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This year, our Louisiana Baptist Missions and Ministry Team held 10 weeks of Summer Network gatherings across Louisiana, and we tried to hit some of our more rural areas and associations. Though 75% of Louisiana is considered Urban by the Census Bureau. A few observations about ministry in Rural Louisiana in 2019:
- There is a growing shortage of pastors. There are associations in our state with 20-25% of their churches without pastors.
- There are more retirees entering the ministry. We met several amazing men who had retired from secular employment and are now pastoring churches! We also have several planting churches! How about ministry as an ENCORE career.
- Rural Pastors are finding innovative ways to meet the changing ministry environments they are in. Addiction, homelessness, poverty are major issues in rural areas, just as in urban areas, and on the minds of pastors. Churches are finding ways to address these. Encouraging.
- Rural Pastors are heroes. They do it without fanfare or abundant resources. I have been inspired by the enthusiasm of young and old pastors in rural areas this summer. Their church of 40 people may seem insignificant, but in a community with 600 people, they are a mega church!
- Relationships among churches and among pastors are lifelines for the stresses of ministry in rural areas. Associational coaching networks are forming. Pastors with education are mentoring pastors who did not have the opportunity. Encouraged by the kingdom mindset across our state.
- Smaller, rural churches have suffered from transfer growth as many older Christians choose to drive out of their community to a larger church in another town. Heard this observation several times from rural pastors this summer in relation to the struggle to find mature Christians to lead. There are seasoned Christians giving up on the small, local church.
- Rural communities are attractive to families and are growing in population and income level. From younger retirees to families that want more space and don’t mind a 45 minute to 1 hour commute daily, demographics are changing in many of our rural areas.
I am a product of rural churches. These churches gave me a great foundation of faith. Ministry looks differently, may move slower, but continues to be fruitful for life change and making disciples. Praying for our Rural pastors and churches.
For most leaders, including me, that moment when a complaint or criticism arises is like a cloud moving in and potential storm rising. Many church leaders have post-traumatic stress that paralyze us whenever complaints and criticism arise. While complaining is condemned in scripture (1 Corinthians 10:10; Philippians 2:14-15; 1 Peter 4:9) and many complaints are selfish and from power seeking, disgruntled, hurting people; leaders must learn to see the opportunity in every complaint. That’s what the early church did in Acts 6. When “there arose a complaint,” they mobilized people to meet the legitimate need. The result was “the word of God spread”! Conflict is inevitable in relationships, on teams, and in churches. Don’t miss the opportunity!
- Mobilize gifted people to meet the legitimate needs that complaints may reveal.
- Sharpen the mission of sharing with your community through re-prioritizing ministry resources and gifts.
- Make room for new people that God will add as more people are mobilized for ministry and more needs are met.
- Correct, rebuke, teach, and train if complaints reveal prideful, competitive, divisive spirits in the church. 2 Timothy 4:2; Titus 2:15
- Say goodbye gracefully to disgruntled, negative influences that refuse to work for unity and solutions and may hold back the mission of the church. Romans 16:17; Titus 3:10. It’s not about who you keep, but who you reach.
- Be thick skinned. Listen to criticism. Learn from it. Don’t get distracted from the mission of spreading the message of Jesus. Proverbs 15:31-32
- Don’t try to do everything or feel like you must answer everyone’s complaints or try to make everyone happy. Gospel first – Acts 6:2. A clear conscience before God is our first responsibility – Acts 24:16.
- What Louisiana city was first named Tiger Island?
- What Louisiana Parish is home to an ancient people group that still resides on its aboriginal lands?
- What Bayou was formed by a 10 mile long snake?
If you know the answers to these questions, you might be from St. Mary Parish. St. Mary Parish includes the cities of Morgan City (formerly known as Tiger Island because of rare cats spotted there by the first surveyors in the late 1700’s), Franklin (the Parish Seat), Patterson, Berwick, and the Chitimacha Indian Reservation (home of the Chitimacha Indian, who were once one of the strongest tribes in North America). Chitimacha legend has it that the ancient tribe fought a war with a 10-mile long snake and on its defeat it squirmed to its death and its remains formed Bayou Teche. Today Bayou Teche is 125 miles long and includes the beautiful Bayou Teche National Wildlife Refuge in St. Mary Parish.
