ARC, Australia, church, Church planting, Inspiration, Lift Church, Newcastle, Uncategorized

Grand Opening

launch team2

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)

ARC, Faith, Lift Church, Timing, Uncategorized

April 21

Almost exactly one year since we decided to plant a church in Australia, we have our move date.  April 21 is when our family will fly ONE WAY to our new continent!  God has moved miraculously this year.  Looking back at his amazing provision provides the fuel we need for the next leg of our journey.  Let’s celebrate together some of the milestones:

February 2011:

  • Greg attended the C3 conference in Dallas where he felt he heard from God that we are to plant a church in Australia. (You never know when God will bring revelation to you.)

April:

  • Our Pastors, Joe and Lori Champion, fully believed in us and supported our “call.”  (Promotion comes from God’s house.  Affirmation from your spiritual leaders is important before stepping out of one thing and into the next.  If it’s God, your timing will align.)
June:
  • We transitioned from our role as campus pastors with support from our volunteer team and congregation.  God provided the right leaders to take our place and the campus is thriving. (Handling communication during a transition is critical to ensure success.  Telling the right people at the right time is vital to any major move.)
  • Greg was able to remain on staff at Celebration Church, a blessing both financially and in ministry experience. (Even if you know your time somewhere is temporary, give God your best.  He will honor you and bless your faithfulness.)
August:
  • We went on a two-day retreat, just the two of us to seek God and brainstorm what kind of church we felt God is calling us to plant.  We got the name for our church: LIFT! (We all need times where we can get away from the normal distractions of our days in order to clearly hear from God.)
September:
  • We were able to go to ARC training where we clearly got a handle on “church planting timelines” and all of the steps on our way to planting our church. (Even if you feel like you know what you are doing, remain teachable.  Surrounding yourself with leaders who have been where you want to go will reveal blind spots. You will also avoid making some mistakes by learning from others.)
  • God began assembling a team of people who feel called to come with us. (Where there is VISION from God, he always brings PROVISION, both in people and finances.)
October:
  • Submitted all paperwork and applied for my visa to migrate to Australia. (Don’t let overwhelming and/or expensive processes keep you from moving toward your goals.)
November:
  • We were able to go to Australia for an entire month to research, network, investigate, and envision our new life in Newcastle. (Believe God for opportunities to explore and gather information.  He doesn’t expect us to operate in total blind faith.)
December:
  • Greg’s role on staff at Celebration ended at the end of the year.  We also were able to make financial arrangements for our AdvoCare business going forward. (Eventually, old doors must close in order for the new ones to open.  Don’t be afraid of this part!)

January 2012:

  • Our website launched enabling us to easily share our vision and start fundraising. (Even if you hate technology or social networking, learn to use it! It isn’t going away.)
  • We started the year with a 21 day fast. (Some things do not come but by prayer and fasting according to Mark 9:29)
February:
  • My visa was approved only four months after I applied (the embassy told me many times that it would take between 5 and 12 months). (God’s timeline can look much different from ours.  Be ready for anything when believing for a miracle!)
  • Purchased airfare confirming our decision to leave on April 21. (It is easier to stay in the planning phase.  At some point, you have to step out of the boat.)

As we have sixty-one days until we leave (who’s counting?), I plan on doing everything I can to prepare myself both spiritually and financially to make the move.  On a personal note, my heart is heavy with sadness sometimes for the many things we will be leaving behind.  Namely, Celebration Church, dear friends and family.  We are thrilled God is moving the pieces into place for us to leave; and, we are determined to make the most of these last days creating memories and celebrating what we have here.

ARC, Australia, church, Church planting, Lift Church, Newcastle, Uncategorized

What is a Church Plant Anyway?

Almost daily, I’m fielding questions from friends, acquaintances, and even family about what it means to “plant a church.” The most common questions I get are:

  1. Is someone giving you a building?
  2. Are you taking over a church?
  3. Is your denomination supporting you?
  4. Is this a satellite of Celebration Church?
  5. Will you be an ARC church?

The answer to all five questions is, “No!”  We are literally starting Lift Church on our own.  We have been trained by the Association of Related Churches (ARC) but currently, they are not planting churches internationally.  We love the ARC model, however, and will be using it to start our church.  So although we are not officially an ARC plant, we consider ourselves ARC both relationally and in DNA.

Our pastors, Joe and Lori Champion, at Celebration Church will continue to be our pastors and will provide some financial support to help us get started.  Pastor Joe explained it best when he used the analogy of a son leaving home to get married and start his own family.  We will always be a son and daughter of our home church, Celebration, but we will have our own now in Newcastle, NSW.

This blog is not long enough to explain every aspect of what goes into planting a church from scratch.  However, I can give you some of the basic timeline (all of which is subject to change):

  1. We have prayed and are 100% sure this is what God is calling us to do.  This is most important because without Him, our works are in vain.  With Him, we know all things are possible!
  2. We are in the process of fundraising right now.  You can visit our LIFT CHURCH website to hear more about our vision and our initial monetary goals.  Establishing our oversight and accountability lays the foundation we need on paper to become a church.
  3. Once we move to Australia, we will meet in our home regularly with anyone who wants to be a part of Lift Church.  While serving the community, our focus will be on building relationships.  Once we have grown a team to approximately 30 adults over the first year (hopefully sooner), we will set a “launch date” for the actual church.
  4. This initial team becomes the launch team and will be committed to serving wherever needed as we go all out in our community to spread the word of our launch.  All of our equipment will be purchased and we will have leased our facility by this time.  Our marketing strategy is yet to be determined but could include radio ads, television ads, mass mailers, or any number of things to get the word out about our launch.
  5. Our goal is to launch with a group of people who come back the following Sunday!  If we rally about 100 people around the vision of Lift Church right from the start, we will be able to sustain ourselves financially and have enough people to host a quality, spirit-filled service every week as we grow.

