Well, it's been a while since my last update, so I thought it would be good to take the time to write about what God is doing in the life of our Church family. Thanks for taking the time to read this and for being a part of the journey.
OUR NEW ZEALAND TRIP
Cazz and I returned last weekend from 10 days on the north island of New Zealand and wow, what an awesome time away it was. It was great to travel again, visit a new country, and experience the sights and sounds. This time away was something I really needed and I didn't realize how much God had planned for us by taking us outside of our familiar surroundings.
It all started with us attending the BEYOND Conference hosted by Catch The Fire Auckland. I'm not exaggerating when I say, those 3 days with them did something in us that we are still unpacking. We met many amazing people and not only received such beautiful blessings from them but also had opportunities to minister to them too.
Last Sunday I shared my heart with our Torquay church family about what had happened to me on day two of the conference. I hope it's ok if I am open and honest with you? If not, maybe now is a good time to stop reading. Well, many of you are not aware of my internal battles over the past 2-3 years. Leading our Church through the challenges of COVID, lockdowns and big changes in the vision of our Church, has taken a serious toll on me. Close relationships ended and major disappointment infected my heart to the point where I created distance for the sake of personal protection. My heart was damaged and hurting and I struggled to try and keep hope alive as I carried on with my responsibilities. Without going into the details about the causes of these struggles, I came to a point not too long ago, where if something did not change and things remained as they were, I doubt that I would be able to continue to pastor our Church beyond this year. I felt like a wounded warrior trying to fight on the frontline when what I really needed was to pull away, rest, recover and heal. So, for many months, my prayers were expressed with a heart cry for healing and hope. Not much was changing and I was losing sight of who I was and why God had called me to lead our Church. Looking back, I have been unwise in not taking time to rest and recover and not taking better care of my inner world. This will change.
In God's perfect timing and wisdom, a wonderful couple in our Church generously blessed us with the funds to go to New Zealand and attend a conference that I had no idea about. Well, as plainly as I can explain it...GOD WHACKED ME! When I say "whacked" I mean, He met me where I was, and He ambushed me with such a forceful encounter that it literally felt like I was being violently shocked into a new state of life! On day two of the conference, the host asked for all Pastors in the room to come forward and be prayed for. I should've known, Jehovah Sneaky was at work. A younger guy immediately came up to me, placed his hands on my chest and WHACK, God's fire hit me. There were only a few of us, but that prayer "whacked" me good. I describe it as someone taking those resuscitation paddles that paramedics use, turning up the electrical charge to 11 and zapping my heart back to life! Whack! Zap! Boom! Bang! Bazinga! Instantly, my heart was revived, healed, and brought back to the fiery passion I was crying out for. As I was kneeling on the floor, hands from the pastor, guest speakers and who knows who else, were placed on my head and the resuscitation of my hardened heart continued. In tears, I wobbled my way back to my feet, then to my chair and something changed within me that I could not yet explain or understand. The whole day was for me as Holy Spirit brought me into a deep place of healing. I am so, so grateful and even now my heart wells up with praise!
That evening in our hotel room I had to journal about this encounter. I then heard God say, "Mark, you have stepped into your RENAISSANCE." I was familiar with the Renaissance art period, but what did "renaissance" mean to me now? Looking up the definition, "renaissance" means to be in a "new state of revival, renewal and rebirthing". It is also described as being in a time of new growth. Yep, I'll claim that! Hey, why don't you claim it too because what God has done for me He wants to do for anyone else who needs to be revived, renewed and "whacked"! I cannot sufficiently put into words what this has done to me. All I know is that God took us out of our familiar context and environment to remind Cazz and me about who we are, why we're called and what we carry. For that, I am so thankful.
We then spent 7 days up north in a little coastal town called Paihia. We had time to rest, reflect and enjoy not having to rush. We explored the caves where the glow worms light up the darkness. God's creation never ceases to leave me in awe. We shopped and ate some amazing ice-cream. We visited the surrounding towns and met some beautiful people and ate some more amazing ice-cream. We stayed in a beautiful apartment on a hill and simply re-learned how to chillax! Hey, living from a place of rest is so enjoyable, I'll have to embrace it more. That doesn't mean I'm being inactive, rather it means that I am co-labouring with God and resting in the fact that He is calling the shots and I don't need to force it. Ah...freedom.
