I believe you have to be called by God to start a church.
BY ANDREW ALESSO
Editor’s Note: Andrew Alesso, 29, is the pastor of Thrive LA located in the Silver Lake area. The church opened its doors just 9 months ago. Alesso is writing about his experience in an exclusive TogetherLA series, Planting a Church in LA. This article is the third in a series. You can read the first of the series, “A Young Pastor’s Story,” here. Part 2, “Majority Honestly Doesn’t Know God Loves Them,” is found here.
On the tough days, when you feel like throwing in the towel, you have to know you’re doing what God asked you to do. I planted Thrive LA Church in Silver Lake 9 months ago, but God has been building us up towards this moment for a long time.
The journey to plant a church in urban Los Angeles started when I was a brand new Christian at the age of 14. We used to drive to Hollywood to see my mom in a women’s recovery home during visitor hours.
Agonizing walks down Sunset Boulevard forced me to work out what it actually meant to be a Christian. As we faced the wreckage in our family we discovered that God had the miraculous power to put the pieces back together. I learned later that God was using those early years to shape my heart for the broken.
My church planting journey continued when this pretty girl named Katie (now my wife and Thrive LA Church’s Connections Director) wanted to talk about her friend that was planting a church in Hollywood and her work feeding the homeless at Skid Row.
Our first date at the Palladium and my proposal in Silver Lake were just a few ways that God was working, years in advance, to connect our hearts to a specific neighborhood.
After years of pastoral ministry in the only church I’d ever known, the journey took a turn when I was playing 1-on-1 basketball with a 5th grader. He absolutely destroyed me as if he was Lebron and I was the 5th grader. After weeks of serious nerve pain in my legs and a severe limp, losing to a 5th grader compelled me to go to the gym. I didn’t go to the doctor for another 3 months because I was trying to tough it out.
It wasn’t until 8 months later when I was forced to receive prayer from my elders in front of the church that I actually got a medical breakthrough. Actually, the most important breakthrough was a lesson that God finally got through my thick skull. In order to flourish, I needed to to stop settling for a life and ministry that I was capable of achieving in my own human strength.
And then there was the deafening roar of Romans 15:20-21, “And thus I make it my ambition to preach the gospel, not where Christ has already been named, lest I build on someone else’s foundation, but as it is written, ‘Those who have never been told of him will see, and those who have never heard will understand.’” God made it so clear that at the end of my life, the only thing that will matter is whether I helped people get to know Jesus.
I don’t have enough space here to tell you about all the scriptures and miraculous signs and miracles that led to planting Thrive LA, but suffice to say that for 15 years God has been calling me to a love for the broken, a burden for the city of LA, a dependency on his power, and a commitment to making disciples who make disciples.
The story of Thrive LA has just begun. Over the coming months I’ll be sharing regularly about how he’s working in us, through us, and in spite of us. I hope that it can encourage you as you aim to fulfill God’s calling on your life.