Texan pastor Chris wears heart on his sleeve
Texan pastor Chris Lee, who has just crossed the Atlantic with his family to help lead the Today’s Lifestyle Church (tlc) in Norwich, is a man who quite literally wears his heart on his sleeve. Keith Morris reports.
The motorcycle-riding, Mohican-wearing, former US soldier has a number of tattoos on his body which, as well as proclaiming his love for his wife Sabrina and daughters Ana (aged 8) and Trinity (2), also declare him as a DOC – disciple of Christ. But the tattoos which draw most attention are the two on his forearms.
On his right arm Chris has a tattoo of the Green word sozo, which means “saved” and on the left the Greek word for “to be filled”, as in Acts 2 v 4.
“People ask me - do you wear your faith on your sleeve? Well absolutely I do,” says Chris. “I want people to ask about my tattoos. People ask me what the ones on my arms mean and I say to them. I will tell you, then I will ask you a question – do you want to be what they mean – to be saved and to be filled with the Holy Spirit.”
Chris and Sabrina have recently arrived in Norwich where Chris is the new church family pastor at the Drayton Hall-based tlc, invited over by senior church pastor, and well-known local businessman, Graham Dacre.
Chris has been a student ministries pastor in the enormous Eagle Mountain International Church (EMIC), Newark, Texas
, which is based on a self-sufficient 1600-acre site, has a congregation of several thousand and is part of Kenneth Copeland ministries.
But life has been far from plain sailing for Chris. As a teenager, Chris struggled with severe depression and three times tried to kill himself - he took an overdose, drove into a telegraph pole and put a knife to his wrist.
“I was put on medication and got put into a hospital for a while because of it,” said Chris. “It was an extremely rough time in my life and my family’s too. Now I try to help people going through that because I know what worked for me.”
A month after graduating from High School, aged 17, Chris signed up to be a US soldier - his life ambition - where he shot rockets until a medical condition meant he was given a year out of the army to try to sort it out.
“In that year I met Sabrina, I was saved and I received the call to go into ministry, so even though the paperwork was just waiting to be signed to go back into the army, God said I did not tell you to do that, so I didn’t,” said Chris.
Instead he got married and joined the staff at EMIC, deep in Bible-belt America – that was until he met Graham Dacre, who was visiting the church in September 2009. They had breakfast and Graham invited Chris to come over to England and visit tlc.
Chris said: “Graham said come over and look at the church and see what your heart says.” So they did and while they were in Norwich, they had spiritual encounters in Norwich Cathedral and at Chapelfield outside St Stephens church.
“It was Murray Norman’s funeral service in the Cathedral,” said Chris, “and during the worship it just hit me that the same God that I had been worshipping in America was over here as well. I was looking at the tombstones on the floor of the Cathedral and God said to me: ‘The roots of Christianity go deep in this country but they have been covered up and I want them to be uncovered.’
“We walked around the city centre and when we were outside St Stephens and Chapelfield we just knew this was where we were meant to be.
“As soon as we touched down back in Fort Worth we just knew we had left our hearts back in England. We had a hunger and desire to come back and be with the people we had fallen in love with. We felt that they really wanted to experience something of God, something that was real.”
Now in Norwich, Chris is part of the existing pastoral team of Graham and Julie Dacre and John and Dodie Davies. He is responsible for the under 35s, children, young people and young adults. “We are very much social media driven – we will be using Facebook and Twitter, Skype and everything like that,” said Chris.
“As a church we are very cell-group driven, we believe that they are the life blood of the church. The real growth of the church takes place in these groups during the week – eating, meeting and praying together. We want to appeal to all age groups – we want to be a real family church. Mentoring and spiritual parenting is very important.
“The Church is hungry for fellowship and for God, they like to do life together, have fun and meet Jesus. Our vision statement sums it up: Love God, love people and love serving – we want to look outward and serve the community.
“We believe in the Gifts of the Spirit. Our worship is loud but intimate. We are very much multi-media with lights and TV screens, lots of energy on stage - I play the bass and acoustic guitar. Our praise and worship should appeal to all ages.”
There are family services on a Sunday morning attracting up to 150 people and also youth services, with numbers growing all the time.
Chris and Sabrina are in it for the long-haul: “We have a three-year visa, which we can renew,” said Chris. “This is not a tour of duty - we are here until God speaks. As far as we are concerned we are here for the rest of our lives. We have moved everything over here and aim to build life and relationships over here for His Kingdom.”