By Tobin Perry, Baptist Press
NEW ORLEANS – New Orleans church planter Reagan Farris has a story to tell. It’s not the story of how he ended up in the Big Easy. It’s not the story of how a successful youth minister felt burdened for parents who weren’t discipling their children – because they in turn weren’t discipled.
Though he loves telling the story of what God has been doing in his life, it’s the gospel story that Farris can’t stop sharing. Using a similar Bible storying method as international missionaries employ to share the good news in oral cultures, Farris now has gathered close to 30 people in New Orleans – in just a few months time – to hear and respond to the stories of Scripture.
“It’s giving narrative to the stories of the Bible, typically chronologically,” Farris said. “Over the stories as you share, you disciple that way. It’s just powerful. For us storying isn’t an end all, but it pushes you to the Word of God. The dialogue is key. You ask the right questions and the dialogue and the Holy Spirit is going to take that story and bring it to life. People are discovering truth together.”
As the youth pastor of First Baptist Church Eagle’s Landing, Ga., for eight years, Farris had grown an effective youth ministry – leading close to 450 teenagers. While the numbers were there, he began to notice how frequently parents left all the discipleship of their children to the church. Farris knew that wasn’t the biblical model.
God began to plant a vision in Farris’ heart to build a ministry where parents were discipled to disciple their children. At the same time Eagle’s Landing Senior Pastor Tim Dowdy began to see Farris’ potential as a church planter. One day Dowdy shared the idea with Farris.
“If you do, Eagle’s Landing wants to very much be a part of that,” Dowdy told Farris.
“That was permission to say, ‘Lord, what do you want to do?’” Farris said. “We were allowed to take a year on staff at Eagle’s Landing where I stepped out of youth ministry, and I was given a year for the Lord to shape me and give me direction and get my head around what that meant.”
As Farris explored church planting options, he quickly focused his attention on the I-10 corridor (which extends from Jacksonville, Fla., through Los Angeles and hits major cities like New Orleans, Houston, San Antonio and Phoenix in between). Eventually, after visiting The Big Easy, the Farris family settled on New Orleans.
Arriving in the city as a North American Mission Board church planting apprentice in fall 2013, Farris got his family settled and built relationships with neighbors. To better disciple parents so they could disciple their children – Farris’ original goal – he turned to Bible storying as a way to disciple those he met.
Meeting in Farris’ home on a regular basis, attendees learn new Bible stories and – through a series of questions – discover together how to apply the stories to their lives.
“As the Spirit points out the truth to them in a conversation, an observation of the story, then all of a sudden it becomes personal,” Farris said. “It’s so much easier to pass on something that’s personal. Beyond that, all of the people in our group are being discipled personally. We go through Christian foundations – doctrine, theology and practice. It’s a yearlong process. It also uses storying, but it’s more of a one-on-one, one-on-two time over coffee.”
Currently 20 to 22 people are a part of the group. It’s nearly time, Farris said, to multiply the group. He said that he already has group members teaching the stories to others, which includes parents passing them on to their kid – bringing the young church planter full circle.
“I want to equip a new generation who can look me in the eye and say, ‘I can lead my kids in the Word. I can disciple my family to be on mission with Jesus. It isn’t that complicated. I just need to be faithful and be kept accountable to do it.’”
Farris also keeps an eye on the greater story of what God is doing in New Orleans. In an effort to bond the church planters in the city together and implore God to do something fresh in the city, Farris is gathering planters together for prayer on a weekly basis.
“We’re asking God to do a movement – across denominational lines – something that’s just bigger than one church body or one expression of the church can do,” Farris said. “If we are really going to win a city, it’ll take all of us together.”
For more information about how your church can get involved in pushing back lostness in New Orleans, visithttp://www.namb.net/neworleans.