Love of kingdom growth and richness of opportunity marked the October 5-6 southeastern Louisiana GPS Vision Tour, an event highlighted by the presentation of $56,000 from the Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia to three church plants rebuilding after Katrina.
SOUTHEAST LOUISIANA – Love of kingdom growth and richness of
opportunity marked the October 5-6 southeastern Louisiana GPS Vision
Tour, an event highlighted by the presentation of $56,000 from the
Southern Baptist Conservatives of Virginia to three church plants
rebuilding after Katrina.
Larry Black, Regional Church Planting Strategist for Southern Baptist
Conservatives of Virginia, presented a check for $24,000 each to
Fellowship Church in Prairieville and Northshore Church in Slidell, and
the first of three checks of $8,000 each to Circle Baptist Church in
“We are a church-planting convention,” Black said. “We want to be
engaged partners, not just financial supporters of those hurt by
The GPS Vision Tour, from the acrostic for “growing the kingdom,
planting new churches and seeing the people,” was hosted by the North
American Mission Board, the Louisiana Baptist Convention and the
Baptist Association of Greater Baton Rouge, the Eastern Louisiana
Association, the North Shore Baptist Associations, and the Baptist
Association of Greater New Orleans.
The two-day tour in southeast Louisiana introduced potential church
plant sponsors to sites earmarked for church plants in a region fresh
with an openness to the gospel and rich in church growth opportunity.
“Any kind of church you want to pastor, you can do it here,” Keith
Manuel, pastor of Calvary Baptist Church in New Orleans, told the
group. “If you want to be an international missionary, the New
Orleans area is the place.”
Of the five fastest-growing parishes in Louisiana, the southeastern
associations hosting the tour stretch across four of them and cover a
broad swatch of land between Baton Rouge and New Orleans.
John Helms, pastor of First Baptist Church of Springfield, told the
group that the rapid urbanization of these once-rural communities has
made ministry to every people group in a community impossible for one
church to handle.
“But it is the perfect laboratory for growing church plants,” explained
Jack Allen, assistant professor of church planting and director of the
Nehemiah Project for church planting for New Orleans Baptist
Theological Seminary, a program that mentors church planters.
“Sponsors who give $500 to $1,000 per month, or who can offer hands-on involvement, can help a new work succeed,” Allen said.
One good reason for sponsoring a new church is that the return from a
church plant investment is often the growth of several more, explained
Lonnie Wascom, director of missions for the North Shore Associations.
“It is in their DNA to start new work,” Wascom said. “And, they know what it takes.”
Paul Smith, pastor of the 500-member Life Church in Mandeville, which
began as a church plant in 1998, said he believes a church should be
planted before housing subdivisions appear. Two such church plants are
already funded and ready, awaiting only the enlistment of a planter,
“We need to get ahead of the game instead of playing catch-up,” Smith said, who believes now is the perfect time to do so.
In the New Orleans area, “need” has taken on new meaning, explained
Freddie Arnold, church planting missionary for the Baptist Association
of Greater New Orleans. Sponsors for church starts of all varieties are
With more than 25 New Orleans-area churches heavily damaged, some have
reopened as “re-starts.” First Baptist Church of Arabi, in St. Bernard
Parish, where only one-third of the residents have returned, demolished
its building and is now meeting in a tent, in partnership with
Celebration Church in New Orleans, where Dennis Watson is pastor.
Sojourn, a church plant in the warehouse arts district of New Orleans,
is growing under the leadership of James Welch, a church planter who
feels called to reach the “cultural creatives” and the “movers and
shakers” who live in his area.
Language church starts are needed now more than ever, Arnold said,
because of a growing Hispanic population and a sizeable Vietnamese
population in the heavily damaged New Orleans East. A resourceful
people familiar with flooding, the Vietnamese rebuilt on their own from
“We missed an opportunity,” said Arnold. “If Southern Baptists had
stepped in to help Vietnamese Village rebuild, we could have made
inroads for the gospel.”
Larry Badon, regional church planting strategist for the Louisiana
Baptist Convention, challenged the group to prayerfully consider
sponsorship. By starting churches, Badon told them, there will be
someone who follows after you, leading people to Jesus, long after your
ministry is finished.
“This is such a great work, such a great need, such a great
opportunity, that by our working together we can make a great
difference for Christ,” Badon said.
Wascom told the group that the key to meeting the exponentially-growing
need for new churches is the key that sets Southern Baptists apart:
Church plants make for multiplying units because they understand what it takes to make a plant successful, he explained.
“It is in their DNA to grow more churches,” Wascom said.