One of the miraculous stories that came out of Hurricane Katrina was how Crescent City Baptist Church and school merged just one week before the storm with Celebration Church, where Dennis Watson is pastor.
DENHAM SPRINGS – One of the miraculous stories that came out of Hurricane Katrina was how Crescent City Baptist Church and school merged just one week before the storm with Celebration Church, where Dennis Watson is pastor.
Celebration’s Airline campus – in a shopping mall it had bought – was under water, but no problem: the congregation moved over without a hitch to the sizable Crescent City Baptist on Transcontinental Avenue in Metairie.
From that day to this, Celebration has been a power house in the relief and recovery of restoring the city and the people who live in the city.
But whatever happened to the pastor of Crescent Baptist? What follows is more evidence of God’s hand at work. Danny LeBlanc had resigned from the church to start a mission, but lingered to help when the congregation decided they wanted to merge with Celebration.
“We merged on a Monday and the church did not have an opportunity to meet together before Katrina hit,” LeBlanc said. “Some of the folks ended up in Baton Rouge. I lost my home in Metairie – where I’d been going to start the new mission – so I was in Baton Rouge too.
“We – some local folks and others from the New Orleans area – started a Bible study in the home of a relative, moved to a larger home a few weeks later, and then to Florida Boulevard Baptist Church, where we met in their fellowship hall for two years,” LeBlanc continued. “Now we’re in a store-front that used to be a pool hall, but which we’ve converted to a nice contemporary church – we’re a casual dress style church.”
The church – Life Giving Family Church – in Denham Springs, was sponsored as a new work last September by Live Oak Baptist Church in Watson, where Howard Turner is pastor. At least 90 people and some weeks as many as 120 attend Sunday morning worship.
“We have about eight to ten professions of faith per month,” LeBlanc said. “I am a very evangelistic pastor. Our target group is the lost and we are currently hitting our target.”
Not all the professions of faith result in baptisms, and not all baptisms “take,” the pastor said. “Some I should have held them under the water longer,” he grinned with his trademark zaniness.
In what might be an extreme example of “Sunday morning set up,” baptisms take place in an aluminum watering trough that is hauled onto stage and filled – “each time with clean water,” LeBlanc grinned again. Between baptismal services the trough is drained and stored behind the stage.
New Christians comprise about 90 percent of the congregation, the pastor said. To disciple them, “we have some cell groups meeting and I do some personal mentoring. In mid-September we will launch a new Sunday morning Bible study – it’s a Sunday school but we are Not Telling Nobody,” LeBlanc added with ungrammaticalness spoken for its humorous value.
Life Giving Family Church is a missional congregation, the pastor said.
From its beginnings it has given 10 percent of offerings to missions through the Cooperative Program, so the church has the awareness that what it does has a world-wide impact. Another 2 percent is given to Eastern Louisiana Baptist Association, where David Brown is director of missions, so the congregation feels a part of what ELBA is doing in the area northeast of Baton Rouge.
Life Giving Family Church also has a direct connection with missions in Nicaragua, both in sending teams there and in sponsoring mission work there. Its recent VBS raised $1,902, which was given for a mission trip to Nicaragua. They stay in a “mission house” that can sleep up to 30 volunteers at a time. About 15 groups use it as a base each year.
“Fifteen years ago, some church members at Parkview Baptist in Baton Rouge started going to Nicaragua,” LeBlanc said. “Some men bought land and several church groups helped build a home to house mission groups.” He’s been part of the mission effort during each of the last 12 years, the pastor added.
“We can accomplish so much more for God when we work together than when we try to go on our own,” the pastor said. “There’s a synergy that happens when people work together, and, it’s lots more fun!”
In Nicaragua the mission teams do evangelism through VBS, street ministry, clothing and food distribution, the showing of videos, recreation and more. They also have built schools, churches and houses.
In Denham Springs, LeBlanc confesses to not liking office hours. “I would rather meet people in the local diner and tell them about Jesus than to sit still. … The results [professions of faith] are a result of the Holy Spirit, to be theologically correct. On a human level, it is a result of new believers bringing their friends.”
Some of the sowing is done through block parties “and stuff like that,” the pastor said.
At its recent VBS – Carrie Turnbull was director – 55 youngsters were enrolled, led by 22 workers. Fourteen youngsters made professions of faith, and $1,902 was gathered for the Nicaragua Mission Outreach. Lifeway’s Outrigger Island was the curriculum.
“We don’t have a steeple on the roof above our church,” LeBlanc said. “Our members are our steeple. They’re out in their homes and schools, and where they work, just being Jesus. The Holy Spirit works through that, and voila, the church is growing!”