Posts tagged ‘Northern Lights Church’

February 10, 2014

Thrill of a Lifetime

Roller Coaster

I remember the first time I went on a roller coaster.  It was at a theme park in Western Sydney back in the late 1980’s.  It was fast, scary and thrilling and when it came to an end I just wanted to do it again.  The one thing that sticks in my mind the most is that first hill. You slowly clack up the steep climb and seem to hang for an eternity at the top until whoosh you’re accelerating down the drop.  Your stomach is still somewhere at the top of the coaster. The rest of the ride is good too no other part of the ride can compare with that first hill.

This time next week Catherine and I are launching a new church.  We feel like we are on the crest of that first hill.  We are about to go over.  Between the two of us we have contrasting emotions.  I have my hands in the air and a big grin on my face.  Catherine is not grinning and her hands are gripping the bar very tightly.  But regardless of how we feel about February 16 there’s no stopping this ride.

What is certain is that there are many twists and turns to come, we can’t see them now but it will be an exhilarating ride.  We can’t wait.

As far as we can tell we are well placed to spend our first year growing and developing as a healthy church.  We have prepared the path to  launch by holding three monthly services, which have let some people come across us and work out that they want to be involved.  I don’t think that this would have happened if we had gone straight into weekly services.

So we can count on a core of people who will attend on the 16th and likely be there the week after as well.  We can even put a number of them on various rosters and rely on them to do various roles around the place.  This makes things a whole lot easier, especially granted that we have arrived in this town not knowing anyone, and with no “core team” working under us.

Most of all we have the deepest of convictions that we were put on the planet to do this work.  The sense of God’s calling is so strong that we would walk over broken glass to make it work.  There is no turning back for us.

In ancient times and in the Middle Ages if an invading army arrived by sea the generals would sometimes make a statement to their soldiers to burn the boats after they had landed.  It made the point in a dramatic way that there was no going back.  That they’d better win their battles, because retreat was not an option.  I can’t think of anything I could do to symbolically burn the boats, but mentally I feel that we have done that.  In my mind NorthernLightsChurch and the ministries that will flow from it will be our life’s work.  There is no going back.  If it’s tough then we press on and persevere.  It was tough for the apostles, for Paul and for many of the early Christians.  They persevered, and they prevailed.

We won’t face the obstacles that our spiritual ancestors faced in the first century but we carry the same message, and we will persevere in spreading it, just like they did.

So in just 7 days we launch.  By God’s grace we will hold thousands of services over the years that come, but only ever one launch.  If you are in Halifax don’t miss it!

John and Catherine xoxo

January 12, 2014

No Room at the Inn

NLC has experienced a massive breakthrough this week. Since arriving in Halifax, West Yorkshire, UK just 5 months ago finding a venue in which to hold services has been challenging. Our needs as a church have been monthly up until now but after February 16 we go to weekly services. We have had no idea where they were going to be held. Venues that have sufficed for the monthly services have other commitments already booked in and are just not available week to week. On 29 August John and I wrote a list of 13 things we wanted in a venue. They were:
 * Monday to Sunday Access
* Chairs
* Sound System
* Extra Room for Kids Ministry
* Toilets
* Stage
* Car Park
* Street Access and Visibility
* Regular booking – no exceptions
* Good Price
* Kitchen Area
* Atmosphere
* Projector
On November 29th I attended a prophetic night at New Beginnings Christian Centre which has itself received an amazing breakthrough for a venue and the main speaker said that God ‘had made room for them’ in Halifax. This phrase caught my attention and I felt the same was going to be true for Northern Lights Church. I came home and John and I prayed/declared together that ‘God would make room for us’ in Halifax just as He did for the birth of the Lord Jesus.
Just this week a Local Charity phoned us. Their building is another part of a building we have hired twice for monthly services. They were wondering if we would be interested in hiring their venue every week for our church. John met with them and it is a perfect fit for NLC. Of the 13 things we prayed for their facility fulfils 12 of them. The only thing they were unable to provide off the list was a projector but New Beginnings Christian Centre had already lent us one a number of weeks prior. We have been very grateful for the support and generosity that Pastor Stephen Greening of NBCC has been to Northern Lights Church.
Northern Lights Church thanks God for his provision of a venue. We thank Him and give Him all the Glory for ‘making room for us in Halifax’.
Over and Out,
Catherine xoxox
November 19, 2013

Kick off for Northern Lights Church!

