LBCF was founded in July 1983 by Doug and Valerie Richardson and a team of wonderful people who thought it “was so crazy that it just might work” to plant a new expression of God’s love and mercy here in Long Beach, CA. LBCF started in Doug and Val’s home with six people! They met in the Richardson’s backyard until the space maxed out. Thus, one of the early lessons: It’s hard to grow a children’s ministry when you run out of bedrooms.
For the first 12 years of LBCF’s existence, the congregation was mobile. They started meeting at Millikan High School in November 1983. During this time, LBCF’s first missional expressions developed, as missionaries were sent to Chile and Mexico. Doug also had a heart to reach out to and connect with pastors in Long Beach, to strengthen the city-wide church. (This value of seeking unity in the church in Long Beach is deeply embedded in LBCF’s culture and continues to this day.) Pastors began praying together on a weekly basis. Doug mapped the ‘spiritual history’ of Long Beach in order to appreciate and strategize how to join God in what He was wanted to do in the 562.
LBCF remained mobile, meeting in locations across the city. The congregation’s heart for Long Beach continued to develop as ministries to the poor became a lynchpin of LBCF’s missional focus.
In 1986, LBCF’s missional vision began to expand. World mission expressions expanded and in Long Beach, LBCF continued to seek unity in the church and expressions of God’s love in the city. Home churches were developed, organic discipleship (ways of following Jesus) were pursued, and experiments in living in the new life that God gives were embraced. Some things worked, others didn’t. There was joy, there was heartache. Through it all, there was a developing sense of purpose and mission.
In 1994, after 12 years as a mobile congregation, LBCF landed in their present facility (yea!). This was tantamount to a mid-western ‘barn-raising’. People brought food, came to work after work, and had a blast making it happen. People were all in, and the congregation grew.
By this time some of LBCF’s passions–worship, listening to what God was doing and saying, risking, trying new things, letting go of old things, and above, seeking to be an expression of healing in people’s lives, the city, and the world—had become part of the congregation’s culture. People who were up for this kind of mission and vision pursued God’s leading and LBCF had adventures in places no one could have ever imagined, like India, South Africa, Chile, and, all the while, in our own city…and an amazing number of lives that were actually, truly transformed.
In the early 2000s (the aughts, we think they are called?), LBCF was influenced by some amazing “transformational technology” through a ministry called ACCD. There was a renewal in focusing on living honest, authentic lives of integrity. This movement rocked the boat a bit, and it deepened the way that the community loved one another.
Of course, through all of this journey, there were hard times. There were deaths and losses that rocked the community. There were seasons of loss and heartache. The ability to journey through pain together and to become strengthened in that challenge also shaped LBCF’s DNA.
In 2008, Doug, Valerie and the Elders of LBCF opened up raising up a new generation to lead LBCF into its future. In 2009, Brandon Cook stepped in as the new lead pastor (he had been the College Pastor, from June 2006).
At this point, the original vision of LBCF was not as clear as it had once been. There was not a clear sense of mission or direction. And this was a time of pruning. People had been leaving the community for other communities or cities. The churches finances were incredibly tight. Out of this context, a period of re-birthing came.
In the autumn of 2010, the community at LBCF went through a process called “Refocusing,” which was an intentional time of asking three questions: “Where have we been?” “Where are we going?” “How will we get there?” The community asked additional questions like “Why are we doing what we are doing?”, “What’s our vision?” and “Who has God called us to love and serve?”
Out of Refocusing was born a very clear mission statement. Our vision for our community is to learn to live and love as disciples of Jesus. Our vision for our city is to seek the prosperity of our neighborhoods and of Long Beach. To embrace the forgotten in loving community. To mentor and support children, adults, and families in faith. Our vision for our world is to proclaim and demonstrate Jesus’ good news.
The invitation at LBCF is to learn to live and love as disciples of Jesus. To us, this means three things. We want to be rooted and grounded in the love of God. We want to be filled with and empowered by the Holy Spirit. And we want to embrace lives spent on mission—focusing on others, our eyes outward.
Everything we do—from Cadres (our funky word for small groups) to worship services to loving our neighbor—is anchored to these three values. We are developing relationships across Long Beach and have launched a number of missional initiatives to see our vision of neighborhoods, a city, and a world transformed by God’s love and goodness. We know we aren’t the saviors of the world, but in the corners of it that God gives us to inhabit, we want to live well and faithfully. We want lives and neighborhoods to be touched by followers of Jesus who are themselves being renewed by God’s unending mercies and new creation.
In the midst of this process, we believe God has brought together an amazing staff, an amazing group of elders, and a truly amazing community that is passionate about worship, about authenticity, about living a life worthy of God’s love for us.
It is an adventure, and we are thrilled about the future!