In lifting others we rise

Pastor, construction company owner and charity champion  

With a church, a building company and a charity, Phil Starbuck’s work is nothing but diverse.

Phil Starbuck faced a triple challenge when he became the new leader of Elim’s church in Ripley in early 2020.

The congregation had scattered when the previous pastor left, the dated building was in dire need of attention and Covid had put the UK in lockdown. Phil was keen to put things right at the church and began by focusing on the building.

“When we first saw it, my wife Claire and I were like, ‘Wow, this needs a lot doing,’” says Phil, who had transferred to Ripley from New Springs Church in Loughborough.

“I own a building company, but the pandemic meant my work had dried up, so we spent 14 months renovating the church instead.”

No corner was left untouched. In came a new boiler, radiators, lighting, carpets, toilets and doors, along with a large projector and a hand-built welcome sign.

Then, with the renovations complete and lockdown restrictions easing, Phil turned his attention to building the church spiritually as his congregation slowly grew, and to connecting with his local community.

In autumn 2021 the church hosted a five-day mission, with street evangelism and miracle encounter evenings. Phil was thrilled to see God move.

“We had 142 people pray prayers of repentance on the street and we saw people healed too.

“One lady who was deaf in one ear could hear again, another lady with cataracts could read the signs on the wall after prayer, and people were healed of frozen shoulders, arthritis and emotional pain.

“We had two people give their lives to the Lord, and baptised two people in our brand-new baptismal tank.”

Keen to keep the momentum going, Phil is now running evangelism training, an Alpha course and is planning a second mission this summer. The church has begun to help locals in practical ways too. Its Community Cupboard is helping families who struggle with addiction and homelessness.

“We have boxes of clothes to give away free and we also have furniture, food parcels and phones, so we’ve been able to help lots of people,” says Phil, who is keen to expand this community outreach still further and is setting up a mother and toddler group.

“We’ve also had lots of interest in a community café, so we’re going to call that Connection Café and offer a safe place where people can come for free cake and coffee and connect.”

This links to the church’s mission, which is expressed through its name, he explains.

“The church is called ‘Elim Heart Church – a place to belong, a place to call home’.

“We always wanted the church to have a homey feel that people sense when they walk through the door. So many people feel they’re on the edge of society, or even their families. We want it to be a place where people can feel safe and secure.”

Phil is excited about another project too – an inventive scheme which will unite his church, building company and charity, New4Old's National Project offers churches up to £30,000 of renovation work for which they pay just 10 per cent.

“We do the work, but we do mission for a week too, so it gets people involved in building the church physically but also spiritually. We worked with Elim Stafford to help them build their church, then did mission evenings and a celebration Sunday too. They had 500 people come under the banner of the gospel.”

The charity has also helped churches as far afield as India in the same way via it’s Global Project.

Having partnered with a church in Rajahmundry in southern India to preach, pray for people in their homes and run a conference for local pastors, Phil noticed the church building needed attention.

“The roof leaked terribly so we went back a few months later, took the roof off and built a new church that doesn’t leak.

“They’ve worked so hard to build the church up. They’re based in a slum community where people have no running water, electricity or sanitation, and often face flooding. They live in real poverty, but they are so happy despite this. It’s really on my heart to do international missions like this.”

In his church and through his charity, Phil says God is moving.

“God is doing something great. We’re seeing lives touched and changed. I believe that’s going to continue, that we’ve only seen the beginning.” 

First published in the March 2022 issue of Direction, Elim’s monthly magazine. Subscribe now to get Direction delivered to your home.

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