Church Under a Tree: Christians in Baton Rouge, LA, ‘Leave the 99 to Seek the One’ Outside the Church Walls

Imagine a church with no pews, no piano, no sermon, no offering. In fact, no walls or roof.

Imagine a church outside on the streets, ministering like Jesus did to the lost, the needy, the hurting, the homeless and the downtrodden.

Ed Doyle did.

That is the concept behind Church Under a Tree, which meets at 5 p.m. every Sunday under an oak tree at Repentance Park, between the Raising Cane’s River Center and the Old State Capitol.

“Imagine Jesus sitting under a tree surrounded by a small circle of seekers sharing the gospel of grace and unconditional love and mercy and redemption,” said Doyle, one of the four leaders of the Church Under a Tree. “Church buildings and church people have a beautiful and valuable place in God’s kingdom. But we are called to serve God in a very different way. That’s what Church Under a Tree is called to do: to do church like Jesus did.”

Doyle, 59, started Church Under a Tree about two months ago after serving in various ministries at Star Hill Church. He alternates teaching Sundays with his wife, Julie, and also Erika LeSha and Clovis Williams, both of whom attend Star Hill. Williams also is part of Grace and Truth Church in Scotlandville.

“We have very different spiritual giftings and very different teaching styles,” Doyle said. “We think it’s a huge honor and privilege to meet those people under a tree.”

Doyle said his special call to outreach was based on Luke 15:1, where Jesus shares the parable of a shepherd who left 99 sheep to find one that was lost.

“Julie and I have been in organized church our entire life. This is our first street ministry. While the church serves the 99, we serve the one,” he said. “Our prayer is that, as we continue to leave the 99 and seek the one, God will bring one person under the tree each week that needs Jesus.”

The Church Under a Tree gatherings last about an hour. Doyle said there is a core group of about seven people who show up regularly, but as many as 50 people have attended.

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The Advocate