Published 12:00 am Monday, May 16, 2005

Reserve Christian leader has been most all in 34 years



LAPLACE – There is a line in the Bible well known to most Christians, and it is something they all hope to hear when they arrive at the Pearly Gates.

“Well done, my faithful servant,” is an often quoted Scripture many preachers will tell their congregation, something that God will hopefully tell us after living our life on this earth.

For Pastor Rod Aguillard of the Reserve Christian Church, those words are already appropriate when you consider his history of serving people for 34 years in the ministry.

A well-respected member of the River Region community, Aguillard has pastored Reserve Christian for 34 years, since beginning the church in 1971.

Since then, he has seen the church grow to 700, been at the forefront of a national pro-life movement, been a part of an international missions group which now has missionaries in nearly 40 countries around the world, and started a school that has gotten state acclaim for its academics and its athletics.

But through it all, the 65-year-old now looks at the big picture of Christianity, and has returned to a very simple, yet powerful, philosophy.

“I’ve been through a lot, and at times I probably ran more people out of the church than I helped to get saved,” he said with a laugh. “But with age I’ve been tempered and God has really changed me, and really birthed a compassion for people. As I get older, I just want to love people. Sometimes I stand in front of the congregation and all I want to do is go hug everyone.”

For Aguillard, now very clearly a relaxed, content man with years of experience behind him, there has been decades of excitement, turmoil and challenges that brought him to this point.

For that matter, just becoming a Christian was tumultuous in itself.

Raised in a middle class Baptist home in Eunice, La., his father was a sales manager for Ford Motor Company, and although he recalls his father having “the fear of the Lord,” there wasn’t a real active Christian life lived in his home.

“My mother was a great mother, but not really devoted to the Lord until later in life. And dad didn’t really become committed until after he had a stroke at the age of 53,” he said.

But Aguillard said it was a very committed aunt who had the first influence on him.

“I would hunt on weekends at my aunt’s house and I always remember how she would hold Bible studies, and always pray with me a lot,” he said.

Even with that foundation deep within him, Aguillard had some pretty wild times ahead of him before getting set on the track he is today.

Finishing high school, he married at the age of 19, went to college and got a job with Air Products, which eventually had him transferred to Chalmette.

His wife Mary was staying home with their two children, but Aguillard admits he was the man on the town.

“I was a partier, not saved and really making it hard on my wife. Then it really got worse when she got saved in a Baptist Church in 1964. I was jealous of the church, the pastor, everything she was suddenly involved in and my marriage was falling apart,” he recalled.

One night proved to be the worst night of his life, and probably the best.

“I stayed out all night, and when I came home, she told me she had enough, picked up the kids and left,” he said. “I just got in the bathtub and cried out to God to help me. I got saved right there.”

Aguillard said he felt like God impressed upon him the need to immediately change three areas of his life.

“I knew the night life had to go, the drinking had to stop, and the gambling had to stop as well,” he said. “But amazingly, I stopped all of that immediately and never did any of it again. The only problem with all that was getting Mary to believe it was true.”

So radical was the change in his life that it again created problems at home.

“After a while Mary knew I had changed for real,” he stated. “But my conversion was like Paul. It was so radical that she had trouble making the changes with me. Within months I was a youth pastor at the church, and within a year I wanted to leave my job and go into full time ministry. That didn’t go over so well.”

Aguillard had been doing well with Air Products. From his supervisor position, he was now being offered a plant manager job in Alabama, but knew it was a crossroads in his life.

“When I decided to go full time into the ministry and pass up that Alabama job, I think Mary must have cried about it for a year,” he said, chuckling a little many years later. “But finally the Lord spoke to her about our future in the ministry, and it was settled.”

Aguillard was filling in at the Reserve Baptist Mission locally, then took it over full time and saw the church grow from 25 members to 120. Then he was drawn to the charismatic movement, and changed to Reserve Church in 1974.

“That was when we really exploded with growth,” he remarked. “We began home ‘Care Groups,’ and built up to 700 members at our peak.”

The Reserve School was built in 1974, and the church built a worship facility in those years that was 22,000 square feet, and debt free. After the original purchase of 14 acres, they now have added 25 more acres, and are within a year of beginning construction on a 1,700 seat sanctuary right next to the current building.

