Why We Live in LA

by Scott Mehl
Every time we go out of town to travel or visit family, my kids look at other parts of the country with their slower paces and wide-open spaces and inevitably ask why we live where we live. As we drive through small towns in other places I sometimes ask myself those same questions. So last year, while visiting my Dad and stepmom in the mountains of Colorado, I sat down to write my kids a letter explaining why we live in LA. I’ve since given it to them, and it’s sparked some great conversations. With the constant turnover in our city, I figure there may be some of you who live here in LA that may be blessed by reading it. And as many of us return from time with family in other places over the holidays, I figure this may be a helpful time to share this with you.
Harper, Addison, Lincoln, and Skylar,
Culver City is your home. Culver City is our home. But recently, Culver City (and Los Angeles generally), hasn’t been a super easy place to live. With the difficulty of Covid and the lockdowns we’ve experienced and with how expensive it is to live in our city, I know that, like a lot of people, you may be wondering: Why don’t we live somewhere with fewer rules? Why don’t we live somewhere with seasons or snow? Why don’t we live closer to your cousins or grandparents? Why don’t we live somewhere where things are a bit easier?
In the past I’ve answered your questions with simple explanations like, “God has called us here,” and “There are so many people here who need Jesus!” But I think it’s time for me to explain to you, in a more comprehensive way, why we live where we live, and why we truly love Los Angeles in general and Culver City in particular.

