By Gary D. Myers
The City of No – that sure doesn’t sound like a happening place. It doesn’t sound like a city on the move . Sounds more like a place with very little opportunity. Sounds like a place where needs go unmet and dreams go unfulfilled.
Until 2010, http://www.cityofno.com was the official web address for the New Orleans city government. Mayor Mitch Landrieu quickly changed the web address to http://www.nola.gov soon after he was elected to office. He referenced this fact in his recent State of the City speech.
Changing a web address is easy, but changing a culture is difficult. And as much as I love New Orleans, its people and its carefree spirit, I must admit that for many New Orleanians it is still the City of No.
Hurricane Katrina deeply damaged the city, but the city was already deeply damaged. With all its negative effects, Katrina was also a catalyst of change. People who weren’t involved in making the city better are now involved. And to be honest, I am one of those people. Katrina caused me to take my eyes off of myself long enough to see my neighbors. In the process, I came to embrace New Orleans as home.
After the storm, “The City that Care Forgot” got lots of attention. People began seeking to change the city. You wouldn’t believe how much has changed in seven years. Some said it would take 10 years to fully recover from the storm. I would argue that in many ways, we already are a better place than we were in 2005.
But with all the good that has come, we have nagging problems – crime, addiction, poverty and hunger still grip many of our neighborhoods. And then there’s that cursed murder rate. In pockets of the city, hopelessness reigns supreme. The problems are too big to fathom and in many cases it seems there is nothing we as the church can do but pray.
The greatest needs in our city are spiritual. People need to encounter the life-changing love of Jesus Christ. Changed hearts would help with crime, murder and addiction. It will even help with poverty. Sharing Christ is a must.
But I believe we have to do more. Lack of education, opportunity and hope keeps many in a vicious cycle of poverty. I believe that the style of ministry Jesus modeled is about helping the whole person. Jesus met people where they were and offer them physical, emotional and spiritual help.
The web address has changed, but New Orleans is still the City of No for many. What are we going to do about it? Will we live out the Great Commission and the Great Commandments both in our neighborhood and the neighborhoods we pass by every day? And what about in the neighborhoods we like to avoid? Will we make all New Orleans the City of Yes?