Shreveport’s activist community has rallied together in recent weeks.
Actually, it is more than just activists. The changes proposed by Broadmoor Baptist Church to the stretch of land from Youree to Finley between Leo and Atlantic in the Broadmoor neighborhood have been a topic of discussion for many locals of late. To be fair, though, much of the conversation has been one-sided. The Broadmoor Baptist leadership has been conspicuously absent from the discussion, but not by choice. It seems that much of the coverage has been of the “human interest” variety, and Broadmoor Baptist has been cast in that narrative as the “boogey-man.” In the interest of advancing the story and not the narrative, Henry Harbor invited Broadmoor Baptist to tell its side of the story.
So, what exactly are the proposed changes that worked everybody up into a frenzy?
“We are building a new worship center in our south parking lot, Dr. Chuck Pourciau, senior pastor at Broadmoor Baptist Church, explained. “The new building will eliminate over 100 of our parking spaces. Therefore, we are seeking a way to reclaim what we are losing as well as providing for growth. Our contemporary worship service is housed in a gym that will seat between 500 and 600. It quickly outgrew that space, so we added an early morning service to provide space until we could build another building. We are averaging over 800 in those two services. The new space will seat 1,200. So, we are addressing a current need, not a future one.”
According to Dr. Pourciau, there has been some unfair coverage of the situation as it unfolds. “A blog post appeared on a website accusing Broadmoor Baptist of being a bully for seeking permission to pave these lots,” Pourciau writes in a letter recently released. “Nothing could be further from the truth,” he continued. “We think we are going about it the right way. Before the request was sent to the Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA), we sent a letter to our neighbors explaining what we were seeking and asking them to express any concerns. We then went door to door to talk with them about concerns. For the most part, any initial concerns they had were eliminated when we explained what we were doing. We heard no serious opposition until the meeting of the ZBA. The ZBA denied our original plan. Therefore, we will present another (different) plan to the City Council. But we will do so only after meeting with our neighbors and coming up with a plan that meets our needs and addresses their concerns.”
Pastor Pourciau did have one point he wanted to emphasize: “We will not be re-presenting the same plan that was rejected by the ZBA. That’s a story that’s having difficulty finding its way into all this publicity.”
In the before mentioned letter, Dr. Pourciau also wrote, “Almost 15 years, Broadmoor Baptist Church had a decision to make. Do we remain at our present location on Youree Drive or do we relocate to a newer part of the city? We decided that God had called us to the Broadmoor neighborhood, and we would be going against His will to leave.” Immediately upon reading this I was reminded of Thomas Merton’s famous words, “The fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so…” Is it possible that fifteen years ago the Broadmoor Baptist leadership, though with the best of intentions, made the wrong decision and stayed at their current location? Dr. Pourciau answered,
A dozen years ago, we were able to purchase homes on the block behind our church for $50 per square foot. In the intervening years, we have greatly improved the looks of our property as we have grown. Evidence of our being good for the Broadmoor community can be found in the fact that the last home we purchased on the same block was at a price of over $100 per square foot. We’ve tried to improve our campus, and we’ve tried to be good neighbors. For the most part, I feel we’ve had great success in doing so. 
If I am honest, this does not sit well with me. It sounds as if “God’s will” is measured monetarily, like the price per square foot is the official metric system of the kingdom. Had I asked a businessman the same question, I would have expected such an answer. But from a preacher, I expect something different. I expect an answer that mentions meaningful interactions with the people of the neighborhood. Is this a fair expectation? Should Broadmoor Baptist be held to a higher moral standard than a normal business, I asked Dr. Pourciau.
“We are a part of the Broadmoor neighborhood and our presence in this neighborhood is good for the neighborhood,” he responded. “We should be expected to handle every situation we encounter as the Word of God teaches. And that is our goal in every interaction we have with people in Broadmoor and on the other side of the world.”
I am unaware of the New Testament blue print for expanding churches. That does not mean there isn’t one—I am sure one can be extrapolated from scripture—but it certainly isn’t as well known or often quoted as, “Sell your possessions and give to the poor.” For many the metric is, not attendance, expansion, or square footage, but love and compassion for the poor and weak. Perhaps this is the source of outrage for many. They see the church deviating from Jesus’ teachings on poverty as a deviation from the Christian path itself. They see it as hypocrisy, and mission trips do not seem to erase this image. It is this image that seems to be at the center of the public outcry.
Dr. Pourciau has a different theory. “I think the primary reason there has been such great interest is because the story has not been accurately reported. The blog that ignited this firestorm contained more untruths than truths. The KSLA story failed to reveal something very important to the way this will be perceived. If you watch the KSLA story, you think we are just trying to get the same plan we presented to the ZBA passed by the City Council. That is not true, and that will not happen. And we made that very clear to the KSLA reporter, but she chose to omit that very important aspect. We are going to change the plan in a way that is more acceptable to the neighborhood. Then, and only then, will it be voted on by the City Council. If people knew the truth of what was really going on, they would conclude that it’s not such a big story after all.”
 Dr. Pourciau later submitted the following clarification to the noted comment:“You are correct, the inner urging of God can often be misread. It’s not as objective as the written Word. But two things make me sure that we made the right decision. First, it wasn’t the determination of just a few people that God wanted us to remain in Broadmoor. It was the unanimous determination of the entire church family. Second, subsequent events and relationships have confirmed that decision was correct. From a purely fiscal standpoint, we have improved our property and property values around the church have increased. Also, a very large percentage of our church family is from the neighborhood. Would we attract as many if we had moved? Additionally, we pour ourselves into our neighborhood each year with events aimed at reaching and ministering to our neighbors. And the neighbors have responded very favorably. Finally, God has increased the worldwide witness of our church exponentially. We have partnerships with missionaries on every continent except Australia and Antarctica. And I believe that’s a result of being obedient to the leading of God at home.”