I shared my NPL Los Angeles Prayer slides and it struck a chord with a number of people. My hope in sharing that post and the slide deck was twofold:
I want to mobilize more prayer in my city and for my city.
I hope to mobilize others to do the same in their own cities.
I took that initial slide deck for Los Angeles and turned it into a template anyone can use. You can view the slides below and click the link to open the document for your own use. Take it and make it your own. The only rule is that you have to gather a group of people and pray through it together.
COVID-19 has in many ways reshuffled how we view and engage the things we do regularly. Grocery shopping holds a different place in my mind and schedule now. Gas prices fluctuated up as high as nearly $5.00/gal in LA since we have lived here, but during COVID-19, they have dropped to barely over $2.00/gal – yet I hardly drive farther than 5 miles away from my home now. “Meetings” are now Zoom calls. I’ve been kicked off our local beach twice now, because we showed up on the wrong days when it was shut down. The world is doing a lot of reevaluation based on what we are and are not allowed to do. Church is one of those things.
Whether ancient and ornate, simple and spartan, or somewhere in a utilitarian middle-ground, most of the world thinks of church like this building. Even as Christians, we often think of church as what church can be and do. That isn’t equal to a building, but the building often represents that “maximalist” idea. Church can be so much.
Church can be simple too. We have space in our minds to see missionary outpost churches in distant, rural, impoverished communities like this. Minimal, but still qualifying as church – especially when there are no alternatives to choose from. The pioneering nature of the field forces additional clarity on what church must be when it has to start in the harvest, out of lostness.
This is what our church looks like. Well, it used to look like this before COVID-19, and we long for the day we can again gather in person. For us, church is family at its core. These are the people we spend the most time with each week. We are regularly in each others’ homes and lives. We hold each other accountable, and we both weep and rejoice together when someone is weeping or rejoicing. Our church is a church of missionaries, but it is still just a church. And it is simple enough that just about anyone can reproduce it themselves with the people in their lives. That’s actually the point.
Since COVID-19, our family is still our family, but how we gather has changed some. Now we gather virtually, but we still use the same participatory format. In fact, even in the midst of this shutdown, we have seen some new churches start! The pandemic and the shutdown have served as a filter forcing us to clarify even further what we do and how we do it. Jesus is still building His church, and we are still commanded to gather and pursue “the one anothers” of the New Testament. We simply have to approach it differently for now.
One of my most favorite stories I’ve heard in the midst of the pandemic from a church is Bridges Church here in Long Beach / North Orange County. The week before the shutdown started, they represented 1 large gathering of about 300+ people on Sunday mornings, and 4 simple churches of ~10-15 people each throughout the week. The next week in LA County we could only gather in groups of 10 or less, and they were able to shift from their 5 church gatherings to 12 simple churches, all meeting in homes. The following week we couldn’t even meet in groups anymore, and that Sunday they had closer to 19 simple churches meeting all over the city. You can read more about that here.
I long to gather in person with my church family again. I earnestly desire to break bread, sing, pray, and learn from the Word together. But I am also seeing Jesus unleash his Church and his people in some beautiful ways. When we are forced to simplify church, it can magnify the places of health and unhealth in a church. Every disciple of Jesus was meant to be a disciple maker, and many of those disciples would ready and able to start gathering the people in their lives as simple, biblical, healthy churches – they just need to be released to do it, and equipped to be able to.
I love to hear stories of believers sharing the gospel with the people in their lives. It is encouraging to hear how the gospel is going out in the health care system through people like Nicole – especially in light of COVID-19. The gospel is always relevant, and with a little intentionality and creativity, you can share just about anywhere.
Four years ago these guys started their freshman year at AppState – Matthew and John as students, Scott as new staff with our campus ministry where his wife Anna and I both served. We were just starting to pursue movement on our campus. The question that was driving us was, “What is it going to take to get the gospel to 19,000 college students before they graduate?” We didn’t have any idea what the Lord would do, but we were trusting Him to work. These men went to battle toward that end and are continuing to lead even as our family launched to Los Angeles a year and a half ago. Scott began to lead his family on mission like never before. Matthew and John each found their wives in Church in the Harvest and matured from boys into men, while leading peers to follow Jesus and fish for men.
These men are good, godly leaders. In the next year or so, one will be headed to a global city in North America, one will be headed to a global city in the Middle East / Central Asia, and the other will carry on leading the work locally from a bivocational platform. I’m so thankful for these brothers and how the Lord is working through their families. I am eager to see the army of leaders these men leave behind as the Lord sends them out. It has been said that movements rise and fall on leadership development. These men and their amazing wives are the kinds of people to whom God would entrust a movement. May it be so, Lord!
When God called our family to leave our small town in the North Carolina mountains and move to Los Angeles, we knew we were embarking on a major journey. We had aspirations and assumptions, but we knew there was a lot we couldn’t know yet. That’s the way it always is. We have tried hard to posture ourselves as learners. We are joining the work God is already doing – we are not the answer, we are just a part of His answer here.
