May 2019

Going from strength to strength

Life Central Church in Halesowen continues to expand and reach people from all kinds of backgrounds.

When Leon Evans first joined the leadership team of what was then called Zion Church in Halesowen, he had no plans to become a pastor.

Twenty-six years later, Leon is the senior pastor of what is now called Life Central, meeting in three locations across the West Midlands and having just opened a state-of-the-art new building. And it continues to go from strength to strength!

“My background is creative arts and worship leading and communicating the gospel. To be honest with you I didn’t think I’d become a pastor,” says Leon.

“My heart was to serve on a church team to try and tell people about Jesus, to do church in a way that would relate to people who weren’t Christians. When I came here as the associate pastor my leadership and pastoral gift began to grow over the years, and now I’ve been the senior pastor here since 2000.”

While his calling to be a pastor had to come along later in life, Leon knew at a very early age that God was preparing him for ministry as a creative musical evangelist.

“My parents brought me and my sister up in the Salvation Army,” he recalls. “I gave my life to Jesus when I was around 15 and immediately I became passionate about wanting to communicate the gospel.

“I’m a musician so I started a band with some friends very much wanting to tell people about Jesus in a contemporary way.”

It’s clearly evident that Leon’s passion for creatively communicating the gospel hasn’t faded as his heart for his local area has inspired his long-term leadership of Life Central despite a few highs and lows along the way.

“What’s sustained me over these years is a calling to the area, the land and the people,” he says. “There have been periods when it’s been a little static but they haven’t been very long. I like to learn and I’m always pushing myself to grow, and as I’m changing and developing as a leader I think that creates space for other people to lead and to develop as well. One of the most challenging times was when we had a fire in 2015 which destroyed our auditorium. But the way the church rallied after that was amazing.

“In the last three years, we’ve grown a lot. We’ve become a multisite church meeting in Hagley, Rowley Regis and Halesowen. The most important thing is seeing people come to faith. Our associate pastor gave his life to Jesus here 13 years ago after serving time in prison. Those kinds of life-changing stories are always the highlights for me.”

Leon explains how his ministry has also taken him far beyond the West Midlands to establishing overseas missions work.

“In 1990 I went to Bulgaria on a mission trip and God just put that country and the Balkans in my heart,” he adds. “I felt God say you will come back here for the rest of your life, and I have been almost every year since then. We started a youth camp organisation 15 years ago which is now a national youth event and runs every year. From that, we’ve started a youth movement in Albania. Then out of that relationship a church was planted in Albania, which is part of Elim Global.”

With so much going on, has Leon ever felt it was time to call it a day?

“There have been times when I’ve felt it might be time for me to move on. But in those moments, we’ve hit another area of breakthrough for me personally and for us as a community as well. I never felt I wanted to do anything else. I’m always asking myself questions. Is the church growing? Is it reaching lost people? Am I growing? Even when we’ve had difficult seasons and times it hasn’t been too long before there’s been a major impact which keeps us going.”

The next generation

Leon is determined to pass on the mantel of leadership to the next generation: “Now that I’m in my 50s, I’m about raising up young believers. We have an intern programme in the church called Equip. We have ten young people in their early 20s. I’m loving that and I want to invest more in that.

“I would love to see younger people leading churches and I think as we grow as a multi-site church we want to plant other locations and would love to see new leaders emerge to take us forward in that, so I can move more into a coaching leadership role.”

A place for the community

The church seeks to use its building to reach every type of person in their community.

“We have an open house every other Saturday morning where we provide a hot meal for people who can come and find community and build relationships. Then we’ve got some business people and affluent people as well. So there’s a breadth of social need.

“At our church, we have about 35 different community groups that use our buildings throughout the week. We have special needs groups, dance groups, elderly groups, craft groups... all kinds of things that go on in the building. We’re really trying to become a place where the community can interact and connect.”

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