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)

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Watch This!

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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)

Finding our Voice

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What was I created for?  Why am I here?  What’s my purpose?  Who am I?  The same questions we all grapple with along this journey we call life are no different when starting a church.  We are in a beautiful season of creating, establishing, and answering, “Who is Lift Church?”  Putting on paper and our website what we believe, what we are about, who we are trying to reach, etc.  It’s easy to talk about vision and long-term goals but the practicality of narrowing it down, picking the right verbiage, etc. is difficult.  A work-in-progress.  I want you to know what we know and I know you can’t know in one tagline or catchy phrase we put on our website!

I want you to see our hearts through our actions, not just words.  We have a our burden to impact this city.  I want you to know that we will accept you the way you are and that we want our church to be a safe haven for you to come with questions and problems.  Our services will be relevant to your everyday life.  We care about kids and young people.  We believe everyone was created by a heavenly Father who loves them and we are going to present God to you in a way that isn’t threatening or weird.  Our desire is to attract someone other than “the religious guy” who already has all the answers.  Rather, we want our building full of seekers and sinners just like us.

I personally am passionate about women who are in a tough spot, whether that be financially, relationally, or emotionally.  Women who have been abused or who have no self-worth.  I myself have been through some tough times and have met a God who loves me and has made me whole.  I am going to introduce Him to you if you’re interested.

I care about investing in young people so they know they have a purpose outside themselves.  Teaching them they can change their world for the better and find purpose by being open to what God has for them, living their lives to serve others.

We hope our weekend services will attract people who would say, “Church isn’t for me.”  That’s what my husband used to think.  Our teaching will be practical and our people non-judgemental.

Our public launch is imminent; so, our city is about to hear about Lift Church.  A place where your life can be raised to new heights.  Where leaders are developed and our community is better off because we are here.

Jesus described himself this way: “I am the Gate. Anyone who goes through me will be cared for—will freely go in and out, and find pasture. A thief is only there to steal and kill and destroy. I came so they can have real and eternal life, more and better life than they ever dreamed of” (John 10:9,10 MSG).

God, may Lift Church exist to lead people through this gate.

Lift First “Service”

We have been living in Newcastle for two and a half months now.  Our timeline for starting Lift Church was always ASAP but with the clear understanding that much of its inception would depend on 1) GOD and 2) People around us.  I am amazed at what God has already done!  We have been planning and speaking about the vision for Lift Church to everyone we meet and last night, we had four families in our living room engaged and excited to hear Greg’s first message and our vision for where we see our church going long-term.  We are going to meet once a fortnight for now and our messages will center around “The Church We See” as we endeavor to impart the vision God has given us for Lift Church into the hearts and spirits of those he has entrusted us to pastor.

Our gathering was full of life with a side of coffee, tea, dessert, and Lift cans! Oh, and beautiful kids!  We feel honoured and blessed already to see whom God has brought around us; we can’t wait to watch this little group grow.  One of my favourite scriptures is Isaiah 60:22:

“The smallest family will become a thousand people, and the tiniest group will become a mighty nation. At the right time, I, the Lord, will make it happen.”

Our little family has already grown from 5 to 20.  We are reminded of the scripture the Lord gave us for the naming of Lift Church in John 12:32 when Jesus says,

“And I, if I am LIFTED up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself.”

Our job is to continually LIFT the name of Jesus.  He does the drawing of men to Himself.

Greg shared a great message from Matthew 2:1-12 gleaning from the amazing story of the wise men who followed the star and ended up at Jesus’ side in the manger, bearing their gifts.  The Church We See is Cause Driven. Our Cause:

  1. Makes us Walk by Faith
  2. Faces Opposition
  3. Energizes Us
  4. Causes us to Give Generously
  5. Always Leads to His Son

I won’t re-preach the whole sermon, but let’s just say, it was great!  Lift Church exists to advance the Cause of Christ in the Newcastle/Lake Macquarie area and eventually the world.  This faith journey is surely exhilarating!

It’s Everywhere!

I love the name of our church: LIFT.  We ran into LIFT everywhere in Australia.  Of course, an elevator is called a LIFT.  Here’s one at the train station:

My favorite YUMMY lemonade drink is called LIFT:

LIFT is even a hit song from an Australian Idol, Shannon Noll:

Lyrics that say:

“I know how hard it can get

but you gotta lift.

I know you’re stronger than this

You gotta lift.

Lift yourself above the hurt…”

My favorite spot to find LIFT is in John 12:32:

Preparing for LIFT-OFF

Today is a significant day for many reasons!  (For one thing, it’s my daughter Sydney’s 3rd birthday.)  Secondly, we are headed to Australia for almost a month.  This trip is something like a Nehemiah reconnaissance mission where we plan to scope out Newcastle and lay some groundwork for our move.

Setting up our non-profit, opening bank accounts, looking at neighborhoods and schools, visiting churches, and networking with local pastors are all on our “to-do” list.  Not to mention we will meet our new 8 week old niece, Greg will find the surf, and we will have lots of Nana and Grandad family time.

I will drive on the streets of the city in which we are going to plant a church for the first time. Up until this point, I’ve only bypassed Newcastle via train or car from Forster (where Greg’s parents live) to Sydney.

My heart beats a little faster every time I think about what God has in store.  Have you ever been so excited about something yet so scared at the same time?  I imagine it’s how I would feel if I were standing on the edge of a bridge with a bungee cord tied to my ankle and someone behind me was yelling, “It’s ok!  You can do it!  Just jump!”  My hands sweat just thinking about it.  We are on the edge of a cliff preparing for “LIFT OFF” right now. Everything God has in store for our family, our church, and all of the people we will affect for His glory hinges on our willingness to trust Him and just JUMP!

A scripture that has been dear to us since last summer is John 12:32 and it says, “And when I am LIFTED up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.”  Jesus was referring to his imminent death and resurrection.  The point is that it’s Him, the Holy Spirit, who draws people to Himself.  We know that this journey is not about us.  Although we have a lot of sacrifice and hard work ahead of us, ultimately we have ONE JOB: to LIFT up the name of Jesus.  To make HIM famous.  When we do our part to LIFT Him up in our weekly services, in our training of leaders, in our parenting, in our community, HE will do the supernatural work which draws people into a saving relationship with Him.

As we head out on this amazing trip (which has now been delayed by another 10 hours as we are in a hotel in Los Angeles waiting for our new flight time in the morning), we are excited to share the name of our church with you all: LIFT CHURCH!

God is the one who LIFTS our feet from the miry clay and sets them on a rock (Psalm 40:2). He LIFTS our head (Psalm 3:3).  We LIFT our voices and our hands to praise the one who created the heavens and the earth. We LIFT up a standard. We LIFT up prayers.

God’s been clear on every part of this journey so far.  With clarity, we take the next step into what He has for us and LIFT CHURCH.  We are trusting Him with every day, every dollar, and every decision.