My wife and I moved to Central LA in December 2016 to begin the process of launching a new church in Silver Lake.
BY ANDREW ALESSO
Editor’s Note: Twenty-nine-year-old Andrew Alesso 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 one in a series.
During our first several months in the neighborhood we focused on building friendships with non-Christians. We wanted to genuinely belong to the neighborhood, to understand the needs and objections of our community, and invite people to faith in Jesus Christ.
Our vision for church relies on empowering God’s people to do God’s work. We asked every believer we knew to start meeting twice a month as a core group. That early team was made up mostly of friends that commuted in from our sending church. They provided essential manpower to host events. We are forever grateful for that team, but realistically most of them served as temporary scaffolding while a local team capable of fully embracing our mission emerged.
Those who genuinely loved the mission and the neighborhood stayed and emerged as leaders. They have helped us form our culture and values. The people who have come to new and restored faith through the ministry have been the most vocal advocates for our cause.
As we built this team we were praying that God would connect us to people of peace – influential locals ready to show undeserved hospitality to God’s workers. Local restaurant owners, school principals, real estate agents, park and rec leaders, festival organizers, and mom-preneurs decided to work with us for reasons we can’t entirely explain.
For example, when we asked a local deli worker for directions to another spot for our first bible study, it took less than 5 minutes before he offered to keep his business open late once a week for us. He didn’t want anything in return, but when he ended up giving us his keys it felt like we received the keys to the whole city.
Now we’ve been gathering for worship on Sundays for 9 months. Even though we’re still small, we feel confident that we can sustain this for the long haul because of our growing and committed local leadership team.
As I look back on the journey up to this point, two things stand out to me:
First, every break-through has been a miracle. Events we thought would rock and relationships we believed to be strategic went nowhere. Unexpected relationships and last minute plans have produced fruit we never could have dreamed of. Every great accomplishment has occurred in such a way that we could never claim credit.
Second, it takes a church to build a church. We needed those friends to drive 90 minutes each way, twice a month, for as long as they could in order to get things started. We needed God to divinely prepare people of peace to provide us access and opportunity in the community. We needed locals who needed the church for themselves to become the evangelists.
The last year and a half has taught me that a healthy new church will grow if God and his people are the ones to do it. Although I’ve been working hard and making plans as the leader, miraculous encounters fueled by the faith of everyday Christians, is what makes all the difference.