Come to Me…and I will give you rest. Matthew 11:28

Can I be honest for a minute??? Man… I’m tired  ya’ll… seriously tired! It seems like this past month has been one long whirlwind of a time where much of what i’m doing seems to blend into everything else (which isn’t a bad thing). But I’m tired yo!!! Last time I checked in I talked about a bunch of recent stuff I’d been doing and things we were planning for…well, like I said, it’s been a whirlwind 3 weeks or so and I’m drained… physically drained. I know I’ve been doing “Dos Mucho” or “2 much” for all of ya’ll non-Spanish speaking scholars, so I’m getting ready to set up some healthy boundaries, but first let’s take a selfie… (sorry, bad humor) but first, let me come to Jesus, and there I will find my rest.

I’m sitting in the Fort Lauderdale/ Hollywood Airport in Florida right now as I wait for my flight, and realized just how tired I am. I was out here for almost 6 days for a church planter retreat and some training, but I’ll get into that in a bit. But first, let me update ya’ll on what’s been happening in these last 3 weeks or so. The Lynwood Commitment took place on Saturday September 22nd at Lindbergh Elementary, and approximately 200 people from the community, schools, parks, and churches came out to support our beautification project. Here are some pics including a mural more than 60 yards long and close to 12 feet high:

The following weekend we went hard in our Unity Service that we partnered w/ our friends at Greater Emmanuel Temple in Lynwood Park. It was AMAZING!!! White, black, brown, Samoan, Filippinos, and everything in between exalting the name of Christ, taking church out to the streets, combining our cultures and traditions to honor God and then being true to our multiple cultures, we broke bread ya’ll… and it was beautiful. There was BBQ, tacos, fruit, Portos, pan dulce, and even 2 separate forms of communion options. Our friends from G.E.T. had prepackaged elements distributed, and we at RCLA went with a more traditional home cooked bread and wine. It was a beautiful thing to hear our combined worship teams sing some dope Gospel music, solid theological music w/ In Christ Alone, but the cherry on top was hearing our multiethnic worship team sing “Tu Estás Aqui” in Spanish. Check us out:

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Our combined worship teams and leaders of the Unity Service. 

This video shows our combined worship teams closing out our service with the doxology. Almost 300 persons in Lynwood Park on Sunday September 30th, 2018 coming together from two very distinct and different backgrounds, bringing church to the city, and honoring God. Local government officials such as Mayor of Lynwood Jose Luis Solache was present as well as members of the school board.

And that brings us to now… as I mentioned, I’ve been in Florida for almost a week. There is a large and generous church, Spanish River, in Boca Raton, Florida that invests time and resources into church plants literally ALL over the world. They are awesome!!! My wife and I had the great privilege of hanging out with church planters from Russia, South Africa, Scotland, Manchester, Brazil, Australia, Cuba, Eurasia, United Arab Emirates, Columbia, Canada, and ALL over the United States. We had a chance to be poured into, encouraged, hear stories from the church planting field, and it ended with a date night provided to us and our wives… so dope! Monday morning I was able to get Edna off to the airport and today, Tuesday afternoon I too am on my way back to L.A.

When Edna and I were lounging at the hotel, we were finally able to just connect for a bit and talk about all we’d experienced and she asked, “what’s the biggest take away for you?” and there were so many I didn’t know which to answer… but something a dear brother, Chan Kilgore said, he’s the new Director of Church Planting at Spanish River Church, they’d asked all the church planters and families to stand up and he said something like, “Take a look around. Do you see these people? You have no idea what they struggle with! You have no idea all that they suffer and struggle with!” and for a second I got a HUGE knot in my throat and started to tear up… because it’s true, unless you are a church planter, you can’t even begin to imagine. The late night phone calls and texts, the stress of having IT problems when you’re not there and away in Florida (SMH), the pressure of issues in the congregation that shouldn’t be happening yet they are… the problems with finances/ fundraising, denominational issues, lack of emotional/ spiritual support, not being able to really open up to just anybody for fear of being looked at like you’re crazy, marital problems because at times it seems the church is the wife and the wife the lover… there were so many things going through my mind at that moment when I heard Chan say those things, and I couldn’t help but cry. I thought to myself, “Dang, someone gets it!!!” Of course, Chan is also a church planter! And please don’t misinterpret, this is not a complaint, just a reality… but Chan didn’t finish there, he continued and said something like “They put up with the struggles and hard times because they love Jesus, they believe Jesus, and they care for their church and communities and are convinced that if they know Jesus, they too will work hard to let others know about Him”.

