Since taking over as pastor last year at Cedarcrest Baptist Church in Baton Rouge, the Rev. John Adams is guiding members toward more involvement in the community.
"It is vital," Adams said. "The church is here to serve. That's one of the most important things that the church can do. You know: love your neighbors."
The pandemic has hampered some outreach efforts over the past year, but Saturday, March 27, starts a new chapter as Cedarcrest Baptist plans to reach out in an unprecedented way.
The church is teaming up with the Cedarcrest Southmoore Civic Association for an Easter parade. The parade is scheduled to start at 12:30 p.m. at the north part of Cedarcrest subdivision and end at the church, 2020 Cedarcrest Ave. (Cedarcrest at Old Hammond Highway), with an Easter egg hunt, food, games, inflatables, cotton candy and a gospel puppet show.
"It's a great way to bring the community together," Adams said. "It'll be a great time of gathering. … The church has not really been involved in a lot of community activities. We're excited to partner with the community that's really behind our church."
This, said Adams, is only the beginning.
The church also plans to be of service to students at nearby Cedarcrest Southmoore Elementary School in the fall, he said, once "coronavirus restrictions are different."
The parade is part of a busy week for Adams and Cedarcrest Baptist in counting down to Easter on April 4. Over the past several weeks, Adams had been sharing a sermon series from Romans. On Palm Sunday and Easter, he will pivot to Christ and the Resurrection.
"The first thing I'm going to remind people is they need Jesus. That will be the focal point," he said. "But next, I'll show them proof of the Resurrection; the fact that the grave is empty."
Adams, 56, was 29 when he recognized his need for Jesus. It happened at a renewal event in November 1992.
"I realized who I was as a sinner, and I realized that in and of myself I had no power to save myself. I trusted Jesus to be my Lord and Savior," said Adams, who was born in Puerto Rico but grew up in Baton Rouge and the Houston area.
Two years later, Adams answered his call to ministry.
But Adams' journey to the pulpit at Cedarcrest Baptist hasn't been easy. He lost his wife after she had battled many health issues, and as he was trying to raise two of three children at home and working a couple of jobs.
"I was the one who found her on the couch and tried to resuscitate her and had to call 911," he said of his wife's death. "That was a great challenge. It was really difficult."
Adams said God opened doors for him to attend New Orleans Theological Seminary in 2012. But it took eight years for Adams to graduate because of work, family and part-time ministry obligations.
Then came the 2016 flood that forced Adams to increase his ministry work and decrease his academic workload.
"Throughout the time, (the Lord) continued to lead me in a multitude of ways," Adams said. "I had to learn how to multitask really well. Obviously, it was much greater work than I was capable of. I'm thankful that the Lord saw fit to see me through. Of course, he's still walking with me through this great ministry here at Cedarcrest."
Adams, who graduated and was named the Cedarcrest pastor in January 2020, said it was important for him to obtain his seminary degree.
"The seminary training was really vital to gaining the knowledge and equipping aspect so you can serve in ministry to a greater degree," Adams said. "In ministry, you come across people who are a variety of walks of life and a variety of social classes. So consequently, you have to be able to relate to all of them and be able to communicate to them in an effective way."
During his challenging times, Adams said he has learned to lean on one of favorite scriptures from Romans 8:28, believing that "all things work together for good to them that love God."
"It means that in spite of the circumstances of my life and everything that may exist in the human perspective in opposition to me, and working against me, that does not coincide with the biblical truth that all things work together for my good, for those who are called by God and those who are called for his purposes," Adams said. "I'm extremely blessed that God used his word to remind me all the time in multiple of areas how he's there every step of the way."
Adams hopes his story helps in "reaching the community and showing the necessity of the church and the community working together to make our community better and to glorify the Lord through it."
For more information on Cedarcrest Baptist, visit cedarcrestbc.com.