Wednesday, September 9, 2015

How Katrina dramatically changed a Texas church

10 years ago, Austin Christian Fellowship, a large congregation in an affluent area of west Austin, had big plans.  Their big vision was to raise enough money to build a 4,000 seat worship auditorium on a hill, the highest point in west Austin.  It would face Austin and the congregation would have a beautiful view of the hill country and the skyline of Austin, making it the premiere church of Austin, Texas. 

But a hurricane changed all of that. Hurricane Katrina came nowhere near Austin, but Austin felt the impact as hundreds of the New Orleans residents that were displaced from their homes by Katrina were bused into Austin. Most of those sent to Austin were housed in the Austin convention center, and churches all over Austin began to offer aid. AFC Pastor Will Davis, during a sermon this summer, told about how Austin Christian Fellowship responded and how it radically changed him and the church. 

ACF was one of several churches that worked with the city and state officials in a coordinated effort to provide basic essentials for those displaced by Katrina. But Will explained that he felt God telling him to become personally involved.  So he went to the convention center and found a displaced family from New Orleans and took them to dinner. The encounter moved Will to such an extent that ACF not only helped the family find housing but assisted 20 other families also.  The whole experience radically changed the pastor, the leadership and the congregation's mindset for missions and passion to serve. 

At the time of Katrina, Pastor Will explained, ACF was giving about 1% of its budget to missions, local or global. This encounter so changed the mindset of the staff, leadership and congregation that the "big vision" of building a giant auditorium now seemed very small. That goal of building a massive worship center was replaced by a vision of serving their community and planting churches. Instead of growing vertically, ACF would make its impact through missions and growing God's kingdom horizontally. Since the encounter with the refugees of hurricane Katrina, the church has increased its giving every year to where they now give over 50% of their annual budget to local and global missions. They are planting churches throughout the city and sending mission teams all over the world. 
Isn't it amazing how God uses many things, events, people, and even a hurricane, to change hearts, minds and attitudes? Whether you are a pastor, deacon or member, perhaps the greatest way to change yourself and your world is to take a step of faith and join God in what he is doing.  When you "go" incredible things happen.  Go here to watch Will's entire sermon as he shares the story of how Katrina changed him and the church.

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