Wednesday, June 27, 2012

How a Church of 50 People is Rebuilding an Entire Community

Just days after Hurricane Katrina bore down on the Gulf Coast and left indelible changes on the area, Pastor Don Elbourne was surveying a landscape he no longer recognized.  "We literally did not know who was still alive and who was dead" he told me.

The building that had once housed the Lakeshore Baptist Church in Mississippi, where Don was pastor, was no more.  But this storm brought added dread to the temporal losses of real property.  When a tornado lifts a roof off a building, you put it back.  When a building burns to the ground, you rebuild.  But when a hurricane wipes out entire cities, taking not only homes and churches, but entire industries, you don't just lose the church building.  In a very real sense, you also lose your church.

"That was one reason that, even though we were insured, we chose not to immediately rebuild," he said.  Eventually, the people who remained at Lakeshore built a temporary edifice where seven years later they still hold worship services.  But once the worst was over and the church members once again gathered in the Lakeshore community, Pastor Don says they found another, more important reason not to rebuild.  "We just couldn't fathom giving all of our attention to putting up a church building when our entire community was virtually homeless."

The result?  This small church, which just after Katrina had around 35 members, didn't rebuild their church.  Instead, they rebuilt the community of Lakeshore!

Since 2005, Lakeshore Baptist Church has worked with multiple partners, including our Association, to put more than 100 families in the area back into their homes.  More than 60 of those were total rebuilds.

Additionally, the church responded to this crisis by building "The Mercy Center," a place where members of the Lakeshore community can receive clothing, counseling, food, and most importantly, the Gospel of Jesus!

Volunteers from our Association are but one group who have been involved in building The Mercy Center, and this morning, our entire team of 30+ volunteers was able to see that center in action as more than 100 families were given groceries!  Additionally, those who came this morning received an introductory financial seminar to help them manage money more effectively.  And all of this was preceded by Pastor Don reminding everyone present that spiritually, we are all born "bankrupt" before God, and in need of redemption that is only provided in the death and resurrection of Jesus.

It was a good day!

Our Association values partners like Don Elbourne and the Lakeshore Baptist Church.  Attendance at the church is now around 50 people every Sunday.

Did you read that?  A church of 50 people has rebuilt an entire community of homes!  What's your excuse for not doing more with the resources you have?  What's my excuse?

In my denomination alone there are more than 40,000 churches.  What effect would it have on our country if all those churches served and tangibly loved their communities as Lakeshore does?  Would there be a need for Social Security?  Nationalized healthcare?    Wellfare? Is it conceivable that we could literally change the world by simply loving our neighbors?

Beginning this fall, the congregation at Lakeshore will finally begin to build a new sanctuary.  We look forward to doing our part to help them, just as together with us they have helped so many.  This church and its pastor will never be on the cover of Christianity Today.  Lakeshore will likely never become one of the "50 fastest growing churches in America."  But guys like this are my heros, and churches like Lakeshore are the hope of our culture!

Check out everything this great church continues to do here:

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