Faith Matters for Feb. 8, 2014

Some heartache in his own life has only served to give Keith McAllister a greater heart of compassion for others.

“When I meet people, I’m very careful,” said McAllister, the pastor of White Dove Church in Baton Rouge. “You never know what kind of difficulty or what kind of pain they’re experiencing. They may not even open up and tell you what they’re going through but an act of kindness can make their day a little better for them. You got to be real careful about that and cognizant of that and be kind to people.”

McAllister, 58, said he remembers the kindness shown to him and his family after the sudden death of his 12-year-old son in 1994.

“We thought that life couldn’t go on,” McAllister said.

It was people from many different churches and others who helped the family through their heartache, McAllister said.

“When you’re going through life, there are guardrails, and those guardrails don’t suffocate you or smother you; they keep you from going over the edge,” he said. “And people served as guardrails to protect us, to help us along until we could get to a point where we could get out of danger so to speak. It was a very emotional time.”

McAllister said he also remembers the heartache of loneliness as a child. His parents divorced, his mother suffered from mental illness and his father was absent during that time. McAllister and his three younger siblings ended up in foster care, but he found a friend in Jesus.

“I felt so alone with people that we didn’t know, and I had a visitation from the Lord that assured me that even though this was a difficult time and I had my siblings that I had to look after even at 8 or 9 years old, He was there with me and was orchestrating and directing my life,” McAllister said.

Those difficult periods and losing a child shaped McAllister’s ministry, he said.

“Those two experiences I’d never forget. Both of them have helped me have a heart of compassion,” said McAllister, who felt his call to the ministry at age 13 and started preaching at 15.

“Ministry to me is following the commands of Christ to care about your brother and your sister, serve God, live for God and care about your fellow man and serve them,” he said.

McAllister took over as pastor of the then-House of Praise Church, an independent interdenominational church, in 1986.

The church rented space in different places in the North Sherwood Forest area for several years before purchasing 7 aces in 1995 at 10957 Greenwell Springs Road.

In 2012, the church became White Dove Church-Baton Rouge after merging with Harvey-based White Dove Church led by church planter Mike Millé. White Dove also has locations in Lafayette, Slidell and Magnolia, Ark.

White Dove-Baton Rouge moved into its own building in April. It has a diverse congregation of about 100 people and seating for 250, McAllister said.

“We expect to grow into that number in the next three to five years, then from there build again as the need presents itself,” he said.

McAllister said among the Baton Rouge’s church goals is a separate facility on its campus for a two-year mentoring and rehab for men dealing with substance abuse. The voluntary program would include helping the men obtain their GEDs and other education and job training and transportation.

The program would be in line with one of the promises McAllister made after getting a permit from the parish to build the church.

“We want to help people become good responsible citizens and productive contributors in the community, regardless of race, creed, color or financial backing. It doesn’t matter,” he said.

One of McAllister’s key scriptures is “Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven” from Matthew 5:16.

“It means we do great works for the purpose that others may be touched and God may receive the glory, because anytime we draw attention to ourselves, then there is a danger of becoming a god unto yourself. Then we lose sight of what we’re supposed to be doing, the work of the ministry anyway,” he said.

Study of Hebrews

Laypeople don’t spend enough time studying strong doctrinal books such as Hebrews, said Kathy Stewart, author of “Hebrews: It’s Not How You Start — It’s How You Finish” (WestBow Press).

Stewart, who received a Ph.D. in Christian education from Southwest Bible College and Seminary in Sulphur and lives in Virginia, subtitled her book “A Study Guide to the Most Encouraging Book in the New Testament,” and the book is constructed in such a way with questions and fill-in-the blank portions throughout.

But Stewart does provide some valuable information about the book whose authorship had been a source of much “scholarly speculation” for centuries.

Stewart goes on to emphasize how Hebrews shows Jesus as greater than the prophets and all of the other creative beings and now serves as our high priest in heaven.

Chapters in the 154-page guide includes “God Has Spoken Through His Son,” “Warning: The Danger of Drifting Away,” “Are You Dull of Hearing” and “The Lord’s Oath.”

Bible-minded Baton Rouge?

Baton Rouge is the 25th most “bible-minded” city in the country, according to a recent survey by the American Bible Society and the Barna Group.

“Bible-mindedness” was calculated based on combined levels of regular Bible reading and residents’ belief in the Bible’s accuracy, according to the biblegateway.com. ABS reportedly conducted a combined telephone and online survey over a seven-year period ending in August 2013, asking 46,274 adults if they read the Bible within a past week of being surveyed and if they agreed strongly in the Good Book’s accuracy. The two components were classified as “Bible-mindedness.”

Shreveport ranked fifth in “bible-mindedness.” Chattanooga, Tenn., took the No. 1 spot in the survey.

The survey ranked the Providence, R.I., and New Bedford, Mass., areas as the least bible-minded.

For more information, go to americanbible.org.

What do you think of the survey, Baton Rouge?

Faith Matters runs every other Saturday in The Advocate. Terry Robinson can be reached at (225) 388-0238 or email trobinson@theadvocate.com