By Mark A. Taylor
“The power of the gospel to bring people together is greater than I thought,” Kevin Haah said in the September 26 Beyond the Standard BlogTalkRadio program.
Haah’s New City Christian Church reaches the homeless in the church’s Skid Row neighborhood of Los Angeles as well as upwardly mobile young professionals with six-figure incomes. This is possible, he believes, “because we make the gospel the centerpiece.”
“We’re all more messed up than we think we are, but God loves us more than we can imagine,” he said. “The gospel is the story of God coming to save us through Jesus Christ. . . . When our hearts are gripped by God’s love, everything changes.”
He chooses the word inclusive to describe his church, a choice some questioned at first, he said. But he firmly believes inclusive describes God’s love for everyone—sinners outside the church who need to form a relationship with Christ, and sinners inside the church still learning how that relationship can transform attitudes as well as behavior.
“I preach sin pretty heavy,” Haah said, “but root sins, the sin of the heart.” When a preacher confesses his own pride, intolerance, unrighteousness, idolatries, ambition, or greed, he conveys to his listeners the fact that no one is earning his salvation. “What gives you approval is what God has done on the cross,” Haah said. “The gospel is different than everything else. What if we convinced the liberal that we’re more inclusive than he is?” At New City, Haah said, the liberals living in gentrified neighborhoods nearby “see a community more inclusive than themselves.” Haah mentioned that the church’s small group meetings as well as weekend worship include people from most races and every socioeconomic group—different in many ways from each other, but the same in their need for Christ’s forgiveness
He refers often to the parable of the prodigal son and reminds listeners the story illustrates two kinds of brokenness, that of the elder brother as well as the younger. “There’s a lot of elder brother sin in us after we become Christians,” he said.
His comments came in an episode of CHRISTIAN STANDARD’s Beyond the Standard that considered urban ministry, but Haah took the conversation to a place every ministry and all Christians need to visit.
Vince Antonucci, pastor with Verve Church in the heart of Las Vegas, was a part of the discussion in that program. Those least receptive to Haah’s “gospel approach,” Antonucci said, “are the religious trying to earn salvation and impress God and others with their morality.”
Haah’s ministry is impressive, not because he tries to impress, but as a result of his simple gospel message. And that message empowers the outreach of any church in any type of community.
Hear the whole conversation with Haah and Antonucci, as well as Tammy Melchien, site pastor of the Chicago Impact Lincoln Square site of Community Christian Church.
Tune in to the next episode of Beyond the Standard, October 24, 2013, 11 a.m., Eastern time. Steve Wyatt and Aaron Brockett are guests for “Church Planting: the Small Church/Megachurch Standoff.”