A Word from Pastor Oren - September

But seek the welfare of the city where I have sent you into exile, and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare. Jeremiah 29:7

The most beautiful works of art in the world began as only ideas in the minds of great artists. Many of those artists had yet to achieve “greatness” as the world defines it, but in their minds each artist had a vision for what could be; so they pursued it. Michelangelo had an idea of what he was going to paint on the ceiling of the Sistine chapel, but it wasn't until he began painting that the masterpiece began to take shape. He could have spent hours, days, and weeks describing in great detail what he desired for the final product to look like, and all those who listened with vivid imagination would have thought “wow, that ‘sounds’ beautiful.” But only when paint was finally applied and the project completed could they say with certainty, “Amazing! Breathtaking! A masterpiece!” And along the way, the great visionary artist made adjustments to his work, while keeping the original vision in mind and leaving room for more inspiration.

When an architect develops a beautiful plan on paper for a functional but aesthetically pleasing office building, her vision can be seen, but it will not be fully realized until the construction is complete. The two dimensional drawings only give a glimpse of what the three dimensional structure will look like. It may be a beautiful glimpse, but it is only a glimpse. Only when the construction is completed can the full work be appreciated. And as the process of construction is underway, that very same architect might be inspired (or forced!) to make changes to the plan to address needs or problems with the design. But the overall vision remains the same, and she is driven to see it through to completion.

As we begin to identify the call God has placed upon our church family as a church “for the city” of Baton Rouge, I feel that our work, while only beginning, is one of great vision. It is God’s vision, and it is no doubt a big vision for what we are commissioned to do according to his word and will to bless our city and to seek the good of our city. But the "bigness" of that vision is not what concerns me, because I know that God is able to do “far more abundantly than we can ask or think. (Eph. 3:20). My concern centers around the many incremental adjustments we must make along the way to be effective in fulfilling the vision while remaining faithful to God and good stewards of His resources.

When I read Jeremiah 29:4-7, I can’t help but think about all of the Jewish captives of Babylon who were likely dealing with bitterness, sorrow, and anger issues as they were marched from the safety and comfort of their homes into a foreign, pagan land with no hope for rescue or reprieve. Yet in his divine and sovereign wisdom and grace, God sent his people a letter of hope through the prophet Jeremiah; one that would give them exactly what they needed to “endure” for the sake of God’s name. The hope was not only that God would deliver them after 70 years of slavery (v.10), but that they would prosper in the place where he sent them (v.5-6). By seeking the welfare, or “shalom,” of their new Babylonian home (v.7), God would bless them with joy and gladness of his mercy and love (v.11). Along the way, particularly on the bad days when their captors were especially harsh, there would be necessary adjustments to be made in both heart and mind, refocusing the people on what God had already promised: blessing today and deliverance soon to come. And as those incremental adjustments were made, that vision began to take shape and the final product was realized more and more as each year passed. This is my great hope and prayer: 1That our church family will take hold of the vision God has given us to seek the Shalom, or “just peace,” of our city, and 2that we would have the faith to trust that God will lead us to make whatever adjustments necessary to see that vision come to fruition. I pray that we have the faith to trust him and follow him where he leads.

We are going to settle our hearts and minds on downtown Baton Rouge, and we will not ignore the culture around us nor will we neglect the needs of those persons right outside our doors. We will seek the welfare of our city by reaching out to the broken lives of the community while offering our support and prayers for the artists, entrepreneurs, residents, businessmen and businesswomen, and community leaders of downtown Baton Rouge. This earth is not our permanent home, but this is where we are now and this is where God has us planted. So we will seek his will to grow right where he has planted us, praying that God would bless us with the fruit of our labors all for his glory. “We Are Downtown” is more than a clever motto; It is where we are, and it is who we will be.
Your Pastor, Oren

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