Pastor hears God’s voice in the middle of the night. What followed is changing lives.

Ben Greene

Pastor & writer

  • Church planting & multiplication

A new church creates so much joy for Jacque and Garland Gist that each connection helps them smile while they serve, live on mission and invite people to church.

"It's kingdom work," she said of all the opportunities at Redeemed Life Bible Church. "It's such a blessing because everybody is putting in their effort to reach the community."

Redeemed Life Bible Church has baptized nine people in Tucson, Arizona, since their launch service in January 2023. Pastor Lamar Lovett received God's vision for the new church on October 8, 2021, in the middle of the night.

"Life," he heard the Lord say that night, jolting him out of his sleep. "Life. Redeemed," the Lord went on to say. He got out of bed and listened to the Lord for the next three hours, writing down what would become the church's mission, vision and values. 

After that, Lovett pondered these things in his prayers, sharing them with no one else. But exactly two weeks later, the Lord jolted his wife, Yvette, awake. Her words in the darkness shined like the noonday sun.

"Lamar, when God called Abraham and told him to offer Isaac, he didn't wait," she said at 3:30 a.m. October 22, 2021. "[Abraham] got up early the next morning, and he left.'"

Then, Yvette Lovett looked right at him and said, 'We need to go.' And they did. Along the way, the Gists and many others embraced God's vision for a new church in the city of 550,000.

Related: See church after church after church planted across America through Converge

They didn’t have people showing them Christ

Tucson, he explained, is a warm, accepting city with a relaxed way of life. Davis Monthan Air Force Base employs thousands of personnel in Tucson, plus the University of Arizona educates about 40,000 students in the city.

The community is one hour from the Mexican border and has people from all over to enjoy the cultural diversity and friendly spirit.

"If they had a beach nearby, it'd be like Hawaii," he said, noting how welcoming Arizonans are. 

Related: Converge church planters started a congregation in Hawaii 

Most of the area's religious culture is influenced by Roman Catholicism or the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. A large number of other people are unchurched. Many, Lamar Lovett noted, would say Tucson is a hard place to minister. But he's found that building relationships can surprise people about the church's worth and the gospel's power.

"We get a lot of people who grew up around church, and they didn't have people showing Christ," he said. "They had a bad representation of Jesus, but then they started seeing this new community. They're like, 'Something's a little different here.'"

Related: A Pittsburgh church is changing perceptions about the man on the center cross

From God’s dream to God’s design

That variation that brings victory is rooted in the mission, vision and values the Lord gave Lovett early one morning in October 2021.

The Lord's message planned a church that would center on Christ and glorify and enjoy God. At Redeemed Life, people know Christ through worship and grow in Christ through spiritual disciplines. Then, Lovett said, they would show others Jesus through their behaviors and finally go on mission with Jesus.

"How are people going to be saved?" he asks. "They have to be exposed to the gospel."

Lovett's primary tool for revealing the gospel on Sundays is expository preaching, going verse by verse so people understand and apply the Scriptures to their lives.

"Long-term transformation happens when we are progressively learning and living out the word of God," he said.

That's how behavior catches up with beliefs, he explained. Redeemed Life helps people align their actions with their beliefs about God, others or themselves.

As a high school football and track coach, Lovett loves to build relationships with youth and young adults. He's been coaching for the last 23 years after playing wide receiver for the University of Arizona.

"The Lord's used that passion for sports and witnessing," he said.

He's not the only one excited to talk about the Lord or what he does when his people gather at Redeemed Life.

"Most of the people that come to our church come because other people are inviting them," he said. "We've got a lot of people that are bringers." 

Related: How can your church create a culture of evangelism?

Extending invitations into God’s family

That includes Jacque and Garland Gist, who find joy at their church and share great experiences with anyone they can. Redeemed Life is a family where lives are touched as God draws people into the church.

A family spirit of unity and connection among them transforms the tasks of Sunday worship and other new church needs into a service she's glad to offer.

"We're just truly a family, so the work becomes a joy," she said. "It's a joy to serve with other people who love the Lord and want to glorify the Lord."

She said they often go to restaurants or stores and meet someone who needs the Lord or a church. So they invite them with no hesitation.

"When you love your church family, you want to invite people," she said. "It's wonderful to invite people who might not have a church."

Converge's 10 districts have committed to deploying 312 church planters before 2026. Read more inspiring church planting stories and learn about the goal to send out 312 church planters in five years.

Ben Greene, Pastor & writer

Ben Greene is a freelance writer and pastor currently living in Massachusetts. Along with his ministry experience, he has served as a full-time writer for the Associated Press and in the newspaper industry.

Additional articles by Ben Greene