On our last full day, we took the ferry across the bay to a gorgeous little town named Russell. About 15 minutes before having to catch the ferry back, Cazz had to go to the toilet which was down a street we had missed. Walking back we saw a sign that said, "Healing Wells, all welcomed."
Curious, we walked up the ramp and found a small group of praying saints. We introduced ourselves and discovered that we had been sitting under the same teaching and carrying the same heart. They offered to pray for us and instantly, yes, we were whacked again! The tangible presence of God was overwhelming as this faithful little group prayed in power. They prophesied over us, they blessed us, they encouraged us and they loved on us...all within 5 minutes! What a precious group of faithful believers. Thanks Cazz for having to go to the loo, we needed to meet them. This once again proved to me that this whole trip was God's gift to us and absolutely necessary for our healing and journey ahead. Thank you dear Church family for releasing us and sending us off with your blessing.
NEW VIDEO PRODUCTION STUDIO
In other news, we have vacated our Geelong office and now work from home. This is a much-needed cost-saving and it enables us to seek God on what is next. I am deeply thankful for Ali and Ross's support (from our Torquay Church family) during the past 6 months as we transitioned from our Melton office to Geelong. It was so good working from that old synagogue and we pray God's favour upon them.
We are thankful that the Torquay Christian Fellowship have agreed to rent a room to us for a minimal charge so that we can record and produce our weekly teaching videos for our Home Churches. It's a great set up and Matt Kumar has been such a huge blessing in helping us get this done. We are looking forward to providing new videos that will take this to the next level. Your continued prayers for wisdom and inspiration are needed, as well as your continued participation in our Home Churches that engaged with this content each week.
We have a vision that the video resources that we produce will go beyond just our own Church. We pray that they will inspire, equip and empower people from all over. It has already begun as the other day after watching the new movie "Jesus Revolution" a young man came and shook my hand and said, "Hey Mark, I watch your videos". No idea who he was, but God bless him.
So, look forward to a new video format and other projects that we are dreaming about. We are no longer limited by geographical locations or by borders, God can take this global! Hey...c'mon, let's dream big because for God that is EASY AS!
OUR CHURCH CULTURE AND VISION
Truth is, we have accepted God's invitation to "do Church" differently when compared to the current and common Church culture of our generation. I'll admit, the transition hasn't been easy and my faith has been stretched in ways that I could never have imagined. But I am convinced that God is doing something fresh and will honour our faith in His ability to take us beyond what we can see right now. Let's stay true and loyal to His will.
Our Home Churches are an integral part of our Church's vision and we cannot grow unless we all get on board and be active in them. Just as a brief reminder (depicted in the image shown), we gather around a core value of being a Kingdom Family where relationship with God and others far exceeds the religious version of the Church that our Westernized culture has produced. We gather in Homes every fortnight for deeper engagement with the message and with those God has added to our lives. Our Home Churches are fast becoming a powerhouse of growth, maturity and encountering God in fresh ways. We also value the power of gathering together in a larger Church setting. The gathered Church that meets fortnightly in Melton and Torquay continues to be a blessing and a source of hope. We come expectant to encounter God and give Him the worship that He deserves. These different expressions of our faith are proving to be crucial to our dream of being a Church that Holy Spirit is pleased to inhabit. I've said it before and it's worth saying again - if we are not encountering the God we sing about and preach about, then we've missed the point. The Living Room Church is a place that is centred on the presence of God and lives in the power of His promise.
Please, if you're not yet connected to one of our Home Churches, do yourself and everyone a favour and get involved. Let me assure you, you will grow in your faith and in your relationships with others beyond what a typical Sunday service can do. The conversations, the prayers, the times of fellowship and the unrushed time in God's presence have been a massive blessing to our Church family, I don't want you to miss out!
So whether we gather in homes or on a Sunday in Melton or Torquay, let's have our eyes locked on Jesus and our hearts aligned to His agenda because we cannot do this without Him. Yes, for many of you, this still feels different and you're trying to find your feet, but jump in, be free and become an active part of what God is doing in our midst. I am praying for you as we move in faith into all that God is doing. I am thankful for your love, support, prayers and faith. I really love you and praise God for such a wonderful Church family. Together we are stronger.
Love and Blessings!