ADVANCE | step by step features a series of church profiles. This issue it’s all about LifeWay Baptist in Devonport. Plus the new work – in Cygnet.
From the LifeWay Baptist Senior Pastor:
LifeWay Baptist is an amazing church . . .
It began in the 1880s when a group of Christians got together in the local billiard room to worship and seek God. 141 years later, we are still getting together.
As the current lead pastor, I feel incredibly privileged to be a part of this chapter. We are building on a beautiful legacy and God willing laying the foundations for an exciting Kingdom-focused future.
To give you a taste of what our church is like, I asked our two Associate Pastors to write about the church from their perspectives. Penny Clark has been a part of our church for a few months, and Denise Stephenson was practically born on the pews.
Hopefully, their accounts will give you a good idea of what LifeWay is like, but also remind you that God is always active and is right now building his kingdom throughout all our churches.
Nicholas Alexander, Senior Pastor
The pastoral team at LifeWay Baptist are Nicholas, Denise, and myself – Penny. We are part of the tribe leading and serving in Lifeway Baptist in Devonport and Cygnet. Between us all, we have a bunch of almost identical blonde children. Some patient and amazing pastor-partners. And a fantastic community of members who are striving to love and serve Jesus more and more.
As a team, we like to have long staff meetings, brainstorm big ideas and have cake together whenever possible. Collectively we work well together. Amazingly, we cancel out one another’s weaknesses with mutual shared love of the vulnerable, the downcast and the forgotten.
Just Like Any Other Church
LifeWay Baptist is a church not dissimilar to any others. We gather, we sing songs (sometimes not so well), we pray with our hearts imperfectly. Kids are so important and we absolutely love them (and their prayer too) and their precious innocence and view of God. We have a long history of laughing, making jokes and capturing joy. So we are not a polished or modern church. We just try super hard to be real, authentic and full of Jesus and his Spirit. We’ve had moments of great joy and sorrow together, which has made our love for our church stronger and deeper. At LifeWay we thank one another for all others are doing. We try to encourage with words and deeds, and we seek to be helpful and supportive.
At LifeWay we have a huge list of volunteers and ministry leaders who keep things ticking over. This includes ministry areas such as Young Adults, Kids ministry, visiting of the elderly, social justice awareness and advocacy, and Missionary support. It also includes grocery shopping and casual connections over coffee. It is our belief that with the right alignment to Jesus and his radical and transformative love, all things flow. One of the things LifeWay cherishes is vulnerability. We are working towards being the kind of church who will pray for one another after a service,. Who will invite one another’s personal struggles into a small group (pulse group). And who will invite neighbours, friends and strangers into the family at LifeWay – with or without a Sunday service.
More About LifeWay
We are not fancy, or flashy, or particularly special. Our building is getting a slight re-vamp, but the members unanimously decided to keep costs low so we could use funds to support mission and the poor. At LifeWay we try hard to see those who are unseen, and look for opportunities that God has placed, right in front of our noses, for mission that flows easily and without struggle. So we are like a passionate barista, serving weekly by making a coffee; a fitness enthusiast starting a boxing group; or an art teacher sitting with teenagers to create.
We partner with Devonport Chaplaincy to provide a need with the facilities we have been blessed with such as TAFE training, using our commercial kitchen, providing space for community groups to hire, and connect and facilitation play spaces. We didn’t think of these things ourselves – they found us!
In lots of ways, LifeWay is just an extension of a bunch of families getting together, with the title “church” wrapped around it. We hold Jesus at the centre, and with our collective giftings and talents, we are excited about what he might plant or uproot in the coming years.
Ultimately we acknowledge and trust that this is his church, and we are really enjoying being in partnership with him.
I’ve been a part of the Devonport Baptist Church (now LifeWay Baptist) since before I was born, almost 60 years ago. My parents, Ted and Dawn Nibbs were active members, so my family attended the little West Devonport Sunday School; my sisters and I sang in the Junior Choir; attended Girl’s Brigade and the Youth Group. Dad was Church Secretary (and later, a pastor), and Mum was Superintendent of the Sunday School, amongst many other things.
Every Sunday at 11am we filed into church for the Sunday service, where men wore suits and ties, and ladies wore Sunday “best”, including hat. For all the formality which was part of going to church in that era, it was a welcoming, engaged community of Jesus followers
Growing up at Devonport Baptist I had no sense that any aspect of church life was off-limits to me. It was a long time before I realised that not all churches had women in leadership. Or even allowed women to preach. In every other place in my life I was very shy, but at Church I was encouraged to be part of things. Youth Group was a great place to find my feet as a follower of Jesus, hang out with others. It was there I tried out speaking in public, leading worship, and having a voice.
The 1970s was a period of great change as church became a less important aspect of people’s lives, and many of my friends from Sunday School and youth group stopped going to church. Even in Devonport, times were changing and this naturally affected church life. In the 1980s, young people were leaving to study and not returning, and families leaving to pursue work opportunities interstate. I was one of them.
The Next Era
When I returned to Devonport in the mid-1990s, church was very different. There were now two morning services: a family-focused, contemporary service at 9.30am; and a traditional, hymn-based service at 11am. I accepted a role on the Leadership Team in the late 90s. Then I worked in the office for 10 years before taking on a pastoral position three years ago. I’ve been part of taking our congregation through some challenging times as we’ve navigated changing social expectations and behaviour.
We’ve experimented with worship structure, ministry focus, and changed our name to LifeWay. At times, I’ve felt frustrated by the slow rate of change. But looking back now, I can see that DBC/LifeWay has actually changed significantly! Sometimes you need to take a step back to see how far you’ve come.
In December 2020 my husband Mark and I moved way down south, to Lymington (near Cygnet), to explore a new way of being a community of faith here in the Huon Valley and Channel area. We have the image of a Long Table where everyone is welcome. And our plan is to keep our eyes open to what God is doing. But we haven’t gone alone. The lovely community at LifeWay have chosen to “send” us south, supporting us through prayer and encouragement.
It’s great the faith family who walked with me my entire life chooses to accompany us on this new adventure.