St. Mary Parish is also home to the Gulf-Coast Baptist Association. A group of 15 southern baptist churches that partner together for the gospel in this coastal community. Today, they are in need of our partnership and prayers as economic downturn and declining church attendance has greatly impacted this association. Here are some fast facts about Gulf Coast Association:
12 Quick Facts about St. Mary Parish:
- It is located “right in the middle of everywhere” – about 50 miles from New Orleans, Baton Rouge, and Lafayette.
- It is part of the Gulf Coast Baptist Associaton. Associational Missions Strategist is Steven Kelly. He is also the Pastor of Bayou Vista Baptist Church near Morgan City.
- 54,650 residents. 59% White, 33% Black, 5% Hispanic, 3% other.
- 14 Southern Baptist Churches. 1 church for every 3,904 residents. (Our state ratio and goal for each association is 1 church for every 2,850. Gulf Coast Association needs 5 more churches to get to that ratio).
- Only 1 African-American church and only 1 Hispanic church.
- Gulf Coast churches have averaged between 900 and 1100 in total worship attendance for the last 10 years, with a total of 1,019 in 2018. That’s only 1.9% of the total population.
- Bible Study or Sunday School attendance was at less than 1% in 2018 with 506 attendees.
- “Well, most people are Catholic in South Louisiana.” Not so fast. The ARDA reports that there are 24,662 nones in the parish, or religiously unaffiliated. That’s 45% of the population. 17,834 are Roman Catholic, or 33%. 9,885 evangelicals, or 18%.
- Crime is 26% higher that the state average and 48% higher than the U.S. average.
- Poverty is at 21%, which is 1% higher than the state and 6% higher than the U.S.
- Greatest needs according to Associational Missions Strategist Steven Kelly, are for an African-American congregation in Morgan City. A new Hispanic congregation may be needed. RePlanting and Revitalization partnerships are needed across the Gulf Coast.
- Also needed are Bivocational or Covocational Pastors and Planter who will plant their lives in these communities and see them reached for the gospel.
Pray for Tiger Island and the surrounding communities of St. Mary Parish.
My only experience in Terrytown and that of many others I’ve spoken with is driving through on the way to fishing destinations south of New Orleans. Terrytown is currently at the top of our list of places in Louisiana that need a new church.
12 Quick Facts about Terrytown:
- It’s located on the eastern side of Jefferson Parish on the West Bank of the Mississippi River.
- It is a part of New Orleans Baptist Association.
- It’s name came from the original developer of residential homes in communities south of New Orleans. He had a daughter named Terry, so yep, he got to name it. Terrytown!
- Population is listed at 23,319. The zip code of 70056 shows a population of 41,330.
- It is one of the most densely populated areas in Louisiana.
- Poverty rate is high: 26%. Compared to 20% across all of Louisiana and 15% across the U.S.
- Terrytown is very diverse: 36% Black, 32% White, 24% Hispanic, 5% Asian.
- To note the growth in diversity in this area: In 2000, Terrytown was 50% white, 34% black, and only 9% Hispanic.
- Crime is high: Violent crime is 50% higher than the national average and about 40% higher than the state average. Property crime is 37% higher than the national and state averages.
- There is currently no Southern Baptist Church in Terrytown. And relatively few evangelical churches. Pray with me for a new church or three in this diverse community.
- Jefferson Parish is Louisiana’s 2nd largest parish with 439,000 residents. Best numbers show the religious makeup as 15% evangelical, 33% catholic, and 46% nones.
- If these % are true of Terrytown, then there are 3,498 evangelicals, 7,695 Roman Catholics, and 10,727 people unaffiliated with any church.
Let’s pray for Terrytown!
What other interesting facts do you know about Terrytown? Interested in helping reach out and plant a church in this community?
