Change at Warp Speed

Sunday, I worshiped with the First Baptist Church of New Orleans, met with two other churches in the afternoon to monitor their discussion about the possibility of merging, and preached at another that night.

The last time I worshiped at FBC-NO, Pastor David Crosby was announcing the departure of Minister of Music Brian Skinner. Today, it was the departure of Scott Carlin, for the last six years his associate pastor. Scott becomes education minister at FBC Lubbock, Texas.

David Crosby told me, “Before Katrina, our church had 12 full-time staffers, including custodial. Today, with Scott’s departure, the last has left us. Everyone on our staff has come since Katrina.”

Turnover. It’s like an epidemic.

As the First Baptist Church of Kenner prepares to welcome Pastor Mike Miller on Sunday, July 27, the following Sunday it will say good-bye to Ken Gabrielse, minister of music for the past 16 years. Ken leaves our church and the music department chairmanship at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary to become director of music for the Oklahoma Baptist Convention.

No one called from Oklahoma to ask, but had they done so, in addition to giving Ken the highest of recommendations, I would have encouraged them to find occasions for him to teach pastors about staff leadership. I’ve worked with some excellent staffers on the years, but none more loyal or more faithful than Ken. We thank God for him and Jana and will miss them intensely.

Meanwhile, New Orleans’ Calvary Baptist Church has voted unanimously-save-one to call Michael Carney as their new pastor. Coming from the Atlanta area, he begins on August 24.

This week, Good News Baptist Church, located 3 blocks from Franklin Avenue Baptist Church–are these folks brave or what?–is dedicating their new facility with a series of services. I’m preaching Wednesday night, July 23.

Sunday, August 10, the First Baptist Church of LaPlace dedicates a new educational building which has been long in the planning stage.


Linda, the beloved wife of Pastor Jim Nalls–he served Riverside Baptist Church of River Ridge before moving to Florida, and now leads a church in Bainbridge, George–went to Heaven early Sunday morning after a long fight with cancer. She was such an incredible Christian and such a lovely lady. If ever a pastor’s ministry was made greater by his wife, Jim’s was. I served as their pastor for a few short years after they left Riverside, while Jim represented the Odyssey television channel as national director of church programming. Their sons David and Justin are in the Lord’s work too, and a great part of Jim & Linda’s legacy.

Harlan “Lanny” Northcott. In the 1990s, he belonged to our church in Kenner. Lanny was a pilot who flew Ken Gabrielse to interviews as he worked on his doctoral dissertation. I buried his first wife, then married him to Peggy. Nearly ten years ago, they moved to Florida. Now, we’ve received word that he was flying some cancer patients to a treatment center in the Angel Flight program, and his plane crashed, killing him and the two passengers. Sad beyond words. Services Thursday night at Leitz-Eagan in Metairie.

William “Barney” Jones, a member of FBC-Kenner. Husband of Carol, father of Shawn, Jon, and Amanda; and son of Mae, the precious lady who keeps the flowers around the church looking good. Barney was diagnosed just a month before as having some strange type of cancer, and died a few days ago. Services at the church Wednesday morning. This will be Pastor Mike Miller’s first official act as pastor, assisting in this funeral.

Mildred Dishongh in Columbus, Mississippi. Lovely lady, mother of one of the leading families, steel magnolia. I was the Dishongh family’s pastor from 1974 to 1986.

Hugh Arnaud of Picayune, Mississippi. He and Roma retired a few years ago and moved to the country. As fine a Christian couple as I’ve ever known. He was buried last week.

Heaven is getting populated with some jewels.

The only thing constant around here–or where you live, too, for that matter–is change. As my pastor said the first Sunday we all returned from Katrina evacuation, “If you don’t like change, you’ve come at a difficult time.”

On Wednesday, an oil tanker rammed a towboat pushing a string of barges up the Mississippi River at a location just about even with the Crescent City Connection, our downtown bridge. Hundreds of thousands of gallons of oil burst into the river, resulting in a shutdown all the way from the city downriver to Point a la Hache. Communities that divert river water for their municipal water supply are having to draw on their reserves. As of late Wednesday, the cleanup had not begun, so no word as to how long this crisis will last. No river traffic up and down this great avenue means a shutdown of commerce at the Port of New Orleans, affecting the livelihood of thousands of our people.

We’re monitoring those hurricanes in the Gulf and the Atlantic, as you might imagine. We don’t wish one on South Texas but are relieved Hurricane Dolly is missing us. Regardless what you might hear about how our levees have been rebuilt, the pumping stations improved, and evacuation plans put in place, no one around here wants to test them. One more direct hit from a hurricane and this city will possibly be set back a hundred years.

A man was walking home from work one night and spotted a house fire in the distance. As he drew closer, he realized the fire was on his block. His pulse quickened, and he began to run. Turning the corner onto his street, he recognized that it was his house that was burning. He began to panic. What could he do? Is his family safe? As he arrived at the house, he saw that it was his neighbor’s house that was burning and not his own. He was so relieved. “Thank God,” he said over and over.

That’s when that man realized just how far he had to go before he could honestly claim he loved his neighbor as himself.

I don’t know that many of us can make the claim that we love one another that dearly. But that’s always the standard. Until then, we will keep growing (i.e., changing) until we come “to the stature of a mature man in Christ.” (Ephesians 4:13)

Not all change is growth, but all growth involves change.

7 thoughts on “Change at Warp Speed

  1. Staff turnover in Southern Baptist Churches. I have to admit it’s something that makes it hard to talk about our denomination with believers of other demoninations.

  2. We don’t have “turnover.” We just get reassigned. Emily and I have been at Cammack UMC for over 13 years and that may be some kind of record in Methodism. Please give our love to the fine folks at Good News. We would like to be there but find ourselves watching three of our grandkids this week. We would have four but the oldest is off this week to (of all things) a Baptist church camp. God bless!

  3. Joe, I think I’m sure that the David Crosby whom

    you mentioned was pastor here at College Park

    Baptist several years ago – I’m not a member there, but my \Sister, Miriam, was. One of your

    summer-time cartoons graced an outside page of

    Sharpstown Baptist’s bulletin on last Sunday. I

    had a delightful phone visit with your Mom on her

    birthday. Myrtle U.

  4. Joe, we recently returned from Linda Nalls’ service. They talked about the legacy Linda was leaving with all three of the children being in the ministry. You may not be aware that Amanda’s husband, Scott, works full time with Brilla Soccer Ministries. It’s a faith-based ministry that goes around the world using the game of soccer to reach others for Christ. We know where Linda is, but that does make the hurt any less. She and I walked that cancer road together and she was like a sister to me. Mary Taylor

  5. Sometimes I think Satan is laughing at us as we shuffle staff in and out on a frequent basis. As church members, we have to realize how difficult it is for ministers in this area. Most were raised in the Bible Belt and struggle with the challenges of ministry in South Louisiana. The challenges are especially great since Katrina. Let’s step it up a couple of notches in our ministry to our church staff and their families.

  6. Change is so hard. I’m so glad and comforted knowing our Heavenly Father does not change. Thank you, Bro. Joe.

  7. Some of us are hoping FBC Kenner’s new pastor is around for a long time.

    Mike Miller,

    Pastor, FBC Kenner


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