by Sharon O'Neill @soulkeeping
This past week I have spent time with the mob at Kyogle.
We drove up into heaven country for a women’s soul retreat.
As I stepped out of the car I could feel the spot was magical.
It was perfect for a women’s soul retreat.
The delicious invitation to rest, renewal and delight.
I was expecting love and life to happen but what I wasn’t expecting was the beauty.
The beauty of the environment was simply delicious.
I could feel myself slowing, resting, nestling into God’s luscious palms. The flowing creek, the shafts of sunlight finding its way through the tall trees and shrubs.
The bower birds penetrating the silence with their pinging sounds.
But it wasn’t this beauty that truly captured my heart.
What captured my heart was the sound of lives turned from brokenness to wholeness; from pain to hope; from messy to life and love.
Over the coming days I was privileged as girls time and time again shared their story of surrender. The moment when they turned their will and their life over to God.
The heart sharing always began with a smile, a giggle and then the story of how God turned their hard, their broken, their messy into love and love.
I loved the child likeness, the simple delight of “I was once lost and now I’m saved.”
There was Janet who came to faith because her daughter went to youth group and then wanted to go to church. Janet recalls how her first service was filled with unexplained tears.
There was another who saw a sign advertising the church, went home and googled, saw their was a small group meeting on in the evening and simply turned up.
I love what God is doing in this church. First generation Christians. Story after story after story of families discovering Jesus for the very first time.
There was this child like wonder. “God’s done this for me and my family.”
I loved BJ who every day says to Jesus, “Okay who are we going to love together today? Who are we going to give dignity to?” I love the heart.
I want to give a big shout out to Danielle and James and their team for creating a space where people who are far from God feel safe enough to explore, to bring their broken soul and have it redeemed and healed.
May Kyogle continue to be blessed and to be a blessing.
Thank you Centre Church Lismore
My heart was moved when we visited Centre Church at Lismore.
There were so many things I loved about this church. You know the cartoon the road runner where Coyote’s mouth always seems to gape – that was me. Walking through a day with my mouth wide open going wow.
I loved the old building they met in. My imagination went a little wild with all the wonderful kingdom parties you could throw in a theatre like that. I loved the school they had established and my heart was moved by the vastness of the vision, the perseverance and diligence of love required to build and establish the vision. It was a beautiful vision.
I love seeing vision unfold and come to life. It is one of the great adventures of life.
This gorgeous church is brimming with vision. Vision for prayer for the city; vision to bring good to the city! They have two people in their church both competing for the position of mayor – how awesome is that! They have vision for the littles; vision for music; vision for education. They overflow with vision. The rich heritage of the apostle at work was plain to see.
Whilst the vision moved me, captivated me – because I am a bit of a vision junky – what moved me most were the sons and daughters.
It was so apparent how they do their church.
I was staggered by the 20 and 30 year olds! Across this nation we are missing in leadership the 30 year olds. But not at this church. I loved watching how they related to the vision, the foundation and dreams established by the previous generation. They were helping their mum and dad build the vision, build the house, build the dream. Layering it with beauty.
Filling the vision with loyalty, faithfulness and diligence.
Creativity abounded and you could see the freedom that they had to create, to express, to add touches to the vision.
When I looked at Lismore and its geographical area I expected to find a church that would struggle to keep its young. I understand the need to move for education and opportunity in employment. But over and over again I met young ones who had deliberately chosen the vision, chosen to be planted, chosen to stay and love the local city, to pioneer.
I loved how Rod and Margaret were so proud of their brood of chicks. They just kept telling us about this one and that one who was achieving this dream and doing this part of the vision. Their language was one of constant support and encouragement in the endeavours of their people. I loved it. I was so inspired. There was such a willingness by Rod and Margaret to release their brood of chicks to minister to the city. Limitless connections with all kind of resources to help them!
I think if Rod and Margaret were to say, like Paul said to the church in Ephesus, that they wouldn’t see each other again – the church would weep. Because just like the elders and Paul loved one another, so too does this church. Hearts would break because they deeply love one another.
To see a church learn to love one another and to allow God to do deep work within you so that you have the character to deeply love and engage with one another is a beautiful gift.
I know that to build that kind of church has taken a lot of years, a lot of patient parenting, a lot of prayer, a lot of sacrifice, a lot of shelter, a lot of suffering and a lot of perseverance. Thank you. Thank you to Rod and Margaret. Thank you to the people of Centre Church for being part of the Holy Spirit’s work in helping love to flourish.
