Australia, church, Newcastle, Timing, Uncategorized

Preparing the Way

Just as God sent John the Baptist to “prepare the way” for Jesus on this earth, we are continually amazed at what God has and is preparing for us in Australia.  As we are stepping out to follow God’s voice for our future church plant, we have discovered some exciting things about the Hunter region where we are going.  With an approximate population of 645,000 people, this area extends from the North side of Sydney about 75 miles.  The city of Newcastle and Lift Church are going to be centrally located within this area.

When we picked the place we wanted to re-locate and plant our church, we asked God to close the doors if He didn’t want us there.  So far, there have been nothing but green lights.  We never had any super-spiritual reasons for choosing it.  We like where it is on the map in relation to Greg’s family and Sydney.  We like the population, weather, and proximity to the ocean.  That’s about it.  Well, we are continuing to be amazed by how much God is positioning us for an exciting time in the region.

While visiting Australia last month, everywhere we went, people were raving about the Newcastle economy and growth.  We found out 200,000 people are predicted to move to the Hunter region in the next decade.  Housing developments are thriving out West of Newcastle with projected growth in just one suburb already mapped out for the next seven years.  The mining industry is booming.  As a matter of fact, this was the front page of the newspaper the saturday before we left:  

The article says “the Hunter is defying an alarming industry trend to cement its position as the most productive region in Australia.”  While 53,000 people lost manufacturing jobs in 12 months across Australia, 4000 have gained a job in this sector in the greater Newcastle area during the same 12 months.

It is exciting to be in a city where there’s a buzz and energy about the future.  People love living there and are positive about the years to come.  The economy is thriving and there is an undercurrent of something great that you can “feel” in the city.

The growing economy is just one area God is touching in the region.  He is laying the groundwork and “going before us” to prepare the way for people to hear the Good News about Jesus Christ.  The Bible promises that the LORD himself goes before us and will be with us. It says he will never leave us nor forsake us (Deut. 31:8).    We are continually being reminded that this endeavor is not about us. God is moving in Australia.  Revival is coming.  We are just being allowed to be a part of it.  Rather than looking at what we are doing as a way to pat ourselves on the back for our great faith, or to promote ourselves as church leaders, I am daily being humbled at the fact that God would choose us to play a small part in what He is doing in the Hunter region.  We declare the promises of Isaiah 55 that we “will go out in joy and be led forth in peace.”

church, Church planting, religious, Timing, Uncategorized

Waiting, Waiting, Waiting

“Hurry up and wait” is the phrase that I seem to live by these days.  We have prepared as much as we can thus far in our journey: Visa application submitted, trip to OZ budgeted and planned for this week, house for sale, de-cluttering in progress, video being made for our fund-raising when we get home… medical checks done.

The future seems so clear on one hand, yet so muddy on the other.  We know where we will be in a couple of years. I can envision living in Newcastle with an awesome church that is growing and thriving.  The kids are loving their schools and life is great.  Brett knows how to surf, we spend holidays with our family, Sam has an Aussie accent and I can drive on the left side of the road confidently.  I have a permanent visa to live in Australia as long as I want and our vision continues to grow for all that God wants to do in and through our family and church.  Life is good!

I know some of the steps that are going to have to happen before we get to that place.  It’s the timeline that’s muddy.  I know our house in Texas will sell eventually.  I know we will put our belongings into a 20 ft crate and ship it overseas.  We will say our goodbyes to family and friends.  We will have raised $100K for our church.  We will rent a house in Australia.  We will buy a car (or two).  We will start our church with an amazing launch team of people who feel called to help us get it off the ground.  We will have a website and a logo.  You get the point.

The hard part is that I really have no control over so many of these steps.  It’s the same for all of us.  We have vision and dreams for our future.  We know where we’d like to be in 5 years.  The questions is, “How do we get there?”

