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

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!

Inspiration, religious, Timing, Uncategorized

Perfect Timing

Have you ever been in the right place at the right time?  That’s a common phrase we hear when everthing falls into place just the way it should.  Some people give credit to “the stars” for aligning perfectly.  Some say it’s luck.  Others give credit to their own efforts. I believe  it is God who continually works on our behalf along with our obedience to Him that lands us in the right spot with the right opportunities.

Personally, I have been blown away watching things fall into place for my family as well as others since our meeting with Pastors Joe and Lori about planting our church in Australia.  Our “getting into position” seemed to break the dam for a gush of details to play out the way God intended.

In April, Greg and I were leading our NorthWest satellite campus.  Celebration Church was making plans to launch a second satellite in South Austin.  Paul Mason, our Senior Associate Pastor and his wife Brooke, were slated to become the Pastors at the new campus.  With news of us leaving for Australia, Joe and Lori quickly decided the Masons were the perfect fit at our campus instead.  They chose Shawn and Amanda Bouldin, our Elementary Pastors, to lead the South Austin plant.

Thrilled with the changes, both couples gladly accepted the challenge of moving into new positions.  Like dominoes falling in perfect alignment, many exciting breakthroughs happened in the days and weeks to come.  Paul and Brooke’s house sold within the week.  It had been on the market for months with no offers.  The Bouldins had met with a realtor one week prior about selling their home to move South without any idea of what was to come.  God was preparing them for what was next.

Soon thereafter, a permanent facility for the NW campus became available.  Greg and I had been searching for a location to move out of our portable church setting for months with door after door being closed.  I’m happy to report that construction has already been completed and the NW congregation moved into their new building on August 21st.  That was the same day the South campus held its first service in a movie theater.  It has been a busy four months!

I’m not saying these couples would have been in the wrong positions had Greg and I not moved out of the way when we did. Any number of things could have happened for God’s will to be done.  I AM saying, however, that I’m glad we spoke up in April.  The timing was perfect.  We have watched these two awesome couples impact many lives through their leadership already.  As they build these two campuses, this also fulfills our Pastors’ vision to impact Austin (Check out the “It is Austin” Facebook page and ‘Like’ it to hear that story).

A great example of someone being in the right place at the right time in the Bible is found in the book of Esther.  Esther was chosen “for such a time as this” (Esther 4:14) to save an entire generation of Jews.  Esther and her adoptive father, Mordecai exposed Haman’s evil plan to kill them to the King.  She was in the palace in position to meet with the King at just the right time.  This not only saved the Jews, but allowed Mordecai to be promoted to second-in-command of the empire.  As they stepped out in faith when opportunity arose, promotion and freedom came forth.  A common Jewish girl became Queen and Mordecai was named Prime Minister over 127 provinces stretching from India to Ethiopia!  God used these two unlikely characters to save His people.

Each of us plays an important role on this earth.  We never know what our daily obedience and faith might be setting up for the future.  Small decisions like having the right attitude or reaching out to someone in need might be what lands us in positions that have great impact later on.  Whether you are in Assyria, Austin or Australia, God wants to use YOU to influence the world.  Let us not be afraid to say, “YES” to whatever it is God is asking us to do.  It could very well be the “yes” that finds us in the right place at the right time.

Church planting, Inspiration, religious

Paul and Pastor Joe

The relationship between Paul and Timothy in the Bible is one of mentorship, spiritual fatherhood, honor, and faithfulness.  The Apostle Paul coached Timothy and empowered him to do the work of the ministry.

We have been blessed to have the same type of mentorship from our Pastors Joe and Lori Champion at Celebration Church (www.celebrationchurchtx.com).  Between the two of us, Greg and I have served on staff for the last 5 years in KIDS, Women’s, High School, and most recently, helped launch our first satellite campus.  As Pastors Joe and Lori entrusted us to do the work of the ministry at Celebration Church we have always been willing to serve wherever they needed us.  Like the Apostle Paul trained up Timothy, they have surely trained us up!

As the events surrounding our call to plant a church in Australia began to unfold earlier this year, Greg and I agreed that our next step would be to talk to our pastors about what God was saying to us.  After two months of praying and further confirmation we knew it was time.  With our meeting set for Tuesday, April 12th, we were nervous with excitement.  What would they say?  Would they too be excited?  Would they confirm what we had been feeling?  Would they be sad or hesitant?  They had always believed in us and allowed us to lead people in their church, but this was different.