Blog logo bit bigger

We have started!!  What a thrill it was to hold the first ever church service for Northern Lights Church on Sunday morning just gone.

We had 23 people present, and there was a great atmosphere.

What was the most encouraging to me was when we had a time in the middle of the service for people to say hi to one another, so they did.  That doesn’t sound too remarkable, but seeing it happen it occurred to me that all these people had a connection to us, but they really didn’t know each other.  But as they spent those few minutes saying hello I realised, “this is the start of a new community.”  That’s central to our whole vision, even to our church name.  The bible says, “If we are in the light, as he is in the light, then we share in life together.”  Those few moments were the very start of that happening.  Still more encouraging was that half an hour after the service had ended almost no one had left.  People were still talking and enjoying each other’s company.  And enjoying their cup of tea, of course.

The people who came had a mixed background, some Catholic, some with no real church history to speak of.  But what was very encouraging was that I think only 4 of them apart from our selves were in church last week.  So that’s plenty of people who were not connected with any local church that are open to making Northern Lights Church their home.  Not all will, but some will, so that is great.

In the Purpose Driven Church Rick Warren makes the point that the modern trend of starting a church plant with a team of 30 odd means that the leader can get too busy looking after the needs of those 30 people, so they focus less on the community they are trying to reach out to.  Rick started with himself and his wife, so there was no other option.

Having now had our first service I can see what he is saying.  We do have a team to some extent in that we have borrowed 4 people from other churches – a keyboardist / worship leader and his friend, and a young couple who helped with numerous smaller jobs.  They were all fabulous.  We had so many people attend who had made a connection with us at some point over the last 3 months that we have been living here in Halifax.  In fact there was no one present who had not!

For the next service we will definitely do a better job of letting the community at large know about our meeting, and we will start to get more people attending who don’t have that connection with us.  When that is combined with those who do have that connection then we will be well placed.

I cannot express strongly enough that Catherine and I are so committed to this church.  We are in this for the long haul and by God’s grace we will build a church that will stand the test of time.  The Halifax Minster, the oldest church in town has been holding services on the same location for over 900 years.  My dream is that in a further 900 years the Minster will be celebrating its 1,800 year anniversary while Northern Lights Church celebrates 900 years of its own.  I love one of the prophetic words that we have been given which was that what we will build will be “like an oak tree, and an oak tree is something that stands for generations.”  I believe that, and I look forward to our second monthly service which will be on December 15.  I can’t believe that I have to wait 27 days to go again – I wish it was tomorrow!


November 10, 2013

Countdown to the First Service


We are exactly one week away from our first service at Northern Lights Church.

The venue has been booked. The flyers have been designed. The website has gone live. The Halifax Courier is coming this week to do a story on us. The 10,000 flyers have been printed and will be delivered to 10,000 homes reaching possibly 25,000 people this week. The Sermon is being written, prayers have and will be prayed, fasting will probably occur and the launch team will be briefed and released.

There is only one thing that we really care about when it comes to this first service – that God comes! If we are without His presence then we have nothing. We would be like a McDonalds without hamburgers. A KFC without chicken. A pub without beer. God loves the church – it’s his chosen vehicle to move around in. The Church needs lots of different things to grow and be successful but it only needs to lack the presence of God to become a clubhouse of well meaning. We are desperate for the real deal. The holy and tangible presence of God. What does that mean? Isn’t God meant to be everywhere all the time? Yes he is. To be blunt when you are on the toilet he is there with you. The difference is that he doesn’t reveal his presence to you in that moment.

God is with us always but He doesn’t always reveal His presence to us so we must be ruthless in going after him with a hunger that will not be satisfied with anything less than the real deal.

An Open Letter to God

Dearest God,

We invite you to come to not only our first service on November 17th, 2013 but to every service, every meeting, every retreat, every home group, every baptism every kids group and every conference that Northern Lights Church ever holds or opens its doors to. We acknowledge that this is your house and we are your people. We promise to make you welcome and to let you interrupt any and all of our plans. We want you to be free to move upon the hearts and minds of all present and change the lives of anyone including us. We acknowledge that without you we are nothing.

Will you please come God?

