Friday, August 26, 2011

I want to encourage you to listen to this message.  It is a sermon entitled, "Seek the Shalom of the City," and kicks off our series on the vision of New City called, For the City.  It lays down one of the things that is at the heart of New City, and in particular, why participating in our Grow and Serve Group is so important.  This is a very important sermon on why New City exists.

Friday, August 19, 2011

Major Launch of a New Kind of Small Group at New City: Grow and Serve Groups

We are launching new groups this fall called Grow & Serve Groups. These groups will replace Community Groups and become the basic building blocks of the church. The goal of the Grow and Serve Groups will be twofold: to grow together AND serve the city, in other words, to become a discipling community that is on mission for God.

Click HERE for the Grow & Serve Groups FALL 2011 Catalog.  We have 13 new groups.  It's a perfect time join a small group.  The groups are 13 weeks long (9/11-12/15).  Click here if you want to find a group.

FAQs re Grow and Serve Groups

New Series at New City: FOR THE CITY

We are starting an important vision series this Sunday called, For the City.  This is a series on what it means to be a part of the gospel movement in Los Angeles where we not only share the good news but be the good news by serving the city.  This is an important series to clarify our vision as we move towards the launch of Grow and Serve Groups.  Please join us!

Friday, July 15, 2011

A Community Prayer Vigil for Baby Marcello who was Killed at Artwalk Last Night

My heart is broken for baby Marcello Vasquez, the 2-month old baby killed last night at Artwalk.  He was crushed by a falling parking meter which was hit by a car.  It was an accident.

I think we all feel the need for the downtown community to come together to mourn the death of baby Marcello and pray for the family.  So, we are calling the community to gather for a candlelight prayer vigil tonight at 8pm at 4th and Spring, the site of the accident.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

What is a gospel-centered church?

Here is a blog I found from on the question of "What is a gospel-centered church?"  I think he is right on.  Check it out:

A movement has begun among a diverse group of evangelical churches. Simply, one by one, pastors are coming to the realization that they are not preaching the gospel.


Christian churches that do not preach the gospel? Wait. Are they teaching anti-Christian doctrine? Satanism? Snake-handling? Neo-shamanism? (I don’t really even know what neo-shamanism is, but it sure sounds cool.)

Often, it’s not that these churches have fallen into some gross heresy. Most likely, it’s just that over time, they’ve let the gospel slip in favor of another way to try to draw people and change people.

A few of the most prevalent things I’ve seen that can crowd out the gospel:

Moralism – using fear, rules, and commands as the basis for discouraging sin and encouraging holy living, which sadly results in increased self-righteousness among rule-keepers and absolute despair in those who are unable to live up.

Pragmatism – when in an effort to reach new people, church leaders spend more time teaching helpful techniques or useful principles than actually pointing people to the only thing that has real power to change both hearts and lives.

Political agendas – out of a desire to get involved in the public square and to influence policy, Christians of every political stripe often begin to equate the spread of the gospel with the growth of a specific political party or platform.

What’s tricky is that usually these –isms start with a noble aspiration: a desire to help people change & grow, a desire to reach out to people far from God, a desire to use influence to change the way things are done.

Unfortunately when something other than God is our primary goal, no matter how good that goal is, we will eventually start taking short cuts to get what we want accomplished.

A gospel-centered church understands that change or transformation of any kind, especially authentic heart-transformation, cannot happen apart from the gospel of grace.

A gospel-centered church roots and keeps the focus of all its activity – teaching, worship, outreach, social activism, and discipleship – honed in on the gospel: the riches of the grace of God available because of the sacrificial death of Jesus for sinners.

Because of this, a gospel-centered church is committed to:

• Reading & teaching the entire Bible in light of the gospel.
• Preaching the gospel to believers, not just unbelievers.
• Leaders applying the gospel to themselves first; church leaders are the first repenters.
• Cultivating a leadership culture marked by ever increasing “gospel astonishment.”
• Being known for an atmosphere of grace; gospel-centered churches are safe places for seekers, skeptics and those outside of the faith.
• Producing people who don’t just know the doctrine of the gospel but who love the person of Jesus Christ.

These are the themes that we are committed to fleshing out together in greater detail at Rethink Mission.

At the end of the day, grace isn’t just something we “get” and the cross is not just some object in time. These things hinge on a person. At the center of it all is a person.


