By Brian Blackwell, Message Staff Writer
In just eleven days (Feb. 9), thousands of festival-goers will descend upon the state for Mardi Gras and Louisiana Baptists are working to make sure the message of Jesus is the highlight of their experiences of a parade, king cakes and beads.
Using different outreach methods, churches will be sharing the same Good News of Jesus Christ to those coming to the city for good times.
“Our city knows how to party, admittedly often for the wrong reasons, but we see no better time to engage them with the gospel of Jesus Christ,” said Dean Ross, pastor of Restoration Church in Metairie.
For the third year, his congregation will host Restoration Fest — a block party on Feb. 6 featuring food, games, inflatables and opportunities to share the Gospel.
Three churches are assisting in the effort: Broadmoor Baptist, Madison, Miss.; Agricola Baptist, Lucedale, Miss.; and Vaughn Forest, Montgomery, Ala.
Every year, Ross and others are able to use the event to share the Gospel with people lining the parade route which runs near the church.
During Restoration Fest in 2015, volunteers engaged a neighborhood Muslim family waiting for the parade to begin.
“We offered them a time–before the parade came to our end of Veterans Boulevard–to come grab something to drink and eat while their kids played on inflatables,” he said. “We were able to pray for them, share the Gospel and give them information about our church while making balloon animals for their children. All tribes and tongues show up for Mardi Gras. What better way to fulfill the Great Commission.”
A team from HOPE Church in Metairie plans to blanket the neighborhood—knocking on doors and praying for the needs of those who answer, and leaving door knob hangers at homes where no one responds. During the parade, the team will wear HOPE Church shirts and will hand out Koozies with information about the church printed on them.
A mission team plans to canvas the neighborhood Feb. 5-10, but Pastor Matt Tipton said more volunteers are needed, as well as the funds to cover this effort. Help and money can be donated by calling him at 504.330.7246.
Metairie Church will focus its main outreach efforts on Fat Tuesday.
Volunteers from the congregation will serve breakfast to early risers hoping to grab a prime spot on the avenue. They also will host a community worship service.
Afterwards the team will offer hot and cold drinks to the crowds and invite the public to warm up and use restrooms in its building, and, share the Gospel.
Pastor Jared Stacy said not everyone they engage will visit Metairie Church but his prayer is all of them will be impacted by the Gospel.
“At the end of the day,” Stacy said, “we’ll have had hundreds of conversations, and our facilities will be dirtied, and no financial profits will come out of the more than 1,000 cups of hot chocolate we serve.”
“But this isn’t a real cost in terms of life,” he said. “There will come a day where love costs more, so we often calibrate ourselves by saying, ‘you didn’t come to church today, you are the church.’
“When Jesus’ people grasp the grace of their identity, they respond with a love that costs because the Gospel is worth it,” he continued. “This response makes the Gospel a symphony in the ears of their neighbors, which we pray leads to repentance and ultimately makes Jesus famous.”
Last year’s efforts still are making impressions on those in the community, according to Stacy.
In early January, he and a group leader in his church visited with a waitress at a local restaurant. When she learned they were from Metairie Church, she mentioned she had been blessed to drink some hot chocolate the church gave out during the 2015 parade.
“She hasn’t visited Metairie Church in the past year, but I think this was a great picture of how good works add a weight to the word of the gospel,” Stacy said. “God is the author of the moment. We simply need to be faithful and position ourselves to love our neighbors by showing and sharing Jesus every way we can.”