Pastoring in a city like Los Angeles – a city with such diverse groups of people and social needs – may prove to be a challenge for pastors and those in ministry, and they may wonder how to more effectively love those in the surrounding communities through the church.
Such ideas on how the church can love the city were discussed on February 26, the first day of TogetherLA, a three-day conference in which over 1,500 individuals from ministries, churches, non-profits, businesses, and schools gathered to learn and discuss how to love the city of Los Angeles.
The foundation and beginning to taking any action and doing any specific work in regards to the city should be prayer, according to Michael Lee, the senior pastor of Young Nak Celebration Church (YNCC). Lee encouraged the church to set aside time to pray for the city and seek God on behalf of the city.
“Prayerlessness is an issue of pride,” he said, and reminded the church that relying on God through prayer is essential, since “our strength comes from God.”
Tom Hughes from Christian Assembly Church pointed out that as major aspect that hinders the church from taking action – whether to non-Christians, or even to other churches – is fear.
“Coming together as one brings out fear generationally, ethnically, and denominationally,” Hughes said.
“But God said 350 times in his Word, ‘Do not be afraid,’” he continued. “Fear is bondage, and God came to set us free.”
Hughes encouraged the church to take courage, and to “do one thing that will reach across lines and bring brothers and sisters in Christ together.” He also continued on the idea of prayer and encouraged the attendees to pray for oneness in Los Angeles, and said, “Courage is fear that has said its prayers.”
Church planting was also discussed. Albert Tate from Fellowship Monrovia said that church planting is a significant way to love the city because “the church is God’s vehicle to bring his love, to see justice happen, and to redeem people.” Tate also encouraged the church to “work across denominational lines”—to build relationships and partnerships with other churches and work together.
Working together, however, sometimes comes with tension in an understanding that perhaps “my” church or organization is doing something different or better than another. Hughes said that one way to rid of that tension is by first remembering that every part of the body of Christ is “indispensable.”
“We can overestimate what I can do, and underestimate what you can do,” Hughes said.
During the session, attendees also had the opportunity to gather with others and pray for one another on specific prayer request regarding the city and the church.
TogetherLA, which took place at the West Angeles Church of God in Christ, focused on coming together as a body of Christ to reach the city, and also discussed other ways through which Christians can go about loving the city of Los Angeles, such as by addressing the social needs of Los Angeles, and by living out the gospel within the workplace.