So thankful for our talented volunteers! This awesome night was captured beautifully on video. Check it out:
Well, this amazing journey of church planting is now entering a new phase. Last Saturday, May 11, we officially “launched” Lift Church! This just means we pushed all of our marketing (radio, mass mailers, FB ads) towards this ONE BIG DAY in order to create some critical mass. And, guess what? It worked!
Prior to last weekend, our core team has been holding great services with anywhere from 30-60 people in them. Saturday, we had 161 in attendance and most were first time guests. Friends and fellow pastors drove from Sydney, Maitland, and Nelson Bay to celebrate with us. The service itself was very special and we sizzled some sausages while kids ate sugar and ran laps through the jumping castles afterwards!
Most importantly, one lady made a decision to become a Christian and many of our guests experienced church and God in a fresh way that was upLIFTING, pardon the pun, and actually surprising for them. Many will return and begin this journey of understanding their Creator alongside us. Now, we have a great foundation on which to build.
On a personal note, I have to share what meant the most to me on the day…
Our family moved to Newcastle 11 months ago from Texas; we didn’t know anyone here. We came with amazing training from ARC on how to plant a church, money we had raised from supporters in the States, some experience in pastoring, and that’s about it for the tangible pieces. Everything else we owned was all tied up in the secret places of our hearts. Our dreams, vision, and burden was alive in us but we felt very alone. We believed strongly that God had called us and sent us here; however, we really had NO IDEA how we would get our first members.
One family moved here from TX to help us and then suddenly in July, one more approached us and asked if they could come along (which we thought was quite funny as we really weren’t in a position to say NO!)! Over the next month, we gathered a couple more people which allowed us to begin “living room church” with five families.
As the weeks went on and one by one we added to this core team, shared our vision, and began putting systems in place and holding serves, a significant shift began to occur. What was once only in OUR hearts, poured out and took root in OTHER PEOPLE’S HEARTS. What I saw on Saturday, and what made me weep on and off all day (and again as I type), was a group of about
40 “LIFTERS” who were absolutely SOLD OUT to our vision.
They came early and stayed late.
They moved equipment and decorated.
They shopped and planned and cooked and cleaned.
They practiced playing their instruments and singing.
Their kids joined in the labour of love that was about to “LIFT-OFF!”
The enthusiasm was electric and each and every one of them invited friends and family and were so proud of what they, with God’s help, had accomplished.
This, to me, is God’s Church at its best. Unity and enthusiasm working hand in hand. A dying to ourselves and a willing sacrifice in order to provide a place of refuge and hope for the lost and hurting.
When we place our gifts in God’s hands and allow them to be used in the local church, there’s no greater example to the world of Christ’s love and character; and THIS, my friends, is why I love the church.
Before Jesus was captured and crucified, he prayed a beautiful prayer for his followers. Tonight as I reflect on all that is good in my life, I am praying a portion of this same prayer over Lift Church and our amazing team:
“I’m praying not only for them
But also for those who will believe in me
Because of them and their witness about me.
The goal is for all of them to become one heart and mind—
Just as you, Father, are in me and I in you,
So they might be one heart and mind with us.
Then the world might believe that you, in fact, sent me.
The same glory you gave me, I gave them,
So they’ll be as unified and together as we are—
I in them and you in me.
Then they’ll be mature in this oneness,
And give the godless world evidence
That you’ve sent me and loved them
In the same way you’ve loved me.” (John 17:20-23, MSG)
As we ramp up towards the launch of Lift Church on May 11, we would like to personally invite you to come check us out. Take a look at this video and hear our story. We pray that through our life-giving church body, you can encounter God in the same way Greg and I have.
Having three kids means someone is ALWAYS trying to get my applause. Brett (11), is constantly learning a new method to solve one of his FIVE Rubik’s cubes and wants to show me. Sydney (4) is perfecting a trick, dancing ballet, putting on shows, and practicing her letters. Sam (2)… well, this cheeky little toddler is usually jumping off something or hitting some sort of ball showing off his skills. He shouts “LOOK-A ME!” and it doesn’t matter what important grown-up task I’m doing at the time, I can’t help but stop everything to see what this bundle of joy is up to now!
