Happy 1st Birthday to the Branch!

Branch 1st year Photo #4Happy 1st Birthday to the Branch!!

Branch 1st Year Celebration Photo #1The Branch Church at Los Alamitos & Rossmoor celebrated its first year anniversary meeting at the Los Alamitos Community Center. It has been an eventful year. We have seen new families connect and become a vital part of the Branch family. We have seen people grow in their faith as they have sought new opportunities to serve. We have seen the church family bond together as people have joined Life Groups. We have seen people grown as disciples of Jesus as these groups have gone through the Rooted discipleship study. We have continued engaging the community through different service opportunities in the city – check out the pictures of the Branch serving at Race on the Base.

We look forward to another great season of blessing this community and seeing others learn to thrive in their relationship with God as we do the same. Please continue praying that God would draw people to Himself through the Branch.

Centriptetal and Centrifugal … I know, read it anyways!

Good afternoon Branch Family!

I just received the best email. It turns out I’m not the only one having inconvenient encounters that are divine appointments (see last week’s post/email). I just received an email from a Branch family member. She was sharing how she was serving in the community recently and the conversations ensued that have opened the door to a great ministry opportunity. It’s not comfortable for her, but she’s walking through this open door.

This opportunity came as she was out in the world showing Jesus’ love. In some of the nerdy missiology books, they call this centrifugal mission. It’s ministry that happens outside of the church gathering and in the wider world. The church is sent out to make disciples in this context. The Great Commission is one example of this “going” style of mission:

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.” – Matthew 28.19-20

This is why we started the Branch to begin with – to “go” to Los Alamitos so people would find their hope in Jesus above all else. This is the heart of God’s mission to the world – go out there and show and tell Jesus’ love.

But there’s also another trajectory to mission – centripetal. This is the idea that Jesus teaches about in the Sermon on the Mount and at the Last Supper:

“You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden.” – Matthew 5.14

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. – John 13.35

This is more or less what the Jewish mission was. Live out God’s blessing and anticipate the nations being drawn to worship God as they see the wisdom of living His way through the life of His people. Unfortunately, this didn’t work out so God sent Jesus.

It’s easy to pit these two trajectories against each other. It’s hard not to. But while we should have a bias towards “being out there,” God has called us to be a community on mission that loves each other and builds into each other and that is attractive to those around us because we love God and love each other.

Each Sunday we gather at the Community Center and there are people at the park or going to play soccer. Sure, parking can be a hassle, but are we taking advantage of opportunities to love and bless people who are coming to our doorstep and even beyond (if they need to use the bathroom!) to show them Jesus’ love? May we grow and embrace this centripetal trajectory of ministry, to bless those who are coming to us.

And we also need to get out there (centrifugal) and point people to Jesus as we prayer walk and hand out fliers, or as we serve in the community. Our God is a missionary God. He’s on the move looking for people who want to be in His family. And He uses us to point them to Him.

I don’t think I’ve ever been more excited as God has opened doors for me to point others to Him, personally, and to hear how He’s opening great opportunities for dialogue and service among so many at the Branch as well.

Keep your eyes open. God’s at work all around us!

Pastor Justin



  • We’ll be doing baby dedications on Mother’s Day this year – May 10. So if you want to dedicate your child (which is really a dedication of yourself as a parent to raise the child in the Lord), let me know by this Sunday!

Everyday Inconveniences or Divine Appointments?

Why not both?

Within the last week my wife and I have both had odd, seemingly chance encounters with strangers (or virtual strangers). Neither was convenient. They were both a little uncomfortable. I would have rather not had to engage the person I ended up engaging. She’s a far better person than I, so I won’t speak for her!

As we debriefed our respective situations, we acknowledged the inconvenience, but we were also able to reflect on the opportunity to “love our neighbors.” We love loving our neighbors when it’s convenient and when we like them. When it’s more challenging, we look for other Bible verses. As we reflected, we were able to recognize these encounters not as inconveniences (though they were inconvenient), but divine appointments.

I don’t know what, if anything, will come of these “appointments.” That’s God’s decision. It may be that friendships develop that end up pointing all of us to Jesus. It could be that we never see these folks again. Who knows? That’s God’s decision. But I have a decision in this. Am I willing to engage life’s inconvenient moments, trusting that God may have a divine appointment for me in this.

On our end, it’s not always easy to tell the difference. In fact, we can rarely be sure. Since this is the case, it’s always important to fight that battle against our flesh and trust the Holy Spirit to direct us and use us to bless those people who cross our paths.  For us it was strangers needing something. For others it may be changing another diaper or helping that person at work who you really don’t much care for. The opportunities are legion.

Unfortunately, we live in a busy world. I wish I could say I always handle these “appointments” well. Too often I treat them like they feel – inconveniences. (I think the only reason I’m writing about it is because I actually did the right thing this time!) But my eyes are opening. I’m praying they stay open.

Inconveniences are always emerging all around us. My prayer is that I’ll seize them as “divine appointments.” I’m praying that each of us will!



  • We’ll be doing baby dedications on Mother’s Day this year – May 10. So if you want to dedicate your child (which is really a dedication of yourself as a parent to raise the child in the Lord), let me know!

More Happy Birthdays, please!

I’m actually not talking about the Branch Birthday Celebration on Sunday, which was wonderful, by the way! Special thanks to Hannah Stonoha and Christine Theodore (and their teams) for making it a wonderful success.