When talking about planting new churches, I prefer the term church multiplication. Why? Most churches lack margin and without margin financially and with volunteers, they don’t believe that they can plant another church. It’s an option for one day IF we are able. But multiplication is a must for every church and a path to every church getting healthy and getting involved in planting new churches. Every church, to be healthy, MUST multiply. We must multiply ON-CAMPUS through new disciples, servant-leaders, groups, and ministries. Then multiplication in a healthy church WILL move OFF-CAMPUS through multiplication of ministries, outreach events, missions partnerships, AND new congregations in some form.
Start multiplying and you will be a church planting church.
How do we get started?
- Multiply New Disciples by sharing the gospel and bringing new people into the kingdom. Train your church in personal evangelism and lead them to see their community as a mission field.
- Multiply New Servant-leaders by having a monthly leadership development round table for existing and potential leaders. Begin a mentoring relationship with teachable and hungry disciples.
- Multiply New Ministries by looking at the needs in the body that are currently not being met and commission a leader or team to tackle the need.
- Multiply Off-Campus Ministries and Outreaches by asking the question “Where is the church not?” Look for opportunities like local multi-housing communities, local nursing homes, local compassion oriented agencies, etc.
- Multiply Mission Partnerships by planning an annual mission trip, a vision tour to an underserved part of your state or region, co-sponsoring a new church in your area or state, etc.
Multiplying at these levels will lead to growth, health, and the hunger to keep the multiplication going at every level, including new communities where a church or campus may be needed.
Get in touch – firstname.lastname@example.org – if you need to help with ideas and scenarios, or you’d like to network with other multiplying churches in your area. Connect with our Louisiana Baptists Multiplication Network for events to help you work on strategy and systems for healthy multiplication.
The Bible is full of resolutions. Our reading of the Bible should be to see the gaps between ourselves and God’s will and close that gap with resolve. The difference between worldly resolution and Biblical resolution is that as believers we have the promise of God’s presence with us to empower and encourage us as we resolve to walk with him. So let’s be resolute in 2019. Here are four Biblical Resolutions in way of reminder and challenge.
1. Devote yourselves to Prayer… Colossians 4:2
Prayer works every time it is tried. God promises to hear and to answer the praying believer, who prays in faith (Matthew 7:7; James 1:5-8; 1 John 5:14-15). Resolve to be a person of prayer in 2019.
- Set your alarm for 10:02am as a reminder to pray for your church and for more laborers for God’s mission (see Luke 10:2).
- Get your church’s directory and pray for one page per day.
- Sign up for Daily Prayer List of the International Mission Board
- Sign up for BlessEveryHome.com and pray for your neighbors everyday
2. Every man mature in Christ – Colossians 1:28-29
The resolve of the apostle Paul was to move EVERY PERSON in his sphere of influence closer to Christ. What a resolution!? Our influence as believers is currently limited by our vision and our lips. Resolve to see every person in relation to eternity and communicate God’s Gospel truth in practical ways in 2019.
- Pick up or make invites to your church to hand out around town.
- Ask God for divine opportunities and commit to share the gospel on a daily or weekly basis.
- Make a list of lost friends, relatives, coworkers, and neighbors to pray for everyday.
- Pick up a book or study on sharing the faith and read to get equipped. Let me suggest: Turning Everyday Conversations into Gospel Conversations by Jimmy Scroggins, Sharing Jesus Without Freaking Out by Alvin Reid, or Tell Someone by Greg Laurie.
3. Exercise is of some value – 1 Timothy 4:8
In most of us, a new year brings a desire to make changes. Gym memberships increase by about 12% every January. While we do not all need to be Iron Men, we should recognize the secondary value (next to godliness) of maintaining and/or improving our physical condition as a steward of God and faithful witness until our last breath. Resolve to improve and/or maintain your physical condition for stewardship and witness in 2019.
- Walk. This is a great way to combine #1, #2, and #3. Walk your neighborhood and pray for each home and look for opportunities to build new relationships.
- Try a 21 Day Fast as a way to reset your prayer life and dietary life.
- Join a gym and/or fitness class as a way to get in better condition and build new relationships in the community.
