If you’ve ever wondered if a multi-ethnic, multi-socioeconomic, multi-generational, non-denominational church is anything more than wishful thinking, talk to Kevin Haah. The Lead Pastor of New City Church of Los Angeles, Haah set out on a journey of obedience more than 10 years ago, resulting in a little bit of heaven on earth.
Originally an associate pastor with a Korean American church in LA, Haah was responsible for overseeing urban ministries and a project called Love LA. Through that movement, they set up weekly Sunday afternoon meetings akin to a parking lot revival. It was there that Haah learned how to preach.
One day, when someone called Haah asking him what his church was doing to reach out to “all these new people moving into downtown,” it piqued his curiosity. There was a major building move going on, with most of the historic core becoming a mixed-use residential zone. The downtown neighborhood was growing faster than any other neighborhood in LA county, bringing an influx of upwardly mobile loft dwellers to a neighborhood sharing a zip code with the city’s notorious Skid Row.
After considering this question, Kevin asked “What if we planted a multi-ethnic, multi-socioeconomic church in the middle of downtown LA?” His immediate response was “yeah, but that would never work.” However, that vision never went away.
“We began to pray. The more we prayed, the more we felt like God was leading us to actually do that,” said Haah. “Right from the beginning, developing a core team of 20 or so people was really a movement of God’s providence.”
Haah stressed that from the beginning if they were going to be a church for the downtown neighborhood, they would have to contextualize the church to the neighborhood.
“I tried really hard to start with a core team that reflected the diversity of this neighborhood,” said Haah.
What was particularly notable was that Kevin’s sending church, a Korean American church, offered to send him with a launch team. But he turned them down. He said he knew that if he started with a largely Korean core team, it would be hard to then shift and become a church representative of the neighborhood demographics.
“We did everything possible to get as many people as possible from the neighborhood. It reflected the diversity from downtown.”
And yes, if you are wondering, that meant their core team would include residents of Skid Row, as well as the affluent loft dwellers just settling into their new downtown homes.
“I struggled a lot with whether it was possible, or if it was just a pipe dream,” Haah stated. “It was pretty clear to me that God was calling us to a radically different kind of community that reflects the kingdom value of inclusivity, not only cross-culturally but cross economically.”
Haah wrestled often in the beginning with whether he should go with what he thought would actually work, or with what he knew God’s call to be.
“I decided to go for what I knew God’s call to be for the neighborhood. The kingdom of God actually reflects different kinds of people coming together, Jews and Gentiles coming together, and the Gospel has the power to do that. It was not about whether it works or not. It was a question of what kind of church God is calling us to.”