By Philip Timothy, Baptist Message Editor
ALEXANDRIA, La. (LBM) — John Hebert has always been a team player — first as a standout basketball player for Rapides High School in Lecompte, where he was named the state tournament’s Most Valuable Player.” Top 20″ from 1973 until today.
But after years of avoiding individual attention, his service record and personal accomplishments are in the spotlight after announcing his retirement date of December 31, 2022. Hebert announced his intention on November 2 to put end of his 23 years of official service in Louisiana. Baptists, the last 11 as team director of the LBC Missions and Ministry team.
“It’s been quite a journey,” Hebert told The Baptist Message. “I just feel like it’s the right time.”
He joined the Louisiana Baptist staff on October 18, 1999, working in the new division/department of labor under Mike Canady. “It was essentially a ministry of compassion,” Hebert said.
But it would be challenged six years later when Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in August 2005 and storm surge broke levees in two places, ravaging the Lower Ninth Ward with catastrophic flooding.
A month later, Hurricane Rita hit the state.
Reeling from the double whammy, Louisiana Baptists once again rolled up their sleeves and got to work, and Hebert was there, working alongside thousands of volunteers.
The response for the victims of Katrina and Rita was massive as the state and many Baptist disaster relief volunteers from across the country responded. Most recovery efforts have targeted New Orleans, which lost 50 of Louisiana’s 140 Baptist congregations as well as damage to homes and businesses. But help was also needed in southwest Louisiana, which suffered catastrophic flooding and severe wind damage, and Hebert became the LBC’s “go-to man on the ground.”
“I was particularly qualified because I had a business background, trucking experience, knowledge of the transportation world, and knew a lot of people in and around the state,” Hebert said.
He also had a tenacious work ethic that allowed him to help coordinate the two massive cleanup operations.
This proved to be good on-the-job training, as Hebert faced three major hurricanes over the next three years. In all, Hebert said, he faced 12 major storms, a 100-year flood in central and northeast Louisiana and a 1,000-year flood in the south.east of Louisiana.
“And we can’t forget two major ice storms, not to mention countless tornadoes, tropical storms and depressions,” he said. “Disaster relief has come a long way in Louisiana. Of course, with all these storms, we had a lot of training.
Hebert said Louisiana Baptist Disaster Relief learned on the job and gained experience to:
– manage statewide disaster relief from the Louisiana Baptist Building;
— develop an incident command center made up of all Louisiana volunteers;
— re-establishing a strong volunteer base after losing so many workers to the 2006 floods; and
– to create the only program for the construction of state missions in the country.
On January 1, 2011, he went from “pointer” to “guy in charge” when he was promoted to missions and ministry team director by former Louisiana Baptist executive director David Hankins.
“When I took over I brought a whiteboard into the office and we used it like my coach (Rick Huckabay) used one when I played basketball. sure, but now they’re rushing to the board with updated numbers on all the projects we’re doing.”
The missions and ministry team has put impressive numbers on this chart along with ambitious goals, such as planting 300 churches in 10 years by 2020. Three major hurricanes and two years of pandemic restrictions have delayed the achievement of this two-year milestone. , but on Tuesday, November 15, Hebert and his team celebrated the establishment of the 300th congregation at the 175th annual meeting of LBC.
“I helped Dr. Hankins formulate and then launch this plan that was part of the president’s 2020 Commission report,” Hebert said. “The goal was twofold, to reach New Orleans and do more with groups of people, especially the Spanish population who was and is the fastest growing group in the state.”
Hebert is also proud of the 10-3-1 strategy the team has developed for church planting.
This simple formula requires leaders to develop a 10-year goal based on a three-year strategy that is driven by a one-year timeline.
“I believe this will become a national strategy,” Hebert said.
REACHING THE NEXT GENERATION
Hebert said his team has seen Louisiana Baptist church plants flourish since 2010, as evidenced by:
— 14,451 professions of faith;
— 5,583 baptisms;
— 2,739 worship attendance average (comprising 12% of all current worshipers in LBC churches);
— 116 different cities or towns impacted, and 27 associations out of 32;
— 59 replantings.
Hebert also said the diversity of new congregations (55% were non-English speaking and 14 different people groups were engaged) is also a good sign of health and growth for Baptists in Louisiana.
Additionally, Hebert said he was extremely proud of the work of the women’s ministry.
“They do wonderful work focusing on engaging women, teens, children, and preschoolers in missionary life, as well as securing funding through Georgia Barnette State Missions Giving. We might actually hit our $1.7 million goal this year and it’s all down to the efforts of Christine (Gill) and her team. Glory to God.
IN GOOD HANDS
Hebert, who has hired all but two of the current mission and ministry team, said whoever takes over will be in “good hands.”
“I’m totally lucky to have worked with some of the most talented and gifted people in the world,” Hebert said. “I would put this team against anyone. They are hardworking, dedicated and focused on serving Louisiana Baptists.
Louisiana Baptist executive director Steve Horn took advantage of a moment of personal privilege on Tuesday at the annual meeting to wish Hébert a happy retirement and pay tribute to him.
“I don’t know if many of you know this or not, but John Hebert is retiring at the end of this year. While I will miss his humor, hard work, and seeing him daily, I suspect he will often find his way back to the building. I know you will join me in thanking John for his friendship and his years of service to Louisiana Baptists.
A humble Hébert received a standing ovation from the messengers.
Later, at the missions and ministry luncheon, he told a large crowd that he was “giving all the glory to God.”
Asked about his future plans, Hebert told the gathering: “I think I will eventually work on revitalizing the church, but for now I have the best squirrel dog I have ever had. and I plan to spend time in the woods hunting”.