And I’m tired ya’ll… so tired! I’ve let my health go, I’ve not exercised, my back is messed up, my diet sucks, and it seems I’m always stressed and worried about something. But that ends today… I have to figure things out and set up some healthy boundaries, because I love my church, my community, and my family… I need to make sure that I’m around alot longer to preach the Gospel, to tell folks about Jesus… to tell them of the Bad News of what happens when our lives are apart from Christ, to give them the Good News of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and then to invite them into believe in Him, that they too might find themselve in His family. But first… before I do anything else, I need to come to Him…because He said, “Come to me all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest” so here I come Lord Jesus, let me find my rest in You; let me find that right combination for hard work and rest; let me lead well and give a great example; let me love you in a way that nothing will ever take Your place; and let not the church become an idol and I neglect You, nor my family.

I heard some great stories from the field, met some dope brothers, recorded some super fun podcasts while I was there too. Check out the “Hood Grace Podcast” this weekend and hear them, or… you can jump on my Facebook Wall and see our live video recordings of them too. Here are some pics of my time in Florida:

Before I close this blogpost out, I gotta give a HUGE shout out to our new friends and family in Christ. Spanish River Church is a large and generous church, but the generosity doesn’t always equate to dollar signs. Many of their members open up their homes to host church planters and their families for this annual retreat. We were blessed to be hosted by Chris and Merryl Reynolds, some of the most amazing and down to earth people we’ve ever met. They opened up the doors to their beautiful home and made us feel so welcomed, that I think that is one of the single best takeaways from this time in Florida. Here’s a picture of Merryl, Edna, and I right after church on Sunday as she took us out to eat lunch on the beach. Chris loves golf almost as much as Jesus (JK) so he was out on the course, but thank you so much Chris and Merryl for the love and trust you showed us.

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As I pray to God about how to get myself on a strict time management, diet, and exercise regimen, I ask that you pray for me, my family, and our church. That I’d be a good steward of my health and time, not neglect my family, my personal studies, or my schoolwork and that I would honor God above all else. Why am I being transparent with all this? My homie Aldo, Pastor of Reconcile Church in Miami said in our podcast recording this week, that often Latinos can want a pastor who practically wears a red cape and doesn’t really need Jesus as much as they do. He said, our culture tends to gravitate to the holier than holy pastor that has it all together, and Aldo is right. That’s not me! I need Jesus just as much, if not more, than every single person who walks into RCLA. Lord help me, Lord help us, Lord have mercy!

For this I toil… that He powerfully works within me. – Colossians 1:29

As I finish sermon prepping for this Sunday (don’t judge me… it’s done already) and going over it, I will be preaching a recap of our RECAST series that we dove into this summer as we recast vision for our church. We felt it necessary with the changes we’ve had in leadership and our church growth. But as I was doing the exegesis on the text I’ll be using, at the very end… I read Paul’s words to the church in Colossae, and it’s almost as if I hadn’t seen them all week.

There’s been so much that has happened in these last few weeks, stuff that has caused much grief, much joy, much stress, and much relief… in other words, just your average church planting journey. Our Men’s Group has experienced significant growth with just a handful of guys up to almost 15 now.

