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SBC DIGEST: Luter on ‘Road to New Orleans;’ NOBTS Mission Week

Luter discusses Katrina, COVID and the city he loves in ‘Road to New Orleans’

By BP Staff

NEW ORLEANS (BP) – The last time Southern Baptists met in New Orleans, they elected New Orleans native and pastor Fred Luter as their president. Luter joined SBC Executive Committee Vice President of Communications Jonathan Howe for this week’s installment of “Road to New Orleans,” a video series leading up to this year’s SBC annual meeting back in the Crescent City.

The conversation starts off with recollections about Luter’s election in 2012, when he says Southern Baptists made history and he felt like “a celebrity for a day.”

They quickly move on to seven years prior, when Hurricane Katrina devastated the city Luter has lived in his whole life. His church, Franklin Avenue Baptist, was destroyed. His people scattered.

“It was the most difficult time in my spiritual walk with God,” Luter said.

“Watching on the news and seeing the city I grew up in, the city where I pastored, under water. … It really affected me to the point where I was just really in a situation where my faith was literally challenged.

“I couldn’t understand how something like this could happen in America. I didn’t want to pray. I didn’t want to ready my Bible. I didn’t want to preach. …

“The city that I live in, the city I grew up in, my church was flooded, New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary was flooded. The schools and the neighborhood was flooded. But Bourbon Street was high and dry. I couldn’t understand. I couldn’t wrap my head around that.”

But Southern Baptists brought hope to him and thousands of others, he said.

“When Southern Baptists from across the country came to the rescue of New Orleans, it was just amazing,” he said.

Luter said Southern Baptists told New Orleanians, “We are the hands and feet of Christ and we are here to assist you, no matter your race, no matter your color, no matter your background, no matter your gender, no matter what your denomination is. Your city is hurting and we’re here to help out.”

Luter also talks the months and years after the storm, when Franklin Avenue went from being “the church gathered” to “the church scattered.”

The church’s online presence grew, and the experience gave them an appreciation for people and drew them together, Luter said.

Luter tells of the more recent, yet similar challenges of pastoring through the COVID-19 pandemic amid strict restrictions in the city.

New Orleans is a “lost city,” Luter said, adding that even Satanic worship is prominent.

“My prayer is that when the thousands and thousands of Southern Baptists come to town, enjoy the city, enjoy the food, but realize there’s a lot of lost folks everywhere you go. … Do all that you can to be light and salt while you’re here in the city of New Orleans.”

The two also discuss Luter’s favorite New Orleans delicacies and eateries.

Watch the full video here.

NOBTS Missions Week asks ‘Why not you?’

By Marilyn Stewart/NOBTS

NEW ORLEANS (BP) – Paul Chitwood, International Mission Board president, joined with others at Missions Week at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary and Leavell College, Feb. 28-March 2, in asking a question repeated often that week, “Why not you?”

Jamie Dew, NOBTS and Leavell College president, challenged listeners to consider the question before he introduced Chitwood as chapel speaker, March 2.

“Why not you to the nations?” Dew asked. “Is this something you’re praying about?”

Chitwood began by encouraging listeners to consider IMB service through short-term mission trips, student semester or summer opportunities, career service, and service opportunities for retirees. The opportunities are available because of Southern Baptists’ “generous giving” through the Cooperative Program, Chitwood explained.  

“Why not you?” Chitwood asked. “The IMB has room for you. We have a place for you somewhere.”

Chitwood praised Southern Baptists’ mission efforts and mission giving but then asked why those efforts are important in a world of war, famine and human trafficking. Drawing from Romans 3:9, Chitwood said the verse pinpoints the world’s greatest problem.

“What is that one overarching, world’s greatest problem?” Chitwood asked. “I submit to you today it can be communicated in a single word – that word is lostness.”

Chitwood said the problem is greater today than ever before with 157,690 people dying daily without Christ. NOBTS and IMB exist to address this problem, Chitwood said, adding “because the gospel needs to get to every nation, all peoples, tribes and languages.”

“The Gospel is God’s solution to the world’s greatest problem, and it is ours to take to the world,” Chitwood concluded. He added, “Why not you?”

A special chapel panel earlier in the week featured Greg Wilton, dean of Leavell College and former National Care for Refugees Director, NAMB Send Relief. Wilton’s wife, Abby, and three students serving this summer in various places were on the panel also to discuss their call to missions.

Missionaries serving in Southeast Asia and the Asian Pacific Rim spoke in classes, met informally with students for “Coffee and Conversations,” a women’s special prayer gathering, and a “Taste of the Nations” reception.

Greg Mathias, director of the NOBTS Global Missions Center, noted students’ responses to the week’s activities.

“Students loved having IMB missionaries in their classes as well as hearing from some of their own classmates,” Mathias said. “Many students resonated with the different experiences of missions from seasoned missionaries to students who are just taking the next step to go on their first international mission trip.”

Mathias noted that highlighting missions through Missions Week each year helps students wrestle with the questions of “Why not me?” and “Why not there?”

“God is stirring up our students in significant ways to live as global Christians no matter the specific ministry God gives them,” Mathias said.

“[Missions Week] also helps us move from being cheerleaders of the Great Commission to taking steps to personally participate more fully in His mission as well as encouraging our churches to do the same,” Mathias said.

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