A video version of this interview is available on CBN's website, or by clicking here.
NEW ORLEANS, Louisiana – There is a saying that, as the church goes, so goes the nation - or in this case, the city. In New Orleans, many Christian leaders say that this is the hour God has given them to transform their city. But can a city so rooted in sin really change?
“It's amazing how resilient darkness can be, and it has proven to be that case right here in the French Quarter, particularly on Bourbon Street," said Gene Mills, president of PRC Compassion.
Mills is what you might call a pastor to pastors. PRC Compassion is a group of Christian leaders who believe that it is time for the church in Louisiana to take back the city of New Orleans from the spirits of darkness.
“There are spiritual strangleholds and strongholds that have existed here for generations,” Mills said, “and they are very resilient. They're not going to forfeit territory that has formally been theirs without a battle, and we know that battle is not a one-day battle, it's not a 100-day battle, it's an inter-generational struggle for the soul of this city and for the future of this state, and even the Gulf Coast region. So it's not discouraging, we believe it's predictable, but we also believe that it's not irreversible or permanent, but that we can overcome it."
But how? Even as much of New Orleans still lies in ruins, the city is preparing for its most famous party of the year - Mardi Gras. Well known for its outrageous, anything-goes atmosphere, it is also a party some say is rooted in something more sinister - the spirit of lawlessness.
Pastor Marvin Poole of Soul’s Harbor Church said, “That lawlessness just runs rampant, and that's what really creates the party atmosphere. [That] is still the problem in the city today…they don't have any respect for authorities. That's why we have to take over the city with the right spirit.”
He continued, “I think that the stronghold has been broken, and I think that the spirit would like to regain [control], but we know that the church is more powerful than that, if we can just get the church on location. And that's the whole idea: it's strategic that the church stay in the battle and that we continue -- that the stronghold that's been broken…we drive it completely out."
But how can the church take the land when many of the churches have been destroyed and the congregations scattered throughout the country?
"We received about eight feet of water from Hurricane Katrina,” said Pastor Fred Luter of Franklin Avenue Baptist Church. “Everything on the bottom level was eventually destroyed…It just brought tears to my eyes to see all that."
Not only did Luter almost lose his church, but he did, in fact, lose his congregation. The 7,000 or so members who attended lived in the upper Ninth Ward are displaced because of Hurricane Katrina.
"One thing I know about God is that He's into resurrections, and I believe that this city, this community, and in particular, this neighborhood, will be resurrected," Luter said.
And he is not giving up. With the help of PRC Compassion and many volunteers, Luter is rebuilding, in hopes of being - if not a church again - at least a community outreach, some place that people can come for help and hope.
“This is the time that I believe God has designated. It's time for us to come together as a people -- white, black, brown, gray, from different denominations -- and come together and lift up Jesus Christ," Luter said.
Mills said, “This is a fresh start - this is the next chapter of Louisiana history. The question is, will it be built around Canal Street, Bourbon Street, casinos, and Mardi Gras, what we've formerly been known for? Or will it be built around something as authentic as dream centers and churches, who were the real first responders, and who really have a desire to see this community built properly?"
CBN NEWS: A lot of people think New Orleans cannot survive without the sin, without being known for that -- but you're saying something different.
MILLS: I am. That was the old wine skin, and that's what this city was largely built around, that's what it's familiar with. Sadly, many people have not reconciled the fact that New Orleans and the "normal" that they once knew will never return exactly like it did...I mean, Scripture says it very clearly that when a spirit has been removed (and Katrina literally means ‘cleansing,’ -- although we don't believe that that cleansing has actually occurred - we believe that the dispersement has occurred), the cleansing will occur as men of God and the body of Christ come back in and lay claim to the territories that in the former years they forfeited. We're here to testify that these territories are the Lord's, and that He's sovereign above New Orleans, above Louisiana, and even above history.
CBN NEWS: It's more than just prayer walking.
MILLS: That's right, and it's happening -- we have round-the-clock intercession going on right now in houses throughout the city, we've got pastors who are gathering for historic occasions and moments where they've never gathered before. In some cities you had the spirit of competition -- God's healing that amongst the clergy -- and in some cities, like this one, you had the spirit of indifference, and that's being healed as well.
CBN NEWS: And do you see revival in New Orleans?
MILLS: I believe that we expect nothing less than revival, and we don't believe that it's just for New Orleans. It's been prophetically foretold, that even as Louisiana has had direct impact upon the rest of the nation -- in the Louisiana territories, in the European mixture, and the culture -- it's going to have an equally impactful [effect] on the United States, as that revival begins to sweep throughout the United States.
Until then, Mills says, any spirits of darkness that are still haunting these streets have been put on notice; but whether they pack their bags for good, will in large part, be up to the church.