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I’ve been back out on that handball court with a group of homies early Saturday mornings and we get a chance to talk smack, laugh and joke around, but then we pray for safety, a good witness to those around us, and then we get to playin’ a game we love so much. I guess you could say it’s turned into a small ministry. The best part though is when we’re done playing, we’ll sit down on a nearby bench and check in with eachother, share how our week has gone, open up with struggles, encourage and pray for one another…THAT PART RIGHT THERE THO…praying for eachother. Man, it’s been amazing chopping it up w/ these dudes and just being real. I’m grateful for these brothers…
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The fellas early morning prayer before we got to playin’ handball at South Gate Park.

I’ve also been doing quite a bit of traveling too! Our denomination is going through some changes, and I was invited to participate in a small group with some pretty amazing men and women of God who are prayerfully seeking to offer some possible scenarios for us moving forward. After almost 400 years, I think it’s overdue and I’m grateful to have my voice, that of my church, and many others like us, heard, considered, and included. It’s a great feeling when someone wants you present at the table, and with a voice, not just to make the group look different. As much as I appreciate being there, it does take a toll on my church responsibilities, family time, and schoolwork (Graduating from Western Theological Seminary in May PTL). Here’s a picture of our last meeting in Chicago:

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The Reformed Church in America’s 2020 Vision Group

Yesterday my morning started off at Patria Coffee in Compton, which is owned by a fellow brother from City Church Compton, another RCA church plant. At Patria you’ll often find Steve Shin welcoming you with a smile, an introduction, and a handshake when you walk in. Steve is a Youth Pastor at Hope Central Watts, our churches have gone on multiple Youth Retreats up in the mountains… and Steve usually leads the way, he’s awesome. One of my best friend, Jose Hernandez, is the Lead Pastor there… they’re doing great work in Watts. On the counter at Patria are some amazing vegan coffee cake, conchas, and raspberry poppy seed loaves… yes, I said vegan, but you’d never know unless I told you. These super dope and healthy pastries are supplied by Whiskful Pastries, owned by Wendy Ortega, an awesome young lady who is a part of our church, RCLA in Lynwood. I remember taking this pic, thanking God for how 3 churches in the hood are coming together by way of a coffee shop. I was there again today for multiple meetings and at one time I counted 4 pastors in there at the same time. So dope!

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Pastor Steven Shin at Patria Coffee in Compton w/ Whiskful Pastries from Lynwood on display.

After this I ran back (actually I drove… but I could use the running) to Lynwood for another meeting with my co-pastor Chris Maquez, and the homie Pastor Nisan Stewart of Greater Emmanuel Temple. You see, we’ve got something in the cooker for Sunday September 30th. We’re gonna close our church buildings down that day and worship together in Lynwood Park. We’re taking church to the city, with a UNITY SERVICE.  Our worship teams will be bringing some heat together in both English and Spanish and we’re inviting the city in to join us. Our Mayor and other leaders have assured us they’ll be in attendance.

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Pastors Rudy Rubio and Chris Marquez of RCLA w/ Pastor Nisan Stewart of Greater Emmanuel Temple preparing for our UNITY SERVICE in Lynwood Park.

And then we’ve got our kick off of the LYNWOOD COMMITMENT this weekend! RCLA has come alongside the city of Lynwood, Lynwood Unified School District, Public Works, and Parks & Recreation to host a series of beautification projects. The first one will be at Lindbergh Elementary, almost where Lynwood borders Compton and Watts. The principal, Dr. Navar, is amazing in helping us gather more troops of students and parents. We’ll be cleaning, painting, picking up trash, but the gem is a huge mural that will be painted by local Lynwood Artist Saul Casas Jr, BKA @AmoeArte. I’ve had the pleasure of working w/ his wife Audrey on other community efforts, they are a family on mission and we’re honored to work on this project under his leadership. Here’s a pic of them at the Watts Towers, oh and by the way… by the way, Audrey is running for Board of Trustees at Compton College, you know we’ve got her back.

