church, Church planting, Courage, Faith, Inspiration, Lift Church, Social problems, Uncategorized

Call Me a Pioneer

I get one of two main responses when I share our vision for Lift Church:

1) A glazed over look and a patronizing or confused smile that says, “Awe, poor thing.  She doesn’t get it.  That’s nice, but we will see what actually happens.”  You can tell our viewpoint is either so foreign to them that they just can’t relate or understand.  Or, they really DO think we are crazy; or naive; or short-sighted.

2) An excited face and ‘edge-of-her-seat’ body language that screams, “I want THAT!” Some people hear what we have to say and it’s like a breath of fresh air to them.  They get so excited and can’t wait to ask questions and how they can be a part of what we are doing.

It’s not hard to admit that not everyone will see what we see.  Sometimes we are just planting a seed.  For some folks, they will not grasp “it” until the groundwork has been laid- when we have hundreds of people and and comfy chairs, amazing kids’ programs, coffee, flashy lights and amazing bands.  Other people will never  be excited about anything related to Jesus!  Yet others will come alongside us even in this inaugural season where all we have to show the way is our spearheaded conviction and our word.  Seven amazing families have already decided to pioneer alongside us (Praise God)!

I’m reminded of the start of our AdvoCare business in 2000.  All we had was a $50 investment and a vision for how the products and company could change our lives.  People thought we had gone mad!  We lived everyday with negative opinions about network marketing.  However, with hard work and God’s favour on us, we continued to share our vision and ONE BY ONE, we built a team.  That company has paid us over $1 million.

Here we are again, only this time, the stakes are much higher.  We have eternity in mind every time we initiate and instigate.  When we preach and promote the cause of the local church, our own avant-garde family’s legacy is tied to this dream.  All our chips are on the table and no matter the risk, despite the “no’s” we receive or disappointments along the way, we will lead the way.  We are forging a trail so others will have a clear path to find Jesus.

Day after day, we keep pitching our vision and sharing what God has placed in our hearts.  The idea of a church that impacts this city and raises up leaders, disciples Christians and molds the next generation isn’t hard for me to see. Partly, because I experienced it firsthand at Celebration Church.  Secondly, I know people everywhere are hungry for what we will serve.  No one wants his kid to grow up a failure, on drugs or without purpose.  Most people just have no idea that the answers they seek can be found in the church.

The Bible says when people lack vision, they are unrestrained.  One version says, “they go wild!”  Take one look at our Western society and the word “wild” could easily describe our morals, theology, and young people.  Even non-believers will agree with this.  A hunger is raging for a leader who knows where he is going and whom one can trust and follow.  Our desire is that we will continue to press on despite the critics, despite those who don’t see what we see, despite the temptation to settle in and accept the status quo.  We are pathfinders blazing a trail and chartering new territory.  One by one, we know God will draw people to this vision.

No matter what role each of us fill, as Christians, we are called to advance The Church on the earth.  Let us not shy away when the path seems unclear or we get scratched by the underbrush.  We can’t turn around or back down when the climb is steep or the weather changes.  The mission is too important and the eternal rewards are worth it.

Unless the Lord builds the house, they labour in vain who build it; Psalm 127:1

Pictures, Uncategorized

Nostalgia

Nostalgia has me over this week as I think of everything I will be saying goodbye to next month.  Transition is always a good time to reflect on the things you care about. Here are a few local loves I’ll miss in no particular order:

Tex-Mex

Chuys, Juarez Bakery, Taco Cabana, I love you all!

Baseball

I'll miss you every spring!
Dell Diamond and RR Express
Hook 'Em!

Church

Home!

Friends

AdvoCare Friends
Cookie & D'Ann lovin' on Sam in the nursery!
Brett & Syd with my BFFs daughters Claire & Stella
Church Family

 Mom

Since the beginning!

Cox Elementary

Brett's wonderful public school

My Neighborhood

My Hood
Home for 7 years
My Backyard

Gym

Shopping

My Favorite
Barton Creek Mall
The Domain
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!

Australia, church, Church planting, Faith, Lift Church, religious, Uncategorized

No Turning Back

Today is a landmark day for Greg and me.  It ends our time on staff at Celebration Church as well as our time as distributors in AdvoCare.  Both have had significant impact on who we are as leaders, pastors, and entrepreneurs.  Both provided us with community and relationships that will last a lifetime.  Both have given us fulfillment and purpose.  To close the door on those two chapters in the same day feels somewhat like we have closed one of those huge floor-to-ceiling bank vaults; neither of us have the code to re-open it.  No turning back.

All day, I have been singing the old hymn:

I have decided to follow Jesus

Verse 1:

I have decided to follow Jesus,
I have decided to follow Jesus.
I have decided to follow Jesus;
no turning back, no turning back.

Verse 2:
Though none go with me, still I will follow,
though none go with me, still I will follow.
Though none go with me, still I will follow;
no turning back, no turning back.

Verse 3:
The world behind me, the cross before me,
the world behind me, the cross before me.
The world behind me, the cross before me;
no turning back, no turning back.

