On a given weekend in Los Angeles, a newcomer to one church plant can find both a charismatic and a Presbyterian pastor at the Sunday worship service, while passersby of another church plant might hear music from the church's weekend party or mixer.
"People would ask me, 'So, you did tell them that you're from a charismatic background, right?' And I would tell them, 'Yeah, we talked about all of that stuff. They're fine with it.' And they would still ask me again, 'Yeah but... They really do know, right?'" recalled Pastor Raul Martinez, who planted Canoga Park Presbyterian Church, describing the reaction he received from others when he first broke the news that he would be planting a Presbyterian church with a Presbyterian pastor. Martinez was a member of Praise Chapel, a charismatic Latino American church with multiple campuses.
"God is definitely bringing together two different flavors if you will," Martinez continued, "but we have the same purpose, and that is on reaching those who are lost, hurt, and broken -- reaching them and restoring them to Christ."
Radius Church, located in North Hollywood, hosts parties or mixers on weekends from time to time.
"We want to allow people who don't identify as Christian to become more accustomed and get more exposure to what Christians are like," said Pastor Joseph Barkley of Radius. Barkley says the vision of Radius is to reach those who are convinced that church is irrelevant.
He tells the story of a non-believer who once was invited to a Radius Church party, without knowing that it was hosted by a church. Barkley was conversing with him when all of a sudden, he drew closer to Barkley and whispered, "Did you know there are actually a lot of Christians here? And they're actually kind of normal," not knowing Barkley's occupation.
Barkley whispered back, "I'm one of them."
"I told him afterwards about our church, and invited him to come out to one of our Sunday services," Barkley recalled. "And he showed up the next Sunday morning."
These two unique churches are the most recent church plants of the Los Angeles Church Planting Movement (LA CPM), a network of churches in L.A. that are working together to fulfill one goal: to plant gospel-driven churches in every one of the over 100 neighborhoods in the city.
Anywhere from five to nine churches in the LA CPM network would invest together to raise up to $250,000 for each church plant. Stadia, a catalyst for church planting in the U.S. and internationally, partners with LA CPM and contributes financially to each church plant as well. Stadia staff also have the church planters go through "assessments" to evaluate their qualification and readiness, train and coach the church planter, and offer help in accounting services, spouse care, and others throughout the process.
Though the process -- particularly the assessment -- is "hard work," says Barkley, it all works toward the goal to build a gospel-driven church.
"I appreciated that there is a group of men and women who care so much about having a gospel-centered church that they ask us all of the hard questions about what our church is about. My wife and I were encouraged, affirmed, and challenged through the process," he said at the most recent LA CPM gathering on October 1. The group holds three gatherings each year for pastors, church planters, and lay leaders to get to know one another and for LA CPM planters to share updates.
Since LA CPM's inception in January of 2013, seven churches have been planted in Los Angeles, and seven more churches have been planted overseas by Stadia to match.
Each of the church plants have unique stories with unique contexts. Resonate Church is a church plant located in West LA, at the heart of which is Santa Monica. Yet 95 percent of Santa Monica residents is "unchurched," says David Cobia, the lead planter of Resonate. Legacy Minded Church is located in Burbank, where the lead planter Chris Nicely hopes that storytellers and filmmakers would hear the story of Jesus. And Praise Chapel of Westlake, which church planter Ruben Nuno describes as the "epicenter for gangs," has seen 75 percent of its congregation being saved. Nuno testifies of members who used to live in a car, or formerly sold drugs, who are now serving as "the pillars" of the church, from ushers to Bible study leaders.
"There's hope today," says Nuno."Even in the hardest area, even in the darkest corners of our city, the light of Christ is shining. And these church plants are gonna continue to usher in God's kingdom into every community of Los Angeles. We believe that."