BROOKSVILLE — A year after starting Great Life Church, Pastor Steve and Ellen Bilsborough are ready to reach out to the community with two special events.
The church's first women's conference will be held at 7 p.m. Friday and at 9:30 a.m. Nov. 5, and a revival crusade will be held at 10:30 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Nov. 6 and at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 7, 8 and 9.
Evangelist Debbie Rich will be the guest speaker at both events.
"The church has been going awesome," said Steve Bilsborough. "We've just been growing and growing and seeing lots of new people coming in."
The nondenominational, full Gospel church meets regularly at 10:30 a.m. Sundays at the Hernando County Association of Realtors building at 7321 Sunshine Grove Road. Children ages 3 through 12 meet separately for a teaching class during the service. There is a Fuel Class, which explains the church's focus and vision, at 9:30 a.m.
Part of that vision is to reach out to the community with a message of hope.
"There are a lot of women, like single moms, in our community who just need that extra encouraging word," Ellen Bilsborough said. "A lot of women have lost hope. It's my goal to get them to the women's conference, where they can be refreshed and encouraged to go on."
Women of all ages, from teens to seniors, are welcome at the free event, which includes coffee and dessert Friday night and a continental breakfast Saturday morning.
"Some women don't want to attend church. But when I talk to them about just having a night for themselves where nothing is demanded of them, they want to come," Mrs. Bilsborough said. "Women love to get together. We love to have 'our time.' "
Mrs. Bilsborough, who will host the conference, is excited to be able to have an evangelist who can share a strong message of hope.
"Women can see reality, and Debbie Rich has lived through a lot of challenges in her life," Mrs. Bilsborough said. "The first time I heard her speak, I knew this woman could minister to other women, because she has been through it. She walks with God and lives for him."
Rich, 55, was the associate evangelist for Rodney Howard-Browne of Revival Ministries International for many years, traveling with him to several countries. She has a story of overcoming difficulties, Pastor Bilsborough said, including near-death experiences.
"She's traveled to almost 40 nations and has preached in the Royal Albert Hall in England," he said. "But what's really special about her is that you can just look her in the eyes and talk to her as if it was just you and her."
That ability allows Rich to minister to women from all walks of life, he said.
"You could be a congresswoman or a lady living on the street," the pastor said. "She can reach them all. She communicates and ministers to the heart of every woman. She has a message and a passion to see women's lives transformed."
Bilsborough expects that many lives will be changed during the two events.
"Debbie is very gripping in her speaking, what we would call very anointed, very powerful," he said. "She will focus on women during the women's conference, but men also want to hear the message on victory and strength and the ability to overcome."
Everyone is welcome to hear Rich speak at the revival crusade. Rich's husband, the Rev. Robert Rester, will also participate.
"Men's lives are changed just as quickly as women in these meetings," Pastor Bilsborough said. "Revival is bringing life back to the lifeless, hope back to the hopeless."
Revival crusades result in people being healed, saved and restored back to Christ, he said.
"We're believing God for a transformation in Hernando County. Even though we're not the largest church yet, we are believing God that something very supernatural is going to be ignited. Something very powerful is going to take place," Pastor Bilsborough said.
"We see people who are struggling with taking drugs," the pastor said. "It's not only teens; it's women and men. So we're believing God to see people set free from addictions and habits and bondages, like alcohol and pornography. Only God can do that."
The goal of Rich's preaching is the same as that of Great Life Church.
"At Great Life there are no walls, no limits, no denominational barriers," Mrs. Bilsborough said. "We just love God. We live life. And you can have a great life even in the circumstances you are facing."
The people who come won't leave the same way, she said.
"We want these women and men to want more of God and not be satisfied with their lives as they are. We can't be effective for the kingdom of God and for any future and to love one another unless we have God in our lives fully. That's what she's all about; that's what we're all about."
Praise and worship music at the services will be led by the Great Life Church worship team.
An offering will be collected at the services, which are each expected to last about two hours, with participants staying as long as they would like afterward for prayer. For those unable to attend in person, Great Life will stream each service over the Internet at greatlifechurch.com.