Living Community Church: Where We Are

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Living Community Church: Where We Are

History

Living Community Church officially “started” in January of 2015.  At least, that’s when the logo and name of the church were decided upon.  At that point in time, a group of people loosely connected to the vision of the church were meeting for Bible study at our home.  We ran an occasional event with mixed results:  Sometimes a small crowd would show up, sometimes only I would. 

The church has grown since then in many different ways.  We were successful at connecting with neighbors and forging relationships.  New people came and joined, while others moved on.  We grew slowly while God was choosing the right people to move this community forward.  God has proven that he stands behind us as we build diverse communities that help people meet and follow Jesus.

By way of example: this coming weekend we will host a harvest festival at East Palo Alto Charter School along with Peninsula Bible Church.  There will likely be well over 500 people there with dozens of volunteers.  Our neighbor will bring the petting zoo he started in his backyard.  The people of our community are serving by connecting people, welcoming them, managing parking, etc.  All those things were made possible because God multiplied our small community’s efforts to draw people together in Jesus’ name – and this is just one of many examples of how God is using us!

Present

We currently have 3 major events each month: A social gathering, an outreach/service project, and a night of devotion.  Each event is an attempt to fulfill our mission by creating space for people to come “as they are”.  Our hope is that each person can experience community with people who follow Jesus and get excited about what they see.  Personally, I am overjoyed that we see God bringing people of different cultures, spiritual journeys, and socioeconomic backgrounds together at our events.

As a metric for where we are today, you could track our “short list”.  These are folks who have a sincere interest in our programs and church.  When we started, our short list was about 10 people.  That list is now up to 50 people and grows regularly.  I no longer wonder if people will show up to an event.  Now, it is more a question of how many or from which community.  As East Palo Alto continues to change, it will be interesting to see if God will bring Stanford students, Facebook professionals, homeless, and increasingly diverse people to our events.

Our biggest challenge to date is not growth or diversity, but engagement.  People in Silicon Valley are incredibly busy with work, family, and other commitments.  Those who want to come to our events come sporadically, making it difficult to build momentum or deepen community.  This results in fractured community: one person who is coming semi-regularly will not have met another person who is coming semi-regularly despite our small size.  As a church, we need to figure out how to assimilate people into our community when they come infrequently.

Another challenge we have is a shortage of workers.  Our mission will ultimately be accomplished by those who make themselves available to God: be they broken people who have no experience or people who have a passion for doing ministry.  We need to help people step out in faith to do the work of the Church.  Everyone should be able to engage with socials that draw people together into communities.  Many of our friends and coworkers want to serve and simply need an invitation.  We want to be engaged in feeding their souls but will only get there through devotion to God’s words, prayer, and worship. 

The Future

We will continue to grow organically but slowly through existing relationships if nothing changes.  We are at the limits of organizational growth for what Rachel and Juan can do as individuals.   Growth in the church going forward will come from other servants investing in the church in the following ways: 

  • Individuals who own the mission of the church and are able to draw others in
  • An Administrator who can file 503c paperwork and manage finances
  • A communicator who is sending out emails, reminders, Facebook posts, tweets, and website updates
  • Event coordinators to help with socials and outreaches
  • Small group leaders who have a passion for community and connection
  • Children’s ministry leaders who help our children grow in the knowledge of God
  • An operational manager who maintains the technical details for our website, phone, and emails

In terms of programs that would complement what we currently do: we as a community would benefit from having more consistent times investing in our walks with Jesus.  A small group (or two) that works with people’s schedules would allow people to connect more deeply with one another.  An increased frequency to our devotional night would help us follow Jesus in an intentional way.  Impromptu get-togethers between people to encourage and walk alongside one another would help distribute the ownership for group health and discipleship.

When we reach a core group of 10 families/individuals who are committed to our vision, we will start meeting regularly for a small worship service.  From there, we will begin preparations to launch the church.  Launching the church is an exciting opportunity for people who are not following Jesus to get to know him through the launch events.  Our hope is that many people who are not involved with worship, but who are engaging with various events, will meet and follow Jesus through the launching process. 

Ultimately, we hope to start a church that brings people from all places in their spiritual journey together.  This means inviting people who do not fit our definition of who should be at church.  It means being ok with a messy community of people who desperately need Jesus.  It means watching ourselves grow into maturity by God’s grace through steps of faith.  We get to see God shine in the midst of us as He does the miracle of bringing a new church to life.

 

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Light the Fire

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Light the Fire

The Holy Spirit is awesome.  He comes down from Heaven and resurrects dead bones.  He brings them back to life and gives them purpose.  God sends Jesus to breathe life into us when we feel tired and broken.  The spirit takes our imperfect offering and consumes it.  In the place where our weakness was, God puts refined gold and silver -- strength and grit.  It is exciting!

Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting - Acts 2:2

Join us in a devotional night to Jesus.  We will spend time in fellowship, music, prayer, and teaching to devote ourselves to Him.  Instead of sitting at home thinking you should do something, come and join us instead.  You will find God lighting a fire in you!

His word is in my heart like a fire, a fire shut up in my bones. I am weary of holding it in; indeed, I cannot - Jer 20:9b

7:30—8:30pm - Wednesday, September 28th
1001 Beech St, East Palo Alto (Bayshore Christian Ministries)
Light Refreshments provided

 

 

 

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A Bright Day in EPA

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A Bright Day in EPA

Today at Martin Luther King Jr. Park in East Palo Alto 22 people (including 11 children) participated in Adopt a Park Day. We picked up litter, washed down playground structures and picnic tables, swept up leaves, ate pizza, offered free food to a few people passing through, and laughed and talked and played together. It was a fun, happy, noticeably bright day.

