"How do these gospel movements which we long for and see happening in many places, begin? They often begin with one person, or one family."
While it can be challenging to see God at work, Mariah Nix (InnerCHANGE L.A.) can see places God is on the move, giving her vision and hope to keep praying and keep serving. Listen as she shares the story of her context, the gospel movement they see emerging, and the steps their team is taking to sow into that movement.
Watch the video...
Read about it instead...
My name is Mariah. My family and I have served with CRM for 12 years and currently have the joy of living in LA.
We live in Central Los Angeles, just west of downtown, in a neighborhood full of color, celebration, and people of many cultures. It’s also full of struggle, economic challenges, and spiritual battle.
At first glance, it’s not always obvious to see how God is at work.
Interestingly, our neighborhood has been the birthplace of multiple movements—both good ones and bad ones. MS-13, a large international gang known for its ruthless violence, was started in the 80’s not far from our office. On the other hand, the Azusa Street Revival, out of which the the worldwide Pentecostal movement was born, began in 1906 with prayer meetings held in a house three blocks from where I live.
As my team and I plant our lives in Los Angeles, praying that this legacy of movements would once again bear fruit for God’s Kingdom, we station ourselves to participate when God moves. We keep watch for what the Spirit of God is doing.
How do these gospel movements which we long for and see happening in many places, begin?
They often begin with one person, or one family.
We see this pattern in the Bible.
Peter stood up at Pentecost to proclaim the gospel and thousands came to follow God. But before that, there was an average day when Peter was fishing with his family and Jesus came and called him and his brother, James.
Paul multiplied churches throughout the ancient near east, but before that, there was a normal day, when he was actually in vehement opposition to The Way of Jesus, when Jesus interrupted him on the road and called him by name. And that day God used the faith and obedience of Ananias to minister forgiveness to Paul and call him to live for Jesus.
The Ethiopian eunuch, was riding home in his chariot trying to understand the prophet Isaiah when Philip arrived; Cornelius, a centurion, saw a vision and sent for Peter; Lydia, a seller of purple cloth was out by the river at a place of prayer; the Philippian jailer was at work, keeping watch over prisoners. For each of these, on a normal day, God sent someone their way and they and their households were saved, and the good news of Jesus spread to new territory.
It often begins with one.
God uses everyday followers of Jesus in normal situations making daily decisions to step out in faith and obedience.
So what does this look like here in my neighborhood?
I’m going to tell you a story that begins with my teammate Alison and her everyday acts of obedience.
Alison moved into her apartment two years ago, and soon after met her 11-year-old neighbor Sara, a 6th grader. Sara began to visit regularly, coming over to Alison’s to learn to bake, do art, or play games. Alison soon discovered that Sara had many questions about faith. She was trying to sort out fact from fiction in the mix of all the things she had heard over the years. After their initial hour-long conversation about God, and church, and faith traditions, Alison felt the nudge of the Holy Spirit to invite Sara to read the Bible with her. She summoned the courage and asked her.
Sara’s response was hard to read. Not full of enthusiasm. She didn’t really say much at all.
Sara left that evening and Alison’s thought was “Well, that didn’t work.”
Two days later, there was a knock at Alison’s door. It was Sara, who said, “Hey, how come we haven’t started reading the Bible together? You said we were going to start!”
And so they began to meet regularly, and Sara has had the chance to explore the Bible and encounter Jesus for herself.
But it hasn’t stopped there.
Sara’s older brother Jason, who would visit Alison’s apartment sometimes with his sister, began to show interest in reading the Bible. Because of his love for music, Alison connected Jason to my husband Paul, a musician. They began to read the Bible and play music together.
On the first day Paul and Jason met up to read the Bible, they went to invite another teenage boy from the same apartment building to join them. He came. This habit of invitation has continued and now a group of 4–8 teenagers meet 2–3 times a week to make music in a recording studio they’ve built and read the Bible.
But it hasn’t stopped there.
Sara’s younger brother, Robert, saw what was happening with his sister and brother and said, “Me too!” So our teammate, Johnny, whose goofiness is a hit with younger kids, has begun meeting with a group of 10-year-old boys to play soccer and read the Bible.
And as our team invests in these young people, it is always with an eye to leadership development—discipling them to be the ones who work for lasting change in their community. As Sara has been growing, she has helped lead another Discovery Bible Study with younger girls in our neighborhood; she has participated in advocacy work in her apartment building; and she volunteers at our art club for kids. Paul has been challenging the teenage boys to coach soccer with him for a neighborhood team of five and six-year-olds. As God draws these young people to himself, he is forming them to live lives of closeness with him and mercy and justice in their city.
The groundwork for seeing God move in our context is prayer. As we see God moving in the family and friends of Sara, Jason, and Robert, we know that it is in response to prayer. Our team has cultivated a rhythm of walking the streets of our neighborhood—blessing our apartment buildings, praying over the schools, discerning spiritual dynamics and standing in intercession. We are keeping watch. Our prayer muscles are stretching and growing. We are struggling together toward a lifestyle of strategic prayer. It’s not easy—the world, the flesh and the Devil certainly work against us in this.
But we are also aware that it’s not just our prayers or even our actions.
The block Alison lives on, in fact her very apartment building, is a place that CRM staff have lived in the past. Over 10 years ago, CRM staff were there: tutoring kids and doing art, loving their neighbors and praying over that place. We know that the openness to Jesus that we are seeing is a result of the way people before us prepared the ground. The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob is a God of generations, who will fulfill his purpose.
And his purpose is that a multitude of people that no one can number from every tribe, tongue and nation gather around the throne to give glory to Jesus, our good King.
This summer the theme of our week long art club with neighborhood kids was “every nation, people, and language.” As we sat in the parking lot under an easy-up tent, kids from Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, India, and the US encountered Jesus.
We tasted foods from many countries made by neighbors in the apartment building. Made giant collages of faces from all over the world. Practiced new languages. Acted out Bible stories. Practiced listening prayer. Formed clay pots with our hands reminding us of how God formed each of us with his hands. And played lots of water games in the mid–July heat.
And all of this so that these kids could discover that the King of this Kingdom, in his infinite creativity and endless love, is calling people everywhere, including them, to join his family. And like with Sara and her siblings, we see that God is growing these kids to be leaders in their world. And that they will be the ones to take the good news much more broadly than our team ever could.
Everyday acts of obedience, in dependence on the Spirit of God, often start with one person. But indeed it doesn’t end there. It ends with a multitude. God is on the move.
ABOUT: Mariah Nix and her husband, Paul, live in Los Angeles, CA, with their two children. In addition to serving on the L.A. InnerCHANGE team, Mariah works as a mobilizer for InnerCHANGE, helping others discern God’s unique call on their life and to the poor.