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Audrey and Saul Casas Jr. (@AmoeArte) at the Watts Towers

We’ve already started planning next year’s summer camp, an immigration conference for Lynwood, Compton, and Watts residents, as well our first Spoken Word/ Hip-Hop Fundraiser at RCLA… so you can see now why this post is titled with this verse from Colossians… for this I toil, but just before that the Apostle Paul also mentioned that it’s all so that “we may present everyone mature in Christ” and that my friends is the goal. All we do, we do for Him… for His name, for His glory, for His honor, and that many would come to know Him too. Of our original 30+ people that were a part of our launch, almost 15 have left, for different reasons. We would have NEVER thought that would happen, but people change and move on, and we bless them. We don’t mourn, we celebrate their having given of themselves to help us launch a church. We also celebrate all the new people that God has brought in, many folks hungry for God, thirsty to learn, and eager to serve… how can we not celebrate that. We set out to grow the church and prayed for 100 people at the end of our 1st year. Well, our official launch was just 6 months ago… and we broke the 100 mark, not because of any gimmicks… we give people Jesus! We just preach His Word, the Holy Spirit does the rest… we work our tails off to honor Him, and spread His message to all. Celebrate with us and if you’ve got a couple of minutes, check out our video updating all thats happened in the last year since we started gathering. Thanks for following, reading, praying, and supporting us… we’re grateful!

You can also check us out at:

“Hood Grace Podcast” 

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And let us not grow weary of doing good…

That’s always been one of my favorite Bible verses… it was one of the first ones that I’d memorized when I became a Christian in prison. It was encouraging to read that there must have been many others back then that must’ve felt discouraged in order for the Apostle Paul to have written that to the church in Galatia back in 50 AD. At times, in the church planting world, we can grow weary… we can get tired… sometimes to be honest, I have felt like bashing my head against a wall (although I still haven’t done it…yet LOL!!!) but then when things seem hard God always comes through and does some really dope stuff to encourage us, and remind us that we’ve been called and chosen for such a time as this.

Last Saturday (August 18th) we had an all church picnic and celebrated 7 more baptisms!!! That’s 18 baptisms so far this year… things like this, make all the struggle worth it, knowing that we are making an impact for the kingdom.

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So we won’t grow weary when people give up… we won’t grow weary when things start to change… recent situations have made me wonder what the early church must’ve gone through that made them want to give up… nothing we’re going through can stand in comparison, yet I truly believe that some of the feelings and emotions from back then remain the same in today’s church planting world.

I’ve considered Jonah and wondered why did he run away from where God was telling him to go? What must he have been struggling with to resist God so strongly? Were all his creditors in Nineveh? An old girlfriend perhaps? Whatever the case may be, I know that I am not Jonah, and Lynwood is not Nineveh… I also know is that God has called us, RCLA, to this city for such a time as this. So much has been accomplished in such a short period of time, so many wonderful relationships that have prospered, trust built, and respect earned with some amazing people in our community. We’re averaging almost 100 people on Sundays, that’s not bad considering we started with approximately 30, and some folks have left since we planted. Things change and so do people, so we won’t mourn but instead we celebrate the new people that God is bringing in, we celebrate a new thing that God is doing, we celebrate all the awesome relationships that are being made, connections being established, and people’s brains exploding with knowledge of God, and that knowledge flowing forth through their hearts.

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Lynwood’s Mayor, School Board, Public Works, Parks & Rec, and school staff met w/ RCLA to finalize the kick of the “LYNWOOD COMMITMENT”

We’ve got 2 HUGE events coming up in September!

On the 22nd we’re kicking off the LYNWOOD COMMITMENT, a beautification project we’ve been a part of helping establish along with Mayor Solache and an awesome Lynwood team. Then we’re partnering with Greater Emmanuel Temple, the biggest African-American church in Lynwood, to host a “UNITY SERVICE” at Lynwood Park on Sunday September 30th. We’re so excited as our worship teams are already planning on working together to make this happen. The whole city will be invited as we hope to make much of Jesus!