I’ve told you many times that we live here because God called us to live here. But I know that can be a confusing concept. Your mom and I didn’t hear God’s audible voice. We didn’t read in the Bible the command to “Go to Los Angeles!” Yet, through a number of different circumstances, it became clear (and continues to be clear) that L.A. is exactly where God wants us to be.
We moved to L.A. in 2005. The leaders in our church had encouraged us to consider planting a church somewhere we thought could use more Christians to spread and live out the gospel. I had become friends with Brian, and as our friendship grew, the idea of planting a church together grew too. Brian happened to be living in Santa Monica at the time, and he saw the desperate need for Christ in our city. We both came to see that there were not enough churches to serve and reach all the people in West LA that either don’t know or have walked away from Jesus.
Life in L.A. hasn’t always been easy. Our first year (or two) here was a particular struggle for your mom. But step by step, season by season, and year by year the Lord has continued to remind us why he has placed us here. He has grown in us a deep and enduring love for the city that is our earthly home and the people that God has placed around us as our neighbors.
Over the years we have had desires to move elsewhere, and even a few opportunities, but every time we’ve considered it the Lord has reminded us that he is not done with us in this place. And so we stay with joy, knowing that following the Lord and submitting to his gracious and wise guidance for our lives is always the best place to be.
Again, God’s guidance doesn’t usually come in the form of loud voices from heaven or big signs in the sky. But he does always guide us through his Word (teaching us principles to guide our decision making); through his Body, the church (providing us wise counsel and timely reminders); and ultimately through his Spirit (as he gives us wisdom, discernment, and courage to follow Christ). As we have searched his Word, interacted with his Body, and been empowered by his Spirit, we have found real, tangible reasons that we love L.A. We believe that this is exactly where God wants our family during this season—and very possibly for the rest of our lives.
First, we love West L.A. because there are so many people here. God has called all of us to use our lives for the good of those around us, and the sheer amount of people in our city provides more opportunities to do that than we could ever imagine. Of course, we can’t serve and love everyone in our city. But a city with this many people needs as many Christians as possible to be present, to serve, to love, and to spread the gospel. People can spend their entire lives in L.A.—grow up here, work here, live here, and die here—without ever hearing the true gospel. Los Angeles still needs more Christians to dedicate our lives here.
We also love West L.A. because of its post-Christian culture. By post-Christian, I mean a culture that historically shared certain Judeo-Christian values, but increasingly has abandoned many of them. A lot of people would assume that living where the culture is either opposed to or indifferent to Christianity would make this place less attractive, and in some ways it does. However, if all the Christians moved away to places that are easier to live, where would that leave our city and the people in it? If God’s call on our lives is to be the salt and light of the world, what a joy it is to get to fulfill that role somewhere that is particularly spiritually dark and confused.
We also love West L.A. because it’s a national and global destination for so many people. So many people from states around the country and countries around the world give up everything, make unimaginable sacrifices, and put their lives and futures on the line all in the effort to come to L.A. But without Christ the city can’t keep its immense promises. It always lets people down; it can’t hold the weight of all these peoples’ hopes. What a joy it is to get to be here holding the one true hope that can deliver, the one promise that will never fail. The nations flock to our city. And we have the immense privilege to be waiting here, ready to introduce them to the only one who can fulfill their greatest longings and deal with their most crippling shame.
We also love West L.A. because, while it can be a difficult place to live at times, God has sovereignly given us the ability to live here. Not everyone can live in L.A., but the Lord has been gracious enough to allow us to be able to live here emotionally, relationally, and financially. We consider that ability a stewardship. He hasn’t given us the ability to live here simply for our own benefit, but so that we can love others through those blessings. This is why we prioritize not just living here, but doing what we can to help others live here, whether that’s sharing our time, our finances, or our home.
Finally, we love West L.A. because we love Cornerstone Church of West L.A. God has blessed us more than we could ever imagine by providing a spiritual family that is healthy, growing, challenging, and multiplying. Not only is Cornerstone a blessing to pastor, it’s an inordinate privilege just to be a part of. God uses so many people in our spiritual family to strengthen and grow us. He has called us to serve them, too. The calling and privilege of being part of Cornerstone is a huge part of why we love living in West L.A.
I hope you see that none of these reasons are solely about L.A. They’re about our relationship with L.A. and the story that God is writing with our lives.
Ultimately, just like in our interpersonal relationships, love is a choice and an affection and an action.
God chose to love us. We aren’t worth his love. His love just shows the grace-filled nature of his own character. In a similar way, we love West L.A. not because of the benefits it has to offer but because, directed by God’s sovereign hand, we have chosen to set our love on this city as God has set his love on us.
God enjoys loving us. God’s love is not some begrudging choice. It involves his deep affection and joy. Similarly, we don’t just love living here because God has called us here. We have come to deeply enjoy the aspects of God’s creation and of his image in people that are uniquely highlighted here. We enjoy the weather, our proximity to the beach, and the beautiful sunsets. We enjoy the diverse food and relationships, the mixture of a strong work ethic and a laid back personality, as well as the continuing championship legacy of the Lakers and Dodgers.
God lives out his love for us. God’s love is not simply words on a page. It is constantly applied to us and was shown in the most ultimate way through Christ. Similarly, we are striving not simply to use this city for our advantage, but to sacrifice ourselves for the good of individual Angelenos and the city more generally. Our city holds a lot of need, pain, hurt, and struggle, and our love for the city compels us to action.
The truth is, kids, I don’t know where you’re going to spend the majority of your life. And my goal in writing this letter isn’t to convince you that it must be L.A. I wanted to write to you for two reasons. First, as long as our family is here in L.A., and as long as you are living here at home with your mom and I, you can know that God has called you to L.A. (generally) and Culver City (specifically) too. You’re not just here as some sort of tagalong. God, in his perfect wisdom, has called you to L.A. and the people of L.A. for at least this season of your life (if not for your entire lives too). I would invite you to consider, pray about, and strive to discover how God wants you to live out this calling as you navigate your relationships at school, your relationships at church, and as you become aware of the needs, common temptations, cultural idols, and personal struggles in our city.
The second reason I wanted to write this letter to you was to give you a bit of a template as you grow up and begin to think about your own choices regarding where you will live and where God will have you invest your life. As you know, your mom’s and my greatest desire is that you would know God’s immense grace and be transformed through the gospel. And, since you have all confessed your faith in Christ, as you continue to grow in your relationship with him we want to help you orient your lives, your decisions, and even your dreams for the future so they have him at the center. As a result, I want to leave you with a few guiding principles to help you along the way:
1. Live in a place for the good of the people there, more than the good of yourself.

2. Look to invest your life into places where the gifts, talents, and opportunities God has given you can particularly meet the needs and struggles of the community.

3. Wherever God places you, set your affection on that place, striving to grow in both selfless love and deep enjoyment of the place and its people.

4. Be open to the Lord sending you somewhere (or keeping you somewhere) that you are afraid will be hard. Following Christ isn’t easy, but his grace is always sufficient.
5. Be at peace, knowing that step by step, day by day, and year by year, the Lord will guide your life and use you in ways greater than you can even imagine now.
“But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you. Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.” (Matthew 6:33–34)
And he said to all, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it.” (Luke 9:23–24)

This is what your mom and I are striving to do, even though we fail constantly and are desperately dependent on God’s grace on a daily basis. Feel free to remind us of these same goals and exhort us along the way as well.
We love you and are praying for your futures—whatever they may hold and wherever they may take you.
Dad (and Mom)
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