The rebirth of New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina launched a fresh time of creativity in the region that has touched artists, musicians, writers and ministers alike. The place the gave birth to Jazz is giving birth again. It has been exciting to see this renaissance of the imagination take hold.

St. Louis Cathedral, Jackson Square

My church, First Baptist New Orleans, has had its share of great ideas in the past five years. The idea for Baptist Crossroads Project, a homebuilding partnership with Habitat for Humanity, came about before Katrina, but was put on hold by the storm. When it did start, the project provided much needed housing for the working poor in the Upper Ninth Ward at just the right time. That was only a preview of the good ideas to come.

Our pastor, Dr. David Crosby, has led our church into numerous ministry avenues marked by love and compassion. Dr. Crosby challenged the congregation to “love in word and in deed.” Instead of just sharing the Gospel, he called on us to live out the Gospel in tangible ways and then share our faith – active, urban, missional Christianity.

About a year ago, First Baptist launched a massive weekly ministry mobilization effort called “The Care Effect.” This idea is the renaissance of imagination at its best. The ministry options are numerous. Most opportunities focus on the hungry, hurting and helpless in our city. Each week 80-100 volunteers feed the homeless and poor, tutor children, minister to inmates in the juvenile detention center, teach English to immigrants, deliver meals to shut-ins, write cards to church visitors and much more.

St. Francis of Assisi famously said, “Preach the Gospel at all times. Use words if necessary.” While I love the quote and firmly believe that our actions speak loudly, I find it a bit inadequate. As Christians, our Christ-motivated caring and compassion is only half of the story. The other half is proclamation of the Gospel.

Serving is a must. If we are living out what Jesus has called us to do, we will be involved in selfless service. I think sharing is a must too. Serving others shows the change that has happened in our lives and provides a springboard for sharing our faith. The Care Effect brings together our Gospel words and deeds in a very unique way. Caring does have an effect – not only on those who receive care, but also on those who give it.

Now is that a good idea or what?

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