Friday, September 04, 2009

What Downtown N.O. Needs: A Church Plant

An article in the paper today predicts 4000 new apartment and condo units in downtown New Orleans within five years. That's in addition to the 2000 already in existence. That means that in five years, the population of downtown could triple from it's current level to as many as 18,000 people - and no church. This makes downtown one of the most strategic church planting needs in the city. So start praying now for God to send a church planter to take the Gospel to downtown New Orleans.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

Best Kept Secret in New Orleans

Last night I stopped by a Bible study in a Metairie neighborhood that meets in a garage. I became aware of it after meeting with a young man who is planning on planting a church in the metro area early in 2010. He has some connections with several of the students from he and his wife's ministry in New Orleans prior to Hurricane Katrina.

The Bible study had been meeting faithfully since the storm and was comprised of students and young adults. There's nothing unusual about this except for the fact that this group has carried on their activities without specific leadership or the involvement of an existing church. They've met, studied The Word, led others to Christ, discipled new believers and even sent some of their own on mission trips. The cool thing about it is that no one told these students to do these things. They simply poured themselves into God's Word and obeyed it.

I was encouraged by this group of students and their faithfulness. They had great community and did life together at every turn. It is one of the most authentic body of believers I've run across in the metro area. They truly are the church, the body of Christ.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Hot Enough For Ya?

I've got to give a hand to my volunteer teams for the past three weeks. The temperature in New Orleans has been brutal with the heat index over 100 degrees nearly every day and still they have served and are serving strong. The heat has caused us to cut short some of our afternoon outreach in an effort to keep these kids hydrated and healthy. However, they are making the most of the time they spend in the field. Our near drought conditions have made some things difficult but we work on in spite of the sweltering heat and humidity.

These kids are learning that serving Christ is not always comfortable or easy. Not only have they endured the heat but they have also come face to face with crack addicts, abused children, con artists, thugs, atheists, health & wealth junkies, non-religious, angry-religious and more. They've seen difficult situations and been asked tough questions, all because they chose to invest themselves in people's lives instead of serving from arm's length and hoping morality will rub off in Jesus name. These kids will go home changed for the better because they are learning what it means to be a missionary in New Orleans as well as understanding how God works in our culture. I'm proud to serve along side them.

Friday, May 29, 2009

God On The Move In Central City

If you really want to be part of something God is doing, I have a word of advice; try to keep up.  That's how it feels with the church plant in Central City.  We're having to stay on our toes as God moves in ways that are amazing.  His actions demand our response and we often find ourselves picking up the pace in certain places and settling into a smooth rhythm in others with a sprinkle of mad-dash thrown in.  

The property Ed Scott, the pastor, is interested in may soon be available to work from in order to hold community events, Bible studies and worship services.  There's also a signs that an agreement on ownership could come in the near future.  

A good relationship is forming between Pastor Scott and the community and doors are open to use volunteers to host Backyard Bible Clubs at a nearby park during the summer.  In fact, we hope to make the most of the next few months so we can go into the fall with a full head of steam.  Join us in prayer for this church plant and for Ed Scott.  Also pray for favor with the current owner of the property, the city and the community so that the next phase of outreach can begin in June as we have planned.   

Monday, May 18, 2009

New Executive Director of Missions

Change comes slowly to New Orleans if it ever comes at all.  Over a year ago, our association, the Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans, voted to adopt a new strategy for reaching the area with the gospel.  Known as 2020 Vision, this strategy was a dramatic shift in traditional associational form and function.  Part of the 2020 Vision included redefining the position of Director of Missions, something I think was way overdue.  The new position, called Executive Director of Missions, is more closely akin to an urban strategist and has the responsibility of being a visionary leader who understands the city and works to move churches towards engaging the city on multiple levels in culturally relevant ways.  So who's the lucky guy? 

Duane McDaniel, currently pastor of Hawaii Kai Baptist Church in Honolulu, has accepted the call as our new Executive DOM and I am very excited about serving along side him.  This is a positive move for our association and we welcome Duane, his wife Kathleen and their four children to our great city.  Personally, I can't wait till he gets here.  We've been in a holding pattern for months now with the our only two associational staff members retiring and the new Executive DOM always seeming to be over the next horizon.  Now I'm breathing sighs of relief and songs of thankfulness for what God is doing, and more importantly, what God wants to do in the Greater New Orleans area.  

