Why Church Plant in Lafayette, LA?
Do we really need more churches in the Bible Belt?
There is much to be said concerning planting new churches in the South. In the Bible Belt, and more specifically the church saturated Deep South, you can find a church on every corner. Should we pursue planting churches in areas some would say are already saturated? Is Lafayette truly in the Bible Belt? These are some of the questions I will attempt to answer in this post.
Did you know that many, if not most, geographers would no longer classify (or maybe never did) New Orleans or the region of South Louisiana, known as Acadiana, as part of the Bible Belt? In fact very few, if any characteristics that make a state or region worthy of the title Bible Belt can be found in the southern most part of the state. We have not done a good job reaching Southern Louisiana on a whole in evangelicalism much less as the PCA.
So, why Lafayette specifically?
Lack of PCA presence
With a population of 220,000 in the greater Lafayette area (over 500,000 people if you count the 6 parishes that make up the area known as Lafayette-Acadiana) there are no PCA churches and very few evangelicals at all. In fact, there are only 17 PCA churches in Louisiana as a whole. By comparison, there are currently 118 PCA churches reported in Mississippi, 114 in Alabama, 105 in Georgia, 161 in Florida, and 76 in Tennessee, and 111 in South Carolina. There are actually more mosques (27)in Louisiana than there are PCA churches. The need for a church plant in this southern city has never been more clear than it is right now.
Lafayette is called the Hub City because of its strategic location on both I-10 and I-49. As such, it connects Southern Louisiana to the northern part of the State. It also has a direct line to Baton Rouge, New Orleans, Texas, and Mississippi. It is a major economic hub in Louisiana voted by the Louisiana Office of Economic Development as the fastest growing economy in the State. Forbes magazine named it the number one mid-sized metro area in the nation. Lafayette ranks as the eighth best manufacturing city in the U.S. in an analysis completed by New Geography. It was named one of the top 10 shining examples of economic development in the South by Southern Business and Development. New business announcements from Freeport McMoRan Oil and Gas, Newpark Resources and Bell Helicopter illustrate the community-wide economic development approach that is in place in Lafayette. It is a city on the rise and has been for over a decade now.
Lafayette, Louisiana is also a city rich in culture and full of life. The South Louisiana mantra Lassiez Les Bon Temps Rouler (Let the good times roll) in not lost on this exciting city. Lafayette was voted one of the Top Ten places in the South for the “Creative Class” by Southern Business and Development Magazine and the “Happiest City in the United States” by the Wall Street Journal Market Watch. It was voted one of the Top Ten “Foodie Cities” by livability.com, and is known world wide for its unique and savory Cajun cuisine.
Lafayette boasts 2 major annual festivals known throughout the U.S. The Festival International de Louisiana is a heritage music festival that draws 350,000 people annually from around the world. The Breaux Bridge Crawfish Festival is well known for its tasty crawfish and world famous Cajun music. The people of Lafayette are clearly a people that enjoy the so called joie de vivre (joy of living).
Maybe the most startling statistics have to do with the spiritual condition of Lafayette and all of Southern Louisiana for that matter. Lafayette has been an area enormously difficult for evangelicals and reformed churches to make inroads. This is largely because of its deep catholic heritage and its carefree and highly “festive” lifestyle. Often the stuffy, legalistic nature of the fundamental South has conflicted with the Southern Louisiana joie de vivre. However, I have never been a part of a ministry where I have been more excited to see the liberating Gospel of grace seize the liberties of a community and use them within the sphere of God’s kingdom for the redemption of lost sinners. I believe there are three major spiritual areas that need to be addressed by the Gospel in the community of Lafayette. I will addressing those in the next blog post.
*Much of the above data was taken from University of Louisiana website