Jesus Risks: How an East LA Church is Rediscovering Normal
Church is typically a space for congregants to worship God, hear teaching of the word, and enjoy fellowship with their faith community. At New Life Community Church in Lincoln Heights, East Los Angeles, California, these normal routines have, quite literally, taken on new life.
“As a football team must break out of their huddle to get into the game, we as followers of Jesus must move out of our comfort zones to follow Jesus into loving those outside of the church walls,” said Servant Partners staff and New Life pastor David Kitani “The challenge is to take risks in Jesus as we displace ourselves—that’s how we grow in faith, strengthen ourselves, and grow in God.”
In the last few months, New Life has focused on taking “Jesus risks.” Rather than simply listening to the word at church, the community is encouraged to live it out throughout the week and testify on Sundays about their experience.
“Jesus risks” include acts of kindness to strangers, praying for others, starting spiritual conversations, and crossing cultural boundaries to care for others. Week after week, the New Life community have walked together into new territories of faith. And the collective response has reinvigorated the church.
“It’s easy to relegate evangelism to ‘gifted’ people, but we realized that this is a call from Jesus for all of us,” said David.
Unlikely people stood up each Sunday, sharing their testimonies of faith. Miracles were occurring all throughout the community! Cancer was being healed, people experienced divine connections and confirmation, churchgoers were advocating for voiceless coworkers, and former rival gang members were becoming brothers. A few weeks ago, people were baptized after invitations and encouragement from church members who took up the “Jesus risk” challenge to share their faith.
“As I’ve engaged with folks close to me and relative strangers, God has surprised me with sweet encounters,” David said. “I feel more alive this month then I remember in years. I sensed God telling me, ‘Keep obeying and stepping out. This is how I’ve meant for you to live.’”
David and the rest of the New Life community are rediscovering “normal.” He identified that often the more “churched” or comfortable people become, the less space and interaction they have with people outside of their usual spaces. “Normal” routines grow dull, uninspired, and lukewarm—but this season of faith risks is restoring normalcy to its intended form.
“We naturally inoculate ourselves from taking these sorts of risks,” David said. “But this should be normal. These risks gave me a sense that even if I’m standing in a line at a restaurant or walking down the street, having an eye to what God wants to do is a life-giving discipline.”
You can hear some of the testimonies from New Life at www.podcastgarden.com/podcast/newlife.