August 26, 2019
Influenced by Church United, a young pastor leads his congregation in healthy ways to speak truth
“We’ve got to do better as pastors at influencing our local government.” — Lead Pastor Adam Mesa,
Abundant Family Living Church, Rancho Cucamonga
Topics Discussed Below:
- Taking the Awakening Tour
- Leaving the Non-Engagement Model
- It Was Time to Act
- ‘Hot Topics’ and Sharing Resources
- Supported by a Pastors’ Network
- A Clear Case, a Clear Presence
Adam Mesa was 7,600 miles and an ocean away from home. He had traveled to the Holy Land with a group of U. S. pastors and was taken aback by the warm reception they received from the mayor of Tel Aviv and parliamentary leaders of the Knesset, Israel’s bicameral legislative body.
There were moments when Adam and the other pastors were so enthusiastically embraced by the elected officials, they almost felt like rock stars.
“Everyone was so excited and saying how cool that was and all that,” Pastor Adam said of rubbing elbows with some of Israel’s biggest influencers.
When he returned to his hotel room, he found himself in deep reflection over the experience. Questions began swirling.
“Why are my relationships not like this in my own state? Why am I so excited about getting this experience with government leaders and having a voice and influence (outside of my own country)? Why am I not doing it in my own home, in my own backyard?”
It was then that Adam, the 29-year-old Hispanic lead pastor of Abundant Living Family Church in Rancho Cucamonga, CA, had an epiphany.
Taking the Awakening Tour
“We have zero influence with our own local leaders,” he said. “I wanted to impact my local area.”
Sharing notes with his friend, Pastor Jeff Osborne, who was also on the trip, Adam had one conclusion.
“When we get back we’ve got to do better as pastors at influencing our local government.”
Less than a month later, Pastor Jeff, a friend and campus pastor at Destiny Church in Indio, CA, invited Adam to attend Church United’s 2018 Sacramento Awakening Tour. They both went, along with dozens of other pastors from across the state that were invited by Church United. The experience was life-altering for the two young ministers, especially Adam.
Leaving the Non-Engagement Model
Adam grew up in Abundant Living Family Church (ALFC), a predominately African-American congregation founded in 1994 by his parents, Diego and Cindy Mesa. He recalls that ALFC had always stayed clear of civic engagement. The congregation took seriously the mandates of social justice like taking care of widows and orphans and doing missions work. But beyond that, in the arena of culture and morality, they were hands off. (The exception was the 2008 Protect Marriage campaign that codified traditional marriage in the state constitution, before being overturned by the court).
As Adam grew in his faith, ultimately becoming lead pastor, he followed his father’s model, carrying on the same basic practice of non-engagement.
That approach, he said, involved preaching the Word and assuming people would come to the right conclusions by themselves. “We weren’t going to use our stage to talk about it,” he recalled.
The Sacramento Awakening transformed Pastor Adam’s thinking, though. He found himself surrounded by dozens of spiritual leaders who shared his moral compass—and his concern for declining moral standards.
It Was Time to Act
“There’s a lot of us pastors who are concerned with the temperature of our state right now,” he said. “It’s like, ‘Wow.’ The church is not only united on a lot of these subjects and not only willing to learn, but also we have a lot of weight in the communities. Church United was helping me see we have not used that voice and weight proportionately.”
After returning from Sacramento and meeting with other church leaders, including his father who still serves as the senior pastor, the consensus was it was time to act.
“It was revolutionary for us that we would even begin to have a conversation on what that might look like, on engaging on a political level when it comes to our faith,” Adam said.
‘Hot Topics’ and Sharing Resources
Since then, Abundant Living Family Church has used a variety of resources from Church United. For example, it emailed biblical values’ voter guides to as many as 30,000 people, including its 12,000 members, during the 2018 midterm elections.
The preaching team recently completed a series called “Hot Topics,” which covered abortion, traditional marriage and a Q & A panel on civic responsibility.
During another week they addressed Assembly Concurrent Resolution 99 from the pulpit. ACR 99 calls on pastors to embrace the LGBT lifestyle regardless of their religious beliefs and shun their basic belief that, through Christ, transformative change is possible. Critics have called the resolution the clergy “gag” rule.
“Those things truly never would have happened if I never went to Sacramento with Church United,” he said. “We feel we’ve done it in a very healthy way where our church didn’t get alarmed, where we are all of sudden becoming some sort of “political bastion.’ Everyone seems to be very happy with what we, as leadership, have decided to start doing.”
Supported by a Pastors’ Network
Adam said he’s been especially grateful for the support that comes through the Church United pastors’ network, especially since he is young. He has a passion to bring along other millennial leaders, noting that most of the pastors at CU gatherings he’s attended were over the age of 40.
“What are we young pastors communicating to this next generation?” he pondered. “How much fruit is actually there? How much change are we making in the community?”
Regardless of age, the networking opportunities presented through Church United have served to chip away at the barrier of isolation, he said.
“It has helped in a great way to show me that I’m not alone,” he said. “As a pastor, one of our biggest insecurities is loneliness, and so we often think ‘I can’t talk about this or I can’t speak on this or maybe I can’t think this way because I (assume) I’m the only one who thinks this way.’
“As you build the network you truly feel like you have a system that helps in your bravery. It’s understanding you are not going to be alone.”
He speaks from experience, noting that taking a stand can come with a price. After he and his wife, Ashlee, posted their prolife views on their Instagram accounts, they almost instantly lost 200 and 80 followers respectively. Some people left hateful comments.
While many older adults view social media as an entertainment-driven playground, younger believers consider it a vital platform for sharing the gospel message.
“For a young millennial leader, losing followers is very intimidating but for me, I’m OK with that because I have a network of support that has strengthened me and shown me I’m not alone,” Pastor Adam said.
A Clear Case, a Clear Presence
There have also been several spiritual attacks, including a few personal threats from people who appear to suffer from mental illness.
“We just believe that we are walking in God’s will and the enemy doesn’t like that, so we we’re going to be encountering more and more difficult people as we progress in this direction of hopefully giving freedom to people,” he said.
That includes speaking out on religious liberty, abortion, the sexualizing of public school curriculum, and various LGBT issues, including the new trend of providing “transitioning” care to minors who perceive their identity to be “transgender.”
“As a church we want to make our presence—and our case—very clear that we will be one of the first ones to the front lines.”
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