In 2013, when as a family we were preparing to move to Melbourne, there were a few concerns: We didn't know anyone, we had no work, we had no house, we had no schools, we had no idea of the culture and we didn't have a church. To anyone looking in on this decision from a level-headed perspective, we were simply barking mad. But, for us, this was never about what we wanted, we went to Melbourne because God told us to. This move would take unreasonable faith.
Now, clearly, there were many years of preparation going into this move and it wasn't a flash-in-the-pan choice to up and leave our home in England, but what was startlingly obvious to everyone and us was the fact that for eight years we'd been saying that we were going to move to Sydney because we felt God say He wanted us in Sydney. So imagine for a second what it was like when we got offered sponsorship for a permanent visa but we'd have to move to Melbourne instead. This was never on the cards. This wasn't in our planning. This hadn't been spoken about.
The only time when God did speak to us about Melbourne was only two days before we had our visa granted. But it was in the way He chose to speak to us that caught out attention and therefore seemed to settle our hearts to the point of an unusual peace. I was sat having a conversation at a church event, and then a random stranger who I still don't know to this day spoke out and said: "God says you need to move to Melbourne. He showed me two city names, one was Sydney and the other was Melbourne - but Melbourne was in much bigger writing. I asked God what that meant and He said He'd switched the cities around. You are meant to go to Melbourne!"
If there was ever a moment I could have fallen off my chair with shock, that was it.
Before I move on, let me give you some background info. I have been in and around churches which are part of a church movement called New Frontiers all of my life. My parents were one of the couples that saw the birthing of this back in 1977 and at the age of two, I didn't really have a choice but to be part of this new thing. My wife, had become a Christian and was baptised in a New Frontiers church (funny enough it was the sister fellowship to the one I grew up in) and has only ever known New Frontiers teaching and theology. And just to be clear, the leaders God raised up within New Frontiers have helped shape who I am today. I hope by now you are starting to understand what God was asking us to leave behind. This was, like I said earlier, totally unreasonable.
You see, this wasn't just a change of countries. This was a complete change in our Christian life. This was a new beginning. There was no New Frontiers church in Melbourne when we arrived. Where would we end up? Only God knew, we didn't have a clue. But He'd said 'GO' so we did.
So literally two weeks before leaving the UK, a dear friend came up to me and said that we should be consider visiting Planetshakers Church because it was 'awesome' and she'd been there. Then within 15 minutes of that conversation, another mate said; "Someone I know lodged at my house for a bit and spoke about a church called Planetshakers, maybe you should go and check it out."
Now for me, my first reaction was 'strange name for a church' but my second reaction was 'why did two people just mention that church?'. I hadn't heard about this 'Planet' thing but all of a sudden it was as if I knew we had to check it out when we got to Melbourne. And we did.
The first Sunday we arrived at Planetshakers Church were were terribly jet lagged and went into this massive building all a bit confused by how many people were milling about. Where were we? When we went in, the music was deafening and it all felt a bit crazy but the people were smiling, friendly and clearly excited about what God was up to. I remember coming out and thinking 'what the heck was that? The preaching was amazing but is this really the place for us?' I chose to give it to God and we then started the process of trying to settle in to our new country.
After a few weeks we had made connections with two couples in the church who seemed really great and they had invited us to their Urban Life group which met at their house, not far from where we lived. And as we got to know these guys, we began to get a sense of what Planetshakers was about and what it meant to those who attended - everything we heard and saw on display were not just reminders of our own core values from New Frontiers but also visions of what the leadership of the church carried for the city of Melbourne and beyond. It just felt right.
Every week since October 2013, church has just got better and better and better. Every week feels like a treat to just sit and listen to Godly goodness washing over us and we have grown so much in Him that it was very evident to our dear friends when we went back to the UK for a short visit recently.
You see, when God asks us to take a step of faith, He does it knowing what the outcome is going to be. We struggle to see what God means to begin with because we can't see the full picture but we HAVE to trust Him. When we do, it feels like He's saying, "Well done for trusting Me, now I'm going to give you THIS!" The outcome is always far greater than we ever expected and that's what has happened to us. Planetshakers Church is the fruit of God saying 'go to Melbourne' and us saying 'OK'. It is far greater than we ever expected.
Since being part of it, I've seen more people becoming Christians than I've ever seen before, we as a family have grown more in our faith than ever before. My children are praying every night and my 9 year-old has started prophesying. Our house now hosts the Urban Life group we first went along to back in October. We can't stop talking about what we've heard on Sundays as a result of the incredible teaching.
Perhaps the best day of all (so far) came two Saturdays ago. My wife and I attended the Encounter Day which is the final day of Planetshakers' membership course called DNA. OH MY GOODNESS!
If there was ever a day that I can look back on and say 'now that was significant' this would be that day. We sat and listened to the leadership team speak about the call and commissioning of the church and what that looks like for them. We all got to literally shred our old lives and put on the new. We got to witness many many people experience freedom in Christ for the first time.
But for us the biggest part of the day was the anointing. I have been in church, like I said, all of my life. I thought that I'd seen it all, but when the leadership team came around and anointed each and every person with oil it was like we felt as a couple the FULL weight of what our church leadership were carrying in terms of what God was wanting for them. It was mind blowing. You see, that's the thing about God, He's inexhaustible - just when you think you know it all, He's shows you something new and it blows away any concept you ever thought you knew about Him. He is amazing.
All I want this blog post to show is what can happen if we simply trust God in what seems unreasonable and move forward into what He's asking us to do. We might not have all of the answers and sometimes He asks us to have faith in things that at the time just seem completely against all human reason. There may not be anything organised or set in stone for our human understanding and there may just simply be that whisper from Holy Spirit saying 'just go for it'.
What we have journeyed as a family this last eight months has only come about because we said 'yes, we will.' I'm not naive to think we won't have more struggles than we've had (and believe me there have been moments where we felt we've been holding on with our finger nails), but I know also that God is so pleased with us because we were obedient. The reward so far for us stepping out in unreasonable faith has been so very good and I know that God hasn't finished yet, either.
That makes me very excited.