Needless to say, a child seeking his parent’s attention and approval is at the very core of his nature. Our kids aim to please the ones who love them most; they want affirmation and encouragement every step along the way.
I feel like this with my Heavenly Father right now. Our lives revolve around fulfilling the mandate we’ve been given to build a church here in Newcastle. At every step, we know God is working on our behalf, supernaturally aligning and drawing people to us. We are also doing everything we can to “show off” for our God. At every step, I’m so excited to say,
“Look at this, God!”
“Take notice of what we are doing for you!”
“Watch what we can do as a team!”
“See how amazing we will make your church!”
“Be on the lookout out for how we will please you with our offering!”
The Bible says that “the eyes of the Lord move to and fro throughout the earth that He may strongly support those whose heart is completely His” (2 Chronicles 16:9 NASB).
God loves us just the way we are and we can’t make him love us any more or less. However, just like our own kids have the ability to please us, we are equipped to make choices that will please God. Our task is to “single-mindedly serve Christ. Do that and [we'll] kill two birds with one stone: pleasing the God above [us] and proving [our] worth to the people around [us].” (Romans 14:18 MSG).
Last weekend, we moved into the school hall Lift Church will call “home” for the next year or more. Our beautiful team worked tirelessly opening boxes of equipment, setting it all up, training on its use, and then executed a powerful, anointed service that was PLEASING on every level. We had 53 people and one woman became a Christ follower!
We are gearing up for our advertised May 11 “GRAND-OPENING” and our goal is to fill up our venue with hundreds of people who are hungry to know more about God and His church. In single-mindedly serving Christ, we believe He is well-pleased.
Cheerfully pleasing God is the main thing, and that’s what we aim to do, regardless of our conditions. (2 Cor 5:9 MSG)
Life is full of obligations and requirements we don’t feel like doing (think taxes, exercise, going to work, changing nappies). Sometimes, we get complacent in our relationship with Christ only to find ourselves not feeling like going to church. We start making excuses and we disconnect from the body of Christ. Much like someone who puts on 10 kilos of extra weight after weeks of small unhealthy eating choices and too many “snooze-button-mornings” of skipping workouts, we make decisions that not only limit our faith but actually stunt our spiritual growth.
SHOWING UP to God’s house means we increase our odds of GROWING UP in our faith.
Like anything worth committing to, great rewards come when we attend God’s house week in and week out. We actually allow God the opportunity to speak to us in new ways; we lead others into His presence through serving; and, we experience life corporately alongside other believers. I heard a powerful testimony last weekend at Colour Conference in Sydney of a young girl who grew up attending church but struggled to experience God in a miraculous way. She testifies that she just kept turning up, however. She never backed down, never gave up seeking God. And now, she’s grown up and she is actually leading a huge youth ministry impacting thousands of young people. What if she had stopped showing up?
My own Pastor Lori Champion, has a similar testimony of “showing up” while grieving the sudden traumatic death of her father who was a pastor. Instead of letting herself go down a path of anger towards God in questioning why this wonderful Godly man could die in the middle of preaching a sermon on a Sunday morning, she just kept getting herself to church. When she was numb from the pain and grief and didn’t “feel God,” she went anyway.
I run into people all the time who say they love Jesus yet are disconnected from His bride. This cannot be. Am I saying the only place you experience God is in church? No. He is omni-present! EVERYWHERE! However, someone saying he wants to be best friends with my husband, but who dislikes me, his wife, probably doesn’t stand a chance at getting close to Greg. It’s the same with Christ. He is coming back for His church. His church is his kingdom on Earth, the hope of the world, the place where we find our ultimate fulfillment and calling. The church is the answer to our community’s problems and needs. ”At the center of all this, Christ rules the church. The church, you see, is not peripheral to the world; the world is peripheral to the church. The church is Christ’s body, in which he speaks and acts, by which he fills everything with his presence.” (Ephesians 1:20-23 MSG)
So, my friend, wherever you are in your walk with God… let me encourage you:
Show up. And then Show up again. People aren’t perfect. Pastors aren’t either. The world is full of pain and it’s not God’s fault. When you’re not happy, go to church. When you’re hurting, attend anyway. When you don’t know God and are searching, run to His House and look for Him. Find a local body of believers and stay when they remind you that Jesus died for you. Go to a sanctuary where people love you just the way you are. Connect, dig in, serve, give, and keep showing up. I promise you that God will meet you there. And you will grow up your faith and convictions.
