Three years ago I moved to New Orleans to attend New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s undergraduate program called Leavelle
College. Immediately upon arrival I fell in love with the city. As my family followed me here about a month later, they too fell in love with the city that we now call home. When I came here I was full of passion for the mission and a desire to see unity in the body of Christ. As a huge fan of the Reproducing Churches Network ( http://www.reproducingchurches.com ) I set out to see if something of that nature existed or could exist here in the city. A group of believers gathering together to pray for one another and give themselves away together and for each other to seek out “On earth as it is in Heaven”, was something that I had to see in this great city. My search for this disappointed me in many ways, and my efforts left me with feelings of failure and defeat. However, I did learn some great lessons, and realized what a true love for the city truly consists of.
As I searched out those who might be influential in the city to bring about something like the RCN in New Orleans, I met some pretty cool people. Most of them with the same question; “A lot of people come here wanting to ‘fix’ the city saying that they love it, but they end up leaving, what makes you different?” Come to find out, this is a pretty legit question, and would have a hard time accepting any other question being asked first. People kept saying the same things, “This place is different, you can’t just come here and try to do something like that.” I had a hard time understanding, but now I believe I understand quite well what they were talking about. The culture here is very faithful to and identified by their community. If you are not from here, then you are not really going to be able to jump right in and influence people. Though the gospel has the power, and often does, overcome these issues, it seems that God has been using people from here or that have lived here long enough to be considered from here to do His work. The reality is, that these people who have dedicated their lives to this city in the name of Jesus often get “burned” by these seminary people who come and join the “cause” for a brief time, only to be “called” back home. It is, unfortunately, hard to take us seriously.
Over the years, and efforts to distance myself from this city and all of its problems, God has grown my love for it, and also my desire to see wonderful things happen in this city influenced by the Gospel of Jesus Christ. He has also shown me what my part to play in this process is. See, there are some pretty cool gatherings of Christians here in the city. People who are uniting different neighborhoods together by their natural unity in Christ. What is happening is outside of what the culture is set up for, and the only explanation is God. As believers multiply, gatherings do as well, and after this happens the neighborhoods begin to worship together in a gathering that is designed to pull together the city under the unity of Christ – what a beautiful picture of “on earth as it is in heaven.” There is, however, a forgotten demographic of the city.
A lot of people who spend most of their time in New Orleans are not necessarily residents of the city, but commuters from the North Shore or the West bank. Even though these people do not live in the city limits, they work here and spend a lot of recreational time here. They are a part of the community, and share the same cultural characteristics as the people of the city. This is where I come in.
My love for the city has caused me to be very distressed with the fact that God has me working in Slidell (a neighboring city on the North Shore). I love New Orleans and do not want to be anywhere else, but God has allowed me to see that the work He is having me do in Slidell is also going to be an influencer in the city that I love. As the gospel reaches those who commute daily to the city, God will “infect” those with His gospel who live here and are without Jesus. At which point, their neighborhood gatherings will grow in strength and the gospel will spread. There are some great things happening in this city, and there are key players in place that God is using to impact those living in the city. I believe that He has given me an opportunity, not only to impact the city of Slidell, but also help in the efforts of the saints in New Orleans, the city that I love.