Every significant person in the Bible faced a situation full of unknowns.  Just think about Noah building that ark for a few decades when there was no rain in sight!  The good news is that juxtaposed with unknowns is our God who knows everything.   The Alpha and Omega, our God prepares the way.  Just like He prepared the way for Jesus through John the Baptist. God sent the wise men on a journey with provision for Jesus in Bethlehem long before he was actually born.

He sent Moses to deliver the Israelites out of Egypt while they were still in slavery.  Boaz was ready and waiting for Ruth once she took a risk and left home with her mother-in-law Naomi.

Every time I start to get impatient or worry about how the details are all going to fall into place for us to get settled in Australia, I’m reminded of this trend!  I’m reminded about every phase of my life up until now and how there has always been a season of preparation and waiting before actually eating of the fruit.

We all know you plant a seedling and it takes decades to grow into a shady tree.  We understand pregnancy takes nine months.  We tell our kids “good things come to those who wait.”  Every athlete works and prepares long before a national championship.

Waiting and preparing is oftentimes the hardest part.  I will not be disqualified because I quit.  I won’t miss out on important lessons I need to learn before we step into the big shoes of being Senior Pastors.  I will take each day as it comes and cross off the items on my to-do list without stressing over the items carried over to tomorrow.  I will wait with excitement upon the Lord to open each door He has for us.

Church planting, God Speaks, Inspiration, religious

Where Are We Going?

Sometimes God speaks so clearly that you “know that you know” what direction to turn and how to proceed with important decisions.  If you’ve been reading my blog, you know that’s what happened with regard to us planting a church in Australia next year.  We have no doubts that God has called us!  There are other times when we pray and seek God for direction and we don’t really feel like He is directing  us anywhere!  All of our options seem pretty good.  There’s no clear indication it’s a mistake no matter which way we choose.

One of my favorite scriptures is Psalm 119:105.  It says that God’s word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path.  Two significant thoughts arise from this simple phrase: one, that God only illuminates the next step that is in front of us- a lamp isn’t very bright and doesn’t allow us to see very far ahead.  Secondly, there’s no point in lighting up our feet for the sake of staring at them!  I’m pretty sure we need a lamp at our feet because we are moving them somewhere and we need to see where we are stepping.

So many times, Christians I know stop themselves from making decisions because they feel God hasn’t spoken to them.  They are “praying” about “IT” for ages.  At some point, we have to start moving in a direction.  God can’t make our feet move.  He can’t steer a parked car.  We have to trust that when we are praying and seeking God while pressing forward that He will let us know if we are making a wrong turn; we can then switch directions.  I call this a closed door.  God will close a door, meaning we will hit a dead-end if we are not supposed to step in a certain direction.  He is faithful and God is not going to allow us to mess up our future because we step out in faith in something we are seeking Him about.

As Greg and I began to pray about where God would have us plant a church, we had no “aha moment.”  Literally, we began to research a city we like for its location on the map and proximity to both Sydney and Forster, where Greg’s family lives.  Newcastle, New South Wales, has a population of about half a million and we love that.  There are beaches and lakes and the weather is wonderful.   We did a hundred Google searches and Greg spoke to Aussies who know the area well.  While he was in Australia at the Hillsong Conference in early July, he asked pastors who have lived in the region for years what the spiritual climate and churches are like there.  He even met with a city planner in Newcastle to talk about the economy and growth potential.  All lights were green.

There were no hurdles or negative opinions about us moving there and starting this journey.  As a matter of fact, the consensus among everyone is that Newcastle is a great place to raise a family; it needs a great church; it’s growing and thriving; the age demographic is diverse.  Housing is more affordable in Newcastle than in Sydney.  Oh, and Lonely Planet declared Newcastle number 9 in their top 10 picks for best cities in the world! (Check out www.visitnewcastle.com.au for info.)

God hasn’t written the word Newcastle in the clouds for us as of yet.  Our decision may not sound super-spiritual but He certainly hasn’t closed any doors.  So, we are moving forward, one lamp lit step at a time towards moving to Newcastle, NSW, Australia next summer to start a church!