Engaging a diverse mega city is complex and difficult. One of the greatest challenges can be knowing where to start when there are peoples, languages, cultures, and unique districts everywhere you turn. Our city, metro Los Angeles, never ends. It sprawls and sprawls and sprawls. If you don’t pay attention to the small changes on street signs, you might not even know you’ve crossed from one town or city or county to another.
The sprawl looks the same at 10,000 or 30,000 feet from an airplane, but this sprawl is full of incredibly diverse life. There is tremendous beauty here, but there is tremendous brokenness here as well. Reaching this city will require an army of laborers sharing the gospel, making disciples, and multiplying churches in a vast number of languages, cultures, and religions. We start with what is in front of us, but because we want to reach our city, we are begging the Lord to send out laborers into his harvest – among every peoples and in every place (see Luke 10:2).
The slide deck below is an attempt to help focus my own prayer life, as well our prayers as a team. It is also for anyone who wants to labor with us through prayer. Just like our work in the city, this slide deck is a work in progress. I’ll be curating it as we collect more and better data. If you would like to pray over some or all of these prompts, you can either pause the slides below, or click the link to access the slides for your own use. If there’s a particular people group or other prompt that you want to adopt for prayer – I’d love to know that!
Please pray for our city and pray for the Lord to send out laborers to every part of the mosaic that we call Los Angeles!
In the midst of the COVID-19 shutdowns, our team has been trying to make the most of the days. For us, one of our highest priorities is the leaders we are working with. One thing that has been especially helpful for us is walking through what I’ve been calling a Next Generation exercise.
The essence of the exercise is visualizing the work that they are currently stewarding while addressing which people or groups/churches are closest to getting to the next generation, any barriers they may be facing, and some action items to take some next steps. We sprinkle in some encouragement, clarifying questions, and practical suggestions as well.
The facilitator is usually using an iPad and Apple Pencil and the whiteboard mode in Zoom to draw a simple representation throughout the conversation. Sometimes it is done on paper with a screen-share.
We aim to have at least 3 voices present in addition to the person presenting their work. Below is the basic outline for this exercise.
What is God doing now? (Tell the story as you/someone else draw)
Who are your 1-3-9? (or what are you looking for as minimums in potential leaders)
What are you believing God for?
What are your current barriers?
What are some actions you can take to move things forward?
Others: • Who are the ones close to multiplying? • Ask about each of the 4 fields
In my role with e3 Partners as North America Region Director, a key part I play in our work is “holding up the gaps.” That means I always have an eye to the places where we are not. There are 2 areas in particular: the largest metropolitan areas and the least reached peoples and places. Near the very top of the least reached places list is Portland, ME. Barna details this list here.
We were scheduled to train a church in person in Portland 3 times in 2020, starting this month (May). Once again, COVID-19 prevented this from happening. At first I was frustrated that these in-person events couldn’t happen. There’s something powerful about being together in-person, but we no longer had that luxury. Thankfully, we were able to shift to online-based training and carry on.
Our team of 3 trainers shared stories from the harvest, the brutal facts of lostness in Maine (pictured above), biblical vision for No Place Left, and a simple tool to equip believers to start sharing the gospel and making disciples. We trained over 20 people from 4 different churches around Portland.
The most encouraging aspect of this whole thing is that even in light of lockdown orders and a late spring snow in Maine, God allowed our team of trainers from California, Alabama, and Kentucky to serve these believers in one of the highest spots on list of the Least-Reached-Places in the US. The kingdom cannot be contained.
“Imagine that the pandemic swept through your part of the world, and that all public assemblies of more than three people were banned by the government for reasons of public health and safety. And let’s say that due to some catastrophic combination of local circumstances, this ban had to remain in place for 18 months. How would your congregation of 120 members continue to function – with no regular church gatherings of any kind, and no home groups (except for groups of 3)? If you were the pastor, what would you do?”
Collin Marshall & Tony Payne, The Trellis and the Vine, 165 (2009)
I read this book 10 years ago and really enjoyed it. Truth be told, I don’t remember reading this quote. It isn’t even underlined in my copy of the book. At the time, there were signs of a potential swine-flu pandemic coming. I remember that, but it never affected my life personally. Re-reading this section now feels like Marshall and Payne were looking into the future. Of course, the reality is that these things will continue to happen this side of eternity. What seemed like an interesting but far-flung thought process now resonates prophetically. Whether we are prepared to endure the storm or not, the storms will come. We are in the midst of one now. I have heard many stories of churches courageously enduring, I haven’t heard many stories of innovative advance.
I have been tremendously encouraged by the way God is working through our dear friend JT (Jeff Timblin) and Bridges Church. In this season of COVID-19, this church of 300+ has shifted completely to releasing all their members to do church in a simple format. This overnight shift couldn’t take place overnight, so watch the video below or listen to the podcast to hear the story and be encouraged with us! Jesus is moving powerfully here in Long Beach!
If you would like training for your church, let us know!
This season of life and work in Los Angeles has been busy, life-giving, fulfilling, stretching, encouraging, and tons of fun. Here are some snapshots of a few family adventures we have been able to enjoy recently. We are grateful for your prayers and support!