By Marilyn Stewart, Regional Reporter
[img_assist|nid=5993|title=Jim Louviere, shown with wife Michele, planted a church in Metairie that presents the message in the language of today s culture|desc=|link=none|align=left|width=100|height=75]NEW ORLEANS – If having a good time was the same as being happy, this metro area should be filled with contented people, or so notes the website of Crescent City Rock, a church plant in Metairie with five baptisms since its start in November.
To those searching for more, the church offers the hope that “Life rocks when built on The Rock.”
The church meets Sunday mornings in a glass-walled sports gym at a YMCA during the center’s operating hours. A relaxed atmosphere and high visibility draws in the curious for interactive meetings.
Jim Louviere, lead pastor, said his church uses language today’s culture understands without watering down the message.
“The Gospel is the power of salvation and the hope of New Orleans,” Louviere said. “But [the Christian faith] is a whole new world to many and we want to reduce the barriers to coming to Christ.”
The church plays off the city’s fervor for the New Orleans Saints football team with small groups called SAINT (Small-Groups Assembled in Neighborhoods Together) teams. The “coaches” page of the website presents Jesus as the head of the church and introduces the staff of eight.
Courses in marriage preparation, parenting, overcoming one’s past, and marriage enrichment are offered and the website’s use of popular New Orleans icons such as the fleur-de-lis and streetcars are culturally appealing.
“In many ways we are living in a Post-Christian culture that does not understand the Gospel. It makes sense to try to find a point of contact from which to introduce people to the transforming message of Jesus,” said Robert Stewart, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary associate professor and director of the Greer-Heard Point-Counterpoint Forum for faith and culture issues.
Louviere said the church wants to model Jesus, who taught in parables, and Paul who used the pagan idol to the “unknown god” of Mars Hill (Acts 17) to present the Gospel in ways people can understand.
An example is Louviere’s use of the levee system to show that people often put their faith in things that will let them down.
“But there’s no disappointment in Christ,” Louviere said.
Twenty-nine professions of faith were reported through response cards at the “soft launch,” a preliminary organizing phase of the start, in November. The official launch is April 4.
When Louviere felt God calling him to plant a church, he sought the counsel of Metairie pastors and Baptist Association of Greater New Orleans leaders Joe McKeever and Freddie Arnold, both now retired. All agreed the plant was needed, Louviere said.
Duane McDaniel, who followed McKeever this year as BAGNO director, said, “I believe church planting is the single most important strategy for the growth of the body of Christ in our area.”
St. Rose Baptist Church, where Louviere had served as interim pastor, is the sponsoring church. David Crosby and First Baptist New Orleans serve as mentors.
Louviere said statistics show that roughly half the population of Jefferson Parish is unchurched and many are still recovering from Hurricane Katrina. Louviere’s wife, Michele, serves as the Clinical Director of Celebration Hope Center, a faith-based, professional counseling center helping those struggling with the loss.
Some funding for the start was provided through the North American Mission Board, Louisiana Baptist Convention and BAGNO.
Outreach projects for the year include a family-friendly event during the Metairie Mardi Gras parades, community service projects for four area schools, an Easter Fest and launch banquet, back-to-school block parties in the fall, a Rock Café, and others.
Members passed out 2,000 door hangers and a “friend to the church” sent 40,000 emails through business contacts promoting the church’s Christmas service, Louviere said.
For information, visit www.crescentcityrock.org.