Christianity, Distilled

Church planter Tim Lien shares a nail-biting example of how God will sometimes strip down everything until all that’s left is the essence of Him.


I once taught Logic to middle schoolers. Let’s just say Dante had a stunted imagination when describing all his circles.

Defining terms with clarity, accuracy, and succinct-ness is one of the first disciplines in Logic. The goal of a good definition is to cut away all superfluous verbiage and descriptors, and find the essence of an object or idea. Sometimes you can land on it quickly; sometimes it takes some work. Depending on who you talk to, this process is often called distillation, condensing, or micro-summary. But the goal is the same: find the essence of a thing.

Every good Angeleno knows what I’m talking about, because… juicers. All the pith and extraneous fiber gets separated and the sweet fruity ambrosia of kale, apples, carrots, and spinach juice trickles out the other side. Odor, nutrients, and liquid – concentrated, condensed. To be sure, the pith, pulp, and fibers are a good and true part of the fruit/vegetable, but if you had to pick between the fibers and the tasty sweetness we wouldn’t need to take a poll. Essence wins.

On Palm Sunday, a little seedling of a church started worship services in the Pasadena area. It’s called The Way. That’s what the first Christ-followers called themselves (even before the pagans in Antioch called us “Christ-ians”). And Jesus said He is “the way, the truth, and the life.”

It was an exciting day. Our team of volunteers arrived at 8 am to begin the bustle of set-up and preparation for an 11 am start time.

But the facility manager was a no-show. We were locked out.

Dozens of phone calls ensued. 9 am came around. And left.

More calls. Admittedly, my heart was not in a good place. Hello, there 10 am. Good-bye 10 am. 1 hour left. More calls.

But Jesus always knows what He is doing.

A man on our launch-team came up to me, beaming – full of joy I did not have. “Tim, guess what? Why are we here? To worship Jesus. Satan hates it when we worship Jesus. And nothing will ever stop us from worshiping Jesus. Ever. We’ll do it here in the parking lot. And we’ll sing loud. And then you’ll tell us how big our Jesus is. Let’s pray that we all worship Jesus.”

Prayer, fancy that.

And he did. And we all did.

The keys apologetically arrived at 10:33 am. Our team cheerfully went into overdrive.

And the little budding church plant of Pacific Crossroads worshiped Jesus. And it was pretty loud, too.

Essence. Stripping away good things to get to the best thing.

That’s what happens at the beginning of starting a new church. We’ll add the good things later, but pray that we never lose the best thing – worshiping our Jesus who has made us right by His own awesomeness – not our own; and is making us whole by His power and faithfulness – not our own.


Tim is the church planting pastor for The Way, Pacific Crossroads’ church plant in the San Gabriel Valley. The Way had its first service in mid-March and has also been planning special gatherings for women, men, and parents. To follow updates and get more info, visit The Way’s Facebook page or website



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