia and Jojo Fao (both on the worship team, by the way) holding up RCLA’s banner.


But that’s not the biggest news! A couple of months ago, a friend of ours whom we got mad love and respect for reached out to us, wanting to share that he felt he was being called to plant a church in his hometown of Hesperia, CA. an area known as the High Desert. We figured we’d connect him to our friend Eddy Aleman, General Secretary of the Reformed Church in America, and after a dope lunch meeting we walked away planning how RCLA would be his sending church. Wait….what?!?!

Our brother Chris Centola was as fired up as we were… we weren’t really sure what it’d look like to plant a church while we were still officially less than a year old. But that day and a few conversations later, we were thinking about what it would look like to plant RCHD (Reformed Church High Desert) and then our conversations drifted much, much further than the High Desert… what if… nah… but what if… but then a few weeks later, as we were preparing to gear up to begin training and coaching for a late 2019 church plant, our brother Centola got a call extended to him from a church in Boise, Idaho. We talked about that, what it would look like to stay in Hesperia and plant vs. going to Idaho and taking over a church. I shared with him my story of prepping to plant in early 2017 and similarily getting a call extended to me from a church in Florida. It wasn’t easy deciding, but after much prayer, conversation, and thought with my family, I declined the offer and followed the way of the Cross, the one that was less convenient, the one that required much more faith, the one that if it worked, it was because God’s hand was all over it. IMG_5937.jpg

It looks like the homie Centola will be going to Idaho, please pray for him and that God would use him in a mighty way there, that the church he will lead would grow in depth, in numbers, and eventually multiply; I’m sure it will because his heart is in church planting. Pray for his wife and kids as they prepare for a big transition.

So going back a bit to what I said earlier about Centola’s potential RCLA church plant got us thinking, got us wondering, and got us praying… what if… nah… but what if…. even though Centola would not be planting, the conversations and prayers Chris Marquez and I have had still linger, they’re are not allowing us to be calm and have actually got us riled up for… nah, that’s just plain crazy… but what if… Ya’ll stay tuned, we’re gonna have a HUGE announcement in the New Year. We’ll be sharing something with ya’ll the first week of January.

What if…