But to appreciate the impact of such a small gesture you’ll need some context. I mean, the ground at the park is probably already covered with litter as I type, seven hours after the cleanup. The tables and play structures will be filthy again in a week or two. So what good did we accomplish? A lot more than the eye can see.

Since moving to East Palo Alto over two years ago I’ve taken my kids to the parks here at least three days a week, oftentimes more. Most of the time we enjoy our experience. We swing and climb, play tag and hide and seek. We meet neighbors and classmates. We pet friendly dogs. We don’t really notice the graffiti and litter much anymore. For the most part we feel safe.

But it’s not unusual for there to be a darker element as well. Often the kids are not aware of this, but it can weigh heavily on me. Sometimes there are people with really foul mouths at the park, and I worry about what my kids will pick up—not just words but whole concepts. Lately there seems to be a rash of teenagers making out at the park—well, “making out” would be a very mild term for what they are doing. It got so bad one day that I asked one couple to leave.

There are often drug users at the park. (I don’t really understand why people go to the park to do drugs, but apparently it’s a good place for that activity.) More than once I have called the police to report marijuana use.  One day I was furious to see a mom smoking pot at the corner of the playground while her young children played nearby. I called the police but had some trouble with my phone connection. When I finally got through, the mom happened to walk right beside me, so I quickly ended the phone call, trembling.

Last week when we arrived at the park an older woman approached me and said, “That man over there has been walking back and forth for half an hour smoking something…well, I don’t know what it is, but the smoke is a different color; and I don’t know what else he’s on or what he might do. I don’t have a phone with me, and it’s up to you if you want to call the police or take the children and leave. But if you leave, I’ll leave, too.”

We chose to stay, and we will keep choosing to go back; but honestly sometimes I feel like our presence at the park is a tiny pinprick of light in a sea of darkness. We’re barely flickering, and the darkness is so very heavy.

To be at the park today with 22 people fighting for good and love and life was like bringing a whole blazing bonfire of light to the scene. The people who helped out probably had no idea how it lifted my spirits and lightened the weight on my heart.

Martin Luther King Jr. Park is one that we actually don’t normally frequent anymore because the drug use there is so blatant and the darkness so palpable. We were in enemy territory being there today, and I’ve no doubt that we struck our foe a heavy and lasting blow.

The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. John 1:5

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Reflections: I'm a Fool

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Reflections: I'm a Fool

Sometimes, the Bible is funny and makes me laugh.  Tonight is such a night.  From Mark Chapter 9:

 After six days Jesus took Peter, James and John with him and led them up a high mountain, where they were all alone. There he was transfigured before them.  His clothes became dazzling white, whiter than anyone in the world could bleach them.  And there appeared before them Elijah and Moses, who were talking with Jesus...  As they were coming down the mountain, Jesus gave them orders not to tell anyone what they had seen until the Son of Man had risen from the dead.  They kept the matter to themselves, discussing what “rising from the dead” meant.

After you know that the book ends with Jesus rising from the dead, this can be pretty funny.  The disciples just witnessed an intense miracle and Jesus gives them some plain instructions in plain language:  Don't tell people until I rise from the dead.  They then discuss amongst themselves trying to figure out the "deep" meaning behind Jesus words.  After all, Jesus is fond of speaking in parables, why not this time?

Part of the humor is that I act like the disciples.  When I don't understand a passage from the Bible I try to find a deeper meaning.  I see academics and bible scholars doing this all the time.  It seems so easy to just let myself be caught up by the debates and parsing of words to get at the "real" meaning.  Surely, it can't just mean what it says.

This is a good reminder to read the scripture as a student instead of a scholar.  I do not know what the Bible is saying until God shows me.  The best thing I can do is sit and submit my thoughts to scripture so as to learn.  The worst thing I could do is let my foolish notions of what is true keep me from learning from God and the letters He left behind.

Remember to laugh today.  God has a sense of humor.

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Reflections: Fighting the Man Through Peace

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Reflections: Fighting the Man Through Peace

Peter wrote a letter to a suffering church.  Roman power was orderly but corrupt.  To work within the system, you would give and take bribes, wink for the right people, etc.  The church was radical to some degree:  The people claimed a King other than Caesar.  They resisted the corruption of the system. 

When you step out of the cultural system, especially when it is corrupt, you are likely to get negative feedback.  History tells us that the early church was widely accused of cannibalism and shunned from the rest of society.  Many were imprisoned and martyred.

The government was not kind to them, and yet Peter gave them some advice that defied common sense.  He told them to submit to the powers that were above them and work within the system.  He implored them to be the best citizens they could, so that no one could find fault with them.

When we are persecuted and mistreated, the Christian response is to turn the other cheek.  In addition, to those in authority, we are to submit to their rule, trusting God to give us justice.  God delivered the Israelites out of slavery, and he will deliver us too.  Think of someone like Martin Luther King Jr:  He fought systemic government injustice through a peaceful process of protest.  It cost him his life.  This is a good Christian response.

The next time you feel mistreated, think about Jesus' suffering.  He took the pain of the cross for the benefit of people who hated him and killed him.  Then, think about your own suffering and ask Jesus what you should do.

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