One thing I’ve learned is that men of vision are never finished. They pretend retirement but in their heart they are always seeding vision. Just one more…
I know there is seed for a church plant, a seed to release sons to pastor another town, another group of lost hearts. My prayer is that the sons will find their call, their place and that another beautiful community of lostness will find life.
So Thank You Centre Church Lismore
by Sharon O'Neill
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.
Welcome Grace Community Church to A2A
It was a beautiful Sunday afternoon. The sun was shining and to be honest I didn’t want to leave poolside. As a Tasmanian coming from a very wet winter all I wanted to do was hunker down pool side, rest, read my novel and drift into my imaginary world.
I didn’t want to go to church. How many times do we feel like this and miss out on a blessing?
We pulled up outside the church in Maryborough and as I alighted from the car I was wondering what sort of church we were visiting. The Body of Christ has such diversity. We hadn’t taken but a few steps towards the church building when the evening was interrupted by this beautiful sound of joy. It was breathtakingly beautiful.
The sound of Joy
We entered into this old building that once taught the young how to care for cars – an amazing building with so much potential for usage 7 days a week.
We saw the band practicing, a child asleep in the corner, other adults preparing the evening meal. Everyone was warm and friendly and filled with joy and expectancy. Pastors Glenys and Chris were part of the band and just enjoying the practice of worship. The worship was beautiful, not perfect but oh so present to the Holy Spirit and abounding in joy.
Before the service we were invited to pray for the service and those coming and again the desire to simply serve the Lord, the overflow of joy abounded in that tiny prayer room. There was such a desire for people to come to know the Lord and for the Spirit to touch people’s lives and for them to have an encounter that would be life changing. Their heart was towards the town in which they lived. They weren’t looking for success or to be significant or to be discovered. They simply wanted to love and reach their city. I loved the simplicity, the sincerity, and the love contained in those prayers.
Throughout the service I was struck over and over again that this church understood joy and that it had a huge heart for the community. Youth leaders loving on the youth, wanting them to be empowered by the Holy Spirit!
I heard conversations about the town, the people in it, the desire to connect and to love. I heard dreams of hope with the building and how it could be used. I heard what I love to hear, “We’re still figuring it out.” I get excited when I hear that because I go here we have some people who are wanting to be learners and wanting to lean into the Holy Spirit and be present.
Grappling with Scarcity
One of the things I love about regional churches is the commitment. There is always scarcity in a regional church. If you want to be engaged it will mean multitasking, taking the kids along with you and having a willing spirit to gap fill. I watched families doing this. 5pm on a Sunday with tea after the worship service isn’t an easy gig for any parent but I watched beautiful families pour out love offerings to God, taking their kids on this journey for the one. Breathtakingly beautiful!
Regional Pastors with big hearts and generous spirits
As pastors of regional churches you have to be generous spirited and big hearted. Often regional churches raise great leaders because of the multitasking that has to happen and the commitment that has to occur to stay engaged. But schooling and employment opportunities often mean they leave to go to the cities. Regional churches over and over again give their fruit away. It takes big hearted, generous pastors to lead regional churches.
I watched beautiful Glenys and Chris be so many things to so many people. worshippers, teachers, encouragers, counsellors and empowering. Once again my heart was filled with admiration at the stretch that is involved when leading a discipleship making community in regional Australia. It is such a skill and a special wiring to be all things to all people.
Loving the homeless
When the service finished and the meal began we noticed all these homeless people come in for the meal and they were just welcomed and embraced. Young people sitting with people twice their age who were broken and empty. Filling in gaps, serving God, loving on the one, embracing humanity. It didn’t matter that they hadn’t been to the service, the ministry of Christ was continuing at the table. The love and the care and the acceptance was beautiful.
Within the heart of this beautiful congregation I saw that precious love for the community.
Raw, generous, committed, planted, engaging and above all things loving!
I saw what Christ wanted us to do – not grow big churches with big worship centres but to reconcile all things to himself – all things on earth and all things in heaven; all domains everywhere – by the humble sacrificial love he displayed on the cross which transforms us into humble, creative, enthusiastic, bold servants in our communities. We often think our chief contribution to society is putting on an attractive worship service – its not. Our chief contribution is to assist reconciliation.
This church is beautifully poised to make a difference to the people in the town they live.
I came away from that evening blessed and so glad that I hadn’t allowed my blessing to be taken.
So how can I, someone living within the A2A movement champion this church?
Welcome Grace Community Church to A2A
Love and Hugs,