By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
LAFAYETTE – With a crowd gathered around, Louis Charrier and Buddy Hampton cranked up their string instruments and began to play a high-energy Cajun tune inside the hallway of First Baptist Church in Lafayette.
Just outside, Kevin Billiot and his family from Alpine First Baptist Church posed for a personalized photograph aboard an airboat.
The music and airboat were more than just an avenue to have a good time, but were on hand to educate Louisiana Baptists about Cajun country and how they could do their part to Engage Acadiana with the gospel.
“This was a way to give people an idea of some of the things we have done here and show our past, present and future ministry work in this area,” said Melaney Dudley, an administrative assistant with Evangeline Baptist Association, one of four Louisiana Baptist associations which coordinated the Engage Acadiana booth at the recent LBC Pastors Conference and Annual Meeting. “We were also trying to get churches from the northern part of our state to be engaged with us and understand some of the differences in culture.”
The Engage Acadiana booth, which also featured a video of missions work that messengers could view inside a replica of a Cajun cabin along with offering giveaways of gumbo, boudin balls and bread pudding, was one of 31 exhibits on hand over the course of the three days of the Pastors Conference and Annual Meeting. Many of the exhibits used their booths to tie in with the Annual Meeting theme of Engage 2020, which is a goal of the convention to reach the next generation and every people group.
In addition to the Louisiana Baptist Convention teams, entities, camps and other organizations were on hand.
John Kyle, communication director for Louisiana Baptists, thanked Steve Horn, the staff and membership of First Lafayette for their preparation and assistance.
“From the time we rolled in Sunday afternoon for the Pastor’s Conference through the conclusion of the Annual Meeting on Tuesday, the staff and people could have not been more friendly and accommodating,” Kyle said.
Kyle also noted a change in the exhibit schedule that hopefully allowed pastors and messengers more time to check out the resources and services available for their congregations.
“We wanted to be up and running before the beginning of the Pastor’s Conference on Sunday evening,” Kyle said. “With approximately 31 booths exhibiting, we wanted to provide additional time for them to interact with pastors and messengers. The earlier set up provided up to another day’s worth of time for this to occur.”
The Communications Team offered a wide array of resources and information – from learning about Louisiana Baptist history, resources relating to Cooperative Program and Biblical stewardship, utilizing social media and Louisiana Baptists new media evangelism strategy, Highways & Hedges.
“From what I’ve heard from the various Louisiana Baptists teams and exhibitors, it appears to have been a good experience,” continued Kyle. “I know our team basically distributed every resource we brought as well as enlisting over 140 people to pray for Highways & Hedges. Michael Stewart, Louisiana Baptists CP and Stewardship strategist, indicated he had more one-on-one consultations with pastors than in previous years.”
Roger Craig, Louisiana Baptists Digital Media Strategist, shared a particularly meaningful encounter with one messenger.
“I had a conversation with a deaf woman who had just started an online ministry on Facebook with the purpose of forming a community and ministering to those who were also deaf,” Craig said. “We had a great conversation on how to get started building a Facebook ministry team. The Lord blessed my heart with this amazing woman of God knowing that He provided the right resources at the right time.”
Where in the world are you connected?
That is the question being asked of Louisiana Baptist churches as they get ready for the re-launch of the Cast the Net website in January. At this year’s exhibit, almost 100 of churches registered where they are connected and doing missions globally.
Today, pastors and mission leaders can go online and answer this question in less than 5 minutes. By going to castthenetla.org, a church can register in a few clicks where they are serving locally, within Louisiana, nationally and internationally.
Also featured at the exhibit were Extreme Missions Adventures and Mick Stockwell of International Mission Board’s Eastern Europe region. At the missions corner messengers connected with Louisiana’s Cast The Net, the North American Mission Board, the IMB, which featured Louisiana’s Arnold and Susie Austin, and other Louisiana mission opportunities.
Cast The Net is being redesigned to be Louisiana Baptists go-to-site for missions.
“Go there today,” said Wayne Sheppard, executive assistant to Louisiana Baptist Executive Director David Hankins and partnerships coordinator for Louisiana Baptists. “Check out the new mock up page, and register with ‘Where in the World are YOU Connected?’”
At the missions and ministry booth, Louisiana Baptists church planting strategist Lane Corley showed off the Engage Map. This newly created map allows Louisiana Baptists to find a compassion ministry site, locate a church plant and discover demographics in an area to help develop a missions’ strategy.
The Engage Map can be found at engagemap.org/louisianabaptists.
“Some people who visited our booth were interested in church planting and we showed them how the Engage Map can help them as they explore possibilities,” Corley said. “We hope some of those people ended up going to the site when they returned home and will in the future partner with a church plant or even plant a church themselves. If you are have not checked the map out for yourself, go to it and take a look. It could be a life-changing decision.”