As we sat on the couch in Pastor Joe’s office, Greg could hardly get the words out.  My heart beat faster as my husband shared from his heart. He began to cry as he articulated his desire to plant a church and his love for his homeland.  As tears streamed down his face, I felt great relief as I looked at our pastors.  I knew they knew it was right!  Without hesitation, Pastor Joe nodded his head and said something like, “I see it.”  Both Pastors Joe and Lori articulated that they always knew we would do this and they were thrilled and excited. 

We immediately began to brainstorm the transitions that would need to happen; we talked timelines; we talked about the desire of ARC (www.weplantlife.com) to plant churches internationally and how the timing of this seemed so perfect.

It was an awesome relief to have the blessing and support of our pastors.  Before the meeting, I secretly hoped they would say, “Let’s all just keep this to ourselves and pray about it for another year!”  That way, we could just keep this whole thing as pillow talk and daydreams; we wouldn’t have to move forward into unknown land!  However, like a mom and dad who prepare their kids to leave the house when they go off to college or get married, our spiritual parents had been preparing us all along.  They were ready to send us out!

As I look back at the last 6 years at Celebration Church, there are countless occasions where our Pastor has poured into us.  From Sunday mornings, to staff chapels, Pastor Joe, like Paul to Timothy, has encouraged us to “be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity” (1 Tim 4:12b).   He and Pastor Lori live their own lives this way.  They constantly press us to “give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine” (vs. 13) and to grow as leaders.

Now that we are moving forward to plant our own church, we know Pastors Joe and Lori will be there encouraging us, challenging us, and believing in us.  We are so grateful for their example and mentorship as we embark on this new season in our lives.

We all, as disciples of  Christ, must follow the Apostle Paul’s advice to Timothy.  He says, “Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you” (1 Tim 4).  He encourages Timothy to meditate on these things and to give himself entirely to them, so that his progress would be evident to all.  Paul says that in doing this we save both ourselves and those who hear us.  Greg and my desire is to do just this- to be examples to the world of what it means to be Christ followers.

We thank God for our amazing Pastors who have raised us up to be ready to step into what God is calling us to do.  They are surely the “Paul” in our lives.  We all need someone like this help us grow and flourish in our callings so we can be sent us out to accomplish the plans and purposes God has in store.

Church planting, God Speaks, Inspiration, religious

It Seemed Good to Me!

From February to April, Greg and I prayed and talked privately about all that God was stirring in us concerning this awesome call to plant a church.  You have to know that at this point in the journey, although we knew we had heard from God, we were wrestling with the news.  Depending on the day of the week, we were scared, doubtful, hesitant, thrilled, or ready.  Some of our doubts centered around the fact that we feel so small to be called to something so BIG!  We were like Moses in Exodus 3 as he lamented, “Who am I that I should go to Pharaoh, and that I should bring the children of Israel out of Egypt?”  We were asking, “Who are WE that we would be called to THIS important task of planting a church?”

We don’t have Bible college degrees.  We weren’t raised in Christian homes.  We can’t lead worship or play any instruments (every church planter we know seems to be musically inclined)!  And besides, Hillsong has Australia covered, right?  Every disqualifying factor we could come up with plagued us.

Once again, when we bring our concerns and petitions to the Lord, He is so faithful to respond.  On April 6, at the ARC church planters conference in Baton Rouge, Greg was encouraged about his specific perspective, personality, and purpose in Australia.  Ironically, our very own Pastor Joe was preaching when the revelation came!

In Luke chapter 1, Luke uses the phrase, “It seemed good to me” as he talks about giving his specific account of Jesus and the gospel.  Luke was a physician, not a Bible school graduate)!  He brought a different angle and perspective than Matthew, Mark, and John to what they witnessed.  Have you ever wondered why there are four gospels?  Why did God want four accounts of the same time and events surrounding Jesus’ life?  EVERY testimony is important and unique.  EVERY story of Jesus touching a life matters and should be told, including yours and mine.

Greg has an amazing life transforming testimony of what God has done in his life.  He moved to America as a 19 year old Atheist who had never seen a Bible.  He felt he had no need for God, that he was quite capable of managing himself; he believed anyone who put his trust in a God he couldn’t see must be weak in himself.  At age 26, Greg stepped out in faith and was radically changed forever as he accepted Christ as his Savior.  He has never been the same and the quick work God has done to raise him up and use him to influence and change lives is amazing to witness.  His passion for the local church and his willingness to obey God in every area of his life is awesome!

Greg and I, just like you, have a story that needs to be told.  There are 22 million people in Australia.  Millions of them do not have a personal relationship or revelation of Christ.  It seems good to us to bring our account of the gospel to Australia.  We believe it will be used to impact thousands of lives as we plant a church.

God’s response to Moses as he questioned his call was, “I will certainly be with you.”  God is certainly with us.  Nothing is too big for God!