Just like you, our 2020 shaped up completely differently than we expected in nearly every way. So much of the ministry we thought we would get to do didn’t happen, and yet we got to see God move on powerful ways throughout the year.
We saw our churches and groups across LA double this year. We celebrated around 30 baptisms through our teams and networks. We have our first new church start in Riverside, CA which is #12 on our list of 55 largest metro areas in North America we are targeting.
Our family welcomed baby Phoebe in October and we are all filled with joy at her arrival! She is well loved here! This year was rife with challenges but by God’s grace we have been able to weather them and thrive. He has powerfully moved and it is an honor to be a part of his work here in Los Angeles and beyond.
Yesterday I celebrated my 35th birthday! If you know me, you’ll know I am fairly low key about birthdays. This one was excellent. It was a packed day. I went on a long run with one of my teammates, then took Emily with me to the Valley to watch a baptism, and then our family gathered with our church in Long Beach.
This baptism was beautiful. It was the second one in this network and it was absolutely clear that the young woman being baptized was been transformed and is deeply in love with Jesus! On top of that, I was reflecting on how this unfolded in some surprising ways. Two months ago I baptized someone and modeled it for this family. A month later, I assisted this family in baptizing a new disciple. Yesterday, I got to watch them baptize a new disciple, while also modeling it for that other new disciple. Next week, I am launching them to reproduce it on their own as they will assist their first new disciple as he baptizes a friend of his who decides to follow Jesus while watching his baptism a month ago. We call that process M.A.W.L. (Model / Assist / Watch / Launch). Jesus is really moving and we are just trying to keep up!
We ended the day gathering with our church family. We are so loved by Jesus and our church.
Last week our family flew to Northern Michigan for a family vacation. There aren’t a lot of places in the US so markedly different from Los Angeles than this rural area outside a town of ~500. Just off a long and isolated county highway is one of a handful of dirt roads. And just off one of those dirt roads was an enormous house on the shore of Lake Michigan.
We celebrated some mile marker dates in our extended family as the reason for gathering, but mostly the 8 kids ages 7 and under played together and with aunts and uncles and grand parents. It was a joy to be together, especially since we came together from 4 cities in 4 different states. These days it is a real challenge to get everyone together, so these few and far between moments are precious.
Even as we ate well, played hard, and laughed a lot, I received updates about things that were happening in the work back home in LA and elsewhere. Troy and Rick were off in Utah leading a Midlevel Retreat. A new believer in Orange County who was baptized just a few weeks ago baptized her mom. One of our leaders I have been walking closely with confirmed their first baptism. A person I just trained in the last week reached out to initiate the next step in training for the sake of bringing others along with him. I received introductions to 3 or 4 new leaders who want to connect to start multiplying disciples and churches.
I love it when I see the Lord moving when we are out of town and on vacation. That means the work isn’t dependent on us – we get to participate with Him as He works!
Just over a month ago, I baptized Rian (left) and Ricky (center) came down from the Valley with our local leaders who live there. At that time, Ricky was interested in Jesus but he wasn’t sure following Jesus was for him. In the last couple of weeks Yann (our leader in the valley) led Ricky to Jesus!
Yesterday Rian and I drove an hour and a half from Long Beach to Malibu to celebrate Ricky’s baptism. Ricky wanted to have his baptism at Zuma Beach, so that’s where we met!
We gathered to eat lunch, worship together, share the gospel, hear Ricky’s testimony and baptize him, and take the Lord’s Supper.
Yann and Mike served the Lord’s Supper to Ricky for the first time and then to the rest of us. Shortly after the baptism, Ricky’s friend he brought with him decided she also wanted to follow Jesus! She also wants to be baptized in the ocean soon! Ricky was the first person to be baptized in the Valley network and now there are at least 2 others to be baptized in the coming weeks!
At the beginning of this month we facilitated a 4 Fields Intensive training with our team in the San Fernando Valley. These Intensive trainings are anywhere from 2-4 days long. They can be really disruptive. The reason for this disruptive effect has everything to do with the posture of the training. We spend a significant amount of time digging deep into the Bible discovering principles for multiplying disciples, churches, and leaders. We get back to the Word and build everything we do from it.
As we dig deeper and deeper into the word for our motivations and our methods, we come away challenged to reevaluate the things we do based on the Bible itself. It is beautiful to see our hearts, minds, and practices shift in response to the Bible itself. I have been a part of quite a few Intensives and every time I come away with new insights.
In this particular training we gathered 12-15 people for 2 full days focusing on the patterns of Jesus & Paul and looking closely at church identity, function, and health in pioneering settings.
Some of the trainings we do are focused on helping believers begin to make disciples with simple tools. As intensive is much more focused on biblical principles for multiplication. It is common in this setting to see new leaders emerge and existing leader grow in vision and calling.
Two Sundays ago our church and two other NPL churches gathered on the beach to celebrate our first baptism! Our new brother has walked through broken family, prison, addiction, and more. Jesus has set him free and is transforming his life!
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