I met my husband in the Photography Department at OSU, so I learned how to frame a subject and evoke a certain mood long ago. It is an artist’s work to know how to visually focus on the things that you want someone to notice. Composing a photograph isn’t just documenting what’s there; it is choosing what is most important to focus on.
Recently, I realized that in New Orleans, you could easily create a gallery of photos for why the city is amazing or why it is horrifying. For the first gallery you could shoot brass bands, beignets, Mardi Gras Indians, the French Quarter, Jazz Fest, Bayou Boogaloo, jambalaya, dancing, magnolias, live oaks with Spanish moss dripping off and streetcars filled with warm faces.
For the second gallery you would have to narrow your photos to homeless people and gutter punks panhandling, graffiti, corruption, violence, litter, bullet-proof glass, bars on windows and the hard stares of the perpetually drunk.
I could convincingly make both cases:
1) New Orleans Is Amazing!
2) Run Away!
Perhaps this is why there is a predictable phenomenon here. People know within 6 months of coming here whether they love it or hate it. There is truly no in between. I would venture to guess that their opinion of the city depends largely on which of these two galleries they venture into.
How does this apply to church planting? We have to be showing our church family into the gallery full of hope and grace. People need to see wonder and hope reflected in our eyes. If we are uncomfortable and fearful (or worse yet, whiny- grumbling is loathsome to God- I Corinthians, check it) that reflects on our faith. I am not saying to turn a blind eye to issues of safety, but we must all look for the salvageable, the redeemable, the diamond in the rough and then we will begin to feel like we can make a difference with God’s help. This is especially true when you live in a place where the bleak gallery would be so easy to fill. Please keep it empty. Fill the other one with God’s light and invite the world in.
The moments I like best when people visit us are when I see our city through the visitor’s eyes and they are excited about what they see. It gives me another snapshot. If we truly believe that God can make a profound difference, it will seep into our outlook. The optimistic belief that God is big enough and He cares enough to transform New Orleans drives us.
Why else would we drop everything and move into the neighborhood?
I mean beside the fact that it is what Jesus did and he told us to “Go!” and I for one would not want to knowingly live on the wrong side of God’s will. Are you open to His prompting? Are you ready to leave behind the comfortable and familiar because you believe that you and God together can make a difference wherever He sends you? Adventure is always more exciting than safety.
I pray God will be glorified through our optimism.