The words are significant and powerful. I feel like we are jumping off a cliff into an unknown abyss.  No turning back!  Whether anyone goes with us, still we will follow.  No turning back!  Soon, Texas will be behind us.  Only the cross, our calling, and Australia will be before us.  No turning back!

Sometimes “following Jesus” scares us because of what we think we will have to leave behind or give up.  What we don’t realize is great peace comes in knowing you are right in the center of God’s will for your life.  For every thing I can think of that we are giving up (and trust me, I’ve thought of them all; there are a lot), I can think of 5 possible replacements God might have in store. As a matter of fact, Ephesians chapter 3 promises that God has more planned for us than we can even think up or imagine.  That’s exciting considering I have a great imagination!

The Bible tells us to “deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow Him.”  This is contrary to everything the world encourages us to do.  Hollywood, TV, and self-help books will tell us to “follow our hearts” or to do what makes us happy.  We are encouraged to deny ourselves nothing.

Did you know God created each of us for a purpose?  Whatever your “gift and passion” are, they were given to you by God Himself.  He desires nothing more than for you to step into that passion and change the world for Him.  Taking up our cross and denying ourselves just means deciding that even if His path seems less convenient or harder, we are willing.  It means that even if we initially feel ill-equipped and worried about the details, we will follow Him anyway.

You can bet moving across the world feels quite inconvenient.  It feels hard and lonely.  I feel like I have no business “starting a church” when I don’t even exhibit the “fruit of the spirit” in my own four walls when it comes to patience with my kids.  Even though the Bible tells me not to worry, you can bet I’ve been up half the night more than once worrying about finances, schools, my kids, losing my friends, and more.

The thought of not walking in my calling far outweighs the weight of all this.  The thought of looking back at my life and knowing I let fear or worry stop me from taking a leap of faith with God is unbearable.

To know that the God of the universe, the ONE who created me, has given Greg and me vision, desire, and training for Lift Church outweighs the sadness I feel about closing that vault.  I remind myself that if God is for me who can be against me ?  This propels me to jump off the cliff.  Knowing there are hurting people living in Newcastle whose lives and eternities will be changed because of our obedience makes me want to run forward as fast as I can.  No turning back, no turning back!

Australia, Fun, Uncategorized

Christmas Changes Coming Our Way

Since this is our last Christmas living in the United States, I’ve been thinking about all of the differences we will experience celebrating in Australia.  Here are my top 10:

10. Santa will be even more unrealistic-a big man in a hot red suit and black boots when it’s summer?

9. Crazy amounts of lights will not be all over the houses in our neighborhood.  After all it’s daylight savings and it doesn’t get dark till 9pm.

8. We will say “Happy Christmas” instead of “Merry Christmas!”

7. Christmas carols will not make sense to our kids.  Frosty the snowman? Jack frost nipping at your nose? Dashing through the snow in a one horse open sleigh… I could go on!

6. We will have an artificial tree.  Haven’t seen any Christmas tree farms down unda!

5. A white Christmas can only be in our dreams.

4. I’ll be eating pavlova and lamingtons instead of pumpkin or pecan pies.

3. The biggest decision of the day will be which beach to go to!

2. After Christmas sales will be called “Boxing Day” sales.

1. We won’t have our Celebration Church family.

Looking forward to all of the exciting changes in store!

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!

Baptism, Inspiration, religious

Going Public!

Today was a momentous day for over 370 people at Celebration Church because they followed the Lord’s commandment to be baptized according to Romans 6.  Our pastor encouraged people to be baptized on the spot after every service.  We had a swimming pool set up on the basketball court and people came in droves to celebrate with their friends and family as they “took the plunge.”

I always get emotional as I watch kids and adults alike go public with their faith.  As an act of simple obedience, we, as Christians are commanded to be submerged under water to represent dying to our “old selves.” When we come up out of the water, we walk in newness of life.  It was beautiful today watching some people jump in the pool in their “church clothes” after being moved in the services.  I heard powerful testimonies about so many.  One woman boldly allowed herself to be dunked even though she had not submerged her head under the water since 1974 due to witnessing the traumatic event of her children dying in a boating accident.

The oldest person baptized was a 93-year-old woman.  There were mothers being baptized with their daughters, sons with their fathers.  The line went for 30 yards as people waited in the hot Texas sun for their turn.  One couple got in together and was baptized before saying their vows and getting married later this afternoon!  What a day!

On a personal note, I stood at a distance watching my husband in action.

 He and our Family Pastor, Wade Sutherland, stayed in that pool all day and baptized every single person.   I saw Greg celebrate, share stories, high-five, and cheer people on as one by one, he baptized them in the name of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  It was absolutely beautiful.

Today was truly a full circle moment for me.  It was only about 8 years ago that I stood outside a very similar pool and watched Pastor Larry Osborne at North Coast Church in Vista, California, baptize Greg.  To think that God could do such an amazing work and use Greg today in a mighty way to be a part of hundreds of other people’s public profession of faith is truly AWESOME!