So when things get tough… we keep it pushing. When the waters look rough… we won’t get weary of doing good… when people throw in the towel, we won’t get weary of doing good… when things don’t go as planned, we won’t get weary while doing good… why? Because in due season we will reap… if we do NOT lose heart (Galatians 6:9). You can also celebrate with us that we just finished purchasing all our equipment and software for our audio/ visual needs… we’ll be rocking screens next week… BABY BABYYYY (In my best Biggie Smalls voice). Our church is growing, God is giving it the growth and we’re honored that He would use us to co-labor with Him in building His kingdom here in Lynwood. Church planting is NOT for the faint of heart… we’ve gotta be in it to win it… we work our tails off, God gives the growth… we’re faithful to our calling, God makes things happen… we’re obedient to His commands, God does His thing… when we’re weak, it’s only through Him that we’re strong… and that’s why only the strong survive, when we empty ourselves of our selves and are filled up with Him. We’ve got to be willing to endure hard things for the sake of the kingdom… I saw a post recently that reminded me of what that might look like… here are just a few things to consider when working to build community… thanks for reading this, being involved in our story, and spurring us on towards love and good deeds.

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Let’s go Barefoot…

Just a bit over a year ago I took a trip up to the mountains of Big Bear w/ some friends (Phil & Becki Hendren) to meet some folks from Barefoot Republic, a ministry dedicated to speaking  Jesus into the lives of kids by way of camps, summer camps, over night camps, and day camps. They were trying to start a summer day camp in California, and we were about to become a brand new church plant with ZERO resources, grateful to partner with people who’d help us bless our community with the love of Christ. This was a match that even ChristianMingle.com could not have better paired.

We dreamed, prayed, and worked hard to see how we could come together to bless our new community with the love of Christ. Families in Lynwood, Compton, Watts, and other surrounding neighborhoods would be given an opportunity to send their kids to our summer day camp to learn about Christ while getting into some awesome and fun activities like stomp, photography, song writing, arts & crafts, dance, drama, and even our version of “Making of the Band”. Well, God was so very gracious to us and made it happen! Here are some pictures and videos of that amazing week in which we had close to 90 kids registered and almost 40 volunteers.

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This a great view of all that happened at RCLA/ Barefoot Summer Camp in Lynwood
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Pastors Chris and Rudy w/ Muku Fao who received an award. (Sister Jojo photobombed)
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A picture of our awesome Navigator volunteers along w/ RCLA and Barefoot Staff.

For a church plant that is only 9 months old, this is unheard of! It is not because of ourselves but only by God and His providence. He sovereignly brought two groups of people together with the same heart and mind for reaching communities for Christ. Barefoot Republic is AWESOME! They are so great at what they do, RCLA has got some of the most dedicated folks I’ve ever known as some took a week’s vacation with no pay to volunteer, and lastly the Navigator interns who volunteered as our Camp Counselors for all these kids… we could never have planned it out that way, God brought all these different groups together and it was awesome to see it play out.

There was a lot of fundraising that was done by our partners to help provide scholarships for all kids to be able to come and not worry about money or costs. There was lots of last minute fundraising on RCLA’s part to help feed kids and volunteers (like days before, seriously!). The city of Lynwood had offered us free lunches for kids but logistics made it prove to be a task too difficult to deal with. So RCLA folks donated lunches and others donated funds to make it work. We thank God for His faithfulness and also for the 3 families that came to church w/ us on Sunday after camp ended. BOOYEAH!!! MIC DROP!!! That’s what it was all about… praise Jesus!

Please join us in praising Jesus for our first summer as well as praying for next summer, that it would be bigger and better for the Kingdom of God!!!

 

 

 

 

Growing Pains

My Facebook feed this week showed me how at this time a year ago, I’d posted this:

“Had our 1st leadership meeting today at our new church home! I’m grateful for the diversity God has brought together in such an amazing group of foks!” That still rings true, however since then our team has changed, adjusted, and has continuously undergone adjustments.

