The gumbo has been stirring ever since Brian Crain returned to his native Louisiana.
Crain left Texas eight years ago to found the Progression Church in Baton Rouge, which blossomed into an eclectic group of believers from various religious, ethnic, cultural, political and social backgrounds.
“I love it because it feels like it’s a reflection of the city,” said Crain of LSU’s Baptist Student Union Church, 3800 Highland Road. “I feel as far as faith is concerned, it’s kind of like gumbo. There’s a lot of stuff in this jar.”
Crain, 36, said it was exciting to see different groups come together regardless of previous denominational trends to grow in Christ.
“We certainly have many different denominations, ethnicities and political beliefs that make up our church,” he said. “We welcome him and point out Jesus, and we fight for unity,” he said.
The church is affiliated with the Southern Baptists.
“We are less concerned about which denomination they consider themselves,” Crain said. “Our goal is just to help people get to know Jesus and become more like Jesus. This is our hyper-focus.”
The experience allowed Crain to grow by learning to listen to the stories of others and gain a better understanding of their lives.
“Just being with people from different backgrounds really helped me with that,” he said. “We feel it has made me more empathetic towards people who haven’t grown up like me.”
Another important aspect of the Progression Church is its emphasis on reaching out to millennials and generations to come. Crain said he, his wife Hannah, and five other families helped plant Progression in 2014 with that in mind. Crain had been pastor of a church near Fort Worth, Texas.
“It was something that burned in our hearts,” he said. “We looked around to see where there were a lot of young people and where they were moving, so that’s when we came here to Baton Rouge and we ended up falling in love with the city.”
Millennials, Crain said, are less likely to believe in Jesus or join a church.
“Baton Rouge had a lot of young people,” he said. “It has a lot of college students; it has a lot of graduate students, a lot of young adults, a lot of young families, and it was something we were drawn to, that we felt called to minister to specifically.”
Authenticity is a strength of the progression, Crain said.
“We are a very relational church. We like to go out. We will not judge you when you walk in the door. We will only point to Jesus and ask him to change their life. I think everyone can adapt as long as they seek God,” he said.
A native of Deville, Crain was rescued at the age of 8.
“I was in a revival that I didn’t want to participate in,” he recalled. “The preacher was sharing the gospel and at the end of the service some kind of light came on. I realized that I was someone who needed to be saved. And Jesus was the only way to save me.”
In 2004, at the age of 18, Crain was attending a youth camp when he heard the call to the ministry.
“I think this sent me on a completely different trajectory in terms of how seriously I took my faith and how I was trying to share my faith with other people,” he said.
Even so, Crain tried to avoid his calling after starting the University of Louisiana in Monroe. But spending time in a campus ministry convinced him otherwise.
“It really helped shape the way I looked at missions, the church and things of that nature,” he said.
Crain went on to be a youth pastor in Wisner before heading to Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, where he earned a Masters in Divinity in 2013. It was during his time at Southwestern that Crain and some friends began formulating a plan to found Progression.
It is an advantage to be with others who can share your vision. Crain quotes Proverbs 13:20, which says in part “whoever walks with the wise will be wise”, as one of his motivational scriptures.
“This grabbed me very quickly every time I started surrounding myself with people to help me grow,” he said.
For more information on the Progression Church, visit www.progressionbr.com.