To be in New Orleans is to feel its rhythm, its easy-going style, and its winsome love of celebration. Traditions are the heartbeat of the city, yet New Orleans is anything but traditional. Ministry in New Orleans - like the city - is rich and varied as God is at work in suburban church plants, in new works in “hard places,” and in congregations with an anywhere-in-America type feel. Regardless of where God’s call may lead, New Orleans is the right place to prepare.
ugging the east bank of the Mississippi River, next door to the French Quarter, the Marigny/Bywater neighborhoods are Bohemian in style and artsy in flair. There, the welcome mat is out for any worldview or belief system.
Except for one.
“They are going to be offended [by the Gospel],” Justin Haynes (BACMIN '13), a NAMB Send City church planter, tells the volunteers he trains to share the Gospel in his community. “Take the time to ask questions and build the relationship first.”
Haynes leads Refuge Nola Church, a tiny congregation that meets in a building owned by a Voodoo priestess that doubles as a grocery store and a “healing center.”
Ministry there is not easy, but Haynes is not afraid of hard places. After two local pastors - on the same day - asked Haynes if he had considered starting a new work in the community known for its historic Creole cottages and street art, he went to explore the possibility. When Haynes encountered a man on his knees praying to an idol, he knew he was in the right place.
“I considered that my call to this area,” Haynes said.
At a coffee shop one day, Haynes’ friendly conversation with a local turned icy when Haynes brought up the Gospel. The man announced, “This conversation is over.”
Though hostility to the Gospel is frequent, Haynes is driven by a sense of urgency. He and the volunteers he has trained have logged more than 2,500 Gospel conversations in the community. Of those, six came to faith in Christ.
Still, many of the Gospel conversations became springboards for relationships, a vital piece of groundwork for seeing lives changed, Haynes said.
“They’re going to be mad. There’s going to be tension,” Haynes explained. “But we don’t want them someday saying, ‘Why didn’t you tell me?’”
Many in the Marigny/Bywater community feel the weight of guilt. Many are seeking peace.
Haynes was headed home one day when he felt prompted to return to the grocery store in the building where his church meets. A man came up to him and said, “I’ve been looking for you.” For two hours, Haynes answered the man’s spiritual questions.
“Not every conversation gets to the Gospel presentation, but that should be the goal,” Haynes said. “The only way to do that is ‘die to yourself.’ When I wake up, I tell myself, I have to die today, to get rid of anything that doesn’t have to be done."
"Prayer is the key. Prayer gives you boldness and allows you to push through the fear.”
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