Many of you know at least part of my story: I remember one night standing on the stage of the UNO Lakefront Arena watching about 5,000 people pour through the doors.
My production ministry was doing well, we had booked and worked with some of the biggest Christian artists and speakers in the country, and the radio station told me that this event had become the largest one of its kind post-Hurricane Katrina. Thousands had their arms lifted in praise, were dancing, and shouting to God. The Holy Spirit began convicting me of something else: What if we got a fraction of those people just as excited for Jesus outside the arena as there were in the arena?
I have always believed events are great but movements are better. Events can come and go, but movements lead to change and action. In addition to large-scale concerts, our ministry began holding special events around the New Orleans region concentrated in the most underserved and needy parts of our city. We would gather for an hour or so in prayer before going out to serve the neighborhood for a few hours. Rarely did we get more than twenty people to show up for these events. I began to ask myself, “Where are the 5,000?” I realized that I had become part of an industry entertaining people rather than producing any real disciples.
When Christ ceases to be the focus, we cease to be the church.
David Platt opens Radical with recognition that some called him the youngest mega-church pastor in history. He goes on to write, “I found myself becoming uneasy. For one thing, my model in ministry is a guy who spent the majority of his ministry time with twelve men. A guy who, when he left this earth, had only about 120 people who were actually sticking around and doing what he told them to do. More like a mini-church, really. Jesus Christ–the youngest mini-church pastor in history.”
God used Platt’s comments, among other things, to show me a foundational but profound truth: He is still working through a few to bless the nations, just as He has done throughout the entirety of history. He was calling me to take just a few of the 5,000 who were in the arena that night, pour my life into them for His sake, and teach them to do the same. Could our city be changed forever? Might possibly a great awakening come to “the city that care forgot” seeing it transformed into “the city that cares for God?”
G.K. Chesterton once stated, “When a man stops believing in God, he doesn’t then believe in nothing, he believes anything.” I live in one of the most liberal and tolerant regions of America. Spiritualism has permeated our city, and the faith of many rests in a faceless, powerless god. We don’t need to simply promote faith, rather we need to communicate the gospel clearly, holding Christ up as the true and worthy object of our worship. As Mark Driscoll writes, “Without the gospel, we are dirty, defiled, damaged, discouraged, distracted, and defeated.” It’s all about Jesus. He changes everything.
Well before all of this happened, the pastor of a small church near our home in Metairie asked me if I would help him plan and promote an event for his church. Many decades ago the church averaged around 120 people weekly serving as a light to the growing community, not unlike the 120 who formed the foundation of the early church. The Holy Spirit is restoring this church, which has been in decline since that time.
He has called us to work alongside Him. Thus, “Restoration Church.” Jesus restores us, destroying our sin, defeating our rebellion against Him, and usurping our desire to be gods. God is restoring our city from the devastation wrought by Hurricane Katrina, He is restoring that little church in Metairie, and He is restoring us.
Hebrews 13:14-16 reads,
“For here we have no lasting city, but we seek the city that is to come. Through him then let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that acknowledge his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God.”
How did a promoter become a pastor? It’s simple; by obeying His Word. We believe God has a great plan for Restoration Church as we gather as an expression of God’s people united by the Holy Spirit in pursuing the mission of Jesus Christ. We believe God is preparing us to unleash a movement of God’s people to plant, revitalize, and resource churches, serving as a catalyst for the Holy Spirit to move in our city, state, country, and world with the gospel.
Restoration Church is currently gathering with a small core group of believers committed to making disciples that make disciples of Jesus Christ. In Habakkuk 3:2 the prophet boldly trusts God by crying out in prayer, “O Lord, I have heard the report of you, and your work, O Lord, do I fear. In the midst of the years revive it; in the midst of the years make it known; in wrath remember mercy.”
This is our prayer for Restoration Church and for the Greater New Orleans region. Jesus loves His church. Jesus died for His church. Jesus builds His church. The movement unleashed by the Holy Spirit in Acts was through His church. There is no plan B.