It's been a while since I've had the chance to write. After a trip to Northern California, I spent all of last week getting caught up on the work I'd left behind. I also, took advantage of a little down time to do some reading, praying and more than anything, I aimed at giving as much attention as I could to my wife and daughter after I spent so much time working "remotely" while on our trip. During my week of playing "catch up" I did have the oppurtunity to have lunch with one my favorite people. His name is Darren and he's guiding (by the grace and wisdom of the Holy Spirit) a new church in the city of Long Beach called "The Garden". My time with Darren is usually one of deep thought and conversation, as well as a time of sharpening and encouraging one another to keep persevering a life transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ. I'm so excited to see what the Holy Spirit is doing at The Garden and because of all the great stories of answered prayer, and the lost being found I couldn't help but make a promise to Darren I'd visit him on the coming Sunday night (last night).
Showing up in Long Beach for "church" was new to me. It's the most diverse city in all of America and the community of believers (and those searching for truth and freedom) that showed up for the 6pm meeting undoubtedly reflected that statistic. From an 85 year old man in the front row, to numerous "hipster" or "scenester" 20 somethings, as well as Latino gang members and young women that resembled the girl from the reality show "L.A Ink", I quickly realized that the only thing in common for most of the people showing up to worship was that they loved Jesus Christ. Though it was my first time showing up to be with this community of believers, it felt like home. Sure, I knew quite a few people as they had attended Rock Harbor Church for years before The Garden was planted; but the love from those I didn't know, the authenticity of their brokenness and worship is what bound me to this group of "Ragamuffins" as Brennan Manning would call them.
If you are living in the Long Beach area, are interested in what it looks like to follow Jesus, have questions about God, desire a close knit community, need prayer, and/or wish to share in worshiping the Creator as opposed to a Pastor, staff, tradition, buildings or a "special message" used to market Jesus, then I'd recommend that you check out and hopefully serve with The Garden. I can truly say that it is a community that wholeheartedly yearns to worship Jesus, to become like him in the way they walk, talk, pray and love those who are members as well as those who sit outside the building begging for change. Knowing the humility that is in Darren, and having a personal relationship with so many that call The Garden home, I can assure you that their mission and vision of making disciples in the city of Long Beach while being led by the Holy Spirit will be realized.
If you want to know more about The Garden in Long Beach please check out their website at www.TheGardenLB.org. I've yet to attend a gathering of believers that unashamedly desires Jesus to be the center of their meeting like this group does. Their hope of transformation and reformation is something that can only be done by the Holy Spirit. If you live in or around the city of Long Beach and hope to see the Spirit of God move without the interference of programs, institutionalization, celebrity Pastors and a class system between the so-called "clergy" and "laity" this is the place for you. It's a true authentic, organic attempt to keep Jesus as the head of His church, and humbly accept the role of being his moving parts that show his love for a broken world.