I remember how one family that was adamant about coming with us to be a part of the church plant informed us just 3 weeks later that they had changed their mind and would not be a part of RCLA’s CORE team. . . we were saddened because our team (and entire church) grew smaller less than a month into it. But we trusted God and He slowly started to draw His people in. . . one of the greatest means of that grace has been social media.

Before the end of the year on one end our church continued to grow but we also lost more people that were a part of our CORE Team. On one hand we celebrate God giving the growth to His church, and on the other we were saddened to see folks we loved leave. One person said they needed a bigger church to just hide out, and we blessed them! Another left on not so good terms, we pray for him and his walk with the Lord. And God continued to grow His church by drawing in other people, folks that are hungry to learn, eager to serve, and thirsty for fellowship.

Many people told us that our church and team would look drastically different one year later, and we looked at them like they were crazy, “NOT OUR TEAM!!!” But yes, our team too would look very different a year later. And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. We’ve come to learn that our CORE Team was not infact a a core team, but more of a launch team, meaning God brought together an amazing group of talented folks together to help launch this church, and launch it they did. Times change, families grow, jobs change, and people change too. . . this summer our team will take another change and instead of mourn great people who will be transitioning to a new stage of church family/ membership, we celebrate their time with us and thank God for them and what they brought to us in launching RCLA. We also step back and see how the Lord is moving and shaking things up to further grow His church here in Lynwood.

After church today (Sunday July 8th) my wife said, “There were quite a few people today in church I’d never seen!” and that’s because there are new people coming every week, they’re being loved on, ministered to, and embraced with the love of God.

Today as I stood up to preach, I stood at the pulpit and gazed around the sanctuary of our church and was so grateful to see so many new faces, eager to hear the Word of God preached, they were challenged to follow Jesus, and let go of whatever was holding them back from serving Him. Growing pains can hurt, but they are necessary… and we’re grateful for all we’ve experienced thus far!

Thou Shalt Not Hate…

First, please accept my apology for having been so overwhelmed that I haven’t blogged in about a month or so…forgive me! The life of a church planter can be hectic. . .

Second, please be forewarned that I will be venting here, and I’m sure that many of you will be able to identify w/ what I say.

When we stepped out in faith to plant RCLA…there were very few people that we expected to reach out to encourage us, that are actually doing so. Don’t get me wrong, God has provided some amazing people in our lives that check in on us, encourage us, ask how we’re doing and they do so because they really want to know…not because it’s kinda’ expected of them. There are many people we thought were cheerleading us on but we’ve yet to see a pom-pom. I say this to give you an idea of where church planters can be emotionally at times… feeling alone, feeling like no one cares, feeling like all the work we do is futile… like no one cares… but then something HUGE happens and God says, “There you go!” Thank you Jesus for always stepping in to remind us you’re ALWAYS with us… you said, “And behold, I am with you always…” This blog post is also not meant to throw any specific person(s) under the bus… but truth be told, we expected, or better said, I expected so much more encouragement and emotional support from people I thought were really friends. I’m a big boy, with my big boy pants on (actually bigger than they should be…stress eating has really hit home #truth) and we know that God has got our back… because what we’re doing is NOT for us… but for Him.

All this to say, it’s great to be able to hang out with other church planters to talk ministry, strategy, share info on victories, potential losses, what and where to be careful with… etc. you get the idea? The flip side is that not everyone in ministry can be that way! Some dudes see you as a threat, get super territorial, and miss dozens of opportunities to reach out and congratulate you on something. That’s horrible. . . It makes me think of Hebrews 13:3 that says, “But encourage each other daily, while it is still called today, so that none of you is hardened by sin’s deception.” Why is this not lived out more frequently? I mean… we’re supposed to be on the same team… all believers! But some folks are concerned about the kingdom of God only as it pertains to their church. . . so sad! That’s why this blog post is titled, “Thou shalt not hate…” not that someone like really hates you… but you can be “hated” on; “shade thrown” your way… all phrases to say, jealousy, envious, or just not happy with someone elses success.