In an age when his name is easily tossed around or relegated to some minor point of doctrine used to win arguments and manipulate people, we long for the day when Jesus is seen for what he is: the hero of the story.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Studying Missional Community as a Vehicle for Discipleship and Serving the City

We are in the process of studying, reading, listening, strategizing, and discussing the missional community model for growing together and serving the city.  This video is by a guy named Mike Breen and I am starting to learn from him.  Check it out.

Mike Breen: What is a missional community? from Verge Network on Vimeo.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Downtown Low-Cost Vaccine for Your Dog Day

People say there are more dogs in downtown than humans.  So, New City Church of LA has put together an event to serve the dogs and their humans.  We are offering low-cost vaccination for their dogs.  We are keeping the costs very low by using all volunteer veterinarians and by charging pretty much only the cost of the vaccines.  So, bring your dogs and get vaccinated (not you, but your dog, that is).

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Downtown Easter Fest Was An Amazing Success

New City Church of LA partnered with City Light Church this year to bring the Downtown Easter Fest.  It was an amazing success!  We expected a couple of hundred people but we ended up with probably around 1000 people.  There was a lot of energy and a lot of people were so appreciative that we put on this event free to the public.  It was a great opportunity to serve the downtown community and a lot of fun.  I want to thank all of the amazing volunteers who didn't even have time to eat lunch because of the overwhelming demand and people lining up.  Thank you all!

Thursday, April 21, 2011

Good Friday and Easter Sunday Service

Please join us for Good Friday Service on April 22 (Friday, of course) at 7pm at Spring Art Tower, 453 S. Spring St., Second Floor, Downtown LA.
On Sunday, Please join us for Easter Celebration Service at 10am at Los Angeles Theatre Center.

Then, after the worship, please join us for Easter Fest at Grand Hope Park.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

What If We Planted a Church in Every Neighborhood in LA

There are 114 distinct neighborhoods in Los Angeles. Some are as small as 10,000 and some are as big as 150,000. What if we planted a vibrant church reflecting Jesus and serving the community in every one of these neighborhoods?

Downtown Easter Fest 2011 at Grand Hope Park

The Third Annual Downtown Easter Fest is on Sunday, April 24, from 12:30pm to 3pm, at the beautiful Grand Hope Park at W. 9th and Hope Streets in downtown LA. Parking is free around the park.

We will have picnic lunch, drinks, Easter egg hunt, bounce house, face painting, bubbles, arts and crafts, sack race, popcorns, free haircuts, and much much more, all for FREE to everyone.

This is an event for the community, not the church. All are invited! Bring your entire family and have fun!

This event is co-sponsored by New City Church of LA and City Light Church, both downtown LA churches. 

Here are some pictures from Downtown Easter Fest from last year:

Friday, April 1, 2011

How to Apprentice Someone into Leadership

We have been praying and thinking a lot of leadership development at New City.  We have been growing faster than we can develop leaders.  I think this this is a great article and something I have been thinking a lot about lately.

Apprenticeship x Reflection = Multiplication
Tim Balow

Leadership development is the lynchpin of successfully reproducing and multiplying small groups. But how do leaders really develop? How does a small group leader go about developing a process for raising up apprentice leaders? What will truly help another leader grow in their small-group facilitation and spiritual maturity?

Before you ever think about multiplying small groups, leadership development needs to be on your mind. Without leadership, small groups stagger from week to week, struggle to keep discussion moving, and grow stale in the vision for their group. Apprenticeship is the lynchpin for successfully reproducing small groups in your church or ministry for the hopes of drawing more and more people into a friendship with Jesus and others. It's is one very useful way to develop small-group leaders, because it involves spending time with one another, intentionally observing and reflecting on experiences, and moving toward the goal of actually leading another small group.

Dave and Jon Ferguson of Community Christian Church in Naperville, Illinois offer a very helpful twist on one popular model of helping emerging leaders catch the vision. Imagine the "I" in this model is the small group leader, while "you" is the apprentice. You may want to read through this a couple of times before moving on; it's is not only a wonderful model for developing apprentices, but a wonderful model for developing anyone.

 I lead, you observe, we talk.
 I lead, you help, we talk.
 You lead, I help, we talk.
 You lead, I observe, we talk.
 You lead, someone else watches, we talk.

