When you are in LA on a Sunday morning where do you go for a church gathering? I decided to visit Mosaic Church’s Downtown LA service to see what I could learn and if I could be a blessing. Here are 5 things I enjoyed about the church.
There’s a place for demonstrating who you through your visuals and in LA a city of art and culture I can imagine if you are trying to reach young creatives then you put a lot of thought into your visuals.
are as a church through the way that you present yourself to the world. Mosaic Downtown meets in a concert venue and so their visual presence has to be temporary. But I really liked the signage that they used all over the area to point people to their meeting place.
There was a welcome desk strategically placed so that you couldn’t enter the venue without someone greeting you. The welcomers were neatly presented, sat behind a desk – a bit like the reception to a conference venue. It gave a professional yet friendly feeling to proceedings. It’s not rocket science, but the welcomers asked good questions
1. What’s your name?
2. Where are you from?
3. How long are you in town?
4. How did you hear about the church?
2. The Pre party
I know it’s a pretty LA thing. I was really really really early. Nearly an hour before things were supposed to begin. The welcomers did their job of ushering me into the main auditorium, but i was so early no one knew what to do with me and it felt weird to leave as I would have to walk past the welcome table… So I did the play-with-my-phone-thing at the back, it doesn’t mean I don’t want to talk to anyone but it means I feel awkward but don’t want to look like it. People did leave me alone which meant I got to listen in to the “pre-party.”
So the party is about 40 people mostly in their twenties made up of the people on the rot as. There’s a lot of whooping and laughing – when a new person is welcomed everyone gets a name shout out.
Ken: Hi my name is Ken.
Everybody: Hi Ken (whoop)
Ken: I am serving on the set up for the first time.
Everybody: Go Set-up (whoop)
There’s a lot of energy in the room, which is unusual for the teams I know that set up church. It’s a very affirming atmosphere, even if it is a little hard to take for a reserved Brit. There’s a shout out for all the teams whose service we are grateful for:
Set up– chairs and furniture set up , signage etc
Production – sound and visuals
Connections– a team to help people transition to deeper involvement in church
All stars– the creche I think
Kids mosaic– childrens’ programme
Team mommy – kind of hospitality for the band, pastors and speaker
Ambience – no idea what this is but would love to know
There’s a brief motivator talk from Joe the pastor for this venue. Its good helping everyone get a vision for why their role is important in helping new people make a step of faith.
Everyone seems to know what they are doing. Everyone is a 20 something lots of cool urban sheek going on.
These guys don’t mess about with the post-pre-party-pre-service-meet-and-greet – OK I made that name up. There’s a very cool DJ doing an excellent job of providing some uber cool ambience. It is a little loud (but I recognise as a 40 something father I am not in the target demographic) for conversation. There’s Starbucks on Tap and some very nice cakes cut into bite sized chunks. Hospitality is clearly a strong value here.
There’s a lot of verbal affirmation of creativity throughout the service. This is a core value of the church and also the heartbeat of Erwin MacMannus’ new book “The Artisan Soul” which apparently is arguing that all of us are creative in some way. There’s a little interlude in the service that involves two twenty something young women singing a comedy duet about the challenges of being a twenty-something in LA on Social Media. It is very funny and very catchy – they are very gifted, in fact if anyone knows who those women were let me know I want to buy their CD it was that good. Strangely despite the language about creativity the service seems otherwise very normal. We get a block of worship (it’s lead by an excellent band who may well have written all the songs themselves as I don’t recognise any of the songs). We then get a talk with a creative response. So much so normal. I had to sneak out before the end to try and catch a flight home – so maybe I missed something. The vibe is working though as there are a lot of creative types in the room – judging by age and dress sense. I like the desire to reconnect Christianity and creativity something that feels like it has been sadly neglected for a couple of centuries.
5. Twenty Somethings
It is great to see so many twenty somethings in a room. In a city that is synonymous with cool – Mosaic has created a cool LA church. I definitely feel like I don’t belong here. I am too old, to brown, too married, too much of a family guy to have a place in this church. Apart from the speaker everyone on stage was a 20 something. Most of them look like they could be extras from a TV show or movie. Some argue that this is exactly what we need to do – we need cool church for cool people, young church for young people, artsy church for artsy people. I hold to a contrary picture of what it means to be the body of Christ, but I can see value in what Mosaic are doing. Perhaps if we can see this gathering as a journey rather than a destination . If this is a temporary staging post for young adults to connect in with the wider body of Christ; an outreach or discipleship programme rather than church in itself then we can get the best of both worlds? Too often when we talk about multigenerational, multicultural, multi class church we settle for a lowest common denominator model that connects with no one in particular. What I appreciate about Mosaic is the attempt to contextualise into a subculture. I want to celebrate what they are doing and learn from it. But I believe we need both a contextual approach to church and prophetic edge that challenges the prevailing cultural norm of fragmentation, consumerism and passivity.
After spending the weekend at the Justice Conference and walking around Downtown LA with its large homeless population and the number of Latino people in residence this church service felt very odd indeed as it neither reflected its local community or the Justice theme I had been hearing so much about. But perhaps that was just where I was coming from and you shouldn’t judge a church simply by one of its services. Perhaps I was just feeling homesick for our little community church.
So thank you to Mosaic Downtown for your welcome. Thank you for your creativity. Thank you for raising the bar when it comes to engaging young adults. I met a guy on my way out to LA and yours was the church I encouraged him to think about going to. I hope he makes it along to you. I am not on the same page as you in all that you do, but may God bless your ministry.
Your brother in Christ,