Fastest growing church in Australia opens Austin location
By Rebecca Ihim
AUSTIN — Planetshakers, the fastest growing church in Australia has made its way to Austin.
Planetshakers, founded in 1994, is a global church based in Australia. Over the past 24 years, the church has expanded from a congregation of 12 to over14,000 Planetshakers now has campuses on every continent except for Antarctica and over 20 internationally acclaimed albums. It is now being called the fastest-growing church in Australian history. Planetshakers launched its first church on American soil in Austin on September 2016. Pastor of Planetshakers Austin, Poncho Lowder, said Austin is a great place to grow the church because of it’s creative atmosphere.
“We felt called to Austin because it’s such a creative city filled with young people, filled with music, filled with an artistic vibe, filled with technology and people that are really changing our nation,” Lowder said.
Zachary Kellock, worship pastor, said that Austin is also a great place to start the church because there are similarities between Austin and Melbourne, the home base of Planetshakers. Some of the similarities are the large secular populations in Austin that the church hopes to invite.
“Let’s reach people who don’t know God. Let’s reach people who are aren’t in church. There’s a lot of those kind of people in Austin so we’re really looking to reach out to the lost and broken in this city, bring them into the church and introduce them to Jesus,” Kellock said.
Another reason why Planetshakers chose Austin is because they hope to help broken dreamers in Austin find their passion, pursue their dreams and find their purpose in life. Planetshakers believes in empowering generations to win generations.They do this through helping people fulfill their passion in life by connecting them to God.
“We wanted to reach young people and people that have dreams and visions and entrepreneurs. Austin is just that,” said Lora Lowder, lead pastor of Planetshakers Austin.
One of the ways Planetshakers is reaching young people is through its organization at The University of Texas at Austin. The campus organization now has over 100 members and hosts social events to help students find the community. The church supports UT students by organizing a free shuttle bus to take students to the church every Sunday.
“We don’t just do gatherings to do gatherings,” said Janeth Meza, secretary of Planetshakers-Texas Chapter. “We actually want students to be connected to a family, to do life together. We come to church together, we leave together, we go to lunch together, we study together, all of these things are not just of one night of fun social but an everyday thing.”
Planetshakers provides supports to its members by seeking to create an atmosphere where everyone feels welcome. It also provides support programs on UT campus like weekly gatherings called Urban life where students can find community, make friends and have careers.
“Planetshakers is completely different from a traditional church because they make you feel like you’re not the only one going through hard situations,” Fernanda Flores, 18, UT Student, said.
In addition to its support groups on campus, Planetshakers also encourages students through its praise and worship music. Planetshakers believes that they have been uniquely anointed to reach people with breakthrough praise and worship. Planetshakers praise and worship is different from a regular church because they have hip hop dancers on stage and encourage the audience to freely express themselves.
“I think that’s really a point of difference for us is that we really carry something great in our praise and worship, it’s an atmosphere of freedom and of joy and we just see it every single Sunday that we come together, people getting free in the presence of God,” Kellock said.
Planetshakers emphasis on praise is part of its goal to create an atmosphere of freedom in its church services. During praise and worship, people are encouraged to express themselves by raising hands, dancing, jumping and singing.
“Planetshakers is different because they have so much freedom for you to express your emotions and that for me is everything,” said Abigail Arvisu, a Planetshakers member and UT student.
Planetshakers believes that church should be an exciting place to come to. They believe that church should reflect heaven as depicted in the Bible, to be a place of constant joy and rejoicing.
“I think that’s something that UT students are really attracted to, how fun it is, because it’s not like it’s a boring church, it’s a fun church and we all want to have fun,” Meza said.
In addition to ushering people in to have fun, Planetshakers seeks to help students find community.
“I would say Planetshakers has impacted my life because it’s given me a group of Christian friends to be around, it’s definitely helped me grow in my relationship with God and it’s definitely helped me grow in my relationship with my girlfriend,” UT student Brock Brennan said.
“Especially as an international student, you come here from a different country, you know no one and stepping into this environment, it’s like you have family here,” Meza said. “You have people that will be there for you if you need something, you have people that will make you laugh, people that will cry with you, that will celebrate with you, that will just be there with you, not just in your college years but way after you graduate, you’re building a family and a community that will stay forever and I think that’s something that UT students are really attracted to”