Multi-Everything: A newly planted church takes diversity to heart
To be a "multi-everything church." That's the hope of three planters of a new church in Long Beach, California.
Their passion is to gather and disciple people of all ages from a variety of socioeconomic, ethnic, and religious backgrounds.
"This is why we are planting in the Wrigley Neighborhood of Long Beach," says Jason Brown, one of the three planters. "This is an enormous challenge."
It's a challenge Brown and his two fellow planters, Chris Cano and Bill White, engaged long before City Church of Long Beach's first official worship service in January.
Back in April 2013, 24 adults began weekly gatherings called "Huddle." "If you've ever been part of a small group in a church, then you have a sense of what a huddle is," says Brown. "One thing that's different about a huddle is that there's more of a push towards action and accountability."
Brown adds that he's grateful for Eric Pfeiffer and Pat Dirkse, leaders associated with 3DM, a ministry that's the home of the huddle concept, for "the high challenge to create a culture of mission and discipleship at City Church of Long Beach."
One way members of the church live out that culture of mission is by holding what they call Open House. "A few followers of Jesus want the people in their circle of friends and family, work, or neighborhood to get a taste of Jesus," says Brown. "So they open up one of their homes for food, some spiritual content, and small group discussion."
He says the focus is on "growing as apprentices of Jesus." The original Open House grew so fast that there are now four gatherings of 10 to 40 people each.
Long Beach has nearly half a million people and City Church of Long Beach is located in a corner of that city called Wrigley Neighborhood. "My wife, Katy, and I always felt called to minister in an urban, multiethnic neighborhood that is unchurched, and this fit the bill perfectly," says Bill White.
"Of the 12 families that live immediately adjacent to ours, two were born in Cambodia, one in Japan, one in Germany, one in Kuwait, and one in Mexico; three are Asian American, three are African American, two are Hispanic, two are white, and two are of multiple origins. There's a lawyer, a mechanic, a teacher, a guy who is unemployed and a guy on disability. They range in age from three to somewhere in their upper eighties and include young families, a gay couple, empty-nesters, retirees, and a widow. It's crazy diverse, and not very religious at all."
Launching the church
City Church of Long Beach officially launched on Sunday morning, January 12, 2014, with worship at a Wrigley Neighborhood elementary school auditorium. Along with people who'd been attending worship informally for months and 25 new attendees from the neighborhood, another 59 people who attend other RCA churches showed up to offer their support.
In a pre-launch blog post, White pointed out that the designation "launch Sunday" wasn't quite right. "It's not like all of the sudden we're going to become a church. We've been gathering in homes, parks, and at a school for a year now. Along the way we've been encouraging others on their spiritual journeys and seeking to serve our neighbors. And we've been trying to become more like Christ ourselves."
Brown adds, "It's been remarkable the number of folks we've run into at our worship services who have said, 'You know why you're here?' By now, we've grown accustomed to waiting silently for them to answer their own question: 'Because we asked God to bring us a church.' That's awesome and humbling at the same time."
This article is based on blog posts on the City Church of Long Beach website, www.citychurchlb.org.