I had a wonderful opportunity to talk with someone who attended one of the Cypress campus Easter services earlier today. They were visiting from out of town, but were deeply touched and recognized their need for Jesus. She saw the testimony video and wanted what Jeanette had in her life (the same video we showed at the Branch). I was privileged to lead her in a prayer to receive Jesus as her Lord and Savior. (I’m now looking for a good church to plug her into in Corona. If you know of any, be sure to contact me. )

The reason I’m telling you this is that it was a unique opportunity where God used me in spite of me. I had just played basketball with my son for over an hour so I was exhausted. I had put it off for much of the day because I didn’t know what this person was looking for, but I knew they were hurting. That was going to take emotional engagement on my part, which I put off. Finally, I knew I couldn’t put it off any longer so I made the call. Hardly the ideal situation to “set myself up for success.”

Despite my reluctance and procrastination, God worked. It was a wonderful, hope-filled conversation where we discussed sin, regret, repentance, and new life … and then my new friend prayed to receive that new life in Jesus. It is her New Birthday today!

The reason God has called us to Los Alamitos/Rossmoor is to reach people with the message of Jesus’ love. Certainly we do that by showing God’s love in action with our interactions. We had a few great connections with community folks at the park last Sunday – one person even contacted me online and said she’s coming by because we seem to be a church that likes kids!

But we also need to stick our necks out there from time to time in our conversations and relationships. I was tempted to pray for my new friend and not explore to see if she wanted to make a decision for Jesus – what a tragic missed opportunity that would have been! We don’t want to be those people who are jamming a gospel presentation into every conversation – whether it’s the right time or not. But we also don’t want to miss opportunities.

I’m encouraged and challenged anew. God worked in spite of me today. I want to be a little more cooperative on a regular basis. Will you join me for praying for opportunities to point people to Jesus and the courage to actually do it?

May God bless you as you’re on His mission this week!



  • This isn’t so much a reminder as a pre-Sunday announcement. We’ll be doing baby dedications on Mother’s Day this year – May 10. So if you want to dedicate your child (which is really a dedication of yourself as a parent to raise the child in the Lord), let me know!
  • Pastor Ron Jackson, our Pastor of Counseling, will be preaching a message of Forgiveness in our new series, Revived by Resurrection. I’ll be preaching at the Cypress Campus, but I look forward to seeing y’all in two Sundays!

He is Risen … So Pray!

Easter Sunday was amazing! The refreshment team put a veritable feast together. Garrick and the worship team were fabulous. I hope God challenged you through His Word, and we had plenty of guests. Above all else, Jesus was lifted up and recognized as the resurrected King that He is.

I like to begin each month’s weekly email on prayer, specifically praying a psalm. This week I want to focus on Psalm 21. It’s a psalm that begins by praising God (verse 1) – fitting for us after such a wonderful Easter celebration. The psalmist praises God because He has delivered the king (verses 2-7) – also appropriate as God shows His faithfulness by giving all authority to the risen Jesus in Matthew 28.

Not only does the psalmist celebrate what God has done, but he is confident of what God will do – continue to save (verses 8-12). Why wouldn’t he be? God has already proven his character.  The final result is the praise of all God’s people (verse 13). Give it a look.


O LORD, in your strength the king rejoices, and in your salvation how greatly he exults!

2 You have given him his heart’s desire and have not withheld the request of his lips.


3 For you meet him with rich blessings; you set a crown of fine gold upon his head.

4 He asked life of you; you gave it to him, length of days forever and ever.

5 His glory is great through your salvation; splendor and majesty you bestow on him.

6 For you make him most blessed forever; you make him glad with the joy of your presence.

7 For the king trusts in the LORD, and through the steadfast love of the Most High he shall not be moved.

8 Your hand will find out all your enemies; your right hand will find out those who hate you.

9 You will make them as a blazing oven when you appear. The LORD will swallow them up in his wrath, and fire will consume them.

10 You will destroy their descendants from the earth, and their offspring from among the children of man.

11 Though they plan evil against you, though they devise mischief, they will not succeed.

12 For you will put them to flight; you will aim at their faces with your bows.

13 Be exalted, O LORD, in your strength! We will sing and praise your power.

What does this ancient poetry have to do with our lives? I’m glad you asked.

Let’s pause here. You were praying for friends and family members during Easter. You prayed that they would make it to church and, if they didn’t, that God would somehow make Himself known to them. In many cases it worked. We had several guests on Sunday and I know that God was working in the lives of some who weren’t even at the Branch on Sunday. God has been answering our prayers as we lifted up the King of Kings on Sunday.

But this psalm isn’t just about what God has done, but what He will do. For us, this encourages us all the more to keep praying. Pray that the person you brought will be encouraged to take the next step in their relationship with God.

Pray that God would continue to work in that person who didn’t accept your invitation. God’s not on the same timeline we are. Keep praying. He is faithful and we never know what He’s really up to … but our prayer will be time well spent.

I can’t wait to see you again on Sunday!


  • Branch Birthday Party this Sunday after church! Come on over to Rossmoor Park after service. We’ll have lunch, a bounce house, games, and a great time to hang out and celebrate what God has done and what He will continue to do at the Branch!
  • We begin a new series this Sunday – “Revived by Resurrection.” I hope you join us!