The twist here -- and the trickiest part as well -- is the last two words of each phrase: we talk. Reflection is one of the most important things that we can do to help others develop. Intentionally talking and listening to another person seems so simple, and yet it's a critical piece that's left out of so much training. Here are three areas vital to the reflection process:

1. Help emerging leaders grow in their strengths. Some leaders will have the ability to ask good questions and lead discussions, while others are going to be stronger in their ability to create hospitable and friendly environments. Help your leaders to know how their gifts and strengths can best be used in a small-group environment.

2. On the flip side, it's important to help your apprentices identify weaknesses. It may not be their natural inclination to be a welcoming person or to be a good facilitator at first, but identifying blind spots and weaknesses will help the leader to develop the assets that are crucial to leading a small group.

3. With those two things said, the last important reflection point in an apprenticeship is tohelp leaders move towards crucial assets that make up a healthy small group leader. What I mean by that is: While a leader will always have strengths and weaknesses, all small group leaders need to develop the ability to catch and cast vision, facilitate life-giving conversation, and create an environment that can bear the weight of friendship, conflict, and time.

This model may take some time to really take root in your church, but a healthy and growing small-group ministry survives and thrives where leadership development is intentional and consistent. God transforms apprentices into leaders, especially as leaders help them to see God's vision for growing friendships with Jesus and others.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

A reflection on the problem of pain: sovereignty of God vs. free will

There is a lot suffering going on right now: in Japan, in Libya, all around the world.  It's not just out there, it is also within our lives and in our own communities.  I preached on this subject today.

The problem of pain is the argument that God can't be both good and all powerful at the same time because if he was good, he couldn't be all powerful because he has not stopped all of the sufferings; and if God is all powerful, he couldn't be good because he has not stopped all of the sufferings.  He can't be both good and all powerful.

It is interesting that there are two camps among Christians on how to explain the problem of pain, and those two camps are the same two camps on the debate between Calvinism and Arminianism.  Predestination vs. Free Will.  Sovereignty of God vs. Human free will.  Piper vs. Boyd.

Here's how Greg Boyd, who emphasizes human free will, explains suffering: Suffering is caused by human free will, which led to a fallen state of the universe.  God is powerful, but this power does not mean he controls everything.  God does not exercise power by brute force but by loving influence.  Through Jesus, he demonstrated that he is not a God of the power-over, the power of brute force, but a God of love, the power of power-under.  Because he seeks to change people by the power of love, God allows suffering.

Here's how Reformed Christians, those who emphasize God's sovereignty, explain suffering.  God is in control of everything, even suffering.  God allows suffering because he has a purpose for it.  Just like a surgeon has a purpose in causing the pain of surgery, God has a purpose for our pain.  Just because we don't know the reason does not mean there isn't a good reason.

I preached from the story of Joseph which culminates in Genesis 50 where he says: "you meant it for evil but God meant it for good."

My argument is a middle argument between the free will people and sovereignty of God people.  As Joseph said, "you meant it for evil."  Our suffering is caused by human free will which led to sin and the fallen state of the universe.  But, God is in control.  "God meant it for good."  God is so powerful that he can actually turn even the evil actions into something good.  "In all things, God works for the good of those who love him."  So, I believe that suffering is caused by sin, but God is in control of everything.

Monday, March 7, 2011

The Debate about Heaven, Hell, and Rob Bell

Rob Bell, the pastor of Mars Hill Bible Church in Michigan, wrote a book on heaven and hell called Love Wins.  It has not been released yet.  A lot of people have been blogging and tweeting on this topic.  See the one blog that started the criticism.  NY Times has written an article on this as well.  I hear that it is one of the top ten trending topics on twitter.  People are calling Rob Bell a Universalist.  I think this is a difficult issue.  Frankly, I continue to wrestle with this issue.  I live with a lot of tension in my life on this issue.  I will be reading this book to see what his position is.  I don't want to judge him before I read the book.  I think this article from Christianity Today captures the civility of the debate and the struggles of many Christians who take the Bible seriously.  Check it out:

Heaven, Hell, and Rob Bell: Putting the Pastor in Context | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction

Friday, February 4, 2011

Craig Ferguson with Dr Cornel West About Black History and Music

This is a great discussion on Black History Month and the history of music in the African American context. Good stuff.