4. We will tell the next generation – Psalm 78:4
The next generation is to be a priority for disciples of Christ (Deuteronomy 6:6-8; Psalm 78:1-4). Parents and Grandparents have a built in reminder of their duty and priority. But we mustn’t stop there. With Christianity in decline, we need all hands on deck to make sure every child hears of God’s love in Christ for them. Resolve to pass on your faith to someone younger than you in 2019.
- If you’re a parent, commit to a family meal time each week where you share a devotional and pray for and with one another.
- Sign up to volunteer in the children’s ministry of a local church.
- Look for opportunities to volunteer at a local school or mentoring program.
- Ask God to show you a child at your church or in your neighborhood that needs an encouraging word.
What are some other Biblical Resolutions that we can resolve to pursue in 2019?
I’ve heard this one for years when church planting comes up among pastors. A couple of responses:
1. Who said we’re trying to plant small churches? That’s never the goal. The goal is to reach people for Christ. Church Planting is one of the means. God, the context, the partners, and a lot of other things often determines the size of the church. If you don’t want to see another small church, get involved and help us plant a big one!
2. This may say more about your vision and belief in God’s ability than the local church planting strategy. In every apple is an orchard. In every believer is a potential to reach more. In every group of believers, no matter how small is the potential for a movement. Let’s believe God for bigger things.
3. “We don’t need another small church…” Unless your lost and on your way to hell. Then you need a small church, medium size church, mega church, or whatever kind of church to come and get you and share the good news of God’s grace and salvation! Let’s not forget that this is about heaven and hell, not our own ego or discomfort.
4. And remember, God has no small churches and no big pastors. God doesn’t show favoritism (James 2:9). God doesn’t see as man sees (1 Samuel 16:7). The kingdom is upside down – to be great, be a servant; to be first, go last; to live, you’ve got to die. Can’t you imagine with me that the God that governs an upside down kingdom values and cheers on the small church as much as the big church?
Church Planting is a great means of evangelizing and discipling a community. Until every person is reached, let’s strive to do everything possible to reach them. Including planting small churches, big churches, and all kinds of other churches to see the kingdom come as earth as it is in heaven. And today, every church can get involved in church planting, church replanting, multi-site development. Pick your pleasure and lets reach people for Christ.
“The Gospel came to you because it was heading to someone else. God never intended for your salvation to be an end, but a beginning. God saved you to be a conduit through whom His glorious, life changing gospel would flow to others. You are a link in a chain….”
Robby Gallaty, in Growing Up: Becoming a Disciple Who Makes Disciples
The Baptist Association of Greater Baton Rouge covers all or part of Ascension, East Baton Rouge (Louisiana’s most populated Parish), West Baton Rouge, Iberville, Pointe Coupee, St. James Parishes.
- Population: 640,059
- 1 Southern Baptist church (SBC) for every 6,096 persons. Rest of Louisiana is 1 to 2,895. 131 new churches would be needed to get to 1 to 2,895.
- Only 1.1% of the population (7,049) attended a Bible Study in a SBC Church in 2016.
- Only 1.9% of the population (11,861) attended worship in a SBC Church in 2015.
49% of the population is non-anglo (41% African-American, 3.9% Hispanic, 2.5% Asian) with only 16 non-anglo SBC churches. 1 to 18,154.
- 23% of the population is evangelical, showing that Baton Rouge has a healthier evangelical population than the rest of South Louisiana.
- Baptisms are down 25% from a high of 757 in 2006. 558 in 2016.
- Association Executive Director is Dr. Tommy Middleton. Staff: Chuck Lowman, Randy Osborn, Dana Truitt, Jan Terral. Check out BAGBR.org.
Some good progress made in 2017-2018 in Church Multiplication:
- One new Church Plant – Renew Church Baton Rouge.
- Four new Church RePlants – Oak Crest / United Believers; Sherwood / Living Hope; Park Forest / The Church at Park Forest; Logos and Life / Westside Community.
- Repurposed Associational Church Planting Team.
- New churches in the pipeline for Zachary (Living Hope), Ascension Parish (Hispanic).
- Greenhouse Training planned for August 17-18.
- Potential Mission Builder Project at Fellowship South Ascension in 2018-2019.