But the many chapters in Aguillard’s life still remain the most interesting aspect to what he has been involved with.

In 1986, he became seriously involved with the national Operation Rescue pro-life movement, where churches joined forces to picket abortion clinics, and got arrested numerous times in acts of civil disobedience.

“We felt like the killing of babies was so close to God’s heart that as Christians, we had to do anything we could to stop it,” he said. “We were involved in what we called the siege of Atlanta, where we picketed for three months and had hundreds and hundreds arrested. We know that we saved many babies in that time.”

Aguillard said he has been arrested over a dozen times, but believes the Operation Rescue movement is the act that has changed the heart of the nation about abortion.

“That movement brought abortion to the forefront of the national consciousness,” he said. “And now I believe Roe v. Wade is going to be overturned before Bush leaves office. We realized that if we didn’t stop the killing of the unborn, then what would be next? Children who have disabilities, old people? Abortions have brought about what I call ‘Hitler thinking’ where we are the ones deciding who is good enough to live.”

He calls those years with the abortion movement, covering almost five years of activism, “my best time of ministry in fulfilling God’s purpose for me. That was a time the church truly laid down its life for the innocent. And I believe God is going to honor that by overturning Roe v. Wade.”

Aguillard was also one of the founders of the Gulf States Mission Association, which now has missionaries in 30 to 40 nations, as well as having started 150 churches in Russia.

But through all his success in the ministry, Aguillard finds himself now getting back to the basics.

“I’ve learned the absolute necessity of balancing truth and mercy. God used my wife to temper me, and he used some family situations to break us enough,” he said fighting back tears, thinking on the five children he now has. “Now I just want to love people. The testimony of our life should show that we are here to love God and love people. When you do that, people will examine their own lives and respond.”

With his son Stephen Aguillard slowly moving into a position to take over the leadership of the church within approximately two years, Aguillard said he is pretty satisfied with the effort he has given in service.

“We always can look at our lives and know that we could have done a lot more,” he said. “But in my older age, I’m just so grateful for what the Lord has done through me. We have this campus, we have helped so many people, and He’s done it all by taking something from the middle of nowhere and created a good work. It’s such a testimony to the grace of God.”

Pastor optimistic about revival in the family



LAPLACE – Reserve Church Pastor Rod Aguillard probably has as much experience helping families as any man in the ministry.

And his view of the changing society we live in, and the affect it has had on families, is actually optimistic, even with so much around us to be concerned about.

“No doubt the moral roots in our country have been lost over the past years,” he acknowledged. “But I feel optimistic that we have seen the worst of it, and I believe a change is coming to our families.”

Aguillard said that he has seen materialism almost destroy the family unit, but he thinks that cycle is coming to an end.

“I think families are beginning to realize that materialism is not going to make their kids happy, and I really believe a grass roots revival in our country is coming,” he said.

“The last election proved what our country is looking for. Look at all the red states that voted for Bush and what he stands for. But what most people don’t realize is that even in New York and California that went for Kerry, almost the entire state other than New York City, San Francisco and the Los Angeles area also voted for Bush,” he noted.

“To see that map was so encouraging for me, just because I think it shows what families are looking for,” he added.

Aguillard is especially concerned with what has happened in the inner cities, and he believes the change in society is going to start in the black churches first.

“I think you are going to see the black churches in the big cities lead the way to the change,” he remarked. “Black churches have some of the most fantastic spiritual roots, and when they return to that, all the problems are going to change.”

In dealing with the many families he has counseled over the years, he understands so many who believe nothing can help them.

But he puts his own life up as an example of what the power of God can do.

“If you look at what I went through, and how I changed, you know that God can do an amazing work,” he said. “Man’s greatest need is for righteousness. Deep down, we all want to feel like we are a good person. And that only comes when you acknowledge your sin, and ask God to help you.

“We have seen so many families changed. We have former drug addicts in our church who are now some of our leaders. We have marriages that have been saved after being on the brink of falling apart. So I know that even the worst situation can be changed when people turn their lives over to the Lord,” he said.

“Now that I’m older, I just want us to have a chance to show people the love of God, since I know how powerful that can be to help people,” he added.