A Christ-Centered Commitment to Community through Transparency, Transition, and Transformation Mill St. Church of Christ began when Bro. Carl E. Gaines and three families started meeting on Sundays back in the early 70’s. (Visit www.thevoiceofsouthwestla.com click Advertise, February 2014 pg.18) The church, located in the Fisherville neighborhood of Lake Charles, now has around 270 members. “Our vision for today is to show the community our transparency, help people transition to new levels in their lives, and transform them into the persons they want to become,” says current pastor, Bro. Courtney Jones.
Bro. Jones grew up in Houston, Texas. Prior to moving to Lake Charles in 2014, he served a congregation and ministered to people in Houston’s Fifth Ward. While attending Southwestern Christian College, Jones came here to do some mission work with Mill St. Church of Christ and formed lasting relationships. Ten years later when Bro. Gaines retired, Jones was called to serve as their new pastor. Part of his vision for the church extends outward to include the community.
“People don’t care about Jesus if you’re not willing to feed them, shelter them, and give them clothing,” says Jones. “We have to take care of people’s necessities before we try to teach them religion. That’s what Jesus showed us as an example before He taught people He was the Son of God. He fed them, clothed them, and healed them. We are responsible for caring for our brothers and sisters in humanity.”
Caring for Humanity
In the short time Jones has led the Mill St. Church, he has initiated several community outreach projects and programs.
Community Garden – the Genesis Project
When Jones pastored in Houston, he helped start a community garden. “I wanted to bring that vision here to Lake Charles. Community gardens teach us the principals God has put in place for us. You reap what you sow. If we don’t put anything in, we won’t get anything out. We learn patience. That’s the spiritual part I want people to learn from the community garden. The practical part is that people can service their own goods. You can grow your own food in your own backyard. You can feed yourself because God has put that power into the earth. The earth will take care of you if you invest in tomorrow.”
Bro. Jones plans to team up with area schools so children can get involved with the Genesis Project through field trips and science projects.
The garden will be maintained by church and community volunteers. It has only recently been tilled and not many plants grow well in the heat of summer, but by fall, they should have produce available. Once the garden is operational, it will be open to anyone in the community, not only church members. Jones says they will probably open the garden to the public once a week. “The world belongs to humanity. Anyone in the community who is hungry, they can come to the garden.”
Bro. Jones was raised by a grandmother who was a community activist. She sought to uplift, beautify, and serve her community. Jones absorbed her love of community. His grandmother calls him a visionary. One way he strives to serve the community is to bring education and information to the people about what city officials can do for their neighborhoods as well as what the people can do to help their community.
On June 10, Mill St. Church of Christ hosted their first community forum. Mayor Randy Roach and City Marshal Joey Alcede spoke and listened at the event. These forums serve as an avenue to open dialogue between the community and its leaders for the benefit of both individuals and the community at large. “I want the people to not just have their hands out but to also have their hands in the fire with the people who are working,” says Jones. He plans to host these forums once a month. They are open to the community. Potential future speakers include school board members, city council and police jury members, judges and lawyers. “We want to be informed on how we can make our communities the best they can be. It’s my job as a minister not to just preach on Sunday mornings but to teach the community how to let their light shine.”
Bonding the Brotherhood
Bro.. Jones believes women are very good at taking care of themselves. They’re good at forming friendships and supporting each other. “But men don’t always have the support they need,” he says. Jones organizes events to gather large groups of men together to teach them how to be good fathers, good husbands, good sons, and good leaders in their communities. He says life is a fight and he wants men to fight back. “I believe if we just sit down and allow life to beat us up and take advantage of us through the trials and storms that life throws our way, we’re going to lose. I want these men to fight back. If you’re a father, take care of your children; if you’re a husband, be faithful to your wife; if you have a family, get a job and provide for them; if you’re a leader, lead the people.”
Jones also has a men’s retreat planned for sometime next year, possibly at Toledo Bend. “I want to ignite a fire and a zeal among these men.”
Transparency, Transition, and Transformation
The Mill St. Church motto is Transparency, Transition, and Transformation. “It’s a strategic slogan,” says Jones. “We try to emphasize each one of those three points and activate them within Mill Street Church of Christ. Too many churches today are not transparent. Too many people are religious but they don’t have relationships. They’ve never sought help for their problems. People need to be open about what they are struggling with, whether financial stability, sexual identity, depression, abuse, difficult relationships . . . we want to counsel and uplift you.”
“Once transparency has taken place, then we can start transitioning,” Jones continues. “Transition is moving in the direction God destined you for and have faith that He is the source or you will become stagnant. We can move away from brokenness. We want to change and grow.”
“Lastly, transformation. Transformation is knowing and believing that through God all things are possible and He is able to bring forth change in each of us if we ask. We want that person to become a new individual, different from their past.”
Bro. Jones wants the community to know that his church is a growing church. “Ministries in churches are about journeys, relationships, and investment, being a part of the change. Mill St. Church of Christ is a movement. We’re moving forward in every facet of life.”
Mill St. Church of Christ is located at 2318 Mill St., Lake Charles. They meet Sunday mornings for Bible class 9:30 a.m., and Worship 10:45 a.m. They have Bible class Wednesday evening, 6:00 p.m. Call 337-419-1911 for more information.