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

God Works Big Through Small Things

Dr. Ken Taylor just poked his head into my office to share with me the following story. Gentilly Baptist Church, where Dr. Taylor is pastor, spent some time this past Thursday praying for the community across from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and distributing door hangers. Friday night, Blake, one of the members of Gentilly Baptist was "dialed-in" to the Evangelism Response Center of the North American Mission Board to serve as a phone encourager to people who call a toll free number seeking spiritual information or prayer. When dialed-in, you can receive phone calls from anywhere in the nation. When Blake's phone rang, it was a women from the community who had received one of the door hangers the day before. She stated she needed spiritual guidance and Blake was able to share with her the gospel which led to her conversion. This is already a great story isn't it? On Sunday, Blake shared this encounter with Dr. Taylor and no sooner had he finished and stepped away from the conversation when the lady he had led to Christ walked in the door of the church. Dr. Taylor greeted her and she introduced herself. Upon hearing her name, Dr. Taylor turned to Blake and brought face to face the lady searching for hope and the young man who brought her to the cross. There is no coincidence here, just our great God working through the efforts of the faithful.

Monday, May 04, 2009

My Story

From the time I was a boy I’ve loved comic books.  The characters, the stories and the artwork all fed my vivid imagination.  I had a list of heroes that I wanted to be like.  Add to this the fact that I was raised in a very religious family.   This introduced me to a whole new set of characters and stories of which Jesus was often playing the title role.  To me, he was a lot like the comic book heroes I loved so much.    Sometimes my imagination had Jesus and Spiderman rushing into a burning building together to save Aunt May.  He was an ordinary guy that did cool stuff, and that’s where I left it.

As I got a little older, I discovered an unsettling truth: something wasn’t right with the world.  I saw people doing a lot of bad things on the news and heard my parents talk about this problem and that problem.  What was worse was the fact that I realized that something wasn’t right with me.  I wasn’t doing any of the bad things I saw on the news but I did plenty of stuff that made my parents, who loved me very much, sad.  I tried to stop doing those things but couldn’t no matter how hard I tried.  Not only were these things hurting the people I loved, I was told they were hurting God, the last person I wanted to offend.  Something about me was broken and beyond my ability to fix and that bothered me.  I had offended a God who loved me, and I knew I was doomed. 

Fortunately for me, this unpleasant discovery led me back to Jesus.  I was older now and had moved beyond Jesus-as-comic-book-hero to actually considering the things he said and did.  As I read the gospels and heard more stories about Jesus from my parents, I found that he specifically address this issue of being broken.  As I read and listened, I felt that somehow Jesus was speaking directly to me.  He claimed that he was God’s Son and that he had come to fix the brokenness and make things right.  He claimed that he was the only one that could fix it and his plan for doing so shocked me.  Jesus willing traded places with me so that He could accept the rightful penalty that had to be dished out for my offence toward God.  My offence, sin as the Bible calls it, earned me God’s wrath and I knew I deserved it.  However, when Jesus was crucified, he took the full force of God’s wrath for me.  His followers buried him but the Bible says Jesus rose from the dead three days later.  Over 500 people saw Jesus alive after his resurrection.  But it was his last claim that tied everything together. 

Because of who he is and what he did, Jesus could substitute his right standing before God for all the garbage in my life and offer me absolute forgiveness for my sins and remove from me the curse of God’s wrath, but only if I wanted it.  I did want it.  I wanted it more than anything – I needed it.  The Bible said it was mine for the taking but I had to put my trust in Jesus, who provided it for me, and follow him, really follow him and him alone.  I thought about it and decided this gift was too precious to leave on the table.  I believed Jesus was who he said he was and did what he said he did.  I decided to trust him with my life, accept his forgiveness and offer of a new life.  I decided I wanted to follow him no matter what.  I stopped living the way I wanted to live and started down a new path.  That was the best decision I’ve ever made and I have no regrets.  I’m not perfect but I couldn’t do life without Jesus.  My job, marriage, surviving Katrina, would not be the same where it not for Jesus.