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So does that mean that anyone who doesn’t encourage us is a hater? By no means! One of the things I’ve had to apologize recently for, is that I’ve been so consumed with planting this church that I’ve neglected to connect with anyone outside of our church planting efforts… granted we told a lot of our friends that this would be so, there needed to be a healthy separation. BUT…one thing the seminary or church hasn’t been able to teach me, is how to read people… I learned that on the streets, and man, let me tell you… that Spidey-Sense is on point!!! So when I bump into someone who I used to be really cool with, and they get all jittery and start stuttering… they’re awkward in handshake or hug…  they know all the stuff we’re doing, references every church update, and latest happening at our church… but never once clicked “Like” or left some encouraging remark on our social media posts, leads me to believe that they fall into one of the above referenced categories. If I like you, care about you, love you, or consider you my friend… I will like your posts, comment and encourage you, and always let you know I’m there…especially since that may be the only way I can do so… other church planters or established churches are not a threat to us, on the contrary… we’re on the same team…at least we should be, it’s #TeamJesus all day, erry’day. . .

So when you get connect with genuine dudes, that love Jesus, are down to meet up, drink coffee, break bread, and share stories about their church, their church planting experiences, be transparent with how great things are going, or ask for prayer when things aren’t going good…man, that’s so encouraging! There’s no competition, there’s no threat, just fellow brothers that are sincerely wanting to see each other succeed, wanting to pray for each other…that’s so uplifting and completely blots out the haterism I’ve been a recipient of. It’s encouraging to hear dudes be transparent and not fake the funk like everything is hunky dory… (I have no clue where that phrase came from)

Here’s a handful of solid dudes that the Lord has put in my life and that of our church plant. These dudes reach out to me just because… they don’t get paid for it, they don’t feel obligated to do it… they just do… they encourage me, they ask how I’m doing, they ask how my family and ministry are doing… no competition, no rivalry, same Savior, same team… I consider them my family. Please join me in praying for more pastors like this, more pastors who are truly concerned for the kingdom and not just their own churches. I’m grateful for Pastors: D.A. Horton of Reach Fellowship L.A. in Long Beach, Kyle Blake of The Gathering Lutheran Church in Long Beach, Jose Hernandez of Hope Central Watts in Watts, PJ Tibayan and John Lee of Bethany Baptist Church in Bellflower, Kris Brossett of Refuge LA in No. Hollywood, Tommy Forester of Epiphany LA in the Crenshaw area of LA, and Nisan Stewart of Greater Emmanuel Temple in Lynwood.

 

I’m grateful for so many other people and churches that are already a part of our lives, but today I wanted to take a moment and give God thanks for them, and ask you to pray for more dudes that are kingdom minded. . . I’ll be writing a bit more I hope (and probably a bit less to keep the posts, short, sweet, and to the point). The Lord bless ya’ll, thanks for taking the time to read this and remember… it doesn’t take but a second to reach out and encourage someone, click “like” on one of their posts, comment and encourage them… or reach out with a call or text to say, “Hey man, I’m proud of you!” or “Hey, how can we pray for you?” or sincerely ask “Hey, how are you doing? Really?”

Fill my cup please!

In a season of being so busy that I’ve easily forgotten things, it’s felt so good to take a break (well kind of a break…) from all that is going on with ministry, school, and work so that I could fill my cup. Too often in ministry one gives, gives, and gives…yet doesn’t take the time to refill their own cup. So when the opportunity presented itself for me to get away with thousands of other pastors, and some good friends with a focus on Christ, fellowship, and worship…I had to jump on it. And boy, did it do wonders!

