About Me

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New Orleans, LA, United States
Family from South Africa, Born in New Orleans, Lived in South Carolina. Married to Annabeth since May 2004. We have three boys (Bolt, Mack, and Birk). Currently living in Uptown NOLA and serving as Lead Pastor of Vintage Church and Camp Pastor of Student MissionLab.

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Saturday, October 20, 2007

Starting a New Journey

Growing up I was never exposed to church planting. I was never discouraged from the method, it just never crossed my path. When I moved to New Orleans in the spring of 2004, I attended a church planting conference that was led by a guy named Ed Stetzer. Check out his blog at www.edstetzer.com. He is a missiologist and one of the lead dudes in understanding the church today. His talk on church planting rocked my world. I was exposed to the fact that one of the most effective ways to make disciples of all nations was to plant a church. God lowered the boom on my life and revealed that part of His plan for my life was to start a church. This began a new journey for me.

Well...Katrina hit, I went back to South Carolina for a while, and then returned to New Orleans ready to plant a church. I contacted the local association and told them about God's call upon my life but that I really had no clue what I was doing or thinking. I started working for MissionLab in New Orleans as well as launching a ministry called Ignite Mission and God shut the door on my plans to start a church. It wasn't an issue of whether or not I was going to plant a church, it was more of an issue of when God wanted me to plant a church. Timing really is everything. Not from the standpoint of finding the right time according to the world's clock, but responding to the right timing according to God's clock. As a believer and follower of Christ, I pray that I always act upon His timing and plan. I trust completely in the sovereignty of God.

I thank God for the way he shut that door. I have had a blast serving with MissionLab and Ignite Mission. God's glory is being proclaimed in the city of New Orleans in an amazing way through both of these ministries. Serving with them has allowed me the opportunity to learn the city of New Orleans, grow in my faith in Christ, and fall in love with the people of New Orleans. In particular, Uptown.

My smokin-hot, beautiful wife, Annabeth, has worked in Uptown since we have been in New Orleans. She has taught me so much about loving the people of New Orleans. She has been an amazing witness and testimony for Christ in that area. As she has loved people in Christ and introduced me into their lives, we have fallen deeply in love with the people of Uptown.

In the spring of 2005, we joined up with a new church plant called Sojourn. This was truly sent by God. For the first time in my life I was exposed to what it takes to plant a church. I have a lot of love and respect for James Welch and his family who sacrificed everything to come to New Orleans and spread the love of Christ. We focused upon the people of Uptown, in particular those who are artistically gifted. Now this was completely new territory for me. I am a retired jock. The only thing that I can do artistically is draw a teenage mutant ninja turtle. Which, if I might say, is pretty dang good. But this experience was preparing me and stretching me in my understanding of true missional living.

Throughout this past summer, God really began to place upon my heart a passion to plant a church in Uptown. At the end of the summer, our ministry put on a prayer conference called Out of Range. That Saturday morning, we facilitated an opportunity to prayer walk in the city. I went with my family and close friends to prayer walk in a specific area in Uptown around a dying church called Valence St. Baptist Church. We prayed for God to open and shut doors. God’s Spirit led me to pray and request boldly for Him to utilize us in this specific area.

Picture is of Valence St. Baptist Church Right After Katrina

A couple of weeks later I was in Uptown studying on a Sunday Morning. I ate some breakfast at Slim Goodies and then made my way to CC’s to study all afternoon. I passed by Valence St. Baptist Church at 11:15 and decided to check out what their service was like. I walked into a gathering of 6 people. No one talked to me until the end of the service when the pastor (Rev. Cipriano Stephens) explained to me that if I wasn’t a Christian I couldn’t take the Lord’s Supper. This was a great lesson for me. I had never walked into a service as a lost person and it gave me some great insight. I let him know that I loved Jesus and we took the elements. I approached the pastor and shared with him boldly that I believed that God has called me to this area and that this church could be better utilized for the Gospel of Christ. His wife yelled, “AMEN!” He invited me to be their youth minister. I rejected his offer but asked him if we could get coffee.

Two coffee meetings later, Pastor Cipriano handed me the keys and constitution to the church. He and the other members had been praying for years that God would send someone to lead the church and they believed that myself and the other team of pastors were their answer to prayer. Jack Allen, Page Brooks, Andrew Arthur, and their families have joined the pastoral team to re-launch this church. We have a core team of people who are excited missionaries and committed to the rebirth of a church. This Tuesday Night I will be voted in as the next Senior Pastor of the church. It is our plan to spend from now till next fall rebuilding & restoring, writing a new constitution, developing and training a core team, learning and loving the culture in Uptown, preaching and teaching the Word, and then launching the new church next fall. God seems to be placing the right people in the right place.

I am blown away by all of this. God is so far ahead of us. I am learning with great desperation to put my complete faith and trust in his power, authority, and grace. Why in the world would God choose to use me in this way? Why in the world would I think that God could use me in a way that is different from anyone else who has tried to start a church in New Orleans? I really don’t have an answer for any of these questions. I am absolutely freaking out on the inside, but God is giving me the peace to remain calm on the outside. I have no clue what God has for us, but I know that He has called us, empowered us, and sent us out to this mission. This church is going to make a significant impact for Christ in New Orleans.

John 6 is one of my favorite passages in Scripture. Jesus demands from His followers complete faith and trust in Him. He presents a difficult teaching and without much explanation offers them an opportunity to leave. In a way I feel like Christ has given me this opportunity many times. Christ has turned to me and said, “You can either accept this mission or reject it. Your not that special, but I am choosing to use you if you surrender to me.” A lot of people in John 6 turn away and no longer followed Christ. But the disciples (with Peter as their spokesman) reply that although they don’t understand, they surrender and are committed to Him. I love Peter’s response, “To whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. We believe and know that You are the Holy One of God.”

God is not looking for talent, charisma, knowledge, understanding, etc. God is looking for people who are willing to completely trust in Him. Lord, this church and mission is yours. I accept your mission and I am utterly dependent upon your Spirit to lead and direct as we make disciples in New Orleans and beyond. Use your church to bring GLORY TO YOUR NAME.

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