I’ve been giving our Wednesday pastors meetings a lot of thought lately–particularly since we started talking about cutting back from weekly gatherings to the first Wednesday of each month. We had 52 people present today, including one first-timer–Carl Hubbert of Harahan’s FBC–and some rarely seen pastors such as David Rodriguez of Horeb (Spanish) Baptist Mission. And we had Rudy and Rose French, our Canadian MSC missionaries, back. We had three from Bear Creek Baptist Church in Houston, an IMB missionary from Cote d’Ivoire, Africa, Joe and Linda Williams (our NAMB-appointed counselors), and a large contingent of local ministers who are on the cutting edge of rebuilding this city.
I tell you the honest truth: if we cut back to monthly meetings, I will have withdrawal pains. I love these weekly sessions, and can tell they are the high points of the week for a lot of the fellows. That’s why, after announcing that we would continue meeting here at Good Shepherd Spanish Baptist Church through October and at the New Orleans Chinese Baptist Church for the first three Wednesdays of November, I said, “Thereafter, we’ll meet the first Wednesday of each month at the associational Baptist Center, unless. Unless ten of you come to me and say you want to continue meeting weekly.” We’ll see.
Linda Williams said, “If you cut out the weekly meetings, a lot of people around the country will miss reading about what’s happening locally in your blog.” One more reason I’ll miss having them weekly.
In November, Rudy French is having a heart procedure done in Canada and we’re already praying for him and Rose. Today was their first visit back with us in several months. They had an unusual announcement to make. Rudy is going to become the pastor–not the interim pastor and not a supply pastor, but THE man–of one of our churches. I’ll wait until it happens to name the congregation, but you’ll be interested in what brought it to this point.
Some weeks ago, Rose e-mailed me that Rudy could never pastor. “Pastoring a church bores him,” she said. I laughed at that. So, when that church’s pastor search committee kept telling him they believed God wants him to become their pastor, he resisted. Finally, they said the magic words. “What would it take for you to come as our pastor?” Rudy said, “I’ve studied your history. You’ve had pastors, one after another, for a couple of years each and they move on. You do business as usual and you never grow. Your budget is the same it’s been for years. I would want you to go out of business as just another church and become a mission center.” What would that involve, they asked. “Put in permanent shower fixtures, fix up the place to host church mission teams coming to help rebuild the city and do evangelism in the neighborhoods. Scrap everything and start fresh. Become an evangelism and mission center.” A lady in that church has already donated a large sum of money to get the transformation started, and the church has put people to work on it. My understanding is that Rudy will officially begin as the new pastor on December 1.
I’ve abbreviated Rudy’s account of how this all came to pass. My wife commented that it took an outsider to see what the church needs to do and to convince them to do it.
It’s God’s own way.
Pastoring a church is boring, Rudy? The ministry has been a lot of things to me over 42 years of ministry, but boring was never one of them.
The big event on our calendar this week is a Vision Tour of our area Thursday and Friday, October 5 and 6. In partnership with the Louisiana Baptist Convention and several associations like ours, a number of pastors from outside our area are coming along with some men who want to start churches, and they will be given a two-day bus ride to see neighborhoods that need new Baptist church starts. Thursday, they’ll begin in the Baton Rouge-Denham Springs area. Friday, they will come to Hammond, then across to Covington and have lunch in Slidell. Afterwards, the bus heads for New Orleans. After a four hour loop, the group returns to Baton Rouge for a banquet at Florida Boulevard Baptist Church and some frank discussion on the subject: “Does God want you to sponsor (or start) a church in one of these area?”
This will be our first vision tour and we are asking for the prayers of all who read this. I’ve been invited to be the main speaker Friday night. My question to them will NOT be “Do you want to start a church here?” and not even “Don’t you think you ought to?” The only question for a follower of Jesus Christ is: “What does the Father want you to do?”
All we want is His will in His way. On His schedule.
J. D. and Edna McCollum from Bear Creek Baptist Church in Houston were in town scoping out the situation for their church group that arrives tomorrow. They’ll be working under Operation NOAH Rebuild, gutting out houses and such. J.D.’s father, Earnest McCollum, a worker with the Hispanic for over 50 years, came along to see if he might be of service. He had heard of the large numbers of Mexicans flowing into the city as construction workers. At lunch, I noticed his sitting at a table with a half dozen of our Spanish pastors, handling out DVDs of his Bible studies. “Everything we have is free,” he said.
Our NAMB-assigned counselors Joe and Linda Williams will be leaving us after the first week of November. “We’re tired, too,” Joe said. Between now and then, they’re eager to lead sessions in churches called “Coping with Life’s Losses.” “We’re hoping to be reassigned to return after the first of the year,” Joe said. He’s hoping?! We’re hoping!
Kevin Lee (Edgewater) told the group that Joe and Linda led a session for their community, in which 30 people participated. One was the head of the Gentilly Neighborhood Association, and ten of the participants will continue in a program the church has started.
Linda Williams will be speaking to the pastors’ wives in Oklahoma and enlisting their prayers for us.
Joe Kay (Oak Park) introduced their IMB missionary-in-residence, Jerry Robertson of Cote d’Ivoire. Jerry shared about his ministry and made himself available to speak in our churches.
Donnie and Juanita Land, from California, are working with Operation NOAH. They plan to bring a large group from their “Acts 1:8 Ministry” to work here March 31 through April 7.
Steve Gahagan, construction coordinator for NOAH, said that in the last two weeks, he was reminded that he needs to get back to why God put him here in the first place. He has made a renewed commitment to rebuild homes. He and Diane consider New Orleans their second home, and they’re committed to be with us for the next two years. “I want to help the pastors,” he said, “just as much as we want to help the members of your churches.”
Cornelius Tilton (Irish Channel) went to visit a Mississippi church that adopted them and is continuing to support them financially. After he preached there, they asked him to come back for a revival. I asked, “Is that an Anglo church?” “It certainly is,” he assured us. Of course, Cornelius is one of our finest pastors and is gifted musically as well as academically. We have no doubt whatsoever that they were impressed by him.
Cornelius reported that two-thirds of his congregation have not returned. But they have taken in two other church groups that have only partial congregations. “We have three congregations with two pastors meeting in one room,” he laughed. They had 60 last Sunday.
Keith Manuel reported that J. R. Walley, Calvary’s worship leader, has resigned to move to FBC Ocean Springs, Mississippi. “If you know of a good contemporary worship leader,” he said, “let me know. We’re looking.”
Kemp Johnson asked for prayer for Anthony Pierce’s daughter who was in an accident. We learned also that Lionel Roberts’ son is at home presently, but the family continues to want our prayers.
The lunch served by the terrific men and women of Good Shepherd Church was small meat pies with pink (pickled) cabbage. Unusual, delicious. Afterwards, one of their men dished up the dessert: servings of peaches with vanilla ice cream, topped with chocolate syrup. I didn’t want his feelings hurt, so I ate a big bowl.
Seminary President Dr. Chuck Kelley says he expects a great revival to occur in New Orleans sometimes in the next five to ten years. I told the pastors: “Some of you are experiencing revival in your churches now. Many of you are not. I’m going to ask you to pray for revival with your people, and get them to praying. But do not make the mistake of looking within you and expecting yourself to bring a revival. You will be sadly disappointed. There is no revival-making apparatus inside you. This is a work of God. Our job is to pray for revival and to stay faithful. Expect it to come in God’s own time.”