Well – what a year!
We began the year looking at Jesus letters to the churches in the book of Revelation to see what is important to Jesus in the local church, and began to define our church culture, arriving at the Culture Headlines which define what we dream that people who join us in this adventure will experience:
- We are all about Jesus – Passion
- We are all in – Sacrifice
- We are all on an adventure – Fun
- We are all hands on deck – Commitment
- We are all about authenticity – Truth
- We are all about people – Love
Our dream is that our people will embody these Culture Headlines in the years ahead – and we certainly had the opportunity to begin to live these out in very real ways as the nations were hit by a pandemic and our nation was called into lockdown in late March.
As a result of the increase in Covid-19, all our teams re-shaped overnight and we took our mission online. We began on Facebook, and then used ‘Church Online’ to come together for pre-recorded meetings, but we missed the relational aspect of church meetings, so we ended up using Zoom more. In the break between two lockdowns, we had a day of prayer facilitated at The Life Centre, and in November we actually had one ‘in-person’ meeting at Taunton’s College, which we live-streamed to homes. Together we have found great comfort in the book of Psalms, learned from Jonah, and grown in prayer through both The Prayer Course and our Sunday teaching.
You would imagine that a pandemic may halt the life of a busy multi-site church, but that was far from the case. All through this time we continued to serve those in need through The Breakfast Club from The Life Centre. We created a ‘Life Support Network’ to make sure that no one connected with the church was left isolated. We launched our new Debt Centre during lockdown and have served a number of clients, and re-launched our Life Groups. We also found a way of appointing James Hatcher as our next elder on the team. We even managed some socially distanced baptisms from paddle boards on the River Hamble!
We also finally found a building at 11 Cranbury Terrace which will become the resource base for all the current sites of Life Church and the launch pad for a new fourth site. The church sacrificed incredibly towards this dream over a number of years, giving over £400,000. We pray at the turn of a weird but wonderful year, that God will use this resource to rescue many, and that it will serve future generations of Life Church in our mission to the city.
In 2019 we brought a focus to our need to continue reaching out to rescue and launched our ‘God of Rescue’ vision.
As a result, we all got equipped through the teaching and tools that were delivered and we took part in some bigger initiatives together such as ‘Church in The Park’, ‘Alpha at the University’, and held a number of ‘Come to Church Sundays’ where we saw a good number of people responding to the message of Jesus presented by a range of gifted evangelists.
We also trained a number of the church to pray for the sick, and began working with C.A.P (Christians Against Poverty), and at the end of the year began to prepare to launch a new Debt Centre for Southampton. We pioneered a 16 week ‘Recovery Course’ to support those with a range of addictions, and established the ‘Life Support Fund’ to bring relief to those in need within and around the church.
By the end of the year we had seen 30 people respond to the gospel message and choose to follow Jesus, a further 11 people were baptised as a sign of their faith.
And so the adventure continues into a new decade!….
This was the year that lots more change took place!
West End Site grew, and our Lordshill Site began meeting weekly on Sunday mornings at The Cedar School. Over the course of the year several new families joined and some new people came to faith in Jesus. Central Site continued to attract new visitors and was soon back to its normal size even though it had sent many to Lordshill and West End.
In the summer we had our first ever One Church Conference with John Groves, Guy Miller and Chris Kilby. At the event we had a special offering to go towards a future building, and the church gave an incredible 270 thousand pounds!
Dave McNee and Jon Lawn joined the eldership team, and at the end of the year we sent the Clayton Family to lead the church in Torquay.
By the end of the year the church had grown to an average Sunday attendance of 245.
This was a year when God called us to ‘Attempt great things for God, Expect great things from God’. We tried to increase the culture of courage by attempting new things both personally and together. God spoke to us about being ‘pregnant with twins’, so as well as launching our new site in West End, we also began meetings in the Lordshill area of the city. We also served the other churches in the city by putting on ‘Church in The Park’ in June. Simon Munsie became an elder and the church continued to grow. By the summer we had grown to an average Sunday attendance of 210.
Our main focus for the year was to build ‘This House’ well. We grew in our understanding of what it means to build the church to Jesus, and what our key values were. We sought to grow in our discipleship. We also began partnering with an existing church in the West End area to help bring vision and direction for the future. As great relationships were forged we made the decision to start the journey of bringing the two congregations together as one church, but to continue meeting in the two locations. Our Sunday meetings were now gathering an average of nearly 150 people.
This was the year that God spoke to us through the book of Habakkuk, and told us to ‘Make it Plain’. We decided to very clearly make known our Purpose, Mission and Vision. Our Purpose was ‘The Great Commandment’ – to Love God and to love our city. Our Mission was ‘The Great Commission’ – to make disciples of Jesus and to baptise them and teach them to follow him. Our vision was to grow and multiply into more places in the city. In light of this we renamed out existing congregation ‘Life Church Central’, and also moved into Richard Taunton Sixth Form College and Pete Clayton became and elder and the church grew to an average Sunday meeting of over 130.
Over the years so much has happened! We have run city-wide events like ‘Parklife’, run courses such as Alpha and Freedom in Christ, and established a range of ministries. In May 2014 we moved our main meeting to Central Baptist Church. God had already spoken to us about the move being like a ‘stepping stone’ so we were eager to see where he would lead us.
This was a year of consolidating and growing in our love for one another. We had a major series through the whole of the summer called ‘The Summer of Love’. Over the year we grew in our love for one another and our love for the city around us. This was a time of strengthening to prepare us all for future adventures.
God began to speak to us about multiplying and ‘Bridging the City’. We worked towards a second site on the east of the city. We were given a building on the Weston Estate, which we renamed ‘The Hope Centre’. A group from the church began meeting there on a Sunday afternoon and we began weekly youth work. Following a challenging season, we decided to wait before continuing this work.
Next, God spoke to us about ‘Putting down a root’ in the city. This meant we needed to look for a building to enlarge our city mission and ministry. A staggering £40,000 was given through gift days at meaning Pete joined the staff team and we were able to find a base. We named the building The Life Centre. The building continues to host great meetings, outreach ministries and prayer.
From the get-go we saw people healed and coming to faith. God also provided financially so that we could rent offices and build a serving team. In December 2007, Chris Kilby was appointed as an Elder and the following February we moved our main meeting to Harbour Lights Picture House in Ocean Village.A year later, Pete White became an Elder with the support of his wife, also called Jo!
From April 2006 – 2007, God spoke about people planting a church in Southampton, and a team gathered under the leadership of Chris & Jo Kilby. Life Church held their first Sunday gathering in 2007, on April 22nd, at Southampton Solent University. We had been given a grant and some financial gifts to get us started… but wanted to be financial independent within the first year, which we achieved. Praise God!