An Open Letter to Halifax, West Yorkshire

Halifax, we have fallen in love with your stone buildings and lush green trees. We love that mail comes on a Saturday and that you don’t have mosquitoes. We love your radiator heating and the awesomeness of your insulation. Most of all we love your people. We have been inspired, encouraged and enriched by every person that has come into our home for a meal or a cup of tea. We love the people that employment has bought into our lives and we love our neighbours who don’t have a choice. We love the friends from school that our daughter has made and we love the people that we have met from Churches all across Halifax. You are all doing an amazing job for the Kingdom of God. In return Halifax, we have give you our big Australian hearts and lives. We put it all on the line and hold nothing back from you.

Finally an invitation for you to become a part of the Northern Lights Family.  If you are not already part of a church family then we invite you to come to Northern Lights Church on November 17, 10:30am at the Southwood Club on Birdcage Lane. Come and hear what God has done for you and respond to Him. It will change your life. We expect God to do great things in every service. Don’t miss out. See you then.


John and Catherine

April 17, 2013

First Year Features

first-anniversary1Having felt called by God to plant a church since June last year I have read widely about church planting.  There are numerous books about church planting, and many of them are excellent.  They almost all talk about the principles of church planting – they don’t want to say “you have to do it like this…” but try to say, “this is the principle – apply it to your circumstances.”  I appreciate that approach, but at some point someone has to get practical.

I have found one and only one practical book about church planting.  It’s called Launch and is written by Nelson Searcy, a church planter in New York City 10 years ago.  We have found it very helpful.  One of the things that I have appreciated the most about it is his emphasis on not doing too much too soon – that is walking before you run.

Like any living thing, a church has various systems within it.  I can vaguely recall a high school teacher telling my class that the human body has a respiratory system, a reproductive system, a circulatory system, and so on.  Of course organisations also have systems within them – accounts, human resources, management, and so on.

Searcy says that there are some systems that need to be in place straight away, and some that can be developed later rather than sooner.  He gives 8 systems that you need to have in place by the end of your first year.  They are:

  1. Sunday services;
  2. Evangelism and assimilation;
  3. Website;
  4. Baptism;
  5. Church database and record keeping procedures;
  6. Accounting;
  7. Corporate / legal structure;
  8. Leadership Development.

Everything else can wait.  In fact if you try to do much more you run the risk of overextending yourself.  But those are the things that need to be done during year one.  When I read that it was such a relief to get an indication of what is highest priority and what is not.  I thought, “We can do that”.

I realised that there are even systems within systems.  So I broke “Sunday services” down into:

  • Bible teaching
  • Music
  • Children’s Church
  • Ushering
  • Communion
  • Salvation counselling
  • Prayer ministry
  • Set up and pack up

The idea is that focussing on making those systems excellent is much more fruitful than adding new systems and programs that the church might not be ready for.

So when Catherine and I start our new church our first year will be all about establishing these systems.  It will be about getting them working, and then getting them working well.  People will come to us and say things like, “We should have a (insert good idea) ministry.”  They will be right in the sense that there is probably merit in starting this or that ministry.  But the crucial issue is timing.  The last thing that you want to do is overextend the church by running too many programs too soon.

Then, just so I would not miss the message, I was having a look on Rick Warren’s blog the other day, and his most recent article was headed, “Church Planters: 5 Steps to Take but Take Them Slow”.   His conclusion is, “I can show you how to grow a great church – but I can’t show you how to do it quickly!  It takes time.  Your church won’t be built overnight.”

We are going to Halifax to build a great church.  Slowly.


April 10, 2013

Our Next 12 Months

church plantingOver recent weeks we have shared about our call and our vision to plant a church in Halifax, West Yorkshire, in the UK.  You can read about our call in general here and about the name of our congregation, Northern Lights Church, here.  So practically, how do you go about planting a church?  In this post we will explain how our plans currently shape up.

Late July and August: 

We plan to leave Australia on 30 July.  After arriving in Halifax, we will find a place to live and look for part-time work.  Our thought with work is that we think it would be asking a baby church too much to be the only source of income for our family.  However if we have full time jobs then there simply won’t be enough hours available to give to the church.  So we plan to get part time jobs and also draw a part time wage from the church.  We imagine that the fund raising we do in Australia will allow us to accomplish that.  Also in August we will enrol Poppy at school, visit friends in Southport, UK, and hopefully find 2 weeks or so to go over to Canada for a holiday.


