Kevin Haah, Lead Pastor of New City Church of Los Angeles, was called to start a multi-ethnic, multi-socioeconomic church in downtown LA, where Skid Row and the upwardly mobile loft dwellers converge. But he knew that God was calling him to obedience, not to success. Or rather, that success would be measured in his obedience, even if the task seemed impossible.
“The definition of success is not actually the result, but figuring out what God wants you to do and doing it. Success is in obedience and faithfulness. The actual result is God’s problem.”
So they stepped out to do the seemingly impossible. He built a core team reflective of the neighborhood. They began holding Alpha meetings, which became the launching point for their Sunday services. And from day one, they really were a multi-ethnic, multi-socioeconomic, multi-generational, non-denominational Christian church in downtown LA.
But how does this actually work? It is hard enough to be a multi-ethnic church. Confusion and miscommunications abound. How much harder is it to have a truly multi-socioeconomic church as well?
“We were very intentional about reaching out to people in Skid Row right from the beginning,” said Haah. “We aren’t a church that goes to Skid Row to serve. We are a church that is Skid Row. If we go to Skid Row, we go to include. And then we serve together.”
Haah admits there is a lot of mess and brokenness in the process. “We preach sin. It isn’t just the visually messed up people that are messed up. We are all messed up, so there is no such hierarchy… We are a community of messy people living in God’s amazing grace.”
He is often asked if their community is really diverse in a relational way, or just visually diverse. They made a decision to not have affinity groups, but rather diverse Grow and Serve groups, whose leadership is also diverse.
“There is something about learning to be uncomfortable for one another that helps us,” said Haah. “Love is discomfort. It is at least Level 1 of love. We need to learn how to feel uncomfortable and let one another stretch us.”
So how do they sustain their diversity?
“The restorative aspect of the Gospel gives us a vision of a kingdom community that is a beautiful, diverse one,” said Haah. “I believe that unless the church is able to lay down a Gospel foundation for its diversity, it is very hard to sustain. It has to be driven by what the Gospel is about.”
I suppose it only makes sense, then, that New City’s name was drawn from the New Jerusalem described in Revelation 21.