Consider it a sheer gift, friends, when tests and challenges come at you from all sides. You know that under pressure, your faith-life is forced into the open and shows its true colors. So don’t try to get out of anything prematurely. Let it do its work so you become mature and well-developed, not deficient in any way. (James 1:2-4 MSG)
I remember feeling overwhelmed in High School when I had two jobs, honors classes, extra-curricular activities, and a social life. I would cry and stress when I thought I would never be able to stay on top of it all. I had similar experiences throughout my University studies and then…
I had kids! The busy-ness of life went to a whole new level and I looked back at the other times I felt overwhelmed and laughed. This new job was unprecedented. Being available to a baby 24/7 without even a chance to plan when I could have a shower was unchartered territory.
Life went on, however; and somehow, we have managed three kids and still have our sanity albeit by a thread on some days!
Then, I moved to Australia to start a church.
Rather than rant about how long the to-do list is, how much spiritual attack I feel I am under, the amount of pressure and negativity that comes against me some days, the unknown black hole that is before me, and the three kids who are still living under my roof, let’s talk about what to do in these moments of overwhelming pressure:
Living in a measure of chaos is part of all of our lives. No matter what stage or station, we all have stress and burdens that we carry. We each cope in different ways. The busier I am, the more calm I become. It seems illogical, but at a certain point, we all must prioritize, tackle what we can, then…
LET THE REST GO!
For a control freak, this feels impossible. For a people pleaser, inappropriate. For a worry-wort, wholly irrational. For an organized checklist type, insurmountable.
Forget about self-confidence; it’s useless. Cultivate God-confidence. No test or temptation that comes [our] way is beyond the course of what others have had to face. All [we] need to remember is that God will never let [us] down; he’ll never let [us] be pushed past [our] limit; he’ll always be there to help [us] come through it. (1 Corinthians 10:12-13 MSG)
God never promised us that we won’t have trials. We have all lived long enough to know life isn’t easy, fair or simple. For many, life’s difficulties become excuses for dismissing the God I serve. However, I choose the opposite. I run to my Heavenly Father as a safe refuge. I cast my cares on him. I entrust people to Him instead of trying to control them. I point people to Jesus and His Word instead of to myself as the Saviour.
As a pastor, I’ll crumble if I take it as my responsibility to please everyone, not overwhelm anyone, or control the periphery ones. As messy as it all seems with a long to-do list and a short amount of days to prepare, I know that nothing surprises my God. I can only just keep myself prayed up and full of faith to lead this charge alongside my husband.
In the meantime, I’m cooking dinner and changing nappies (diapers). I’m making phone calls, scheduling dinners and teas, praying for my church, planning Easter service, buying supplies, packing for Colour, leading a prayer group at school, paying bills, ironing shirts, hanging out the washing, answering my phone, going for runs, all with a smile on my face!
I bet you are too! And if you’re feeling weak and unable, you can pray this:
I love you, God- you make me strong. God is bedrock under my feet, the castle in which I live, my rescuing knight. My God—the high crag where I run for dear life, hiding behind the boulders, safe in the granite hideout. (Psalm 18:1,2)
I’m amazed at how many people in my BEAUTIFUL city complain about it or say negative things. No matter how many other beautiful places around the world there are, I refuse to look around at this:
And think anything except, “GOD, I CANNOT BELIEVE YOU CALLED ME HERE! THANK YOU THANK YOU THANK YOU!!”
Oh, how sweet the light of day,And how wonderful to live in the sunshine! Even if you live a long time, don’t take a single day for granted. Take delight in each light-filled hour… (Ecclesiastes 11:7 MSG)