Poppy starts school.  We will begin searching for a suitable venue for the church to meet.  We will meet with as many people in and around the town as possible.  We will begin to raise awareness in the community of our presence, our name and what are going to be doing.  We will lodge our application for registration with the UK Charities Commission.


We will continue to raise awareness, and prepare for our first preview service.  A preview service is a dress rehearsal.  We plan to have three preview services each a month apart.  They will be in mid November, mid December and mid January.  In October we will also put time into the church website and getting a database in place, and finding some musicians who can help us in the early days.


In mid November we will hold our first preview service.  Even though it is a dry run it works better with a crowd, so we will give it plenty of publicity and will collect the details of the people who attend.  In the days and weeks after the service we will make contact with the people who attended and see how many would like to be part of our launch team.  We will continue to raise our profile in the community.


In mid December we will hold our second preview service.  Afterwards we will continue to follow people up, build the launch team, and evaluate the service.

January 2014:

In mid January we will hold our third and final preview service.  As with the others we will follow people up, build the launch team, and evaluate the service.  We will increase our publicity efforts in the run in to the launch in February.

February 2014:

On February 9 or 16 we will have our official launch.  With as much publicity as is humanly possible we will commence weekly Sunday services.  We are aiming for a blaze of glory to begin with!  God has already given us the passage to preach from that day (1 John 1).  We will continue to evaluate everything that we do, and begin to identify some of the people that are already Christians who have leadership potential and put time into them to see what their gifts and callings are.

Remainder of 2014:

We will keep our focus on having consistently excellent Sunday services.  Other programs will be developed as the years go by, but they will not be the focus during 2014.  The priority will be the standard of the Sunday meetings and developing the other systems that are priority in our first year.  More about those systems in my next post!

Being a lawyer I will end with a disclaimer – there is plenty of scope for these plans to change!  We are going to a 2 day church planting course with the CRC on Friday 18 and Saturday 19 April.  We are hoping to get a lot of great ideas at that time, as well as meet other church planters so iron can sharpen iron!

John & Catherine

March 6, 2013

Introducing Northern Lights Church

Northern LIghts

Last week Catherine and I shared our vision to plant a church in the north of England.  This post explains our church name and what it means.

The local church is the hope of the world.  If the gospel is to spread and people are to be brought into the kingdom of God then it is the local church that is going to make it happen.  There is nothing more exciting than the birth of a new local church.  A Billy Graham crusade is awesome for a day, but a local church is awesome for generations.

We believe that God is calling us to do a lot of things beyond the town of Halifax and in various countries in Europe.  But the foundation of our whole strategy is to build a healthy, vibrant, gospel-centred local church.  That church will be the platform from which other things can rise.  Missions require people and local churches build a community of people.  Missions cost money and local churches make money.

Therefore we will plant and build a church in Halifax.  We have a big vision for church planting and missions in Eastern Europe, and there are many stages to it.  The first stage, and the focus for the early years of our ministry, is to build a great church in Halifax.  We will not overextend ourselves and attempt to do too much too soon.  One of the church planting books we have read says that most church planters overestimate what they can do in their first year and underestimate how much they can do in the first 5 years.  So we have a large vision but are content to pace ourselves.  We will take each step in the right season.

The name Northern Lights Church was first given by the Holy Spirit to a friend of ours, and we loved it straight away.  Then some months later in my regular bible reading I came across 1 John 1.  I was arrested by the first half of verse 7 – “but if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another.”  That verse will be our motto – our tagline if you will.  As we have more in common with Him we have more in common with each other, and our relationships deepen.

To use it as a tagline it needs to be accessible to unchurched people.  The word fellowship is a church word, so I looked for other translations.  Here’s the Contemporary English Version – “But if we live in the light, as God does, we share in life with each other.”  Perfect.

We also deliberately want the plural – Northern Lights.  We want to plant churches that will light up the north of England.  We want to be dreaming about daughter churches and granddaughter churches from day one.

At our launch I will preach from 1 John 1.  I realised as this was unfolding to me that this section of scripture includes towards the end verse 9.  It says, “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness.”  That is one of the bible’s great salvation verses.  That verse will end our first message, and Catherine will then do an appeal for people to make first time commitments to Christ.  We believe that God will cause people to respond.

Do it Lord!!


%d bloggers like this: