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Evan: Tell us about yourself?
Harris: I am the pastor & church planter of newly launched Ouachita Presbyterian Church (PCA) for Monroe / West Monroe, LA. I’ve served as a PCA minister for 17 years in Mississippi and Alabama. I grew up in Yazoo City, MS, graduated from Auburn University (War Eagle!) and Reformed Theological Seminary in Charlotte, NC. I am married to Laura Beth going on 15 years with two boys and a girl. God used the tragic loss of my older sister to make himself real to my family. The reality of death and eternity pressed in on us. God later used by own rebellions to bring home to me my need for His presence, the reality of my sin & need for a Savior, as well as His provision of salvation & new life through Jesus. His grace and majesty became everything. I am indebted especially to the ministry of Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) in much of this.
We moved to Monroe, Louisiana mid-2019 to begin the work of “scratch” planting (no prior core group). Amid Covid we began gathering a Core Group in 2020, and Ouachita Pres officially launched in Easter of this year.
Evan: What led to you wanting to plant a church in North LA?
Harris: On the one hand, we were recruited by the MidSouth PCA Church Planting Network to consider planting in the Monroe / West Monroe area. This network exists to catalyze and resource planting Gospel-Centered PCA churches in West Tennessee, Arkansas, Mississippi, and Louisiana. Monroe / West Monroe is a population centered in North Louisiana where 75% of the population is not regularly involved in a Gospel believing church.
On the other hand, we began to discern how God was always preparing us for such a calling as this. Over the years God has pressed a more and more intolerable burden to see the Gospel take deeper root through the worked-over soil of my home culture, especially across racial and class divides. There are so many unchurched segments of our population who are just not going to darken the doors of a church community, unless such Gospel Community is birthed “in the wild” where people are. This is precisely the vision and mission for our work.
Evan: What have you been encouraged by in planting?
Harris: We have seen that this idea of planting in Monroe / West Monroe is not our gig but God’s! He has gone ahead of us, without us, and through us! I really have seen how the Gospel isthe power of God for salvation (Rom 1:16) in how he has been at work in unchurched and unbelieving spaces. We have seen the Lord’s hand in gathering specific and different people and families together from different backgrounds into Gospel Community. It’s a patient, “low and slow” process of caring for people and their stories, and yet God has gathered and established us. Half of our group has been “unchurched,” or “de-churched,” and we believe some have come to new life in Christ Jesus in this process.
Evan: How important is theology and the church’s mission?
Harris: Simply put, we are a Gospel Community on Mission – a community of people who are being bound together around the Truth & Person of the Gospel, who connect to God in worship, connect to one another in community, and connect to our community as missionaries. So our theology, our people and our mission are explicitly tied together! We want to reach engage our neighbors across the divides of Ouachita Parish with the glory & grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and to equip them to serve Him and His Kingdom in all of life. To borrow from the Westminster Confession of Faith / Second London Baptist Confession, we want to “gather and perfect the saints.” Everything I have just said is theology in action, centered around the message of the Gospel. I like to say that we are “theology-driven,” not “method-driven” in our ministry, but in this we are “compassion-shaped,” not “tribe-controlled”.
Evan: What are ways people can partner with you, get connected, etc?
Harris: First of all, pray for the Son of Man to heighten the work of His Holy Spirit in Monroe / West Monroe, for the Son of Man to seek and to save the lost, and so raise up more movement for His Kingdom across racial and “river” divides of our area. And as you pray, ask God to use this new Gospel community as part of this bigger picture.
Secondly, if you or people you may know might be interested in our particular Gospel Community and our mission, connect us together! You never know what God is up to in this! Thirdly, we welcome you to be part of our broader Support Team in partnering with us financially. You can find out more information at www.ouachitapres.org as well as our Facebook page.
Evan: Thank you for the Q&A! We will be praying for you, your family, and Ouachita Presbyterian Church!