We are so excited about this journey and although we know it will take hundreds of people standing beside us both financially and prayerfully, we have God on our side so it is going to work.  There are thousands of people waiting to hear the message of the gospel in Newcastle, NSW, Australia.

As we await the sale of our house and the approval of my visa here, we are savoring every moment of the “calm before the storm.”  Once we get there, we will be working harder than we ever have before to fulfill our calling and to bring the Good News of Jesus to Newcastle!

ARC, Church planting, Inspiration, religious, Uncategorized

It’s Up to You… And God

If you are a driver personality type and tend to “make it happen,” in life, you can lean on your own understanding to get stuff done.  I have always enjoyed taking something small or non existent and working to establish and grow it.  Whether it’s growing leaders, a department at the church, or my AdvoCare business, I have a track record of strategically putting together plans and goal setting to make something successful.  I would call myself entrepreneurial, a self-starter, and a visionary.

My husband and I have worked very well together in our business for years.  We love and enjoy building people.  We have a passion for seeing them grow and find their gifts and callings to serve the Lord.  We love helping others and serving families.  All of these characteristics coupled with our training and experience over the last few years on staff at our church would lead us to believe we have the perfect “resume” for church planting.  We have the skill set and on paper, if we were placing bets, I think our odds of success would look pretty good.

There’s only ONE BIG PROBLEM:  We are dealing in the supernatural.  Last I checked, I’m not God and I wasn’t raised from the dead!  The Bible says that we plant and sow, but it’s only God who makes things grow (I Cor 3:6).  The seed itself is what holds the power to become something great.  It’s God who created the seed with all its potential.

This week’s ARC training is full of the most amazing information any church planter would ever need or want.  We feel like we are well equipped to “do” what God is calling us to “do.”  What we will DO, however, will ultimately not be what impacts lives and changes people.  It’s what God’s supernatural power that lives in us will do as we sow and water the seed God gives us.  The people in Newcastle, NSW, Australia, waiting to hear the life changing message of hope found in a relationship with Christ will find it through our efforts of providing an environment of love and acceptance.  They will find it through relationship and encouragement.  They will love our kids ministry and our church services because they will be excellent, fun and full of life.

Ultimately, the supernatural work that will be done is going to be through the Holy Spirit.  It’s Him who sets people free.  It’s Him who delivers us out of darkness and sets our feet upon the ROCK.  It’s the Lord who will make our church grow and the people inside it come into the saving knowledge of Christ.

As scary as it is to move forward in faith and step into planting a church, the pressure is really off.  We will do all of the things we have been taught.  We will work hard, that’s for sure.  We will make wise decisions and strategically put together our plans.  We will budget well and spend money responsibly.  We will cast vision and recruit strong teams.

But unless the Lord is in it, we labor in vain.  Unless we give ourselves to HIM and chase after His voice each and every day, we toil with no return.  The discerning has to come through the Spirit.  The power of God comes through His supernatural work.

ARC, Church planting, Inspiration, religious

Church Planting???

“Go therefore and make disciples of all nations” is what we refer to as the Great Commission (See Matthew 28:19, 20).  We make disciples through personal evangelism and mentorship, but beyond and in addition to this, the local church is where we must plant ourselves to truly flourish (Psalm 92:13).  Our passion for the local church and its relevance and importance is what drives us and gives our family purpose.  After all, the church is what Jesus is coming back for someday, His bride!  One of the best organizations I know of that exists to plant life-giving churches all over the United States is ARC.  We love their model of church planting and feel so blessed to partner with ARC as we move forward with our plans.  Even though ARC doesn’t plant churches internationally, we will be using the ARC model for our church. 

The Association of Related Churches  was started in 2000 by the late Pastor Billy Hornsby along with Greg Surratt from Seacoast Church.  Their desire was to work with church planters and leaders, as well as churches in transition to provide support, guidance and resources to launch and grow them.  ARC helps train and equip church planters, provides financial and other means of support, as well as ongoing leadership training and mentorship for the life of a church.  Their vision is to plant 2000 churches by 2020.  ARC has already helped launch over 200 churches.

Greg and I are blessed to be involved with ARC through Celebration Church as our Senior Pastor, Joe Champion, is on the board of this great organization.  We went through ARC church planter trainings when we were preparing to launch Celebration’s first satellite campus two summers ago.  The irony is that the entire time we were there, we talked about how thankful we were that we weren’t “real church planters” but just “satellite pastors” who didn’t have to worry about fund-raising, creating bylaws, hiring staff, putting together a board of overseers, etc.  We listened as other church planters talked about their visions and we were excited to be a part of Pastor Joe and Lori’s vision for Austin, TX; we had no desire to start our own church!

Fast forward two years… now that we are walking out our calling to plant a church in Australia, we are so thankful for all of the exposure and teaching we have received from ARC.  We have many great relationships with other church planters and leaders across the country.  The resources ARC provides to church planters are unbelievable and we plan on gleaning from the ARC pastors and leaders every step along the way in our journey.

This weekend, we are traveling to Birmingham to attend the 2.0 training with ARC.  We didn’t go through all of the training two years ago and they have revamped their materials since then.  We are excited to spend the week at Church of the Highlands with Pastor Chris Hodges and the ARC team.

This time, we will be soaking up every bit of the information they provide with a new set of eyes and ears.  Maybe as you read this, you are thinking, “I’m glad I’m not Greg and Stacy… wouldn’t want to be called to THAT!”  Be careful… you never know where you might land in a couple of years!  In the meantime, let’s all do our part as disciples of Christ to fulfill the Great Commission!