NEW ORLEANS (BP) — In addition to jazz, beignets and the French Quarter, there’s an added reason Southern Baptists may enjoy visiting New Orleans for Crossover 2012 — the love they may sense from Crescent City residents.
Hundreds of volunteers — from Louisiana and across the nation — will join together for the June 15-16 outreach prior to the Southern Baptist Convention’s annual meeting.
Southern Baptists have poured heart, soul and sweat into New Orleans since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
“We all have our Katrina stories,” said Jack Hunter, executive director for the New Orleans Baptist Association and a lifetime resident of the city. “But for the most part we’ve gotten beyond Katrina and we’re now in a rebuilding mode.”
In city government, in education and in economic stability, New Orleans is evidencing a new heart. A recent study suggests the city also has a new attitude toward Christians — Southern Baptists especially.
According to the study, New Orleans residents are open to door-to-door visitation, street evangelism and coming to church if invited. The most surprising and encouraging of the findings was that residents favor Southern Baptists above any other faith group, according to a Turner Research study for the Louisiana Baptist Convention.
“Southern Baptists were here with us when we were recovering and mourning with us when we were getting back on our feet,” said Hunter, who served as a lawyer in the city until more recently entering the ministry. “And Southern Baptist work is still going as New Orleans is reborn.”
Keith Manuel, an evangelism associate for the state convention, recounted, “Calvary Baptist Church where I pastored for years is the most visible church on the west bank of New Orleans but no one knew where we were. Now if you mention Calvary, everyone knows where it is because that’s where they got water, food and help from Southern Baptist Disaster Relief.”
Southern Baptists have an opportunity to use such awareness to the fullest in a city where the need remains staggering.
“Our research also shows us that almost 50 percent of the people in New Orleans have never had anyone tell them how they can go to heaven,” said John Hebert, director of missions and ministry for the Louisiana convention. “And about 75 percent of the total population can’t tell you how to go to heaven. But a majority said they would love to attend a Bible study or prayer meeting if someone would just invite them.
“New Orleans pays more attention to the spiritual world than ever before,” Hebert added. “They’ve been moved by the attention and care that Southern Baptists have given. It’s made a difference and this research really shows that.”
The North American Mission Board is working with the local Crossover coordinating team to provide volunteers with opportunities to share the love of Christ through block parties, health screenings, prayerwalking, servant evangelism projects and church planting.
Southern Baptists in New Orleans plan to launch four new churches in 2012, with two of those launched amid the raised visibility Crossover and the SBC annual meeting will provide.
“Our churches are becoming well-trained in evangelism and will lead the way in reaching our communities through Crossover events,” Hunter said. “Our leaders want to create a culture of evangelism in the association, and Crossover, followed closely by other outreach events in succeeding weeks, will help do that.
“It’s a good time to be Baptist in New Orleans,” Hunter said. “Our prayer is that the cross of Christ would be lifted up across the greater New Orleans area to the end that many souls would be saved and that the church would be increased and that our faith community would have an increased culture of evangelism.”
To learn more about Crossover New Orleans and to volunteer, visit joinnoba.com/crossover.
For churches and volunteers interested in working with a church plant in the New Orleans area toward a long-term partnership, Crossover is partnering with City Uprising, a June 13-16 initiative to coordinate missions experiences for potential partner churches. Volunteers of all ages will work with two New Orleans-area church plants. To register for City Uprising, visit cityuprising.com.
Adam Miller is a writer for the North American Mission Board.