#CulturalExchange: Short Interviews w/ Local Change Agents
Ronaldo Hardy is the pastor at Love Alive Church
Urban Renewal: For those unfamiliar with you, who is Ronaldo Hardy and what are the driving forces behind your work?
Ronaldo Hardy: People know me for my work as Lead Pastor of Love Alive Church, my profession, husband of Cristian, and father of Raynah, Josiah, Laylah, and Melah. However, at the core of who I am, I’m simply a people builder with the desire to see others reach their full potential. My personal mission statement is to change the world by building people who will change the world.
My daily contributions to Baton Rouge are fueled by my belief that I can make a difference in someone’s life who can in turn do the same to uplift the community. Although it may seem I am involved in a number of different things that have no overlap to the naked eye, I see a consistency in all things I do. In fact, I believe I do one thing many different ways. I build people. Whether that’s at the credit union, at the church, in my home, or my local community, all of my work leads to the same outcome.
UR: As a relatively young pastor in Baton Rouge, what are the philosophies you seek to bring to the faith based community that differs from some of your elder clergymen?
RH: Love Alive serves people. We have sought to pull down the barriers that have kept people from the church. When we say come as you are, we mean it… from your heart, your problems, your finances to what you decide to wear. I believe it’s my responsibility to lead the way on what that looks like, which is why you can catch me in jeans and Lebrons on any given Sunday.
We also lead a community centered model as a church. What I mean by that is that Love Alive is a place where a collective community of talented and unique people gather to be empowered through the Word of God and create change in our world together. Although my wife and I pastor Love Alive, we have abandoned many long term traditions about who can lead. We worship from the audience and not the stage, and work to set the example of what it looks like to passionately pursue God. If you arrive at church early, you would probably have a hard time figuring out who the pastor is because we are often mingling with others and serving with our hospitality team. It’s a fresh approach that has been well received, and I believe it is the catalyst to our rapid growth.
Through service I have discovered my purpose and live by example to show the congregation that it is all possible through your stewardship to God’s assignment.
UR: You recently were named to the Baton Rouge Business Report 2018 “Forty Under 40” class. What would you say is the value of young African American business leaders in Baton Rouge being recognized for their achievements?
RH: I believe there is tremendous value in it because it provides an opportunity for our work to be seen by an audience of people who would not ordinarily be exposed to what we do. In a society that routinely creates a less than favorable narrative surrounding African American contributions, I believe it is vital that we drive the discussion in a different direction.
UR: In an era where many young people are distancing themselves from the church/formal religious institutions, how do you appeal to young people with regards to attending your services?
RH: Our appeal starts with the elimination of a religious mindset. I love getting into a conversation that begins with someone informing me that they aren’t religious. You can only imagine how surprised they look when I say neither am I. My goal is to emphasize relationship with God over everything. Religion places rules at the forefront, where relationship places love at the forefront. I do believe a relationship with Christ causes transformative change, much like romantic relationships also cause us to change.
We have crafted a contemporary worship experience that blends a unique movie style atmosphere, with dynamic worship, and a relatable word designed to bring success into every facet of people’s lives. Before launching Love Alive Church, we noticed that our city lacked an African American led contemporary worship experience. So we worked to bring something that did not already exist here. Something we felt people were looking for. We knew if God called us here, it was to fill a void that existed. Not to duplicate something else.
Lastly, I believe our appeal to younger people centers on the fact that we are present in the places and spaces that matter to them. It’s no secret that we have been a champion for social issues, which is a subject many churches have struggled to tackle. The black church used to be the hub for social change, but over time we lost our focus which ultimately caused many in the younger generation to feel disconnected. Getting back to the basics, and modeling the social change that Jesus demonstrated for us has served as a major catalyst in us reaching a younger generation, while simultaneously allowing us to be effective in reaching older generations as well.
UR: As someone deeply invested in the well being of the Baton Rouge community as a whole and the Black community in Baton Rouge specifically, what are some of things that you believe need to be done to enhance the quality of life/living for African Americans in the city?
RH: I believe it all boils down to access and equity. I started with access because that is the true entry to building equity. Many times we aren’t on a level playing field because we have not been given access to the places, spaces, and people who control the distribution of opportunities and resources. I am happy to see that the current administration sees this as a necessary focus for the city. I believe the success of Baton Rouge hinges on how it lifts all areas and all people. Divested communities in our city need to be revitalized so that everyone feels valued, and all feel that they are offered the quality of life we all deserve.
In addition to that, I believe the city needs to proactively reach out to black entrepreneurs to determine the unique needs that exist, and to offer solutions that will increase funding, exposure, and ultimate the longevity of their small businesses. Part of improving the quality of life for African Americans in the city is making sure African Americans have ownership of businesses that thrive and continue to create opportunities for others.
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