The mission of Elevate Church of Baton Rouge is in its name.

Seeking to lift the lives of people near and far, Elevate Church and Keith Richard, pastor, is inspired by Ephesians 2:6: "And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus."

"To me, that is the personification of our ministry, that we are looking to elevate people to get them into that place of heavenly places in Christ Jesus, to take them from where there is no hope and being in despair to being seated in heavenly places," Richard said.

"What I see for Elevate in the future," he continued, "is raising up leaders that will go forth, that will share the gospel so that we can expand beyond just the establishment of Elevate Church, but we're really reaching marketplace people, that we'll have ministers in the marketplace and the communities and the schools and throughout the city, and then throughout the state and throughout the nation and internationally."

The 5-year old church meets at Cortana Mall and draws an eclectic group of members and visitors.

"It's an unordinary place for unordinary people," Richard said. "It's amazing to see people from all walks of life coming together from homeless to doctors to club-goers. All assemble in one place, just glorifying God and loving on Jesus. … We have blue-collar people and no-collar people and the white-collar people."

Church members are "intentional in reaching and loving people," Richard said. "When people come through the doors, we want them to feel the tangible love of God. We're walking this life journey out with them. It's amazing to see people taking on the responsibility of being a part and being our brother's keeper."

Elevate Church had its beginnings in service to the homeless population and still holds a special place for that community.

For the past 10 years, Richard has been a part of a feeding program in downtown Baton Rouge called Church on the Levee. The outreach program fulfills the mandate of Christ in Matthew 25 to feed the hungry and clothe the naked, Richard said.

The program feeds and helps the needy each Thursday. Richard said the program also offers a time of fellowship. He said he's seen the homeless find homes and jobs and get their lives back on track.

"Throughout all of that, we get to celebrate some of the life stories of individuals," he said. 

The 47-year-old Baker native said his passion for service was instilled in him by his parents.

"As a child, I watched my parents make sacrifices for our neighbors, for our community," he said. "We always gave our neighbors who were lacking."

He said his mother donated clothes and his father was known as the neighborhood coach.

Seeing people go from nothing "to now having hope, some having housing and employment" continues to drive him, Richard said. 

The Church on the Levee ministry helped forge the way for Elevate Church.

"It wasn't the design at first, but we saw God begin to move," Richard said. "We didn't see a need for a building, but God began to rapidly bless the ministry and the work, so (Elevate) just kind of birthed out of that."

The Elevate ministry began in 2013 — 13 years after Richard started in ministry. But his journey began much earlier.

"People prophesied it," he said. "My grandmother told it when I was at the age of 7 months and declared it over my life. … We've been carrying this vision for a while."

Richard worked with various ministries, including Voices of Faith and Bethany World Prayer Center, where he said he found the Lord as a senior at Baker High School. Richard was saved while competing in Bethany's basketball league.

At Voices of Faith, Richard said he learned how to develop and start churches.

After starting five years ago, Elevate Church moved into Cortana Mall last year. While many tenants have steadily left the mall area, Elevate has seen steady growth.

"It's been phenomenal," Richard said, noting visitors' attendance is up 60 percent. "We've seen our church membership increase by 40 percent. (At Tuesday night Bible study), people just walk in off the mall corridor and walk right into church and give their lives to Christ."

Richard said the church needs more chairs to accommodate everyone.

"They sat in front of glass in the corridors and worship with us," he said. "It's a sight to see and quite an experience to encounter."

Elevate Church meets at 11 a.m. Sunday and 6:30 p.m. Tuesday for Bible study at 9401 Cortana Place, Suite 26. Contact the church at (225) 308-9906, email info@elevatechurchbr.com or visit facebook.com/elev8church/.

'Daily' reading

The Rev. Jerome N. Terry doesn't take the scriptures for granted.

The scriptures led Terry to Christ at an early age and sustained him through two military tours in Vietnam.

"The scriptures have been very valuable to me. I do believe that the scriptures are guidelines for life," said Terry, a resident of LaPlace and pastor of Bethel Lutheran Church in New Orleans.

Terry, 67, has put together some of his favorite scriptures in the new devotional book "Daily As I Rise," (Westbow Press). He will be signing copies of his book from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Oct. 27 at Gospel Book Store, 91 Westbank Expressway, Suite 410, in Gretna.

"I hate to admit it, but it took me 11 years to do it," he said. "I thought God wanted everything decent and in order. I couldn't just put anything out there. I took my time writing what God led me to write. I believe this is what he wanted out there."

The 224-page book includes 366 daily devotions each with a scripture, Terry's thoughts and a prayer.

For example: Day 66 — Terry starts out with Romans 8:37: "No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him how loved us." Then he adds: "Life challenges us to live in his world yet remain apart from it. The world seeks to condemn our every action because it does not coincide with the ways of this world. Because we are different, we are attacked by those whose father is the prince of this world. The people of the world encourage Christians to adopt what the world considers as acceptable. If not, the world seeks to persecute followers of Christ, even to the point of death. Never betray the call of Christ as this leads to the better of the two choices: which is eternal life. The world leads to eternal death."

A New Orleans native, Terry served in the Army from 1968-71 and worked for the telephone company and U.S. Postal Service among other jobs. 

He graduated from Concordia Seminary St. Louis in 1986. In 2001, he took over as pastor of Bethel Lutheran, 4127 Franklin Ave. He was a longtime member of Trinity Lutheran Church in the Lower 9th Ward.

For more information, contact Terry at iamapreacherman@att.net.