Prophetic Imagination in a Parking Lot with Mandy McDow


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In our final episode for the season, Mandy McDow, pastor of Los Angeles First UMC, shares the story of LA First who razed their building in 2002. Yep. No building. That reality forces a posture of constant discernment: God, what is the difference you would have us make in this neighborhood in this season? Theirs is not a tidy, perfect story. It’s messy and real and very much in process. We hope it inspires you as it has us! Wow!


  • “That’s the first barrier for entry to understanding how God loves you. The way the church behaves is the way people perceive that God behaves.” -Mandy McDow [12:02]
  • “I think every congregation has the capacity to adapt. It’s just a matter of when you decide to do it. Do you do it in crisis? Or do you do it so that you’re not in crisis?” -Mandy McDow [19:09]


  • [00:00] Intro
  • [02:12] What to listen for in the conversation with Mandy
  • [03:47] Meet Mandy McDow
  • [04:46] This history of LA First
  • [12:13] How they got to the parking lot
  • [15:13] How the DNA is showing up now
  • [19:27] Inviting congregation into imagination
  • [25:09] LA First in 10 years
  • [27:24] Distinguish between fan and follower
  • [35:23] Outro


Visit LA First’s website here.

Read Lisa Greenwood’s monograph about God’s Mixed Ecology: The Changing Spiritual Landscape here.

New Feature: Transcripts for this Season’s Episodes

We will have transcripts for each of our episodes this season. Visit our website to download this week’s transcript. We hope these additional resources will help you share these conversations with your friends, colleagues, and leadership teams to spark the spirit within you, your organization, and “ignite imagination!”

This podcast is brought to you by the Leadership Ministry team at TMF and Wesleyan Investive. Leadership Ministry connects diverse, high-capacity leaders in conversations and environments that create a network of courage, learning, and innovation in order to help the church lean into its God-appointed mission.

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Mandy McDow’s Bio

Rev. Mandy McDow grew up in Knoxville, Tennessee and attended Oglethorpe University in Atlanta, Georgia. She attended Princeton Theological Seminary for her Master of Divinity and is currently pursuing doctoral work at Candler School of Theology. Mandy has served congregations in Atlanta, Laguna Beach, and in 2017 accepted the appointment to Los Angeles First UMC with one catch and you’ll hear about it in the interview: the church bulldozed their building in 2001. Mandy has a black belt in Taekwondo, she is an aspiring musician, still has a passion for sweet tea, and is the proud mother of three children.

39 episodes