By Tobin Perry, NAMB Communications
NEW ORLEANS – When Page Brooks first visited New Orleans on a 1997 mission trip, the city didn’t impress him.
“It was dirty. It was nasty. People talked funny, and they were strange,” said Brooks, who felt called to pastor and was considering seminary options. “I liked the food. But the city was sinful, and I didn’t like the French Quarter. I got all of those impressions Christians get of New Orleans on the first visit.”
In fact, when his collegiate pastor suggested Brooks take a look at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary, he almost laughed.
“But through providential circumstances from the Lord, He eventually led me back down here [to study at the seminary],” Brooks said. “For me and my family, God just broke our hearts for the city of New Orleans. It’s a city we love. We don’t want to live any place else. I want to live here and die here. It’s the city where God has placed our heart for ministry.”
Now, more than 15 years after his initial rather unimpressive visit to The Big Easy, Brooks leads a multi-cultural church plant—Canal Street Church: A Mosaic Community—to impact the colorful community that surrounds it. Just 3 years old, the church averages around 130 in attendance and has baptized seven in the past year.
“We still don’t love the sin in the city,” said Brooks, also a professor at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary. “We love these people so much that it breaks our hearts to see what sin does here—the poverty, the broken homes, the dysfunction. All of that breaks our heart for the city of New Orleans.”
With only one Southern Baptist Church for every 5,882 people in metro New Orleans and one SBC church for every 9,700 in the city itself, new churches like Canal Street are needed to effectively reach the city with the gospel.
When he started the church (then called Mosaic Church) in 2010, he knew it would take a multi-racial, multi-ethnic church to reach the diverse community in the heart of New Orleans. Brooks intentionally looked for men of other ethnicities to help him get the church started.
In 2012 Brooks and 2-year-old Mosaic Church were given an opportunity to expand the church plant’s reach when one of the city’s historic churches offered Mosaic a merger opportunity. Canal Street Church, more than 150 years old, sat on one of the city’s most historic streets just a few miles from the French Quarter. After the merger, the church was renamed Canal Street Church: A Mosaic Community.
The recently merged church plant immediately built relationships with its Canal Street neighbors. One single mom who lived in Section 8 housing nearby got involved in the church, became a follower of Jesus and was discipled through Canal Street Church. Since coming to the church, Page says, she has gotten a job and is in the process of buying a house. The lady was so excited about what God was doing in her life that she brought 10 family members to last year’s Christmas Eve service.
Canal Street Church focuses on impacting the community through relationships, particularly through its neighborhood-based life groups.
The life groups are central to the church’s plan to minister to the community. The groups have played active roles in local neighborhood associations, fed the homeless together and reached out in creative ways to their neighbors.
“We can have life groups in any part of the city we want to go in and when we do, we have a missional focus right there in the community,” Brooks said.
New Orleans is one of 32 Send North America cities the North American Mission Board has chosen for specific evangelistic and church planting efforts.
Send North America is NAMB’s strategy to help churches and individuals become active in all regions of North America to lead people to faith in Jesus Christ and start new churches.