By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
BOSSIER CITY – Luke Allen dreamed of starting a church in Seattle, Washington, shortly after his graduation from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, but God shifted his church planting focus to his hometown of Shreveport-Bossier City.
After his May 2010 graduation, Allen and his wife, Ashley, found themselves meeting inside a rented warehouse in Bossier City with 40 other members of their core group to dream about how God would use them to reach the ethnic communities within their metro area with the Gospel through their predominantly Anglo congregation, the Covenant Church.
Over the next eight months, the Lord stirred a passion within them to reach people who had never or occasionally attended worship services as well as connect with those who grew up in church, but as they reached adulthood saw it irrelevant to their lives.
“Shreveport-Bossier is a little deceptive in that there are a lot of churches, but a lot of unreached people,” Allen said. “The area is very religious, but also is one of the worst places to live in terms of abortion, homicide and poverty. Though maybe biblically minded, a majority of people don’t follow Christ’s teachings. From the start, we wanted to bend the culture from just a religious one to one that walks with Jesus.”
With the help of the Georgia Barnette State Missions Offering, the church began to grow and fulfill its mission, and added a second campus.
“We’ve been able to use some of those funds to help us funnel that money into our second location,” Allen said. “It’s helped us as we strive to reach our vision of sharing Christ with the people of Shreveport-Bossier.”
By the time Covenant Church held its first worship service in January 2011 at the Bossier Instructional Center, the congregation had grown to 150 members. Growth has been steady as they moved between locations – the Cohab business incubator in Shreveport, the Supper Club event venue in Shreveport and its current home at Providence Classical Academy in Bossier City. The average worship attendance was 215 in late August, and the church had baptized 75 since it started.
Covenant Church added its Shreveport campus in June, locating it inside a downtown office building. By late August, attendance there had increased from 40 to 70, nearly doubling in a three-month period.
Community group impact
Allen said much of the growth can be attributed to its focus on community groups.
Since they meet in rented facilities, the church is mobile. They have four community groups comprised of 30-40 people who meet once a month, and 20 smaller, gender-specific discipleship huddles that gather weekly.
“We try to equip everyday believers to live out the mission of God in their everyday life,” Allen said. “Our smaller groups are the pipeline of our church. We encourage each other with the Gospel and pray for our people of peace.”
Each community group is responsible for adopting its own ministry. These include sharing Christ at the Hub homeless shelter in Shreveport, tutoring at area schools, mentoring women at a half-way house and reaching out to single mothers. The church members also feed the homeless at the Hub every Sunday evening.
“That’s part of our DNA,” Allen said. “You can’t be a member unless you commit to serve. When it’s so easy to stay inwardly focused, serving keeps us outwardly focused.”
Named for the first executive director of the Woman’s Missionary Union, the Georgia Barnette Offering’s annual Week of Prayer is set for Sept. 16-23. The theme for this year is “Think Big” inspired by 2 Corinthians 9:6. This year’s offering goal is $1.7 million. For more information on the offering, visit georgiabarnette.org.