5 days to go until Urban Renewal. People gathering from 3 continents, 4 nations and 5 states. If Texas is a state and not a nation, that is.
I've blogged the last few weeks about the speakers who are coming. In some ways it's been easier deciding on international speakers than local ones, partly because there is such a wealth of great speakers in our county. Our question has not been so much, Who is the best speaker?", but rather, "Who is living out a unique story and message that needs to be heard?"
The first time I met Darren Rouonzian I thought he was a model. Not the rugged, Levi jeans kind of model either. He looked to me like someone who'd stepped out of an Urban Outfitters commercial. Perfect hair. Fine, hipster features. To be honest, I thought he'd be better suited to planting a church in Santa Monica than Long Beach!
First impressions are often misleading. As I got to know Darren and his wife Alex, I discovered in them a razor-sharp vision and rugged commitment to living out the Gospel in the heart of Long Beach, the most culturally diverse city in the U.S.A.
From the get go, their church, the Garden, planted deep relational roots in the soil of the city, gathering on Sundays in a bar, and starting a literal community garden to serve the poor.
Unlike many missional expressions of church, they have remained faithful to the Gospel and fervent for the power of the Spirit to fuel them on mission to their city. Darren has quickly become a catalyst for unity among the churches in Long Beach, urging them towards a common mission. He's also begun to travel more broadly, speaking primarily on impacting our cities in the power of the Spirit.
Darren and Alex planted the Garden with a team from Rock Harbor about three years ago, as twenty-something newly-weds. Rock Harbor, in their typical servant-hearted generosity, set The Garden up extremely well for success. But with all the support in the world, church planting in a city like Long Beach is still a massive under-taking, littered with countless casualties. To have seen the growth, favor and impact God has given them as twenty-something, newly-weds is note-worthy.
Theirs is a story still unfolding.But one well worth hearing.
Darren will speak at Urban Renewal on Friday night on "Renewing the City," and will take part in one of the breakouts on 'Word, Spirit and the Post-Modern Mind."
To register go to http://southlands.net/Urban_Renewal_Home.ihtml?id=487167