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#T4G18 at KFC Yum! Center in Louisville, Kentucky

Last year there was a group of homies (some pastors) that agreed we’d go to T4G (Together for the Gospel), so when tickets were made available, I quickly registered. I got an early bird student rate… $99… but in the end, everyone bailed and it left me alone…but I didn’t want to cancel, I really needed this. I love being a church planter, I love the challenges that it brings in trying to be more and more missional in all aspects of life, being there on call 24/ 7 to the church, the community, and friends… but it can take a toll. I can’t continue to pour into folks and not fill my own cup…eventually the source of fresh water dries up or gets polluted…so I was blessed to be able to head to T4G and sort of disconnect for a few days and refocus.

A couple of friends would be helping me out by letting me crash with them! Shout out to the homie Darrin Slater from Missouri and my brotha Pastor Matt Jones of Del Rey Church in L.A. who offered their hospitality but in the end, God made it possible for me to hang with my friend and fellow seminarian Ben Kampeier and his crew from Faith Church in Dyer, Indiana. We’re RCA (Reformed Church in America) and gave us a chance to connect and talk about denominational stuff too, share with each other what’s happening in our corner of the world and how we’re fighting to make much of Jesus. These dudes took me in and we shared a room, meals, and drinks… remind me later to tell you about our experience at GAME (alpaca, kangaroo, wild boar, and moose burgers…YIKES!!!).

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John Benson, Andy Nearpass, Sam DePasquale, Ben Kampmeier, Nathan Prairie, and myself just outside of the Old Spaghetti Factory in Louisville, Kentucky.

The hi-light for me was the worship… I was able to not be in charge of anything, not pressured to prepare in advance, but simply be present, lift my hands as high as I possibly could and sing beautiful songs to my God at the top of my lungs, feel a huge knot in my throat and savor the tears streaming down my cheeks as I worshiped my God in spirit and in truth…not caring about the 12,000 + believers that surrounded me… it was life giving, it was so uplifting… every note sung, every harmony, every stroke of the piano was a drop into my cup… refilling it… strengthening me… and building me up… We sang songs like “In Christ alone”, “Jesus, thank you!”, “Be thou my vision”, and “Come thou font” amongst others. . . there was something about hearing thousands and thousands of voices all singing the same words to our God, grateful to be alive, honored to serve Him, and thankful He chose us to co-labor with Him to reach the world, one community at a time.

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Al Mohler, Ligon Duncan, John Piper, Kevin DeYoung, and Mark Dever

Mark Dever kicked things off, Matt Chandler challenged us, David Platt called out racial injustices, Al Mohler came correct, HB Charles Jr. brought fire…Kevin DeYoung literally made my brain explode, Thabiti did his thing, Ligon Duncan preached one of the BEST sermons i’ve ever heard…and John Piper and Johnny Mac did NOT disappoint either.

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I wasn’t able to sit in on every teaching and panel because I still had homework to do, sermon prep work, and remain in contact with our leadership team for issues pending at home. . . but man oh man, did I enjoy my time there. I missed my family, I missed my church, but I am grateful to have spent a week in Kentucky at T4G, so thank you to the organizers, to the many, many volunteers that served…and thank you to my wife and kids that allowed me to go and get my cup refilled. . . oh, and all the free books were super dope too. Here’s a picture of the books I got (I only purchased 4 of these…the rest were free to all those that attended)… everytime we’d walk in or out of the building, even for lunch, we’d get a new book. . . (shhh… don’t tell anyone but I purposely took as little stuff as possible so I could be just a tad book gluttonous)…

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My suitcase was literally bursting at its seems with all these books.

Friends, encourage your pastors to refill their cup… the kingdom is much bigger than our local churches, and it’s great to hear other pastors stories and challenges. I talked to at least a 1/2 a dozen brothers that were considering/ contemplating/ praying through whether or not to plant a church… oh man, guess what I told them?!?!? I was telling errybody they needed to plant a church… I was sharing our story and what God was doing in Lynwood through RCLA and our team. I’ll be sharing these experiences this week in the podcast too that I share with my homie Celah on “Grace And Two Fingers“… check us out. Be blessed family!